Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pinterest in Education

My new technological obsession is Pinterest. If you're not familiar with Pinterest, it is a place where you "pin" your "interests." It is the technological equivalent of cutting pictures out of magazines and gluing them on a piece of poster board, except your magazine contains every image on the internet, the images link to more info about them, and your poster board is infinitely large, easily editable, and contains categories. It's visual bookmarking: the image-based equivalent of Delicious. It's also social: you can follow people whose pins you like and it links to Facebook and Twitter, so you can find your friends easily and check out what they have pinned.

Admittedly, Pinterest is pretty girly and popular pins are primarily clothes, jewelry, hair styles, DIY ideas, food, decorations, and pets. In other words, it was made for me. Tonight I am making a recipe I found on Pinterest. This weekend I am going to use a cool tip I found there to clean the hard water deposits off of my shower head. I also found an amazing solution to my lack of funds to purchase a dazzling light fixture.

Although the popular pins are mostly for fun, any image on the internet can be pinned and categorized. Pinterest could be used in education the same way that social bookmarking like Delicious is used, but for topics with a more visual emphasis, which, I think, makes it a bit more engaging. Would you rather see a list of words linked to webpages, or a page of images? Which image below are you more drawn to: my Delicious page on the left or my Pinterest page on the right?



I think the best way to use social bookmarking (whether it's text based like Delicious or image based like Pinterest) is to collect resources that will help students in their education and/or future careers. It's basically a way to save things you find on the internet in a cloud that can be accessed on any device (including phones, although there is not a Pinterest Android app yet, so it doesn't work great on my phone). Bookmarking is also a great way to get students exploring the sites that are relevant to them. They can find a pin that leads to a website that leads them to pin a new image.

Here are a few disciplines that I think would make the best use of Pinterest, due to their visual nature primarily:
  • Culinary arts
  • Apparel design
  • Education (this is already a category of pins)
  • Biology
  • Geography
  • Architecture
  • Kinesiology (I see a lot of exercises on there)
  • Photography
This could be an assignment in kinesiology, for example (sorry if my details are off; this is not my field!): create a new board for a client. Pin 10 exercises that would be appropriate for your client. Look at the pins of your classmates and repin at least 3 others you think would work also, with your specific comments. 

For photography: create a new board for whatever technique. Pin 6 examples of this technique and repin 2 of your classmates findings with your comments.

It could also be used for content if the instructor pins things for the students to read/look at. A link to the board could be provided in D2L. Then the students could repin things to keep them! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Issues with Inking in Word 2010

Normally when an input device such as a Wacom is plugged in, the inking tools in Word 2010 should automatically come up to allow freehand writing in the application. Below is what it looks like in Word when the Ink Tools are available. You can click on the images here to make them bigger if it is difficult to see.


However, this doesn't always happen and there is a limited amount of information online about how to troubleshoot it. Here are some things you can do.

1. Go to Review and then choose Start Inking. That should make the Ink Tools come up in another tab like above.


But what if you don't see the Start Inking button?

2. Customize your toolbar to include Ink.

  • In Word, go to File and then choose Options on the left side, toward the bottom (under Help).
  • Then choose Customize Ribbon on the left side (highlighted in yellow below). 
  • The image below shows what it looks like when Ink is included in the ribbon under Review. If you do not see this, click the drop down menu under "Choose commands from" to something other than the default which is Popular Commands since Ink is apparently not popular. 
  • Then find Ink (they are in alphabetical order), select it, and then click Add in the middle of the screen and OK.



That really should work, but if it doesn't here's another idea:

3. Check if the Tablet PC Components somehow got turned off. To find this, go to the Start button, Control Panel, Programs and Features, and then choose "Turn Windows features on or off" on the left side. Then scroll down to find Tablet PC Components and make sure it is checked. If it is not checked, check the box and click ok.


Here's a completely different way to go about it: 

4. Let's try PowerPoint then. This is not ideal because the eraser is not easily accessible, but it is something. Open a slide in presentation mode, then right click on it (command click on a Mac), choose Pointer Options, then Pens. In PowerPoint 2010 for Windows it will save the inking on the slide, but in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac, it will not save. The image below is from PPT for Mac because I don't know how to take a screenshot of a right click on Windows :) 
If you've found other solutions, please let me know. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paper Tablet App for Livescribe Echo Smartpen

Being able to control your computer's cursor by writing on a piece of paper with a pen is kind of weird when you think about it. This is exactly what you can do with the Livescribe Echo Smartpen, if you purchase the $15 Paper Tablet App.

I wrote a fairly long post on the Pulse a while back, but here's some basic info on Livescribe pens if you don't want to read that whole thing: you write with these pens (below) on special paper and what you write and say can be recorded since there is a microphone in the pen and the paper tracks where you have written. You can click on parts of the paper to replay the audio recorded at that point and you can also upload and share the "pencasts." So the most common uses are for meeting or class notes and they can also be used to create pencasts as online tutorials. The videos on the Livescribe page are good to check out if you're not familiar.



Livescribe has two types of pens: the original Pulse (silver) and newer Echo (black). The main difference between the two is that the Echo connects to the computer via micro USB while the Pulse has to sit in a charging cradle, so the Echo can be used while connected to the computer charging.

I was not excited about the Pulse and the Livescribe software back when I got the Pulse, but it has gotten better:
  • You can now download the Livescribe desktop software from their site and install it on multiple computers, then the pen can be connected to any computer with the software.
  • I didn't have any problems getting started. It just took a while to download everything and then update the firmware of the pen. 
  • I'm not sure if I overlooked this or if it came about later, but you now have the option, as a viewer, to turn off the preview in a pencast, see what's coming in grey, or see the whole pencast at once. I found it very distracting to see a preview of what is coming. 
The main thing I still don't like is that you can't download an editable file.
  • This, of course, means you can't edit out any mistakes. 
  • You also can't upload it to YouTube, which helps make the video accessible to people with hearing disabilities by time coding a transcript with the audio to produce captions. As far as I can tell, Livescribe is completely ignoring the issue of captioning. When I Google "livescribe captioning" my old blog post is one of the top hits and the other main relevant page is about how to use a Livescribe pen to create captions (record the audio with the pen and then play it back really slowly so you can type it). 
Now, on to the Paper Tablet App! 

The Echo with the Paper Tablet app sort of combats my continuing issue with not being able to download an editable file because it allows the user to write on a piece of paper, yet it shows up on the computer screen and can be recorded with screencasting programs like Camtasia.

You may wonder why someone would want to do that. Normally I'd recommend a Wacom Bamboo tablet ($69) but some people really struggle with writing on a tablet like this because they have to write on it and then look at the computer screen. The Echo and Paper Tablet app allows them to write on paper and see it on the paper but still record it on the computer so it is editable and captionable.

The Paper Tablet app worked surprisingly well on Windows. Mouse control was very accurate and my handwriting showed up on the computer screen very true to what it looked like on the paper. My aspect ratio was a bit off but I couldn't figure out how to change it; their instructions didn't make sense to me.

I found the best way to record on a white background is just to open up a blank PowerPoint slide in presentation mode, right click to get the pointer options, turn on the pen, and then write on the slide. PowerPoint 2010 will keep the inking on the slide. This could be pretty cool for recording a face-to-face class; the instructor could have a bunch of blank slides ready (or have some skeletal info on them) and then write on the slides and save the PPT and upload it to D2L. You can also do this with a Wacom though.

Issue 1: Livescribe should not indicate that the Paper Tablet app is compatible with Mac because it is basically useless. I did the same thing with PowerPoint, but when I hit escape to get out of presentation mode, the inking was just gone, since there is apparently no way to save it in PPT 2011. My handwriting turned out really weird too; it was smooth on paper, but very angular on the computer screen. It looked like the writing of someone with bad arthritis.

Issue 2: The amount of usable space on the paper is kind of a funky thing to figure out. I first tried it with my notebook in portrait orientation and I had about the size of a postcard to write in. When I switched it to landscape, I had almost the whole page and I think that if I was able to figure out the aspect ratio I would have had the whole page. When I used it on the Mac I had about a 6" x 4" space. I have no idea why that was.

Issue 3: I did not like the heaviness and size of the pen. I spent probably an hour messing around with it, and my wrist still hurts today. The pen is quite big and I felt that I had to press hard on the paper. I strongly prefer writing with the thin and light Wacom Bamboo stylus. However, I am not normal: a few years ago, I broke my wrist badly and had surgery to basically screw it back together. It hardly ever bothers me anymore though.

Issue 4: If people are creating tutorials that take up more than one page of paper, they will have to do some editing in between because each page needs to be deactivated and then the new page needs to be activated and that will take a little time.

Issue 5: It is a little awkward to write with the cord in the way. It is not very flexible and is difficult to straighten out since it came bundled up. Even completely straightened out, it's still not very long, so you have to stay fairly close or get another one.

CONCLUSION: The Wacom Bamboo/Camtasia combo is still, I think, currently the best and most economical option ($69) for annotating/inking and recording a tutorial. If a Windows user (not a Mac user) really couldn't adjust to the Wacom, this Echo pen with the Paper Tablet app could be a decent substitute for a still reasonable amount of money ($120 for pen and app). It would be an especially good buy if the person was interested in using it for meeting notes and other quick tutorials using the Livescribe software to create pencasts.

The main issue is still the complete lack of a way to caption the pencasts when used as course content. Because of this, I can't recommend using Livescribe pencasts as tutorials unless a document was created with the transcript and whatever additional visuals (such as diagrams) were necessary to understand the transcript and this would get time consuming. Simply providing a transcript would technically make the pencast accessible according to the letter of the law, but it is likely that a lot of the meaning would get lost without the visuals too. Equal access really means captioning...and technically should include a verbal description for people who are blind or have low vision.

*The one exception to my lack of recommendation would be foreign language or other subjects in which hearing is pretty much necessary to learn the content. 

I hope that this post is out of date soon because something comes along soon that completely changes this situation. It seems crazy that there is no good, reasonably priced option to annotate/ink directly on an electronic device and record it. The iPad has a ShowMe app which is probably the closest thing on a tablet. I just don't like having to use my finger or an iPad stylus and, of course, not everyone has an iPad. A tablet PC would be great, but they are still quite expensive. I have a SMART podium in my office that does this great with a nice thin stylus, but those run about $3500. I'll keep looking!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Captioning in YouTube & Making Camtasia Videos

I've been exploring the captioning features YouTube offers as a quick way to make a video accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Unfortunately the automatic voice recognition is horrible. One video I made came back with weird phrases like "you need to copy all mexican bank code" and "indians who helped won't be html dinner." That is definitely not what I said! 

What YouTube does well is time code an uploaded script, so the words appear on the screen at the right time. This is how I captioned the video about embedding a Google form and video in a D2L page in my previous post. 

When I give advice on creating Camtasia videos, I encourage people to read from a script or at least an outline. However, I just disregarded my own advice and talked pretty much off the cuff when I made the embedding video. I've also heard that people learn better from a conversational voice and I think most people prefer it to when someone sounds like they are reading. Unfortunately, I realized that I use the word "so" to start about half of my sentences. 

If I had read from a script, I bet that I would have used less words to get to the same point. As I was typing up what I said afterwards for the transcript file, I noticed there were a lot of "fluff" words in there that weren't necessary. That could be part of what makes it sound conversational though. 

In a few spots, I wished I would have added something so I just put it in a callout. I'm not sure how effective this is, so let me know if you have any feedback. 

Now that we have Camtasia available for faculty, it would be great to have a transcriptionist as well! I can type about 90 words per minute, so typing up my transcript wasn't extremely time consuming: it took about 1/2 hour for me to transcribe and put in line breaks for a 4.32 minute video. However, the average typing speed is 36 words per minute, which means it would probably take an average typist over an hour for a video this short.

I have used Camtasia for Windows to caption before, but I think YouTube is even easier. Camtasia does integrate with the Windows 7 speech recognition tool. Earlier this week I tried to train the speech recognition to recognize my voice better, but it wasn't even acknowledging that I was talking, so I need to look further into that. Unfortunately, it says it takes about 4 hours of training for it to be reasonably accurate.  Why can't the same voice recognition my phone uses (Droid X) be available on computers? My phone is amazingly accurate, and I know Siri on the iPhone is too.  Hmmm.

Using a Google Form to Make Videos a Bit More Interactive

Today I found a really cool tutorial explaining how to embed a video with a Google form below it so that students can fill out the form while watching and then the results are automatically sent to a Google spreadsheet. Something Cindy and I recommend when faculty want students to view videos out of class is to have some sort of questions or homework to fill out while watching the video, so this is a nice way to package that all and make use of technology.

Here is the video I got the idea from by Ramsey Musallam on Vimeo. It is about 7 minutes long, but I thought it went really fast. He explains it well.

I decided to get a bit of Camtasia practice under my belt and make my own video that specifically showed how to embed a Film on Demand from the library and a Google form into a D2L page. Check it out here. For your viewing pleasure, I have purified it. Sometimes purified links are slow or funky, so if it doesn't work, you can also view it right on YouTube.

On the left is what the page looks like in Google Chrome (Windows and Mac) and Internet Explorer. The image on the right is how it looks in Firefox (Windows and Mac) and Safari. I made the page in Chrome on Windows. It's kind of weird, don't think it's a problem in any case.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Logipen Disappointment

Nearly a month ago, I ordered a Logipen. My interest was mostly due to a math faculty member who said he was using it on his Mac but wasn't sure if he was using it to the full potential. He was using it as a pen input device (aka mouse) to write, view it on the computer, and record it with Quicktime to make a tutorial. (Another alternative to writing on a Wacom and recording with a screencast program like Camtasia)

I thought that since it writes with actual ink on a regular notebook is could be a great option for people who don't like writing on a Wacom, where you can't see what you are writing directly where you write it.

I was a little disappointed it had to charge for 12 hours before use. When I finally was able to use it, I downloaded the software from the disc that came with the pen and it gave me an error message and never opened, so I finally found it on the website and downloaded it from there.  It did work then, but unfortunately the quality was horrible and it jumped around a lot. To the right is a screenshot of what I wrote, which looked perfectly fine on the paper. My hand was not blocking the camera.

I tried it on my Mac and was really confused about what was going on with the software. When I finally figured out what it was called in my Applications ("Notetaker Preferences" - thanks for the descriptive title, Logipen! I have a few notetaker programs!) all it does is actually open preferences, which I guess makes sense based on the title.

I know they don't have the same functionality for Mac, but I was really confused about what is actually available. There are all sorts of names being used here and there: LogiManage, Logipen Notes, MyScript Software - I still don't really know what is what.

Regardless, the Logipen worked ok as an input device on the Mac. Still some jumping but not as bad as it did on Windows. It has issues pulling up my dock though. The main problem I had on the Mac was that my active area for writing was smaller than a postcard. Word for Mac doesn't have pen tools so I had to use scriblink (an online whiteboard) since there was no software for Mac (I guess?).

I emailed Logipen support with the screenshot above and all they really said was that it shouldn't work like that and asked if I was using the handwritten note function. I responded yes and haven't heard back, other than a confirmation that my email was received and someone would get back to me.

I tried uninstalling the software, reinstalling it, uninstalling it again and installing it on a different Windows computer with no luck. During a short period of time today when I was at a meeting with a bunch of technologists, it worked ok. It worked better without the software installed, but I had the same issue with a limited active area for writing. Then I got back to my office and it did the jumping thing again. I decided I have had enough of Logipen and I'm going to return it. Top Ten Reviews that also found some flaws with the Logipen so I'm going to assume it's not just me. I get the impression from other reviews that the best use for it is to take notes not connected to the computer and then upload them. That did work fine for me, but that's not what I wanted to do.

I already have a Pulse Smartpen (by Livescribe - $99) which works fine and is really the simplest way to record an inked tutorial since you can record writing and audio together. I just plugged it in and noticed there were software and firmware updates, so I'll have to see what's new with the Pulse. The Echo Smartpen ($169) apparently can work as a mouse so maybe I'll have to try that out. 


First picture from http://tgsreviews.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/logipen04.jpg?w=337&h=253

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Educational Use of Yammer

Recently LTS started exploring Yammer as a communication tool and knowledge center. Yammer is basically Facebook for work. It looks and functions very similarly to Facebook. Below is Facebook on the left and Yammer on the right.


I am a Facebook junkie, so it was very easy to just jump in and start communicating. Here are some of the main differences I've noticed, most of which are great enhancements:
  • You follow people instead of friend them.
  • On Yammer, when someone comments on a post someone else wrote, that whole post will show up on the commenter's profile and in their followers' newsfeeds. On Facebook, this type of interaction is deemphasized and would just partially show up under "recent activity" only on the commenter's page (not their friends' newsfeeds, but it does show up in the new real time activity thing on the top right of the computer screen).
  • The phrasing is a bit more work oriented - instead of "What's on your mind?" it says "What are you working on?" and there are some work-oriented features like praise. I know there are more but I haven't used them.
  • You can upload files!!!!
  • Did I mention you can upload files???
  • The organization of the News Feed is a little funky. It defaults to "Top Conversations" which seem a bit arbitrary (which, I guess, is like Facebook's Top Stories but then at least you have recent stories right below). You can choose "All Conversations" from the drop down which (I believe) brings them up in chronological order with the most recent at the top.
  • And finally, you can reply specifically to another person's comment to a post (see below)

As with Facebook and Twitter, you can use an @ mention to get someone's attention (I also did that in the above comment to make sure Matt noticed my reply). One feature I really like being able to use in a work setting is "liking" things! I am so used to the "like" button that sometimes I want to like unlikeable things, such as emails or documents, so this is a step in the right direction for me! I personally think "like" is much better than"+1" but that's probably just my personal preference (Google+ is another post entirely).

Ok, so I need to get to the point here! Educational use.
  • Yammer functions basically the same as Facebook so it is a very easy learning curve, but it's not Facebook. So it could be used the same way anyone uses Facebook academically, which is often a venue for students to communicate informally, in relation to a class, to increase a sense of community (ask questions about homework, due dates, etc. or set up study groups).
    • Even though faculty can say that class use of Facebook does not mean anyone needs to be friends and the school/personal line will not be crossed with the use of Groups, there is still some hesitation. With the frequency of Facebook privacy setting changes, that is understandable. I thought I was a Facebook privacy settings pro, but yesterday someone I am not friends with (my sister's friend) was able to comment on a picture I posted of my sister, although my album is set to friends only. Hmmm. 
  • One positive aspect I have cited in the past about using Facebook for class is that students are on it anyway, but I don't think it's a huge deal for students to navigate to another site to relieve privacy concerns if this functionality is needed (don't forsake D2L discussions, which is still the best option for scholarly discussion). 
  • There is a mobile app, but I find the Android version a little confusing because posts are listed in chronological order and comments are listed the same way as original posts. I don't really like how the Android app notifies me every time anyone posts. If it picks up, I will look into the possibility of changing my notifications or possibly uninstalling it. There is also a desktop app (Mac & Windows) but I prefer the website.
  • It is also nice that Yammer does not have advertisements on it (not yet anyway). 
  • Just FYI, we have a verified UWEC network, so only people with uwec.edu email addresses can join our network. However, it is possible to create an external network and add others.
So what are you waiting for? Make a Yammer account and follow me! It's available and free, at least for now!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MimioPad

Our Mimio rep, Brianne, did a demo for us on Monday. She showed us MimioTeach, MimoCapture, and MimioPad. I'll focus on the MimioPad for this post.

I've posted in the past about the search for a good way for educators to digitize their handwriting using a wireless tablet. This is useful for disciplines like math, chemistry, economics, etc where they need to be able to write out numbers, problems, or graphs but they may want to project it rather than write on a whiteboard (maybe they have a big class who couldn't all see a whiteboard or they want to be able to capture it electronically to share later). The wirelessness frees up the instructor to walk around the classroom and use the stylus and tablet to control the computer like a mouse and continue to annotate from anywhere. The HP Digital Sketch was a poor contender for quality and the Wacom Intuos was a fine device, but the need for Bluetooth made it difficult to use in classrooms where the teaching stations do not have Bluetooth.

Here's why the MimioPad is my #1 choice for a wireless handwriting digitizing tablet (I'm still not sure what the best term is for these things!):
  • It uses a USB RF receiver, not Bluetooth. On the teaching stations I tried, it worked as a mouse and pen tool (in Word, for instance) without the MimioStudio software installed. I just needed to use a USB port in the tower rather than one on the monitor.
  • The MimioStudio software makes it an amazing device: it can record an avi, reveal the screen (the modern day equivalent of pulling down a piece of paper to reveal a transparency on an overhead), spotlight, capture, and it allows annotation on anything – not just digital whiteboards and programs with pen tools, which is the case without the software. 
  • I haven't been able to get far enough away for it to quit working wirelessly and still communicate with people in the room to know whether it was working. It still worked down the hall from the room it was in. I haven't been able to get into a big lecture hall to try it out yet but I anticipate it will be acceptable for most situations.
  • I was able to write as clearly and legibly on it as I recall writing on the Intuos.
  • It's actually about $30 less than the Intuos. 
  • Local tech support: the Mimio rep lives right by campus :)
We have a winner! I'll write more about the additional Mimio products as I spend more time with them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

McGraw-Hill Online Materials

Today our McGraw-Hill (MH) rep Amanda came to talk to us about their online instructional materials. They recently made some changes including an integrated D2L/MH logon and no requirement to use MH texts.

First, they have a few different services to distinguish between:
  • MH Campus is a repository of free instructional materials such as tutorials (aka animations), PowerPoints, and test banks. They can only be linked to in D2L if we have the D2L integration complete.
  • MH Connect is an interactive platform where students can complete activities and assessments. A really cool aspect is that quiz feedback can link to the area in the text where the concept was discussed for instant remediation (details were a bit fuzzy though). In early 2012, they will roll out D2L gradebook integration - the bugs should be worked out by fall 2012. Connect has a cost of $10-45 per student, per course. Sciences are more expensive.
  • MH Create is a way for faculty to basically make their own textbook by choosing chapters out of one or more textbooks and even including their own content. It can be a black and white, color, or e-book. The cost accumulates at the bottom of the screen while material is added. How this works with a text rental campus is a little fuzzy. 
  • Tegrity: MH acquired the lecture capture technology Tegrity and offers it through Connect. There is an additional cost to use Tegrity, separate from Connect. From what I know, Tegrity is a straight forward lecture capture option without editing capabilities. An advantage is that it is searchable, meaning it can find words spoken in the lecture. I wonder if this means it can produce good captions like the youtube transcription feature? Regardless, I'm not excited about Tegrity since there are so many free screencasting programs available and we are doing a Camtasia pilot. I talked with a faculty member about this a few months ago who was concerned about whether it was possible to download the captured lectures to save for later or view outside of Connect.
Right now accessibility is an issue since not everything is captioned and content is primarily in Flash which is not screen reader or iOS friendly. Amanda said that by the end of 2012, everything should be accessible and in HTML5. 

How we actually get D2L and MH to integrate is unclear right now so we need to contact the right person to figure out if/how to make that happen. The biggest unknown I see is whether the content available in MH Campus is going to be helpful to faculty. I'm sure it will vary by discipline and personal preferences, but it could be a good option for some. The search function seemed to leave something to be desired, so that is a bit of a concern too. It's hard to tell a lot without being able to actually try it, but from my perspective it's worth continuing to look into. I don't think there needs to be a big rush since MH is still working out some of the bugs. However, it could take a while to get the D2L integration worked out so trying to make progress on that front for a pilot in spring or fall of 2012 would be great.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Recording a Prezi with Camtasia

Prezi is a zooming presentation editor - kind of like PowerPoint on steroids. It's gaining popularity among K-12 educators because kids think the zooming aspect is cool and teachers want any help they can get engaging them. This summer I went to a conference at which a presenter used a Prezi and I actually found it pretty cool too.

Prezi is best used for concepts that aren't linear or by people who don't think very linearly but I think once you start to think differently, it can be used effectively in a lot of different situations. I'm very linear so it took a while!  It is harder to use than PowerPoint because it requires you to set up a path for each frame, so it knows where to go in what order and it's kind of a new way of thinking. I wouldn't say it's hard to use, but it takes a little getting used to. There are templates to work from when you're learning.  

When I created e-learning I often had the problem of how to find an engaging way to list off facts related to one big concept, or numerous parts of one thing. The typical solution would be one slide with a title and bulleted list, but that was clearly not acceptable. I found this quote in an article on the ad:tech blog that spoke to my specific issue: "There are certainly plenty of times when nonlinear might work better for a preso. Imagine trying to talk about eight aspects of something. In a slide format, you’d probably have a list of eight things, and then tick them off one by one, returning over and over again to the same slide, maybe with a highlight box around the one you are going to move on to discuss. With Prezi, you could arrange all that in a circle. Drift from place to place by zooming in and out, so that the viewer gets the sense of the totality as much as the eight distinct ideas."

I learned about Prezi at the end of the spring 2011 semester because a student wanted to make a Prezi for the English 110 redesign project and then record it with voice over. She contacted BITS for some training. We determined it was not possible to record voice over right in Prezi, but the Prezi could be recorded with Camtasia. The project ended up taking longer than she expected so she is just finishing up the Camtasia aspect this week. Here is her Prezi.

In my opinion, one of the most challenging and frustrating aspects of Camtasia is making sure the correct recording and publishing dimensions are used so the final project is a reasonable size. The Camtasia presets have gotten better, but I recall re-doing many screencasts because they turned out really weird.

The documentation students I used to supervise create how-to videos by sizing their browser window to 800x600 and then record an 800x600 frame and then publish custom recording dimensions as 800x600. It's pretty straight forward. They used to record full screen and then publish in 640x480, but it was hard to actually see what was going on unless they zoomed in.

We tried to do the same thing with the Prezi but the problem is that Prezis either open in the weird window on the website (see image to the right) or in full screen, so we couldn't really size it to 800x600. It is probably possible but we couldn't figure it out in a reasonable amount of time, so she recorded full screen.

When she came back to add narration to it (because our practice is first to record the video - or "record the clicks" as we call it), we ran into a snag. Normally when we open the .camrec (raw, unedited Camtasia file), it is 800x600, so when Camtasia prompts for the size when it opens the project, we choose 800x600 but that cut off some of her video when we played it :/  First we worried that she had the recording area in the wrong spot and maybe didn't realize that although she could see the whole Prezi, it wasn't recording it. That is a common error when not recording full screen because the edges of the recording area aren't really obvious when recording.

I was really surprised it cut the video off rather than adding black bars to the extra space.  Isn't that weird? Anyway, we went back to the .camrec file and reopened it using the "recording dimensions" option (it was something weird like 1080x870) and published it as 800x600 just to make sure it was going to be alright and, thankfully, it was!

Another snag we ran into is that when she recorded the clicks, she accidentally recorded audio. Normally we turn off the audio when recording. So we had to figure out how to remove it and couldn't, but at least figured out how to silence it and she recorded in another track.

This whole experience was excellent for me because we are starting a Camtasia pilot with faculty and I know these types of things will come up!  I need to make some screencasts to refamiliarize myself with the ins and outs of Camtasia since it's been a while since I used it regularly.  When I used it a lot, I did things the same all the time and didn't venture out a lot, so I'm excited to have the opportunity now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blog Set Up and Training

In past posts, I mentioned blog assignments. Well, September rolled around and it was finally time to make it happen.

I met with the faculty to set up the blogs before school started. They wanted the students to be in groups of approximately five students/authors per blog and for the blogs to be private to the students and professors. First, the students were grouped using the D2L groups tool. Then the faculty set up the blogs on Google Blogger.  Since they wanted the blogs to be private, here's what we did under the Settings tab:
  1. Basic: We chose No for "Add your blog to our listings" and "Let search engines find your blog."
  2. Permissions: This is where the students were invited as authors. This means they can post but can't change settings or the look of the blog. 
  3. Comments: 
    1. Who can comment - we chose users with Google accounts, just so they were identifiable since they will already have a Google account. 
    2. Turned off word verification, which means commenters will not have to decipher the funky words to verify they are human. 
    3. Comment notification email - I just pointed out that the default is for the blog creator to get emails whenever someone comments, which may get annoying, so here is where they can remove their email address. 




One thing I really wish I would have known during these meetings was how to easily get the emails for the group members in copyable and pasteable form. We made this more difficult than it needed to be.  There is a place under manage groups in D2L where you can email each group.

I learn about 20 new things every day!



Then we did in-class training for the students, simply on how to post to the blog and comment. I figured this would be super easy. It's when you are confident that things can go awry! The first group was in a distance education room with an ITV to view students in a different town, so the professors told the students to bring a laptop to practice on since we couldn't go to a computer lab. This was interesting because they had all sorts of different browsers. Some students were unable to publish their post - when they clicked "Publish Post" nothing happened. Thankfully Danielle was there and she figured out that Internet Explorer 9 was the problem. When these students switched to the new interface of Blogger, they were able to post. 

A few days later I did training for another professor who was able to reserve a computer lab. I didn't ask Danielle to come because I figured it would be pretty simple. I was wrong. The teaching station wouldn't project, so I couldn't show them what I was talking about. Thankfully it's not that hard so I could walk around and explain it. The additional problem was that they were using Internet Explorer 8. Well, at least it wasn't 9, but it still had issues and about half the students were unable to comment. When they viewed the blog, it was like they weren't signed in but then they could go back to the dashboard and they were signed in. Weird. So, I hate to admit such ignorance but I didn't know where/if there were other browsers on the computers! I had to end up telling them that I was 99% confident that it would work on Firefox or Chrome. Great success! Just kidding.

The next day (today) I did the training again for the other section. The teaching station was working and turns out the problem was something technical I didn't understand - the main thing I was concerned about is that it was not my fault. I also found out from Greg that all the computers had both Chrome and Firefox under Start - All Programs - Internet (really intuitive, right?).  Sometimes I think I should use a Windows machine more but I'm not sure if I would have known this because I would have just made a shortcut. But I know now. Training today went great and only took about 15 minutes, mostly because one student was having issues with his invitation and it had to be resent a few times. What a learning experience!

So, from the professors' perspective, I know that they had to resend a lot of invitations for some reason or another. I hope it wasn't too much work. It is interesting how the two groups are approaching it differently:
  • One is having students post a certain number of times through the semester as "blog leaders"  and then others comment, with extra credit options if they post additional times as leaders (I'm sure there is a limit but I don't remember the details). Their rationale is that this is more of what a blog is like, which makes sense to me.
  • The other is requiring the students to post a certain number of times (connecting news to the course content) and write a reflection paper on what they learned from others' posts a few times during the semester. Comments are not required (they can comment if they want).
I can't wait to see how it goes for them all!

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Films on Demand

    Last week I met with Robin Miller from the McIntyre Library who showed me Films on Demand which is an educational video database provided through the library. I was very impressed with what it has to offer.

    First, you may be wondering how to access it. One time I tried to find it and couldn't.  The easiest way is to go to the library's homepage (www.uwec.edu/library) and click on the "Books and Media" tab in the middle of the page.  Films on demand is listed below the search area. In the image below, a red arrow is pointing at it.



    When I worked with CETL on the hybrid course development workshops in June, I didn't know that Films on Demand existed, which is sort of a tragedy.  The special collections tab shows some of the external sites that I was suggesting to participants. You can also search by Subject. 


    Robin said an advantage of Films on Demand is that it has older videos, such as historical news footage that could be informative for either history or journalism. Many times sites such as PBS only have recent shows or clips on the website.

    I asked about how stable the videos are - for instance, do the URLs change? How frequently are videos discontinued? Robin said that old videos are taken out due to lack of use, so hopefully if the videos are being viewed by a class, they would remain, especially if the students are viewing them out of class since there would be a higher number of viewers. New videos are being added all the time.

    Disability accessibility is a concern since the only videos that have captions are those that the creator has captioned (i.e., Films on Demand does not offer captioning). So if PBS, for instance, captions all of their videos normally, they would be captioned on Films on Demand, but if they don't, there is no way to caption them easily if they are not already captioned. I'm honestly not sure how captioning would be provided if it was needed. I found that ABC News does caption their videos, but ironically a video on assistive technology for people with disabilities was not captioned. The image in this paragraph shows what the captioning looks like on ABC News and what the notification that captions are available in the top right looks like. The CC is on/of box comes on when the cursor is on the video.

    I also noticed that when I clicked on Films on Demand under Books and Media, a warning came up that said "You are about to leave MetaLib. The site may not comply with accessibility standards." I'm not sure if that is referring to the lack of caption availability or problems with screen reader accessibility, but it is a concern.

    Films on Demand would be well used in hybrid courses, in which students watch videos on their own time outside of or in lieu of class and then meet in class to apply or discuss the information.

    So how do you share Films on Demand in D2L?  

    There is a specific way this must be done.  You cannot create a Quicklink - you must Create New File:
    When you are in the text box that opens after choosing "Create New File," you can add a Quicklink (image on left) and then choose URL. In order for it to work, you must choose Open in: New Window (see image below)

    Make sure you use the link provided below the video where it says "Title URL," rather than the link in the URL area of your browser (see below).


    The "proxy" part is important because that is how it funnels the request for the video through the server.  I'm pretty techy, but not techy enough to fully understand proxy servers.  What I do know, is that it will prompt the viewer to login to the library's services with their UWEC username and password if they are off campus to verify that they are a UWEC student or staff person. On campus, it should work fine.

    Warning: this paragraph gets pretty techy.  It is even possible to embed videos in PowerPoint or in the html pages (news or 'create new file') in D2L. There is embed code under the video (it says "embed this video").  However, the proxy part of the URL (http://proxy.uwec.edu/login/url=)  needs to be added to the embed code right before the URL of the video (which will begin with http://digitalfilms.com). It looks funky because you have two http://'s in the same URL, but remember that the first one is for the proxy (hopefully I am making sense here!).  Note: In order to embed videos in PowerPoint, you need to create a Films on Demand account. 

    So, what a great resource! If you have questions, I'd recommend talking to someone at the library such as Robin.  I think each department has a library representative.  I can help with putting the videos in D2L or in PowerPoint.  I will continue to think about and do research into the accessibility issue.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Saving a YouTube Video

    YouTube contains a lot of great educational videos, but it's hard to rely on them to stay there indefinitely to be used as course content. So what can you do?  If you follow these steps, you can download a YouTube video without violating copyright so you always have it.
    1. Request permission from the person who posted the video.  You need a YouTube account to do this.  Click on the name of the person who uploaded the video (top left of the video) to get to their channel page.  Then there should be an option to "Send Message" below the video on the left. Compliment the video (optional :) and ask if you can use it for non-profit educational purposes. Tell him/her that will be available only to students through the university's server.
    2. If you receive a positive response, you are clearly good to go.  If you receive no response, we consider this an adequate attempt at getting permission and you can download it.  If you receive a negative response, of course, you cannot download it but you can continue linking to it on the YouTube site.
    3. So how do you download it?  There are a few sites such as Free File Converter, Media Converter, or KeepVid. I've found KeepVid to be the best and most consistent but it does not do wmv files which are needed for the current UWEC media server. Free File Converter does wmv but I've found quality to be poor in my limited experience.  Media Converter seems to work inconsistently.
    4. Do not reupload it to YouTube!  UWEC has a streaming media server where you can store it. (Streaming means the students view it online and do not download it to their computer. Streaming video is highly recommended.) We are in the process of setting up a new server, which will be like our own UWEC YouTube site.  It will be great!  However, it may not be ready until spring 2012.  In the mean time, we have a more "homegrown" server that requires some effort to use, which is named Desi (like Lucy & Desi).  
    5. What I recommend is downloading the video as mp4 (assuming you receive a positive or no response from the creator), saving it somewhere (let me know if you need more info on this), and uploading it to the new streaming server when it's ready.  In the mean time, continue linking to YouTube. If you need to use the video asap, talk to me or Craig Ernst about getting access and training on how to use the current server. 
    If you don't like showing videos on YouTube because of all the ads and recommendations around them, there are sites such as View Pure where you can enter the URL of the video and it "purifies" it to get rid of all that junk and have a white background. Then you can share the purified URL or show it in class. 

    Please note these instructions apply exclusively to YouTube.  Sending an email to the Discovery Channel, HBO, PBS, or other commercial channels and going ahead with downloading a video when you get no response is a bit different.  If you have any questions, let me know and I can try to help.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Wacom Intuos vs HP Digital Sketch

    HP Digital Sketch
    Wacom Intuos











    Recently a co-worker heard that Hewlett-Packard had a new wireless Digital Sketch that they were willing to let us try.  After about an hour of messing around, I was unable to get it to connect to my Dell laptop.  I had my student try it for about another 2 hours.  Then I found another student who did get it to work, after about another 2 hours.  I didn't really understand how he got it to work.  So, I was then excited to try it out.  This was the result:





    After all that effort, this was it?  I have nice handwriting, so it should have looked a lot better than this. I was a bit irritated.





    I also have a Wacom Bamboo Pen and I worked with a graphic designer who had a high end Wacom monitor, so I've learned that Wacom creates excellent tablets. I decided to look for their wireless option, which is the Intuos.  First, I tried it on my Dell laptop. I saw the images on the box that said I should install the software and then connect the Intuos to the computer with the cord (image provided), so I did that.
    I love instructions like these but in the case of the Intuos, more info was needed.

    I was a little confused when it didn't work after installation, so I decided to actually read the instructions and found that I needed to remove a tag from the battery compartment and turn it on, so I did that and it worked just fine.  The pen tools in Word 2010 were excellent.  Here is a sample of my writing:



    The text at the top is a result of handwriting recognition, a handy little tool included with the Wacom software. I write in a combination of cursive and print and was surprised that when I wrote just like I normally do, the program deciphered it perfectly.

    Unfortunately the Dell did not have Bluetooth to try it wirelessly, so I will look into ordering a dongle and decided try it on the Mac in the mean time. Installation was super easy, especially since I had just done it, but I had to figure out the Bluetooth part now.  I think the last time I used Bluetooth for anything was about 4 years ago on a Windows machine.  Regardless, I quickly found the Bluetooth area under System Preferences, turned it on, and saw that there was a discoverable mouse but I didn't see the tablet.  Again I was forced to read instructions.  Turns out the mouse I was seeing actually was the Intuos.  For some reason, it comes up as a mouse called PTK-540WL. So it paired just fine and I was able to use it on the other side of my office.  Unfortunately Word 2011 for Mac does not have pen tools (yes, really!), so I tried it on a site called Scriblink and it worked well.

    Here are the criteria upon which I judged these tablets:
    • Legibility of handwriting: clearly Wacom wins
    • Ease of installation: Wacom again
    • Price: Well, the HP is $209 and the Wacom is $329, but this is a situation where you get what you pay for and I still vote Wacom.  $329 is not bad. 
    • Does it work on a Mac?  Of course the HP does not.  Wacom it is!  
    One other thing: If someone already has an iPad2 and wants to annotate the web, presentations, just draw, etc. in a face-to-face setting with a projector (which is the intended use of the HP and a possible use of the Intuos), I'd recommend looking into the available apps for that rather than buying a tablet like these.  Doceri is one I just learned about today.  I have not yet personally explored it but hope to do so soon.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Social Media & FERPA

    In the hybrid teaching workshops offered in June, some participants wondered whether using publicly-available social media in class was a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I did some online research and contacted the registrar, who is also the UWEC FERPA representative. I am not a lawyer. That said, here is what I learned about FERPA and social media: 
    • "FERPA requires schools and school officials maintain confidential control over student records"(Fryer). These records include grades, medical information, and Social Security numbers.      
    • Social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) are not controlled by the University, so FERPA does not apply to content on these sites (Orlando, 2011).
    • FERPA does not require that all student work be kept private at all times, whether online or face-to-face. For instance, having students review each other’s assignments is not a FERPA violation. Films or digital stories created by students can be posted on the internet and student art created for classes can be viewed at art shows. Intellectual property rights are important, but not covered by FERPA. 

    Practical Suggestions: 
    • Never require that students post personal information publicly (addresses, medical information, courses taken, etc.).
    • If students choose to post their coursework publicly with their name and/or UWEC affiliation, that is ok because it is their choice. Make sure they know they have a choice and have an alternative available. Alternatives could include use of a pseudonym and adjusted privacy settings. Google Blogger has a lot of options for privacy.
    • Never post grades or evaluative judgment publicly. However, students can evaluate each other’s work publicly (ACE, 2008, as cited in Orlando). This is good, since students commenting on each other’s blogs is an important part of blogging.  It is important to provide expectations for the comments and civility guidelines. 
    • Explicitly state in the syllabus that the posts are public and are not institutional property (Barrett). 
    • Students should not be identifiable as UW-Eau Claire attendees  
      •  Advise students not to indicate their relationship to the University in their posting (Barrett). 
      • Avoid using the name of the University or course or UWEC images.    



    Blogs: Instead of naming a blog “UWEC Nursing 144 Class Blog,” call it N144 Blog, or give it an arbitrary number or name (Kelly, Angela, and Roxie’s Blog) to keep it nonspecific.    
     


    Twitter: Don’t use overly descriptive hashtags. For instance, you could use s420 to categorize tweets for UWEC Spanish 420.  Or, you could just use a random set of numbers or letters not already taken (search for the hashtag first to see if it has some meaning you haven’t thought of).  

    Facebook: Consider using a closed group so that only those you’ve given access can view the content.  Still use a nondescript, non-UWEC name for the group - maybe an acronym or term related to the course.


    It’s important to remain flexible while implementing new technologies and do a temperature check with the students to find out how it’s going.  If you need a modification or alternative, I’d be happy to help.
    Sources: 
    Fryer, W. (n. d.) Unmasking the digital divide. http://unmaskdigitaltruth.pbworks.com/w/page/7254094/ferpa
    Orlando, J. (2011, Feb 7). FERPA and social media. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/ferpa-and-social-media/
    Barrett, J. (UWEC Registrar), personal email communication.
    Thanks to Kate Conerton for editing this and to Jim Barrett for reviewing it. 

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Blog & Twitter Use

    Recently I met with a professor who had her students submit a journal-type document to the D2L dropbox in past semesters.  They had to relate the course content to a current event or an event in their lives.  She instructed them to add each new entry to the top of a Word document and resubmit it periodically.  However, she felt sometimes like it would be beneficial to have a discussion about what they were posting.  The dropbox does not allow for a conversation like that - it is primarily meant to accept documents that are then graded so the instructor could comment in the grades or send an email.

    A blog seemed like the perfect tool for this assignment.  We talked through the details and she decided that it made the most sense to create groups of 5 students using the D2L Groups tool, then set up one blog per group on which all 5 students were authors.  This created a convenient way for the students to read and comment on each others' posts rather than having to navigate to different blogs. When the students go in to post their message, they automatically see other posts students in the group have written. Plus, she only has to monitor five different blogs rather than 25 if they were all individual.

    Then, is commenting required?  We got into the details of how discussions in D2L usually work and it just seemed overwhelming to grade.  The goal was not to have in-depth discussion; it was more to allow for commenting when natural.  So, I believe she decided to encourage commenting, but was going to require the students to write up a document reflecting on what the other group members posted (with some specific prompts to respond to) and submit it to the D2L dropbox.  I suggested that this kind of assignment might seem more authentic to the students rather than requiring a certain number of comments with a certain depth because sometimes they have to try hard to figure out what to respond to and it feels forced.

    Sometimes a problem with hybrid teaching is the tendency to add more to the course and end up with a course and a half.  In this situation, more student time would be required to read each others' posts and write up the summary paper reflecting on other students' posts, so it's important to account for that time by reducing class time, if appropriate, and add points or weight to the grade to reflect the new requirements.

    Twitter came into play because the topic she teaches has a lot of media attention and she thought she could tweet some articles the students might want to use for their journal assignment. It would also be a way for those interested in the subject to learn more.  The Twitter part would not be required.  So we set up a Twitter account for her and I showed that the students don't even need a Twitter account to view her tweets.

    Yet another innovative idea that I'm excited to see in action!

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Class Facebook group

    Last week I met with an instructor who teaches two sections of a clinical course with 8 students in each section.  She was interested in making her course into a hybrid format using a Facebook group.  The students previously spent 6.5 hours in clinicals each week and submitted documents to the Desire2Learn dropbox about their experience in clinical (along with various other assignments).  There is also a lecture component.

    Her rationale with Facebook use was connecting with the students where they already are and adding interaction to the course.  Previously she had not been using any sort of online discussion; assignments were submitted to her only.

    I think that her use of Facebook in this situation is an excellent example because 1) there are a small number of students, 2) what she is requiring of them is pretty informal, and 3) practice writing concisely will be helpful preparation for future case noting on the job.  For instance, she wants the students to comment on how group went each day.  If she was looking for very scholarly, citation-ridden, deep responses with replies, Facebook would not be the best place for that.  Those assignments would be best submitted to the dropbox or, in some occasions, posted on the discussion board.  However, since she is looking for the students to connect with each other on a more informal level (with correct grammar though!), Facebook can be a great place to capture that. It also will be a great place for them to ask questions of each other and the instructor so everyone can see the response and learn from it.

    This course modification may not meet the UW-Eau Claire definition of a hybrid course in which 25% of the course occurs outside of the classroom (or clinical site, in this situation), but it is moving in that direction since she is going to reduce the amount of time in clinical to account for the time spent online. This also requires the students to use their clinical time wisely since they will have less of it.  Previously they were allowed to do outside work during their down time in clinical.  

    The only real drawback I see with using Facebook rather than D2L for this type of interaction is that it is not possible to comment on a comment and see the thread indented as you can in D2L.  Instead, the commenter would just have to explain who/what they are replying to. This could get cumbersome if students are expected to reply to each other's questions (three replies deep).  For basic commenting, it would probably work well enough.  Time will tell.

    She is planning on setting up a closed group and sharing the URL with the students.  They will then request to join the group.  Outsiders will be able to see that the group exists and will see the pictures and names of some of the participants, but will not be able to see any content.  When someone sets up a group, they are required to add one friend, so I became friends with the instructor via my work Facebook account.  Then she doesn't have to befriend any of the students.  I encouraged her to make sure the students know that they don't have to be friends with anyone in the group to join.

    I'm excited to hear how it goes!  I also wonder about the impact Google+ will have on this type of situation since it is easier to separate personal, professional, and educational contacts there.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Using blogs for classes

    Tomorrow I am meeting with faculty who are interested in using blogs for their class. I consulted with Danielle Ryan, resident blog expert, who suggested the following options:
    1. Use one Google blog (this blog is in Google Blogger) that all students can post in as themselves. The professor would create the blog and invite the students as authors. Under Settings - Permission, the admin (professor) could type in the students' email addresses to invite them (they could be copied and pasted from the D2L email area). The students would need to login using a Google account. I'd recommend a test post before an assignment is due to make sure it all goes as anticipated. You can see below this post that I logged in and posted using another Google account (Lirpa Nosreip, which is April Pierson backwards) so this is how you'd see who posted what. You could also require them to add their name in the title of the post.
    2. Have all the students create their own blog. If they are all in Google Blogger, everyone can subscribe to each others' blogs in the Blogger Dashboard. They would all just have to share their URL, maybe on the D2L discussion board. This option is nice if the students are creating work they would want to share with others, sort of like a portfolio. Then the blog is just their work.
    Why use a blog over the D2L discussion tool?
    • It can be nice if you want to open it up to an audience bigger than just the class since blogs are generally public. Others interested in the topic could read and comment on the students' blog posts.
    • For some fields, such as communication journalism, exposure to this medium as a student can be beneficial in the workforce.
    • If you want the students to simply share information, not in a formal paper format, without an expectation of scholarly, interactive discussion.
    Why use the D2L discussion tool over a blog?
    • I think D2L discussions are best for scholarly, in-depth discussions requiring back-and-forth interaction. For instance, if you require students to post and then respond to others, the response pattern is clearer to follow in the threaded, grid pane viewing option.
    • If you are considering private blogs, maybe just use the D2L discussion tool instead since it is restricted to just the class by default.
    • Another benefit to the D2L discussion is that all posts related to one topic are located in one discussion board. It would be easier to navigate than if everyone had their own blog at a separate URL.

    When considering new technology, make sure it has added value. Sticking with tools the students have already used can make life easier for them, so only add new technology tools when they are clearly enhancing the learning experience.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    International Institute for New Faculty Developers (IINFD)

    At the urging of a colleague who said this was an excellent experience, I attended the IINFD.  Admittedly, I was not excited to travel by myself and attend 4 1/2 days of training over a weekend, but it was the most useful and professional training I've ever attended.  IINFD gets the ultimate compliment: it changed the way I think. 

    The typical participant would be someone in a role such as Cindy or Bob's in our CETL - out of all the people I met, I was the only one with a technology focus although a few people were particularly interested in technology.  Most of the 100 or so participants were former or current faculty who were moving into faculty development, so it was really interesting to learn their perspective since I entered this field differently.  Many of the meals were shared and most of us stayed at the same hotel so there were a lot of opportunities to get to know people.  The atmosphere was very collaborative and sharing.  I met people from all different disciplines, experience levels, and sizes of centers. 

    Most of the sessions were facilitated rather than presented, so we got to know the people around us by working in small groups.  It was sponsored in part by the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education aka POD Network.  The conference organizer, Michele DiPietro, said that POD stands for many things, including "Participate or Die" which was a nice segue into the first of many small group activities.  In a few sessions, it was hard for me to participate because they were topics I knew little to nothing about, but I was able to learn from others in the group.

    Sessions included topics such as course design, assessment, consultation skills, learning communities, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), faculty development programs, evaluating centers, developing our philosophy as a faculty developer, learning theory, and technology (there were others I did not attend).  About half the time consisted of sessions that we all attended and half were concurrent sessions, so we had some choice.

    Of course, I was excited about the technology session.  The presenters (this was more of a presentation than a facilitated session) were two instructional designers from the Kennesaw CETL and a dentistry faculty developer from Canada who mostly talked about a specific simulation tool they use at his university.  Unfortunately I think it had limited applicability to the rest of us.  In 1.5 hours, they planned to discuss every type of technology for teaching and even said we could add others if we knew of them.  They got through about half of their content.

    The main reason I was excited about this session is because I hoped they would cite some research or link what they were discussing to research, but they focused on Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, which is the subject of my first post in this blog (summary: I'm not a fan).  They acknowledged the lack of research on learning styles and instead cited learning preferences and recommended multiple options to appeal to different learners (I agree). Overall, they spent way too much time on Bloom's and not enough time on the actual technologies. The first thing they mentioned was focusing on the educational use of a tool rather than the tool itself, but I didn't see them follow through with this throughout the presentation. 

    I learned about a new tool, Sync.in, which is like Google Docs but (from what I understand) requires users to select a color so each person's additions are in different colors.  This is possible in Google Docs, but people have to add the color manually, like in Word.  There is also a timeline function so you can play a video of all the changes happening in action.

    I also observed the effective use of Prezi.  Two sessions used Prezi instead of PowerPoint and I was really impressed with how it showed the big picture and then zoomed in to the pieces - for the content, it worked very well.  It also just seemed a lot more refreshing than PowerPoint.  I was very surprised I liked the Prezi so much.

    I left with some solid ideas for technology-related learning communities I'd like to start with CETL, how to evaluate my performance, and a strong reminder that I am very solution focused, when sometimes I need to ask the right questions to lead people to their own conclusions (primarily relating to pedagogical issues, since technology is usually more straight-forward).  Although most of the sessions did not relate directly to technology, I was able to apply them to my role and some of it was just good to know so I understand faculty development, CETL, and how I may complement them better.  Overall, it was a great experience for the information, networking opportunities, and time to reflect. 

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Video creation via Android

    Recently a professor asked if her students could record video on their phone and upload it to D2L.  The short answer is not directly unless they upload it to their computer and then upload it to the dropbox.  My solution was to take video on their phone and share it to YouTube and then share the URL in D2L.

    I decided to try this out on my Motorola Droid X and took a minute long video of my dog playing in a kiddie pool in the backyard.  It was 65 MB.  I went to Gallery, clicked the video, and then chose "Share" and the YouTube option.  Unfortunately, it said I needed WIFI to upload a file of this size.  This may sound strange, but I don't have internet at home (my phone does 95% of what I need) so I was unable to do anything with it at the time. 

    I thought I had connected my Droid X to the wireless at the university, but it turned out that I wasn't actually connected because I hadn't opened a browser window and registered the device.  Once I registered the phone, it uploaded in about a minute or so.

    Then I decided to use the YouTube editor to snip out a few seconds at the end.  It was amazingly easily to use and actually walked me through the process with prompts that came up after each step.  I easily made my edit and added a fun banjo tune (I think banjo music always makes dog videos more fun).  There is an incredible amount of music available right in the editor that is free to use, but advertisements might be displayed on videos that use content in the editor.  For my use, that was fine but I didn't see any ads when I viewed it later.  If you are curious, here is the result.

    YouTube also now allows for users to mark their videos with a Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) which means others can use the content with automatic attribution to the creator.  I went into edit mode and found I could not check that radio button; I assume due to the fact that I added music via the YouTube editor so it was not completely my original work.

    Here are my conclusions from this experience:
    • Students could be told that taking video on their phone is an option, but they should try it out with a short, insignificant video before collecting something important in case they are unable to get it off of the phone or lose it.  
    • The LTS Help Desk staff are familiar with the university-owned video cameras that students can check out from the library and would more likely be able to provide assistance with them than they would a phone, since there are so many different types of phones. The quality of the university video cameras will almost certainly be better than the quality of a phone, but the quality of the video I took was fine.
    • Regardless of the way the video is collected, the YouTube editor was very intuitive and worked well for the simple video I created. 
    • I certainly could have gone "old school" and connected my phone to a computer and downloaded the video onto the hard drive and then edited it in iMovie or another editing program.  However, I have never connected this phone to a computer and I don't actually know where the cord is :)
    Let me know if you have comments!