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email is dead, long live Web 2.0

You wouldn’t necessarily know it was a wiki either, rather it is a shared document held online with secure access by a group of people collaborating on a complex project.

The roles are well-defined, as clear as those on a film production team (with similar titles):

  • Senior Production Manager
  • Production Manger
  • Learning Design
  • Designer
  • Developer

and so on

New to an e-learning office I find I am permanently online adding to a massive, collaborative wiki which is the e-learning course with its plethora of inputs.

Email rarely comes into it, why should it?

Wikis are lean production, they operate ‘just in time’ with each cell responsible for picking up their task as it best suits them.

The Open University provide an OU Student Blog platform, which you are required to use for some modules to build up reflective practice, they also provide a portfolio called MyStuff in which to dump stuff.

As portfolios either system can be used to aggregate content that can be shared, offered with restricted access or kept private.

I have been on the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE) for two years, we have to give blogs, portfolios, wikis and other tools a go.

The interesting thing is to see how it plays out in practice during these MAODE modules.

I can cite failures as well as extraordinary successes.

Like learning to do anything new people/teams need to accept that at first they are getting into the sandpit to play.

Letting go of inhibition is tricky, academics in particular find it very hard to touch the words of another person.

The trick, I find, is to think of myself as a writing team, that the words that appear as text might just as well be a conversation around a meeting room table. Over time the ‘script’ will be bounced around.

Some tricks:

  • A wiki needs to be ‘populated’ with some text, ‘seeded’ by someone just so that there are some ingredients to get started on.
  • Don’t fuss about spelling, grammar or even the accuracy of ideas that you present. Indeed, the rougher the initial input, even the presence of easy to fix mistakes, the more likely someone will dip their toe in the water and fix the obvious. The polished whole should be the product of the group enterprise.
  • The magic isn’t the finished result, but the ability with current tools to trace back and forth through the ‘narrative’ of changes. In Google Docs you can contribute using different colour text which makes this ‘animation’ all the more easy to read. I found I got a fantastic sense of the thinking process, the logical changes, the ebb and flow, the occasional false trail corrected.

Have a go in Wikipedia

I was surprised how easily I signed in as an editor, found I subject I knew something about and jumped in with text and images. This felt like the first time I swam in a 50m pool.

My conclusion, shared amongst fellow students, is that the ‘modern’ blog platform, such as WordPress offers all of this, as in a wonderfully simple, bulletin board kind of way the OU’s own blog offering.

Six categories of eportfolio:

1) Assessment – used to demonstrate achievement against some criteria.

2) Presentation – used to evidence learning in a persuasive way, often relate to professional qualifications

3) Learning – used to document, guide and advance learning over time

4) Personal development – related to professional development and employment

5) Multiple owner– allow more than one person to participate in development of content

6) Working – combine previous types, with one or more eportfolios and also a wider archive.

Three kinds of e-portfolio (Matt Villano):

  • Developmental
  • Reflective
  • Representational

(A note on blogging. Spurred to say something about wikis based on my current experience in an international e-learning business with 70+ offices around the world I refer to the OU Student Blog I have kept since February 2010. Amongst its 1000+ pages there are 23 tags to wiki, or I can search ‘wiki’ in the blog. This reaches out to any notes I have taken during the FOUR modules I have thus far completed, where wikis, amongst many Web 2.0 tools are carefully introduced and discussed at length drawing on academic papers, the course content, input from out tutor, my student group and from the student cohort on this module who contribute to the vibrant asynchronous conversations in the various social learning environments offered).

12 characteristics of effective e-learning resources

Characterising effective eLearning (sic) resources

Littlejohn, Falconer, Mcgill (2008)

Presented in July 2006, accepted in august 2006 and published in August 2007 or 2008 referencing research and papers written between 1990 and 2004.

Digital assets: a single item, image, video or podcast.

Information objects: a structured aggregation of digital assets designed purely to present information.

Learning activities: tasks involving interactions with information to attain a specific learning outcome.

Learning design: structured sequences of information and learning activities to promote learning.

Learning Brief (JV) where it all begins where a client has a need, a problem to solve or opportunity to pursue, with an idea of the desired outcome, a budget, schedule and idea of resources that can be drawn upon or that will have to be created.

Conceptualization: source information.

Construction: repurpose and use in learner’s context.

Integration: develop and use to inform others.

From Laurillard’s 2002 Model (a bias for tertiary education).

An example of a PowerPoint presentation and its slides are given (only because, even in 2006, other forms of versatile, easily manipulated content were not readily available).

Narrative: downloaded by a student

Communicative: for discussion (synchronous, asynchronous, cohort, faculty, student body and beyond)

Interactive: searched, scanned (engaged, play)

Adaptive: (which Littlejohn et al give as editing, so reworking within the set, rather than adding anything new)

Productive: taking a constructed module PowerPoint (blog, video, animation, gallery photos, quotes, grabs, snips, apps) and repurposing (mash up) (Which I would call adaptive

Productive: (which Littlejohn al called productive in 2008 but I would call creative)

Resources: representation of knowledge by format and medium, flexibility and cost. With ease of manipulation and interaction key.

·Pure

·Combined

·Adapted

The conclusion is that when construction e-learning we need to look for and create digital resources that are:

1.Easily sourced

2.Durable

3.Easily Maintained

4.Accessible

5.Free from legal limitations

6.Quality assured

7.Appropriate cost

8.Resizable

9.Easily repurposed

10.Meaningful

11.Engages the learner

12.Intelligible

Various metaphors have been applied and can be applied, like building with Lego blocks Downes (2000) though Pegler’s preferences is to make a comparison with Technic ‘Lego’ (Pegler, 2004:Loc4282) where each piece has a set of actions.

Like a chemist combining chemicals to form atoms Wiley (2001)

Towards dynamic resources (less bespoke, more off the shelf, like sets of Apps that work in a designed sequence to produce a managed set of learning outcomes).

Constructivist (limited in precision training that requires specific, measurable outcomes in terms of changed behaviours).

Ownership (not personal learning environments, so much as personalised learning environments. Depends on the person’s habits, choices and opportunities – pc, Mac, laptop or desktop, tablet and/or Smartphone; then choices regarding software tools within or married to the learning management system. Word, graphics, draw, charts, video, pics).

Their use in context is key (the institution, course, level, cohort, location).

Like early car or computer manufacturer, become mass produced, trying to be lean, less a conveyor belt than a professional kitchen putting out a variety of courses to clients who are largely, within their respective contexts, demanding the same thing.

1890s bike shops turning to motorbikes and motor vehicles.

2000 bespoke websites and migrating learning distance and interactive ‘non-linear’ video based learning online, artisans, one offs, the Sistine Chapel.

REFERENCE

Downes, S (2000) Learning Objects. Available from http://www.newstrolls.com/news/dev/downes/col;umn000523_1.htm

Littlejohn, Falconer, Mcgill (2008) Characterising effective eLearning (sic) resources

Pegler, C and Littlejohn, A (2004) Preparing for Blended e-Learning, Routledge.

Wiley, D.A. (2000) Connecting Learning Objects to instructional design theory: a definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D.A. Wiley (ed), The instructional use of Learning Objects. Available from http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc

Reflection on e-learning

Coding

Coding (Photo credit: Omer van Kloeten)

  • Something happened.

I don’t like the way text is sometimes displayed here. Simple HTML coding. I may have prepared notes in word that I paste here and find large gaps between headings and paragraphs. Hardly a coding nightmare but I resist any attempt to drill into the code because it reminds me of the barrier I hit in 1999 or 2000 creating web pages in Dreamweaver.

  • What happened?

On reaching a barrier rather than seeking a way beyond it, I may give up. A little disingenuous that, I started a producer job in a web agency where coding was done by programmers and there was an IT guy who made sure the computers sang. Code was not my domain. Nor was IT.

  • So what?

Fine in an office, but of yo and your wife work from home you cannot keep hiring in the ‘Lewes Computer Guy’ when something goes wrong. Time was I felt on top of some of the basic fixes, so when did it all become too much? Time was you could lift the bonnet of a car and see the problem, now you need to plug in a laptop and run through the diagnostics.

  • Now what?

Though it hardly makes me tech savvy I am opening up the HTML codes on these pages and deleting lines creating breaks between paragraphs. The patterns are surprisingly easy to spot. Immediately I’m taken back to lines of colour coded commands. My way to differentiate the code.

My wife said I’m the kind of guy who thinks they can run a marathon on day one having done little exercise. She has a point. My impatience can be my later undoing. When I aim too far, or too high and fail I may give up. I may make excuses that ‘this isn’t me and do something else. The answer is to take things in gradual, incremental stages.

  • Conclusion

Is this reflection? Do I need to show ‘my workings?’ How hard can this be to translate into the H808 reflection tasks relating to course wikis and e-portfolios?

On this basis, like it or not, I can tackle a new platform or piece of software from scratch. If I want to be an ‘e-learning professional’ taking command of a variety of tools for my sake, and for that of my clients and/or students, will be crucial.

It also matters that I have in my mental tool-box a simple method of self-analysis that serves its purpose for the MA ODE and its modules, and becomes second nature.

  • Something happened.
  • What happened?
  • So what!
  • Now what?
  • Conclusion.

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.

 

I wonder if I’m weary of learning to use yet another software tool?

Those that intuitively add to what I know already are easy, whereas new platforms are not.

A Mac user since the days of the ‘Classic‘ I find common tools such as Outlook quite foreign, plenty of functionality, but very mathematical, boxy and dry. I need to use it to tie in with the work I do with a swimming club.

I’m not even great with Excel having only used it for basic accounts. When it comes to creating and managing a database I have always used FileMaker Pro – I prefer the flexibility of layouts as I like to have bespoke pages depending on what information is being collated.

Any tips on merging contact data from Excell to Outlook would be appreciated.

Meanwhile I’m beginning to use Google Docs and Compendium, but rather than ‘playing’ I need a specific task to undertake that will require their use. Anyone have some suggestions?

  • Share the writing of a short story?
  • Collaborate on an article related to e-learning?
  • My 2011 ‘Personal Learning Environment’

  • Design a piece of e-Learning on spec?


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