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This table of contents chronicles the reflections on various projects and assignments of IT 860, Emerging Technology in Instructional Technology.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    Introduction to Blogfolio

II.  Reflection on Assignments

III. Reflection on Readings

IV.  Overall Reflection on IT 860

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Web 2.0 is now a technological juggernaut, and these technologies are revolutionizing the way people communicate, collaborate and accomplish basic tasks. The focus of IT 860, Emerging Technologies in Instructional Technology, was to explore the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools that show promise in education. Dr. Yuen exposed each student to the theoretical basis for each Web 2.0 tool through his book, “Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking.” In addition, students were required to use each Web 2.0 tool that was discussed in order to gain knowledge through experiential learning.

The first generation of the Web was developed primarily by experts and aimed at merely sharing knowledge. Web 2.0 differs in that these tools are created and developed by a variety of users with the intent of collaboration and interactivity. This focus on collaboration and interactivity has facilitated a sweeping embrace of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, then it would be the third largest in the world behind China and India.

The Web 2.0 applications covered in IT 860 can be divided into three categories: tools that connect people, tools that share knowledge and tools that connect people and share knowledge in virtual environments. A large portion of the readings focused on issues involved with connecting people, while the bulk of the Web 2.0 tools that were covered focused on the sharing of knowledge. It should be noted that while I discuss these ideas separately, the whole point of Web 2.0 is to provide environments that both connect people and share knowledge.

Tools that Connect People

The premise of collective intelligence is founded on the power of tools that connect people. A series of readings helped to shed light on the philosophical basis for the use of these connecting Web 2.0 technologies in education. A new paradigm in learning theories was introduced in 2004 with the birth of connectivism, which stems from the traditions of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. Our first reading was on connectivism and described the power of collective intelligence. Connectivists hold that learning takes place as networks of individuals share knowledge, and one powerful Web 2.0 tool covered that represents the power of human connection is Twitter.  For example, Twitter boasts 50 million Tweets per day; that is a lot of connecting!

As might be expected, this level of connectivity requires a good organizational infrastructure and can lead to a great number of legal concerns in education. Therefore, our second reading addressed the obstacles to implementing Web 2.0 in educational institutions. Further, educators need to consider the human and social issues involved with the implementation of Web 2.0 in the classroom, which was our third reading.

Synchronous Online Learning Environments (SOLE) represent an excellent example of synchronous online learning that is offered in an ethical and effective way. In SOLE, students have a chance to interact with peers and the teacher in a similar way to a traditional classroom, and multiple channels of media simultaneously connecting with learners enhance this interaction.

Tools that Share Knowledge

The power of Web 2.0 to share knowledge is robust; in fact, the number of tools is overwhelming. Dr. Yuen did an excellent job of weeding through the volumes of applications available and introducing students to the best of these tools. A reading that described the potential of Web-based video (e.g., YouTube) began this quest.

Following this reading, students dove into a myriad of Web 2.0 tools aimed at sharing knowledge. Social bookmarking (Diigo) is a Web 2.0 technology that allows users to bookmark Web sites and place tags on those bookmarks using keywords. Social publishing sites (Scribd) allow users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices, such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Screencasting (Jing or ScreenToaser) occurs when individuals capture a video of what happens on a computer screen over a span of time, and audio (e.g., narrative) is usually part of a screencast as well. File Sharing (Drop.io) is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration, and users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media.

Connecting and Sharing in Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds find their ancestry in video games. Therefore, our first reading on virtual worlds actually focused on a model of Game-Based Learning (VISOLE). Learning through games is gaining more attention from several educators. Perhaps an even more promising environment for learning is seen in virtual worlds. Our final reading focused on taking a Pedagogical Odyssey in Three-Dimensional Virtual Worlds (The SECOND LIFE Model). As a point of application, each student had an opportunity to make a presentation at a conference in Second Life.

Summative Thoughts

All of these tools described above promoted the sharing of knowledge. However, it would be misleading if I failed to highlight the intrinsic ability of each of these tools to also connect learners. A symbiotic relationship exists between connecting people and sharing knowledge in Web 2.0.

Dr. Yuen provided an incredible environment for learning these emerging tools. In fact, he taught the class through a platform (Mixxt) that closely resembled a social networking site (SNS) rather than through learning management software (LMS). Naturally, this approach led to more connectivity among students and facilitated the sharing of knowledge among the group.

This class has been an incredible journey of learning. I now feel confident to use Web 2.0 tools and design instruction around them appropriately.

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VoiceThread is a media aggregator that permits users to upload media to a website, and this tool also facilitates collaboration and feedback on such media. This free Web 2.0 tool has several unique strengths. Users can easily add a voice narrative on top of an uploaded media, and this media can be a video, photos, slide presentation or document. In response, viewers can add feedback to the uploaded media in the form of video, audio or text. The power of aggregation brings all of these elements together, so that the resulting page contains a Flash-based animation with the original media and related comments. Another strength of VoiceThread is that it is user-friendly, especially in posting comments.

Making a VoiceThread

Users need to sign up for a free account in order to start a project. Creating a VoiceThread begins by uploading media. Fortunately, VoiceThread allows subscribers to upload content from a variety of sources. You can upload from a local computer, URL, webcam or media source (Facebook, Flickr, New York Public Library and other VoiceThreads).

After the media artifact is uploaded, users have the option to comment on each slide. Comments can be made by a keyboard (text), audio file upload (audio), phone (audio), microphone (audio) or webcam (video). Each speaker (i.e., commenter) is identified by a small image that is interactive. In other words, a user can click each speaker’s image to retrieve his or her comment. Creators and commentators also have an option to doodle (i.e., lines, arrows, etc…) on the media as part of their comment.

Finally, VoiceThreads can be shared in a variety of ways: email, embedded in a Web page or through a URL link. Under the “Publishing Options,” creators can control how each VoiceThread is shared. You can make it closed to a group of friends or open to the public. You can allow anyone to comment or restrict commenting. You can also allow the VoiceThread to be searchable in search engines by clicking “Show on Browse Page.”

How can this tool be used in education?

VoiceThread allows students to post an artifact. The teachers and peers can then comment on this artifact. Students could also collaborate on projects in order to produce group presentations or oral histories. In addition, VoiceThreads could be used for digital storytelling and for communication. For teachers, this tool seems ideal for starting discussions. For example, a teacher could post an image or video and then ask the class to comment on the respective media.

Are there any disadvantages to VoiceThread?

VoiceThread might pose an accessibility problem for those students with low bandwidth. In addition, viewing the application on a mobile phone can be quirky because it employs Flash to deliver content. Finally, teachers will have to take a creative approach to assessment because this is a nontraditional tool.

Future trends

In essence, VoiceThread makes sharing visual media easy and accessible, much like tools such as SlideShare. Because VoiceThreads are so easy to make and post comments, users might embrace this technology more quickly than complex technologies. VoiceThread comes across as professional. The ease of use and high quality of VoiceThread makes it an ideal tool for collaboration and interactive presentations. Perhaps the greatest potential of VoiceThread is that it allows users to convey their own thoughts through media and contribute to other VoiceThreads.

You can view a recent VoiceThread that I made by clicking the image below. It is a presentation on “The Value of a Network” from the perspective of constructivism. Feel free to leave a comment!

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File sharing is a powerful trend in Web 2.0 that facilitates collaboration. Drop.io is one of the most popular file-sharing tools despite only being a few years old (founded in 2007), and this free online service is designed for real-time collaboration and private file sharing. In 2008, Drop.io formed a partnership with Scribd, a social publishing site. In this partnership, Drop.io adopted Scribd’s iPaper viewer that allows streamlined document viewing

Attributes of a Drop

Users can create a “drop” by uploading an image, audio, video, document or other digital content. Drop.io does not require an account, email or registration to create a drop. Each drop is given a unique URL so that users have a location to access the drop. In addition, each drop also has a unique voicemail phone number for messages, a unique conference phone number for collaboration and a unique email address.

Sharing a Drop

Once a drop is created, Drop.io makes sharing the content easy with many options. The various options are presented below in the illustration. For each sharing option, Drop.io automatically sends the content via the chosen medium. For example, if email is chosen, then users only need to type the email address of recipients and do not have to access their personal email account. The SMS option allows users to send the Drop.io link as a text message. Each Drop.io site can also be shared through social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Users can capture all of the content and voicemails from the drop site with the “Zip File” option.

Creating a Drop

In this assignment, students were asked to create a Drop.io site and invite others to collaborate on the drop. In order to get started, users should first access the Drop.io website. Creating a drop requires three easy steps and is exemplified in the following illustration.

  1. “Select Files” from your local computer and upload them.
  2. If you would like to personalize the drop URL, then you can click in the specified area and type an extension after “http://drop.io/….” Otherwise, the URL is automatically assigned for the drop.
  3. Click on “Create a Drop”

The next page that appears is the drop itself. The system automatically asks for an email so that a receipt can be sent of the drop’s creation. Providing this email will also allow users to edit the layout, design and parameters of the drop site. However, it is important to note that this confirmation is not required. Users can also join Drop.io, which grants them the ability to customize the drop site.

Collaborating Within a Drop

An important feature of each drop is the unique contact information that is automatically created. Each site is issued a unique voicemail so that others can leave a message on the drop site. If a user leaves a message, then it appears as an mp3 file that can be played by visitors. A unique conference phone number is also issued for each drop upon request, and this facilitates collaboration because everyone knows the point of contact. Finally, a unique email address is issued for each drop site.

Drop Potential

Drop.io is an excellent tool for peer-to-peer collaboration. The possibilities of this technology are far reaching. Students could use Drop.io to better collaborate on group projects. Faculty members and college committees could collaborate on pertinent information using this site. Businesses and industries could also use Drop.io for sharing information.

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What is a Screencast?

One of the most efficient ways to explain a computer process or software is through screencasting. The term “screencast” refers to a scenario when the actions on a user’s computer screen are captured. Typically, a screenshot describes a static picture of a computer screen. Similarly, a screencast is a video that captures what happens on a computer screen over a span of time, and audio is usually part of a screencast as well. The audio can take the form of a narrative voiceover from the presenter, background audio or sound from the application being demonstrated.

Screencasts are usually viewed as a stream over the Internet and can be created in a variety of formats. Screencasts provide a video of what is being discussed, and this medium helps to make online content more personal. The distribution of screencasts is easily accomplished through Web pages, email, IM and blogs.

Screencasting in Education

E-learning and distance education has quickly embraced screencasting. Screencasts offer several advantages for e-learning. First, faculty members can present learning resources to students that can be accessed anytime from any location that has access to the Web. Second, students can view screencasts at their own pace, which facilitates self-directed learning. Third, this technology helps promote a sense of engagement between students and teachers.

Screencasts can also help enhance evaluations of student work. Teachers can use a screencast to describe why certain errors are being marked and give suggestions. Faculty members can also use this technology for remediation. For example, if several math students had an issue on a specific problem, then the teacher could demonstrate how to work the problem through a screencast.

How Do You Make a Screencast?

In order to capture the activity on a computer screen, special software is often required, but new Web 2.0 technologies allow screencast to be recorded over the Web. Once software is installed or the Web 2.0 site is accessed, creating a screencast is as easy as selecting the “record” button and speaking in a microphone connected to the computer. Once users select “record,” all the actions taking place on the screen are captured and the audio is synced with these actions.

After a recording session is over, many software applications allow users to edit the resulting video. In addition, some screencasting software permits additional graphics and text to be added during the editing phase. For example, closed captioning could be added to the screencast, which would help with accessibility. Once in the production phase, screencast can usually be saved in a variety of formats (e.g., flv, mpg or mp4).

How Do You Watch a Screencast?

Viewing a screencast is easy. The only requirement is that the appropriate viewer should be installed on a computer to watch the format in question. Because most screencasts are viewed on the Web, basic media players and a Web browser are all that is needed. Windows Media Player, Flash and QuickTime are probably the most popular formats for screencasts. While videos can be streamed over the Web, users can also download videos and watch them at their convenience. For example, users could view a downloaded video on a portable device such as a mobile phone or iTouch.

Example of a Screencasting Technology

There are many free software tools that allow users to create screencasts. Screenr is an example of a Web 2.0 technology that facilitates the screen capture without the need for software, and Jing is an example of a free software that is downloaded to a local machine.

For this assignment, I chose to use Jing to produce a video. Jing is a free software download that is offered by TechSmith, which also owns Camtasia (a more robust screen capture software that cost money). Jing allows users to take a picture of the computer screen, record video of the screen and instantly share the captured content. Once Jing is downloaded and installed a small, transparent icon stays on the perimeter of the screen.

In order to make a capture, users simply select the icon, draw the size of the capture area and select “Capture an Image” or “Capture a Video.” If video is chosen, then users can speak into a microphone connected to the computer while the capture is taking place. The free version of Jing captures video in a flash format (i.e., swf), but for $15 a year users can upgrade to pro, which allows users to record videos in an mp4 format.

Jing can be shared in a variety of ways. When users download Jing, they are automatically given free space on TechSmith’s server, and videos can be stored on this server, which is called screencast.com (this site gives users 2 GB of free storage space). Videos can be uploaded to screencast.com and this link can be sent to friends. Videos can be saved as a file or uploaded to a FTP server to be put on a Website. Jing videos can also be sent to Twitter. Below is a video that I made with Jing on a Web 2.0 technology called Planning Center Online:

Does Screencasting Have Important Implications?

One major implication of screencasting is that students can watch a lesson anytime, anywhere. In addition, students have complete control of the lesson, which means they can repeat material or skip ahead as needed. Teachers have the ability to craft concise and clear lessons because each screencast can be edited. Students can also use screencasting in a variety of ways, from creating an electronic portfolio to offering feedback on assignments.

Disadvantages of Screencasting?

Effective screencasts do require an eye for production and editing does take time. In addition, not all students learn well from video, which stems from their preferred learning style. Perhaps the biggest issue with screencasting is that it is not interactive.

Advantages of Screencasting?

Screencasting offers a great deal of accessibility to students with aural impairments and students that have a hard time traveling. In addition, students that miss class or a lesson could view a lesson via a screencast. Screencast also provide a lesson that is stable and consistent. This might be an important feature for those that routinely train workers on similar computer-based tasks. Screencasts are easy to make, and this tool offers teachers another way to communicate content to students.

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The majority of American educational institutions continue to operate from a 19th century framework. In this traditional model, the focus is high stakes testing and training workers with a specific skill set, such as industrial work. This pedagogical approach endures in spite of a steady stream of emerging technologies and 21st century learners that are tech-savvy and often bored in school (Prensky, 2001, as cited by Stoerger, 2010).

Many educators are looking for alternatives to this conventional method. Some of these new approaches attempt to engage learners in a relevant and appealing way. For these teachers, the curriculum is often presented in a fun way, such as through virtual worlds.

Theoretical framework for virtual worlds

From a theoretical perspective, the framework for this new, relevant approach stems from constructivism. A move toward learner-centered approaches represents a shift in philosophy from behaviorism to constructivism. For behaviorists, the mind is an empty container waiting to be filled, which often neglects higher order thinking skills. In contrast, constructivists argue that students construct learning, which requires that students become an active part of the learning process. In constructivism, students gain knowledge by interacting with the world in a relevant manner (i.e., situated learning).

Today’s learners prefer to gather knowledge through interactions with others, multiple paths and through experiences. Prensky (2001) termed this new generation as “digital natives,” and he argued that they learn differently than previous generations.

Virtual reality has been deemed a powerful tool when teaching through a constructivist framework. Virtual worlds allow learners to interact with content and gain knowledge through experiential learning. In addition, virtual worlds serve as an ideal example of situated learning. The goal of situated learning is to place students in a rich, authentic environment and create a community of learners. Virtual environments are able to accomplish these goals of authenticity and community.

Road to virtual worlds

The roots of virtual worlds extend back to text-based virtual realities and video games. Educators experimented with text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons) long before the advent of virtual worlds.

Adding to this support for virtual worlds, some digital video games have demonstrated effectiveness in learning. In the end, games help students become better problem solvers.  Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) have caused the lines to be blurred between virtual worlds and video games. A good example of this is Second Life. Some scholars hold that Second Life is not a game (Robbins, 2007; Steinkuchler, 2008; as cited by Stoerger, 2010). The creators of Second Life (i.e., Linden Labs) actually argue that their virtual world is not a MMOG because users actually create their “world.” Therefore, Second Life is a hybrid.

Drawbacks of virtual worlds

Play is a powerful motivator for some students, but not all students enjoy learning in a visual manner, such as a virtual world (Squire, 2005, as cited by Stoerger, 2010). Also, virtual worlds generally take a great deal of time to play and monitor. Interruptions do sometimes occur, such as “drive-by shoutings” (Haynes and Homevik, 1998, p. 6, as cited by Stoerger, 2010). Students can be banished from certain virtual worlds if they violate the Terms of Service (TOS). Generally speaking, virtual worlds require students to have a good video card and up-to-date computer, which cannot be afforded by all. Finally, sexual content is often rampant in virtual worlds; students should be forewarned and encouraged to avoid certain areas and situations (Haynes, 2006, as cited by Stoerger, 2010).

General attributes of Second Life

Second Life (SL) is the biggest three-dimensional virtual world, and it was launched in 2003. Users of SL are called “residents.” These residents can be anyone they want to be and can change appearance multiple times within any online session. Residents communicate through Instant Messaging (IM), text chat or voice chat. All of this communication occurs real time, and the transcripts of IM and text are available for free.

SECOND LIFE Model

Virtual worlds on their own are not sufficient tools to facilitate learning. Educators must employ proven teaching techniques within the context of a virtual world, specifically Second Life for this discussion. Stoerger developed a pedagogical model for virtual worlds that stems from proven learning techniques and strategies. Her model includes ten principles and is named as the mnemonic “SECOND LIFE”:

  1. Support Experimentation-Students learn by building their own identity.
  2. Encourage Play-Play is an important part of learning. Vygotsky argued that play helps a child generate a zone of proximal learning.
  3. Construct Scaffolded Spaces-Teachers should scaffold learning by using four sequential techniques: conceptual, procedural, strategic and metacognitive coaching.
  4. Opt Out of Lecture and Passive Approaches-Current students are active learners. They like to collaborate in communities and learn through experience.
  5. Nurture Player Choice and Decision-Making-Players are responsible for many decisions, and therefore, they control their own learning to a large degree.
  6. Design “Realistic” Environments-Environments need to be relevant and real, such as a replica of a university.
  7. Lead Students Toward a Sense of Space-Students establish their sense of identity in virtual worlds through activities, actions and context.
  8. Increase Student Learning-The natural use of dual coding is an important teaching tool in virtual worlds.
  9. Foster the Formation of a Learning Culture-Many students gain more knowledge through peer-to-peer learning than they could on their own.
  10. Enhance Technology-Focused Skills-Teachers should help students transfer knowledge from the virtual world to reality.

What did you learn from this article?

This article provided a good theoretical framework for using virtual worlds in education. The best approach to teach in a virtual world uses tenets from constructivism. The brief historical description of virtual worlds was also helpful. The SECOND LIFE model is relevant and easy to remember because of the mnemonic, and the ten principles of this model seem feasible and lend guidance to teachers.

Future Trends?

Before joining SL, I was skeptical about how useful it might be in education. I have to admit that the environment was much more fun and relevant than I thought it would be. SL has a great deal of potential in education. I agree with the author that a move to mobile forms of SL and other virtual worlds will gain momentum in coming years. However, the speed of connection and video card requirements for a great experience prohibit the mobile option from gaining popularity currently. I look forward to seeing new virtual worlds emerge over the next few years. I think that any such world, including SL, will have to eliminate illicit content (e.g., sexual content) before it is given widespread consideration in academia. In addition, I think the cost of any such virtual world will need to come down before it is widely embraced by universities.

Stoerger, S. (2010). A pedagogical odyssey in three-dimensional virtual worlds: The SECOND LIFE model. In Yang, H. H. & Yuen, S. C. (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 248-267). Hershey, Pennsylvania: Information Science Reference. doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-729-4.ch014

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Twitter has quickly become a force in American society and the technology realm. The company was founded in 2006, so the word “quickly” does not adequately describe the mind-boggling growth of this Web 2.0 technology. Twitter has gained over 100 million users worldwide in just four years.

Simply stated, Twitter is a free, web-based application that allows users to send and receive short messages; Twitter is simply a social network/microblog. These short messages (aka, tweets) are limited to 140 characters and are text-based. Each tweet is posted on the author’s Twitter profile page. In addition, individuals have the ability to subscribe to other authors’ Twitter accounts. Once a person “subscribes” to an author’s Twitter account, each tweet, from said author, will automatically be sent to the subscribers account. These subscribers are known as “followers.”

Authors have the ability to restrict delivery to designated individuals, and they can form closed groups. Mobility is a key component of Twitter. The limitation of 140 text-based characters coincides well with Short Message Service (SMS), which is now a standard feature of most cell phones. However, messages can be posted through text messages, instant messages or web forms. There are a number of third party services and other Web 2.0 applications that tie in with Twitter.

The first class assignment in IT 860 was to create a Twitter account and post 5 tweets to our class Twitter account. Joining Twitter was very easy; all that was required was logging on to http://twitter.com/ and filling out a few pieces of basic information. At this point, I seized the opportunity to personalize my Twitter account by configuring settings, modifying the layout and completing the profile questions.

Next, I searched for our class account. I began “following” the class Twitter account (i.e., @it860), which was signified by the standard Twitter icon. I would like to note here that Twitter accounts are generally referred to by using the @ sign followed by the account name (e.g., @it860).

Finally, I posted five tweets to the class @it860 Twitter account. One twist on this assignment was the requirement to post these five tweets through Direct Messages. Normally, you post a tweet by typing a quick message in the “What’s happening?” box, illustrated below:

However, for this assignment we needed to send Direct Messages that would instantly go to all classmates. This was easily accomplished in one of two ways. First, you could post a tweet normally but precede the message text with “d it780”.  In this scenario, the author would literally type “d it780 message…” in the “What’s happening?” box. Second, you can click the “Direct Message” link (illustrated below), and that link takes you to a direct message page from which you can choose a group and type a Direct Message:

Here are the first five tweets I posted to the class account via Direct Message:

  • Here is a great Web 2.0 wiki that outlines a number of tools by category- http://is.gd/cz9Ly
  • I just checked out Bebo. I thought it was limited to bands but it’s grown – http://www.bebo.com/
  • I just figured out that WordPress has a widget for Twitter!
  • Twitter Keys is a shortcut for icons in a tweet. ✌ for now; I’ve had to many cups of ♨ – http://is.gd/czc2g

Twitter Keys Bank

I learned several new concepts from this assignment. Signing up for and personalizing a Twitter account is free, easy and quick. During the tweeting process, I learned the difference between a normal tweet and a Direct Message. I also discovered several really cool tools and third party plug-ins that work in conjunction with Twitter. For example, Twitter Keys facilitates a shortcut for inserting icons into a tweet by using an icon bank (picture below). Last, I found a WordPress widget for Twitter, so you can check out my latest tweets on the sidebar of this page.

My Twitter page is https://twitter.com/jon_woodward. Feel free to check out this account or subscribe.



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