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My Personal Learning Environment. What’s yours?

I should look back at how this has changed over four years. Taking on more technology took a while. I remember the days of printing off. Then I migrated to an iPad and constantly looked at ways not to come offline ever. Now I mix it all up: I use a white board, I doodle in a notepad and I shift between devices as everything is done in Google Docs.

I have some favourite apps:

SimpleMinds

Studio

And load perhaps 50-100 pictures to Picasa Web Gallery every day … there are over 2000 images and screen-grabs from the MAODEs alone. And far too many pictures of the dog hiding when I take her for a walk.

My only bete noire are the ruddy cables you need to supply power to the kit; I went away for a few days armed with iPad and Macbook Air but forget the charger for the laptop. The iPad cable feels as if I am packing a coil of rope – it ways more with the plug and takes up more space.

My test over the next couple of months is when I set off for a month to Belgium, France and the Alps. Will I hanker after a robust broadband signal all the time?

I love words

 

Fig.1 On trying to understand the meaning of foveal

The 15 second quiz

Merriam-Webster – the ‘sticky’ web dictionary using gamification to build the brand and hold your attention.

Who’d have thought it a decade ago.  ‘Sticky’ was the Holy Grail – but applied to an online dictionary?

I love words.

I have used many online dictionaries, including ‘the dictionary’ and the OED, and of course Wikipedia. Increasingly I pick Merriam-Webster from the list offered.

The response page is clean (ish) i.e. you get an unclutted, quick and short definition, which is all you want if you are trying to read a text.

You can, by default, find you are ’embedding’ your relationship with the word by adding a comment.

  • What brings you here?
  • Why were you after this word?
  • You may then be intrigued by the responses other people have left.

Then there’s the quick 15 second quiz.

A crafty way to up your Pub Quiz or Mastermind General Knowledge.

Fig.2 Another distraction in the Merriam-Web online dictionary

And there’s a pithy video clip on some highfalutin stuff about words. Except of course it isn’t, you’d just expect it to be so. They’re very down to earth. There’s the best explanation of the important difference between – its and its – for example.

My distraction? My word(s)

  • Foveal
  • Profoveal

That collection of nodes in the retina we subconsciously use when focusing on the fine detail of something – often used for reading tough texts where the ‘profoveal words’ i.e. those just out of vision and typically a few down the line from your centre of focus could distract if and where the word is bold, in colour, underlined … or the purposes of the research papers I am reading, if the word or phrase has a hyperlink.

Do you want you reader to read at an uninterupted measured pace – or tangle their eyes in barbed wire?

The aim, as they eventually figured out with the printed word, is a form or set of patterns and guidelines that make the reading of text on a screen easier, engaging enough so the the issues and facts begin to stick, without it being a mess.

I often wonder if a ‘porta-pront’ App – so you read as a Newsreader would do, offers the most uncluttered way to read text?

We’re still a long way short of a digital expression of the written word – the guiltiest group are academic papers. These are for the most part highly formalised layouts based on analogue moveable print.

Where I can I cut and paste and entire paper into Google Docs, then reformat so that I can scroll through.

Now what on earth did I get up to do 20 minutes ago?!

Ah yes.

This little gem.

Risse, S, & Kliegl, R 2012, ‘Evidence for delayed parafoveal-on-foveal effects from word n+2 in reading’, Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception And Performance, 38, 4, pp. 1026-1042, PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 February 2013.

A fascinating read that debunks the thesis of Marshall McLuhan – not that I was looking for one. It appears we don’t so much see words as perceive them – that there isn’t such a disconnect between oral traditions of communication and learning and the written word. McLuhan is known for the ‘medium is the message’ in relation to mass media in the 1950s/1960s. Other than the fact that he failed to acknowledge that people didn’t stop talking to each other or reading just because they could watch TV, he also likes to ignore radio in this argument. To cite McLuhan in relation to the Internet is a further calumny as it is mixed and multi-media. But, importantly, and no differently to the coming of print or radio or TV we remain human first and prone to communicate as we have always done – either orally, or through interpretation of what we see and do in a mixture of oral and visual terms. 

 

What is a mind burst?

Fig 1. STIHL Leafy Christmas Card. Courtesy of Ads of the World. Dec 2012

Advertisers create ads that stick so that consumers are influenced in their decision making in the shopping aisle. Can this be used to help students remember for exams and when required in the workplace?

I was looking for a way to an an Umlaut to the name ‘Engeström‘ in Google Docs help but instead stumble upon something far more valuable in relation to access to e-learning for students with disabilities – navigation short cuts. These apply to how a person with sight impairment might move through a text and so, like basic web usability, informs on best practice when it comes to writing, proof reading and lay-out, i.e. editing with a reader with a visual impairment in mind.

Somehow the clear way the guide is laid out caused the penny to drop in a way that hasn’t occurred in the last three months however many times I have observed, listened to, read about or tried to step into the shows of a Web usability recommends a way of laying out text that is logical, clear and suited to the screens we use to access content from the web.

Fig.2. Google Docs help center – navigation student with a visual impairment.

This logic of headings and multiple sub-headings, let alone plain English in relation to short sentences as well as use of paragraphs makes reading not only easier for those with no disability, but assists those with varies degrees of visual impairment as content is then better able to respond to standard tools of text enlargement and enhancement, but also of screen readers that work best when reading through text.

What assistive technology does, a control that doesn’t require a mouse and keeps a manageable set of keys under the fingers rather than needing to run back and forth across the keyboard, is to reduce the above commands to actions that a visually impaired or blind person can then use to control their web viewing experience.

This, for me is a ‘mind burst’ – when, why and how the ‘penny drops’ that moment of clarity or inspiration.

Is there a common logic to it?

My construct has to be different to anyone else’s because of the vast array of connections that make me the person I am and have become. As a ‘educator’ and ‘communicator’ do I seek out moments of revelation in relation to a topic such as this in the hope and belief that they will make sense and even work for others?

In terms of immediacy of effect adverts in the forms of magazine spreads, posters and TV spots aim to do this to – willing a person to act in a certain way, whether to purchase a service or product, or to sign up for a course, subscribe to a magazine or contribute to a charity.

If applied to learning are we in any way cheating or making it too easy?

On the contrary, is it not the educator’s role to spark understanding or act as a catalyst to get thinking going or to create an memorable image, a tag or peg that can be applied not just in an exam but when this thinking is required to solve or resolve problems in the real world?

Ads of the World in relation to learning

Fig. 3. When you smoke, your baby smokes. Vermont Department of Health. Courtesy of Ads of the World. 

Fig.4. Garnier Fructis – courtesy of Ads of the World 

  • Can the quality or nature of the expression of a module of learning have a measurable impact on retention of this information?
  • Whilst the goal of an education is marked by assessment and therefore students need to have the information at their fingertips for an exam, how in the real world do we ensure, with efficiency, that lessons are not forgotten?
  • Does it help is a piece of health and safety training for a nuclear power station includes dramatic reconstruction of a nasty accident and the measures not only taken to deal with it … but to prevent it happening in the first place?

Does advertising have something to teach the educator? Can memorable images be used in learning to help make the facts stick? Should such pegging be something of the student’s own construction?

REFERENCE

Ebbinghaus, H. (1885) Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

How would you define the professional in e-learning?

eLP Venn Diagram

 

This looks good on a flip chart, I even took photos of it.

I wish it were more dynamic, on the paper version the reverse side of each category has a set of industry related quotes.

How would you jiggle these terms around?

How do I create a classic Venn Diagram with a piece of software?

Is there the means to play with diagrams like this collaboratively in a wiki or Google Docs?

I’ll produce a reverse image of this with the references.

I also realise that I have about thirty items that would appear where professional, ‘e-‘ and ‘learning’ cross. Sometimes a handwritten essay with a hand-drawn diagram is so much easier to produce and correct 🙁

How about handwritten essay produced with a stylus on a Wacom board?

Spent the morning walking along Cuckmere River to the Channel where it became remarkably mild in the sun. Chewing over reasons why efforts to raise finances to produce high-end, TV docu-drama programmes linked to interactive ‘edutainment’ never got off the ground in 2001, despite fullsome praise from the likes of a founding director of Cisco (John Cage) at NABS where he had the keynote speech and we were presenting.

Cost.

We wanted to wow viewers and spend a great deal and thought there was a way for this to make money. The broadcasters, stalwart supporters of Atlantic Productions with whom were were developing product, were at this very time pulling away from the websites as pits of financial loss. Commercialisation is everything.

It is therefore timely that there was an hour long discussion this morning on the rise of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the ‘Innovations Lab.’ I was in one once myself, the BT Think Tank. If anyone will have me I’ll join a new think tank, if not, I’ll form my own.

Cost still matters a great deal:

  • How to radically cut costs by going down the e-learning route (pure online and blended).
  • How to make money creating learning for a global market.

This is how to educate 50% of UK school-leavers. They leave school, but they don’t leave home. They take their degree through the OU or some similar while working.

A new generation with a new set of concerns and motivations.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he gopt doing year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he got doing Year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School.

It is extraordinary how empowering it is to feel on top of a subject.

I had thought as I did H807 (Innovations in e-learning) that it would be good to do again, that it was all happening too fast, not just re-learning how to study, but knowing how best to function in this online environment.

As it turns out there is overlap between H807 and H808 (The e-learning professional); for the most part I am grateful. On the other hand I wonder if I couldn’t have done this MA in a year and done 20-30 hours a week instead.

Still, this is a chance for me to make choices about the plethora of tools and platforms available. This is the problem, having hundreds of software packages and Apps that may or may not make a contribution to a piece of work I may, or may not, at some stage prepare (probably not) and deliver.

I’m surprised how on a second or third go with Skype, Google Docs and Skype that you can feel at home with them and share what they do with others.

I translated a swimming coach’s CV on sports credentials from Catalan to English using Google Docs this morning. Extraordinary.

I already upload to Flickr and Facebook, and YouTube.

I blog anything between 1,000 and 10,000 words a day. I walk around with the means to photograph anything, video anything or record notes on anything all of which can be easily uploaded to a myriad of mostly free platforms.

And if people want me on a mobile device that easy for them to set up.

But what is the contents of my mind worth?

The skills you need as an e-learning practitioner

The skills you need as an e-learning practitioner

Training as a TV producer I picked up some skills editing, writing and directing. A project was never too small that a person fulfilling each of these tasks wasn’t required. Indeed, the ‘one man band’ was frowned upon. Some TV crews were still unionised so you had a cameraman, assistant and sound engineer, minimum. Today in TV production a producer may not only direct and write, but operate the camera and edit the piece. To be a TV professional in 2010 you need this variety of skills. I do. I did the courses. Camera, editing … even six months as a sound engineer.

To be an e-learning professional it strikes me that as well as research, design and planning skills, with a healthy foundation from an appropriate course that takes in learning history, theory and practice, that you will also need more that just a modicum of IT skills. IT literacy is a given, but further familiarity, even a confident working knowledge of a variety of 21st century e-learning tools and platforms will be necessary, as well as that 20th century skilling of touch typing.
I have that.
With this in mind I am tackling some software that I have to date resisted. I managed without Outlook, now I’m using it through-out the day. I hadn’t moved away from my original blogging platform of 1999, so have in the last two months started three new blogs in three different places, as well as continuing with the OU blog. I wanted to feel confident I know what these are doing. I signed into Facebook a few years ago but have let it pass me by.
It may feel like the exclusive domain of my children, nephews and nieces, but I am now determined to master it, instead of it having control of me.
And finally, though I have grown familiar with MyStuff and have mine well stuffed … I must decide on a second e-portfolio system to embrace. I want to try one, two at most. I’d like to run with Filemaker Pro as I’m familiar with it, but there is a cost and it won’t be of any use to others who don’t have it installed.
Time to look at the Tutor Group Wiki.

 

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