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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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Virtual worlds offer an exciting new outlet for delivering content to learners. Second Life is one the best known and largest of several virtual worlds that are designed to attract crowds, including educators. Second Life is arguably the best virtual world in terms of collaboration, education, community and innovation.

How big is Second Life?

There are over 1 million residents in Second Life that regularly go “inworld” (i.e., log in and activate an avatar). In addition, there are over 1,400 organizations in Second Life ranging from colleges to mainstream corporations to government agencies. Many of these organizations own property including the U.S. military. Second Life contains around 500,000 acres of virtual real estate that can be purchased or rented. In 2009, the transactions in Second Life garnered over an astounding $500 million; that is actual U.S. currency. Second Life allows real-life individuals to have full-time jobs within this virtual world.

In some ways, this movement mirrors the growth of the Internet. Second Life is often used as a test bed for corporations such as Sony, Nissan and Sun Microsystems, among others. In the 1990s, the Internet was largely a research and educational network, but it has quickly become a commercial juggernaut.

What do people do in Second Life?

“Residents” of Second Life can sign up for free, and they simply do life together. They make friends, play sports, watch movies, run businesses and construct buildings. Residents can walk, run and fly, and they can dress in any body style they wish. In fact, users can change from a hip-hop male to a glamorous female to an animal all in the same session. In other words, they can be anyone or anything they wish to be, and they can do almost anything they wish to do.

Opportunities for Learning in Second Life: A Case Study

Because Second Life allows users to be anyone and do anything, opportunities for rich learning experiences abound in Second Life; they are virtually infinite. One such opportunity came as an assignment in IT 780. We were asked to create a presentation on a Web 2.0 topic and present this topic in the context of a Second Life Symposium.

Second Life Alcove

The symposium took place on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Second Life island: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/GoldenEagle1/124/122/24. Each student prepared a short presentation that was displayed on a giant display alcove (pictured above).

Second Life PodiumThe presentations included several items. A podium in the front of the alcove displayed a “real-world” picture of the presenter, and if viewers clicked on this image, then a short biography of the presenter appeared. The front podium also held a title slide for the presentation. If viewers clicked this image, then they could see a short abstract of the presentation (presented below). Beside the front podium a “comments” box was placed so that viewers and peers could leave feedback on each presentation.

Second Life HandoutAnother feature of each presentation was a handout. The handouts allowed each passer-by to take a summative artifact of each presentation. Viewers could obtain a handout by clicking on the handout poster, which was placed on an easel beside each presentation, as illustrated.

The Presentation: eyePlorer

Obviously, the main feature of each presentation was contained on the five posters placed on the alcove module. I chose to do a presentation on eyePlorer. EyePlorer is a free Web 2.0 application that allows learners to “explore and process knowledge.”  Learners begin by typing in a word or phrase to research. EyePlorer gathers information from the Web and arranges it into a color wheel of concepts.  If users hover over each concept on the color wheel, then they get a brief description about that item. In addition, each term is cross-referenced with associative concepts.

The premise of eyePlorer is to enhance the way “users interact with knowledge and information online.”  Discovering information is accomplished in an interactive, visual and innovative manner. This application is ideal for brainstorming and finding associative ideas. An interactive notebook is provided to drag and drop facts, which allows users to find and collate references. The process of searching for topics and collecting notes helps learners prepare to write and promotes digital literacy. My presentation can be viewed below.

Rewarding Experience

The process of creating this presentation for Second Life was rich and rewarding. As might be expected, I learned a great deal about Second Life simply as a result of having to present in the context of Second Life. This required that I learn how to communicate, travel, change clothes and the list could continue.

Interestingly, I was learning on two levels simultaneously. I was doing the research on eyePlorer and learning about that Web 2.0 technology, and at the same time, I was learning about Second Life. This experience was almost like “digital dual-coding.” I haven’t heard that term before, but I think the experience is accurately described by that phrase.

A Sidebar Takeaway

As a side note, I have a great story that I will remember from this project. Our instructor told us to ensure that we had all documents in place well ahead of time and that we had a secure connection for the presentation. All of the documents were in place well ahead of time, so that was no issue. In considering a secure Internet connection, I could think of no better place than my workplace, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC). After all, we have a network that flows straight from our state’s capital, Jackson, on a pretty beefy infrastructure. I spent the morning of the presentation double-checking to make sure Second Life worked from my desk, and I was ready to go. The presentation started at 3:00, and around 2:55 (no kidding), MGCCC’s entire network crashed. They initially thought it was a server problem, but we came to find out that AT&T actually cut into a major fiber. I wound up having to drive to my house and arrived at the presentation 30 minutes late. All of this to say, that I was reminded of a valuable lesson: “The best made plans of mice and men often go awry.”

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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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One of the great aspirations of many researchers and academics is to be published, but sometimes this goal can seem elusive. However, document sharing in Web 2.0 is making this elusive desire much more obtainable and changing the rules of publishing. Scribd (ˈskrɪbd) is a Web 2.0 application and represents the biggest social publishing site in existence, even though it is was created in 2007.

Scribd allows users to share and find written documents on the Internet or mobile devices. Users can upload a variety of formats such as Word, PowerPoint or PDF. Scribd then turns each document into a web document, which is posted on iPaper. This final web document can be shared in a variety of ways: Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, email, URL or embed code. The embed code allows users to place the Scribd document in a blog or on a Website. Scribd documents can also be found through search engines (e.g., Google). In addition, users can subscribe to other Scribd accounts as an RSS feed, which automatically sends updates any time a new file is added. The vast and powerful sharing capabilities of Scribd make this tool very valuable for individuals wanting to disseminate knowledge and share research. The video below is a brief description of Scribd:

Scribd is easy to set up, free and user friendly. Signing up for Scribd is quick and painless. As mentioned before, Scribd easily connects with other Web 2.0 tools. For example, those users that have a Facebook account can actually join Scribd through their Facebook account. Users that do not have a Facebook account can also join. In either case, an activation email is sent to the user.

After joining Scribd, uploading a document is easy. Clicking on the “upload” button and selecting a document to upload accomplish this process. Users can also jot down a comment to upload, and all submissions can instantly be sent to Twitter, as illustrated by the “Readcast” option:

As soon as the document completes the upload process, Scribd asks for some basic information. A title for each upload should be given accompanied by a brief description. Each document should be classified under a specific category to aid those searching for documents. Once again, documents can be sent directly to Twitter by clicking the “Share” option, which is demonstrated in the illustration below:

The possibilities of Scribd go well beyond the classroom as evidenced by many professional companies’ use of the application. Users have the ability to view and comment on the documents hosted in Scribd. Social publishing sites are facilitating change in the publishing arena. Not only does Scribd produce and host a quality product, but they also connect users with millions of other subscribers. There have been very few changes in the way documents are published over history. Gutenberg’s printing press was one such event, and the advent of the Internet seems to be ushering in monumental changes in a similar fashion, though the Internet is still in its infancy.

I wanted to have first hand knowledge of this application, so I uploaded several documents to my Scribd account. I tried a PowerPoint file, Word document and PDF file. All three files uploaded quickly and accurately. The PowerPoint file is embedded below:

Scribd is a powerful and exciting Web 2.0 technology. The potential to share presentations and papers is enormous. In addition, Scribd can help store important documents. I will definitely continue to use Scribd in a variety of ways. For example, I am conducting a presentation in Second Life in coming days. I am going to link a couple of the files from Scribd into the Second Life presentation.

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