27 December 2007

A Busy Year, for all

Dear Folks,

It has been a very busy year for everyone.
Thanks must go to colleagues studying at West Georgia together with me - my overall conclusion is that in distance education particularly - it is the students that make the learning happen. So much work has followed on from those studies. Especially my reports to the Asian Association of Open Universities, and presentation to Beijing Normal University. I thank all concerned.

All Best Wishes to you for the New Year !

For those of you interested, next year will be the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a special issue of six journals worldwide will commemorate this anniversary with papers published on Article 26 the Right to Education. For details go to the homepage of the Asian Journal of Distance Education here at http://www.AsianJDE.org and click on the Special Issue button on the left column menu.

If anyone wants more information please email to me.
Talk to you, next year -


09 December 2007

rss feeds might timeout

Dear Folks,
While I have been sojourning in the garden, it seems that some of you who regularly follow this blog through receiving the rss feed may have had transmission interrupted. I guess your rss feed has timed out. This blog is still active, though I have been busy updating my website to incorporate it there (you might need this URL for later access ;- http://www.open-ed.net . The blog is on a top left button marked 'blog' beneath the title banner.

Well I hope rss feeds do time out ... since this will prevent my hard disk crashing from overload if I ever click accidently on my 'blogbridge' alligator. I am sure it works fine, but who has three or four hours each day to keep up. I do - of course, but not during the hibernation season.

By the way, while I wrote yonks ago about there are more blogs in Japan than in any one country, this was picked up by the newspaper media and in the daily paper yesterday -- I guess electronic media is faster !!

All Best Wishes

PS I hope this short utterance reactivates your rss feeds ...

24 July 2007

Impatica Presentation on e-Learning

Hi Folks,

You might be interested in viewing my latest Impatica work. This presentation introduces e-learning starting from the basics and is interactive : users should pause to answer the questions and puzzles. I have made this for new online students and those new to online course designing. This a simple no-voice-over slide presentation with forward, pause, back controls for use in class or by students at home. The presentation is fairly standalone, although I do offer pdf handouts as additional notes to you and your students.
Please download the four-page easy-going pdf from here http://www.open-ed.net/e4/eLearning1.pdf and here http://www.open-ed.net/e4/eLearning2.pdf
and then view the presentation here http://www.open-ed.net/e4/eLearning.html
or if you wish you may access, adapt and use the original powerpoint from here
Enjoy !
All Best Wishes

Skype revisited

Dear Folks,

Since the end of last year, several new tools have been developed for recording multiple persons in conference calls through Skype. One of these is HotRecorder that comes free forever, but records only two minutes, and comes with a file converter to mp3, or wav, or OGG for podcasting. I have HotRecorder installed. The full version costs about $15, providing a recording duration up to two hours (I think - I must check again) and removes the adverts that might distract you. Some difficulties have been noticed, but the free version worked perfectly for me - in Windows on my Mac - giving me the two-minute mp3. A quick scan of the hits on a Google search found one comment that HotRecorder was difficult to unload from your system - though I doubt this would be too difficult. HotRecorder works not only for Skype but for all VoIP including Google Chat and Yahoo. There is another tool for Mac users called Call Recorder which works for Skype and iChat and records any length of audio-video conferences. A great way to build up your family album, but also for synchronous tutorials ... recorded for student assessment and course evaluation ...

The best available of these tools is Pamela - especially the top-end version Pamela Professional. The basic version of Pamela is free with up to 15-minute call-duration recordings possible, and the top-end version is only $24.95 for ever, with unlimited hours and hours and hours of recording potential. Pamela seems to be for only Skype. Nonetheless its features make this a great add-on to Skype, since Pamela can answer any Skype calls you receive with your pre-recorded message as auto-reply. Pamela also always notifies the other persons connected that you have Pamela recording the session. And for you on the go, Pamela will forward your auto-answered and recorded voice mails to you wherever you are by email. Amazing !

Perhaps you may wish to add Pamela to your Skype. Why didn't we use this last month ? Well these recording tools only arrived this year. Perhaps WestGa may need to re-write and update some modules more regularly. The reason I took this course was to update my knowledge in advanced technologies. These new tools show us that we cannot take too long an interval rest nowadays. Google search on any of the above for all other details.

Skypecasting has arrived !
More later.
All Best Wishes

23 July 2007

On Blogs and Facebook

Dear Folks,
I have spent a few good hours fruitfully reading other blogs - going back to older posts to catch those parts that didn't get enough attention first time round. I have commented on Del.icio.us and the reviews by Pam and Diane, and was also interested to read more about Wikis by Sue (thanks Sue). I was perplexed by the review comments by Ginger - on SnagIt or Sputtr to deploy all search engines simultaneously in your search. My own view (posted to Ginger) is that I believe search engines are becoming more specialised, and we discover specific ones most suited to our search topic and the effectiveness that derive from the returned results on improving our learning or teaching ;-) I am not sure I can handle Google-plus-Yahoo-plus-plus results. On another blog, I teach deaf students and blind students, so Mary Jane's discovery and review on www.TagDeaf.com is very useful for me, and for my colleagues. I will add more later after visiting that site.

Well, what did catch my attention was Facebook , reviewed by Bessie, as Social Apps. I do appreciate clear English. And Bessie is a model for us all especially for native-speakers too. The Camtasia powerpoint presentation was professional. I couldn't find words to write notes and describe my impression, so I went over to Facebook to sign up immediately ; entered my real name, real age, and said I was a first-year student at college (thanks WestGa) trying to avoid the FBI as far as posssible. And visited various pages there. It is a social chat area similar to MySpace though it would tend toward being for students in higher education. That said, their English is a foreign language to me. I can read most of the phonics and decode most of the lol junk, but in a free writing space, surely this died out with pocket-bell SMS twenty years ago. Do they think they are inventing something new ? I read through pages and pages - like a dating service it seemed to me - Are students really that lonely they need this ?? And do they really have so much free time to do this ?? That 19 million students are members must give us a wake up call. Most of the conversational chat was in English, with a few percent in regional languages depending on the region-specific area you choose. Nonetheless those in the Japan area were 99% in the States, talking mostly about Okinawa - which is part of the States already or was it returned ?? Must avoid politics. My main concern here is how Facebook can be used in distance education. I need to study more, and will post up my findings later.

It seems a lovely face picture is de rigueur on Facebook - hence I guess its name ...

Thanks everyone for great articles and reviews.
All Best Wishes

21 July 2007

Video on Wikis in Distance Education

Hi Folks,
I thought I might express my views on why and how to use wikis in distance education more clearly through a video of comparative technological methods. The technological difficulties in adding screen grabs as jpg to iMovie for exporting at mpg are in my next book ;-) Powerpoint have extremely limited animation and limited pixel-by-pixel design capabilities. So I stayed here with my old Mac, avoided screen grabs and iMovie and other applications. The resulting movie is by Keynote exported directly to Quicktime (you can download the latest Quicktime version from the left side margin on this blog). Inserted media notably mpg can be shortened by limiting the time for the slide-play duration, since - as I described in an earlier post - Sony mpg cannot be edited by Mac or Realplayer, except optimistically if I study another week or two...
Well, folks, here is the http://www.open-ed-podcasting.net/rlo53-wikis.mov (.mov , 82.9MB -- it is worth the short download time, really ! (It comes through best on a high resolution Mac 24" screen - find a colleague who has gone out for a few seconds and left her/his Mac in the room.)It will open as a full-screen movie, and if you click on the screen it will reduce automatically to one-quarter screen for you, as you like), and for those on the move using a mobile telephone or iPod to watch this, here it is in compressed format at http://www.open-ed-podcasting.net/rlo53-wikisA.mov (.mov , 4.MB), both at seven minutes. It is a satirical look at wikis - with the laborious time-consuming old technology presented first, followed quickly by the efficient wiki method.

I still do not see the need for voice, though I am in the video. I would like to add background Jupiter music to this and voice, but this might detract from the visual humour involved ....
- enjoy !
All Best Wishes

or just click on the picture screen-grab below

20 July 2007

Commentary on Del.icio.us

Dear Folks,

The Social Apps Del.icio.us has been reviewed by Pam and Diane.
A Google search on Del.icio.us finds millions of hits. I mention this since Del.icio.us is suitable to an edited list or selected list of a few hits only. Selected by who ? - well you, or him ( who ? ) or her ( who ? ) depending on which network of friends of friends of friends you link to and what they ( who ? ) like best.

I have watched the excellent video by Pam at http://www.compmat.wcape.school.za/PHS/examples/delicious/delicious.swf and the excellent powerpoint by Diane at http://www.westga.edu/~dfulkers/Del.icio.us/Del.icio.us.html , and am enthralled not only by the technological achievement but also by the clarity in presentation.

As a brief introduction here, Del.icio.us is a web-based Social Software Application for use on any browser online. It is essentially a subject-grouped list of URLs. Whereas before you telephoned to directory enquiries or used a local yellow-pages, now you can post your favourite website URLs to Del.icio.us and add tags to each one (don't forget this !!) to cross-link them among various subject-groups. They do not yet allow personalised annotations. For this functionality please use your offline wordprocessor or notebook and pencil like I do.

I would use and plan to use Del.icio.us for my own use with no importing of lists from others from others from others : very much just an online store of my subject-indexing as part of my online library ; for mainly myself as well as for others to use. I would not like my blog open to adverts or any other uninvited intruders, not my Del.icio.us, not my wiki, and not my kitchen. I agree with Pam and Diane that Del.icio.us can be useful, and we should use tools each for their own advantages. When I first set up my own online library (including definitions I like and quotations) it was to satisfy a need. It did, it does, and it will for the foreseeable future. But I think we do require the 'need' to be tangible - not to use Del.ico.us just in case we might ... or just for fun. Of course personal websites, personal blogs, MySpace and so on are widely popular, but I don't subscribe to such time-consuming pastimes. I am too busy learning and teaching.

Actually if I need help academically, I usually email to a colleague friend in my network and they help me out, as I do them. They personalise their search to my purposes. So there is no need for me to import their bookmarks. I think we need to maintain some human-human contact in teaching and learning. This position does not conflict with my stand on objectivity and no-posting of beautiful faces, blond hair and blue eyes. Indeed I maintain that the human-human contact should be objective - I ask my colleague friend for specific academic help - not to download his bookmarks of his local tailor and candlestick maker. Do I have time to download your bookmarks then go through them deleting the irreverent and irrelevant, and re-tagging them to my own purposes ? No, not yet. Del.icio.us is mass mailing your private contacts. I will however upload my own bookmarks for synchronised portability between home and office, but I would nevertheless still want them downloadable for use offline - together with my annotations and comments for my use and re-use - as DVD-backup or on A4-paper.

More later,
All Best Wishes

Critique of the Literature on Wikis

Dear Folks,
Here I would like to offer a critique of the literature on using wikis in education – noting that there is not much available yet. This is attributable to wikis being first-generation tools not yet fully suited to the purpose of education, since they were designed initially for personal non-academic use as social applications. I have delayed this critique for some days now with some anguish over whether or not I have become too decrepit and cynical during the past 120 days. Don’t answer that : this is a blog ! not a wiki ;-)

A wiki is a certain kind of blog. While a blog has serial entries according to date much like a diary, a wiki can be built up both horizontally in breadth and vertically in depth, while being fairly time independent. Since pages can be added for increasing breadth, and more hypertext links and details can be added to any pre-existing page for increasing the depth, wikis are therefore considered to be synchronous collaborative tools, and potentially effective as such in education. Wikis are considered to be synchronous collaborative tools since they are continually being updated by users. For more details on their educational potential, see Schwartz, Clark, Cossarin, & Rudolph, (2004) and Boulos, Maramba, & Wheeler (2006). .

It is noteworthy that wikis are not yet part and parcel of university learning management systems such as Blackboard and WebCT. Rather, they are standalone applications to build an open knowledge database accessed through any browser on the internet. Wikis are interlinked with each other so that the MIT wiki has pages by Cornell University as well as links to password-protected copyrighted library sites. A good up-to-date academic paper on the topic of Social Applications for e-learning is by Dalsgaard (2006). In this paper he presents a host of different social applications including wikis. None are gone into to any great depth, but this is a good overview paper, and provides the interested reader with a good list of relevant literature references. Dalsgaard argues that learning management systems (LMSs) are not designed for student-student(s) group learning tasks. When LMSs are for example used for student-student interactions through text-messaging chat-rooms, they are slow and cumbersome. As a result, I believe LMS do not achieve the potential of providing virtual spaces for learning (chat rooms are 99% unused), Such LMS virtual spaces can help with certain discussions for deciding a schedule or negotiating a syllabus. Indeed at WestGa, the virtual classroom on WebCT was used successfully by a group of students synchronously and collaboratively – and this was to arrange a shared schedule and proposing with counter-proposing preferred ways forward and methods for the [our] group learning task.

Dalsgaard does pose a very good question when he asks whether LMSs will incorporate social software tools such as wikis in the near future for such purposes as arranging a schedule and learning methods. However, I disagree with Dalsgaard when he writes that students should solve their problems individually or at least direct their own learning and problem solving activities. This is what tutors are for. Although he cites Vygosky and social constructivism here, there are limits to Vygotsky’s theory in that some tasks are so complex that group members cannot verbalize and communicate their individual context to others fully, so that distributed knowledge is always far greater than the knowledge communicated (see my Posting on Navigation Negotiation on 10 April 2007, for details here). Wikis can only represent those fractions of the context that have been contributed.

Moreover, since a key feature of wikis is the anonymity and the sharedness of the content presented, then the resulting text is so blended as to disallow any kind of individual social presence to be portrayed through the wiki. Their use is therefore limited in online education.

Another general paper on social applications is by Anderson (2005), and he focuses on educational social applications. He presents in particular his vision for using social apps to enable self-paced continuous-enrolment open-access online courses. This is moving way beyond MIT putting their course syllabuses online, and adopts the concept of re-usable learning objects applied to whole courses. Anderson gives a confusing picture of social presence citing some seminal work on tutor presence online, but then talks of his own model and vision in which a student can click an icon to indicate they are online or not available, much like WebCT Virtual Classroom and like Google Talk, Skype and other popular chat Social Apps. Personally, I don’t relate clicking an icon to show my hand is raised as constructing and projecting online social presence. My own concept of social presence was formulated from the frequency, personal rapport and deep enthusiasm of Fred Lockwood as an online tutor, a few years ago. From that experience, I do not rate a ‘hand-raising’ icon as social presence. Anderson mis-cites Paulsen 1993/2003. Paulsen proposed new definitions for ‘cooperative’ learning activities as non-compulsory and of short duration, while ‘collaborative’ learning activities were compulsory and of long duration. I am surprised Anderson bothers to use ink on that. Paulsen could easily buy a dictionary to find out the meanings of ‘cooperative’ and ‘collaborative’, and Paulsen’s proposals have long ago been superseded by correct definitions, and he should stick with words like ‘compulsory’ and ‘duration’ to give his views. Here a wiki would be ideally suitable !!

Anderson in his next paragraph writes, ‘Humans and other social animals tend to flock to activities in which others are engaged’. This would imply he is referring to a voluntary activity. Education at the primary and secondary level is compulsory. So I think he is suggesting that if we can make students’ learning more visible to others then we can draw in more students to the course. Most universities now do this on their home websites with student voices or student opinions about their learning experiences. Wikis do not ideally show student learning narratives.

The issue of whether wikis can be used for collaborative learning balances on the point of what level of learning is being done. During construction, contributors offer their own ideas cooperatively, although the finished product is unknown by anyone and so the overall process can be considered collaborative construction through cooperative sharing. Children in school can learn from wikis as a resource of reasonably-reliable current knowledge, in a one-way cooperative delivery mechanism ; wikis rarely offer conflicting or contrasting opinions within a same page – any incoming knowledge usually displaces the ‘weaker’ earlier contributions, sadly, and to our loss. University students might also access wikis for up-to-date knowledge – especially since hard-back textbooks are so expensive nowadays. As for students in higher education and at the postgraduate level, wikis offer no space for collaborative progress unless users understand they must tolerate differing opinions on the page and structure their page to accommodate these. This level of maturity is essential if wikis are to be effective collaborative learning spaces. This would move us on to the concept of learner autonomy.

Anderson (p3) writes “Recent interest in so called blended learning ( Bersin, 2004 ; Garrison & Kanuka, 2004 ) shows that it is very possible to combine different formats and media of delivery. However, the challenge is to select … those forms of education that offer the greatest degrees of freedom …” [= autonomy]. These sentences are interesting for several reasons. One that Bersin writes magazine articles without any literature references, two that Garrison does not anyway understand the Theory of Transactional Distance, and three student learning autonomy should not be maximized. I have previously discussed Bersin. Garrison (2000) has described that in “Moore’s theory, the most distant program has low dialogue and low structure while the least distant has high dialogue and high structure”. He is wrong. The least distant has high dialogue and low structure (Kawachi, 2004 ; Moore, 1991 & 1993 ). According to Moore (1993, p. 27) the institution here should “take measures to reduce transactional distance by increasing the dialogue through use of teleconferencing”. According to Kawachi (2005), students will lose some Autonomy (A-) in going to synchronous mode since they must become more empathic with others, but they will gain in Dialogue (D+) and also gain in responsiveness to their own wants and needs, and own context (with S- decrease in institutional Structure) leading to more learning and deeper quality learning. Moreover, even though adults in open distance education may want increased autonomy, they /we must compromise on autonomy in order to achieve pre-set learning tasks.

This point is surely illustrated in our current experience with WestGa. We may want more autonomy and self-pacing, but we must compromise on our desire for more autonomy if we are to complete the pre-set coursework duly and on time.

All Best Wishes

Anderson, T. (2005). Distance learning – Social software’s killer ap? Proceedings of the ODLAA Annual Conference. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www.unisa.edu.au/odlaaconference/PPDF2s/13%20odlaa%20-%20Anderson.pdf

Boulos, M.N.K., Maramba, I., & Wheeler, S. (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts : A new generation of web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Journal, 6 (41). Retrieved July 10, 2007, from http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1472-6920-6-41.pdf

Dalsgaard, C. (2006). Social software : e-Learning beyond learning management systems. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. Retrieved July 10, 2007, from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2006/Christian_Dalsgaard.htm

Garrison, R. (2000) Theoretical challenges for distance education in the 21 st Century : A shift from structural to transactional issues’, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 1 (1), 1-17. Retrieved 10 July, 2007, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/2/22

Kawachi, P. (2004). Course design & choice of media by applying the Theory of Transactional Distance. Open Education Research, 2, 16-19.

Kawachi, P. (2005). Empirical validation of a multimedia construct for learning. In S. Mishra, & R. Sharma (Eds.), Interactive Multimedia in Education and Training (pp. 158-183). Hershey, PA : IDEA Group

Moore, M.G. (1991). Editorial: Distance education theory. American Journal of Distance Education, 5 (3), 1-6.

Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical Principles of Distance Education (pp. 22-38). London : Routledge.

Schwartz, L., Clark, S., Cossarin, M., & Rudolph, J. (2004). Educational wikis : Features and selection criteria. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5 (1). Retrieved July 10, 2007, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/163/692

18 July 2007

Compressed Presentation

Hi Folks,
There may be a need for compressed powerpoint slides to use while speaking at a conference. I have summarised my review of using wikis in distance education, and compressed these using Impatica here - being careful to upload the WikisODE.imp and ImPlayer300.jar files into the same folder as the WikisODE.html file. This time round, I avoided using full screen jpg picture as background since this delays streaming, and used a standard Arial font - previously Arial-rounded and Lucida Calligraphy (my preferred fonts) did not go through Impatica. Naturally my voice will be live as standard in conferences. I am not sure if they would accept a voice-over-powerpoint to count as a conference presentation - not at those I have been to - although I have heard some conferences have video sections where the author and speaker are absent. Voice-over anyway has been done earlier. Here I set out to see the what minimum size could be achieved for a practical conference presentation and the result is 7 minutes speaking and 30.8KB file size. Click here for http://www.open-ed.net/WikisODE/WikisODE.html , or click on the slide below for immediate instantaneous streaming playback.
All Best Wishes

17 July 2007

On Chopsticks and Wikis

Hi Folks,
Not sure if this is wholly on topic, but it may be of related interest.
The term 'wiki' as you may know derives from the Hawaiian word for 'quick' and the Hawaiian Honolulu Airport bus called the 'wiki wiki' bus. However this is hardly a novel use of 'quick' as those of you in the States of Chinese descent will know. After the railroads were constructed and the gold dug, the early Chinese worked as cooks. You could imagine them not knowing English and the cowboys not knowing Chinese - so when the food was ready, the Chinese would call out "chop chop" and the folks would hear that the food was ready ; "food food" they thought. And those two sticks used by the Chinese to cook with - rather than call them 'food-sticks' - became the misnomer 'chopsticks'. I still remember my working days when the factory foreman would yell at us "chop chop" meaning "hurry up" or "quick quick !"

This is unrelated to the 'chopshop' where I bought my car ...
It is early morning here, so bear with me ;-)
All Best Wishes

Podcast Update : additional access

Dear Folks,

I have received notice that low-bandwidth connection might prevent your access to my Series 5 Podcasts on Using Wikis in Distance Education through the Studio.Odeo website (thanks Pam). I too have found some recent difficulties with Odeo. The series however are also available on iTunes, as indicated in the screen grab a few days ago of the iTunes Application available on Mac/Linux/PC - and also through the rss feed to my podcasts in my left column margin here. Additionally you may like to access them directly from my podcasting website at


I can of course email them directly - or snail-mail them on CD-ROM ;-)
All Best Wishes

16 July 2007

Wikis for Course Evaluations

Hi Folks,
I have been looking at wikis, developing my opinion that they are likely very effective synchronous collaborative tools in distance education for students to add comments and build either (1) a negotiated syllabus, or (2) a course evaluation. Such course evaluation as I have alluded to earlier may be mid-course formative evaluation to inform the tutor and institution of matters arising, or end-of-course summative evaluation. It would seem prudent to keep these wiki projects separated for different courses. Accordingly I have set up three wikis as follows
The reasons underlying my decision to have three are that the host site 'wikispaces' is in the plural (if it were 'wikispace' then I would tend towards having only one), this host offers free hosting so any number are available and they are disposable, and students should generally not have access to evaluations by others about my courses if they are to remain on-topic and up-to-date ->-> my courses do change year on year ;-)
I might prefer to have only one wiki, for professional collaboration and free of distracting advertisements, and which would therefore be not free and with more editorial control. Therefore I set up another wiki at


This wiki has a valuable full-feature toolbar only when using the Mozilla Firefox browser. With Safari, most of the font styles and so on were not functioning. It also has an excellent html editor so my email address is now there given in hypertext. Here are two screen grabs - first of the editor and toolbar in Firefox, and second the resulting homepage

Both wikispaces and EditMe have WYSIWYG 'What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get' text input function, that may help visitors, while it is easy for me to look at the site mark-up language and learn the idiosyncratic codes. There is no standard mark-up language for wikis ; some use punctuation like ":;hello;:" and =others= or '"StrangerStyles"'. I will use the wikispaces A, B and C sites for my course evaluations by students next week. Thhe other is closed by invitation only, like an intranet website ; if you would like access - that is why my email address is there :-)
All Best Wishes

Podcasting Update

Dear Folks,

I would like to share with you my update of my podcasting,

I have produced three podcasts on wikis according to my criteria and conventional style with fade-in / fade-out Jupiter music at the beginning and end, involving an introduction, then methods, and then assessment, of new ideas and techniques for use in education. Series 5 is on the Social Apps wikis in distance education. You should receive these if you are subscribed taking into consideration my new podcasting website and its rss, as follows ;-

5.1 Introducing Wikis in Education (mp3, 8.3MB, 9m06s) and here at http://studio.odeo.com/audio/14882643
5.2 Using Wikis in Education (mp3, 11.8MB, 12m19s) and here at http://studio.odeo.com/audio/14882673
5.3 Assessing Wikis in Education (mp3, 6.9MB, 7m29s) and here at http://studio.odeo.com/audio/14882683

In the interests of ISO 9004 /2000 and Section 508, the pdf are available here - except that the interviewee's commentary is abbreviated in 5.2 ;-
5.1 Introducing Wikis in Education pdf
5.2 Using Wikis in Education pdf
5.3 Assessing Wikis in Education pdf

The second of these includes my interview discussed in my previous post.
They are all available through i-Tunes freely worldwide.

The first series was 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 Audio Files in Education,
the second series 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 Video Files in Education,
the third series 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 Powerpoint Files in Education,
the fourth series 4.1, 4.2, 4.3 Blogs in Education,
and the fifth series here 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 Wikis in Education

Lots to do still yet.
All Best Wishes

Producing a Podcast Interview

Dear Folks,

I can well appreciate (more so today than yesterday) that having two persons in one room sharing one microphone into an mp3 recorder has 'technological' advantages.

As for me, I live in the mountains, and I decided to test out interviewing at a distance using the Google Chat feature of Google Talk, on my Mac(s). The interviewee was 1000 km away. I sent an email with my invitation, schedule proposal and a couple of documents about wikis, as pre-interview reading material. The analogue voice output from my interviewee through Mac speakers was however much quieter than my voice into the microphone here. How to edit an mp3 file to adjust alternate voice loudness volumes ?

GarageBand music application can not open up mp3 to adjust the loudness of only one segment, but iMovie can using the recording head to make a break in the timeline.

Therefore I transferred the GarageBand mp3 to iMovie, adjusted the loudnesses, reverted back to Garageband deleting the unused video-track and then shared the mp3 to iTunes, from where I could click and drag the soundtrack as .aif file to Switch (a sound file converter application) and get an mp3 with correctly adjusted volume levels now.

For some reason StudioOdeo does not accept recording new audio into an old Podcast channel, so I uploaded the mp3 to my website Open-Ed-Podcasting.net and then linked StudioOdeo to the file there, for publishing as a podcast, and accessing via iTunes. The technological schema is given here

I will detail the actual podcasts in the following Post.
All Best Wishes

Review of Wikis in Distance Education

Hi Folks,

Of the various Social Apps, I would like to review the use of wikis in distance education.

Since 1992, several software programmes have been written to enable individual to and from other individuals to communicate through the internet. These add a social aspect to distance education which has been been dominated by heavy learning management systems that control the enrolment, dictate the syllabus and archive the student’s work for assessment. Learning management systems (typically Blackboard and WebCT) have allowed open and distance mega-universities to keep track of their millions of students – with some courses having several thousand students simultaneously on the one course. An army of tutors and their comments, grading and feedback are also managed by such university-wide systems. These systems however do not facilitate the social aspects of learning. They tend to offer FAQs and moderating of student text contributions to threaded discussion sites, but almost nothing in the form of live voice chat. Indeed the telephone continues to be used by some mega-universities with tutor ‘office hours’ for student-tutor one-on-one consultation – usually remedial in nature. Social software applications – Social Apps for short – have recently been developed to allow mid-course student-student interaction in real time synchronously. These were initially text-based instant messaging - like Yahoo Messenger, but later adopted voice over the internet VoIP - like Skype. Both of these are basically free. While initially also text-based, Google Talk now offers live voice VoIP Google Chat. It should be noted that VoIP is not recorded and not archived, and so encourages free conversation among students – though usually only between two students at a time. Skype now offers multiple users to chat in conferencing mode. Audio-visual conferencing has been available on learning managements systems for the past ten years, but used only at pre-set times for specific tasks academically.

Search engine capabilities have developed separately alongside web-based management systems and the use of email lists for group text-based asynchronous discussions. These search capabilities were initially developed by commercial for-profit companies providing an individual subscriber with matches to his or her personal data enquiry for dating purposes. Later on, these search capabilities have enabled individuals to find like-minded other individuals then to form special interest groups – usually hobbyists and not academic. Now students at universities can use these tools to form their own social groups. These social applications are especially effective for students studying at a distance.

Recent research still finds that middle-aged adult students in open and distance education do not avail themselves of the Social Apps or of the tutor ‘Office Hours’ conferencing. Younger students between 20 and 30 years old do so for both social reasons and academic (to get their money’s worth in terms of tutor attention and help), and older students above 55 years old do so for social reasons (to make new friends with other old students and with the tutor often of similar mature age, through their enrolling in study). There are now more than four hundred Social Apps for student-to-student use in distance education. Most however are not free and so not so widely adopted by students. They are also generally only for the Windows operating system, and not for Mac or Linux ; so even if most students use these Social Apps, a few will be left out in the cold because of their computer being incompatible.

Social Apps include Friendster, MySpace, YouTube as well as blogs and wikis. For educational purposes the leading Social Apps are blogs. From a literature search and from my interview in my recent podcast 5.2, it is clear that wikis are not used much in education. Both blogs and wikis may be termed first-generation social software applications.

Wikis are a special type of blog. Whereas blogs generally have short entries about work by others and mainly giving reference to work by others, wikis have entries produced by individuals together. The individuals may be separated by distance but they are considered to be synchronous tools since the individuals work on the entry collaboratively : one person may be writing one new sub-page while another is adding details to a previous page. Wikis are works-in-progress and are never finished. Despite being considered synchronous, a group may take up work produced years earlier and update it adding new pages and recent knowledge through more hypertext links. Such links are constructed automatically by the software (rather than requiring the author having to write using html) and links are made to other wikis. If the new pages are inside someone else’s wiki and are fairly self-contained not connected to other wikis, it is considered squatting – perhaps since the owner of the wiki in most cases pays for the wiki site hosting. Only a very few hosted sites are free, and open-source code is unusually difficult to put onto your own website.

Wikis are not used much by education administration, or by teachers and students. Several reasons might underlie this reluctance by those in education to use wikis. A wiki is a kind of blog in which multiple anonymous users can access and change the text on the wiki site. While the opportunity to destructive attack exists, surprisingly wikis have been very successful in building up a shared knowledge base open to everyone with any internet access.

Blogs are very visual and of all countries, Japan has more personal blogs that any other country. This is attributable to the manga comic genre and the visual range of writing available in Japan. Wikis on the other hand are hardly used. University administrators have paper-based regulation-format methods in use and firstly see no reason to change, and secondly see the novelty of wikis as untested and potentially unreliable.

Wikis are indeed open to misuse and hacking by ill-intentioned anonymous persons. However companies are adopting wikis instead of in-house intranet and close their wikis to prevent non-company access. Universities administrators, teachers and students too could set up closed net wikis for collaborative work-in-progress. Changes to a wiki can be tracked and the change author can be identified. This may in turn lead to competition between student users – which goes against the spirit of wikis as a shared work with contributions of various qualities and quantities from users.

As first-generation tools, wikis are best used for specific tasks such as deciding on a schedule for the students – those with something worthwhile adding can do so, and those with little to add are free to observe and acquiesce. This would appeal to the Japanese group-oriented culture. Additionally, wikis could be used in the same vein for summative anonymous course evaluation. They could also be used in mid-course to collate feedback on issues such as pacing, workload, and problems encountered – anonymously and formatively.

It is unlikely that they will be used as collaborative group learning tools, since a strong participant may be discouraged by no credit and by others freeloading.

Therefore wikis should be used for their strengths – to formulate group opinions, rather than for course work itself. Perhaps second-generation wikis will have sufficient recording functionaliity to allow for assessing each individual student, but not yet. Blogs remain more suitable for such applications.

Wikis and blogs are leaders in first-generation educational social software. Of these, we can expect refinements and further developments in wikis in the next few months and years.

Coming up soon, I plan to review a few small Social Apps including the full-screen whiteboard described a few days ago here, and also VoIP recording as mp3 for podcasting.

Also I plan to post here soon a critique of the available literature on wikis.
All Best Wishes

13 July 2007

Educational Social Software

Hi Folks,
I would like to give here a brief overview of educational social software - what it is and how useful - and then in a future Posting review one of them in more detail.
While ten years ago the internet was basically a read-only resource, it has evolved now into a write-and-read media in which user-generated content is a massive driving force that has revolutionalized the internet, to such an extent that people talk of Internet 2.0 . Social Software, sometimes referred to as Social Apps or applications, is now dominating the internet. There are more than 400 applications available with at least one new significant application being added each week. Common applications include Friendster, MySpace, del.icio.us, Flikr, Facebook. YouTube, SecondLife, and thousands of blogs and wikis.
Friendster was started in March 2002, has more than 45 million users, and is the largest of these. It also holds the global copyright patent on social networking applications granted to them on 27th June 2006, but not yet applied to my knowledge in the courts against the others. They hold now the patent on the "system, method, and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks". They refused a buyout offer from Google in 2003, and since 2004 have been in decline. MySpace now has the most hits and interactions per day. Here is a screen grab of the Friendster site

Social Apps are increasingly being used in education, though these are mainly limited to blogs. Podcasting and wikis are rarely used in education. I have for instance designed and deployed a blog for educational use worldwide linking students on four continents inside the same shared blog at the same time (with same log-in name and password) in America, India, S Africa, Malaysia, Germany and Japan. And I will use educational blogs in all my courses starting in October. Here is a photograph from the teacher's desk showing this student blog live in action, where the teacher or any peer can synchronously moderate and help others -

Most Social Apps are not free. However I have noticed in WebCT that users have remarked about the small whiteboard size available, so you might be interested in this huge whiteboard full-screen across 24 inches here ; smaller if you are using a laptop or iPod ;-) free from General Electric at http://www.imaginationcubed.com shown here

and this may be of immediate utility to you if you want a larger whiteboard for sharing with two friends. There doesn't appear to be an eraser, but it is free and you can start over easily, email the result to others and print out the result too - more than was possible in the WebCT Virtual Classroom Whiteboard Area.
As I wrote, there are hundreds of Social Apps, although very little academic literature on them as yet. Nevertheless, I will review what there is of the literature very soon.
All Best Wishes

08 July 2007

Raptivity - second look

Hi Folks,

On a second look (well, so so many actually) at my Raptivity files I noticed the Publish folder in Raptivity, in which there is another folder SFO_Publish within which is the paul3.swf file of my interactivity. I have therefore uploaded at length a top-level /raptivity folder with four components ;- the /paul3.dat, Activities folder (with components /paul3.dat, /paul3.xml, and /Role based.swf), Pics folder (with components /background.jpg, Next.jpg, Role based-0.jpg, and Role based-1.jpg), and Publish folder (with SFO_Publish folder and inside this the /paul3.swf). Giving the full set at 638KB. Surely this should now work. I tested it out with the Raptivity first example about five astonomers on flash-cards to make sure it worked. You may notice here I saved my new experiment as paul3 and used fewer pictures to save on memory !
The resulting html link would then become http://www.open-ed.net/raptivity/paul3/Publish/SFO_Publish/paul3.swf and this link does indeed work , try it here ; (in red just to highlight the length and number of levels involved http://www.open-ed.net/raptivity/paul3/Publish/SFO_Publish/paul3.swf

Anyway after doing all this and returning to this my old Mac to post to my blog, I thought I'd give one last try to the plain and simple http://www.open-ed.net/paul2.swf that I posted earlier below -- and that simple link works ! Well, I was surprised - a bit annoyed at having spent several more hours mastering Raptivity. Though I won't waste this learning and will make some more interactivities tomorrow for you all to enjoy !
All Best Wishes

Infacta PollDaddy easy tool

Hi Folks,

It really does take only two minutes to create this simple instant poll using the tool by Infacta at http://www.PollDaddy.com . The content here was not my primary concern in investigating this tool, which rather was to see how easy it would be to create an instant poll. I chose the White Plastic Standard style to match my Mac. They offer a wide range of templates or you can design your own.
The only difficulty ( took me a few seconds ) was that after choosing 'Custom Style' then it moves to 'Preview Style' and stops. There is no way on the main page to move on. However the tool bar gives 'Custom Styles' followed to the right by 'Widgets' and though I don't want widgets just my html code, I clicked the banner tool bar and it moved on to my widget html, copied and pasted that here within two minutes.
Now back to Raptivity for further study . . .
All Best Wishes

Raptivity : Trial and Tribulation

Dear Folks,
I have managed to get Raptivity to run on my Mac, though some difficulties remain.
My project is to build one or more self-standing modules to help students reflect on how best to use the virtual classroom for synchronous collaborative group learning.
I selected my template 'Role-based Individualized Simulations' from the Raptivity Booster Pack 1, since it most closely matches my needs for setting the text-based scenarios for the student to reflect on. I chose six scenarios, and asked the student-user if he or she thought this use would be appropriate for the vrtual classroom. Then the feedback box (which on loading sometimes was invisible - not sure why, but it eventually does appear - please be patient) gives aspects to reflect on.
Here are screen grabs showing the module-in-action. Notice the Mac Icons along the bottom !!

Several problems occurred, as you might imagine. The most serious is the ability to play back on my Mac the resulting flash file (255KB) which is uploaded and given here as http://www.open-ed.net/paul2.swf . Very minor design issues pervade Raptivity. For example, the scenarios must all contain the same design settings which include the title and unfortunately the instructions - I wanted the last sixth scenario to say 'Thank you', but there was no choice but to keep the unhelpful and useless Click 'Next'. Another serious problem or inadequacy in Raptivity is that it does not offer a print out record - only the flash file. If you cannot open this flash file using Adobe Flash Reader 9.0 then it certainly opens beautifully in Raptivity. So I think the cross-platform use of Raptivity does cause some portability problem. I am still working on this. My next step will therefore be to choose the most simple jigsaw puzzle and publish as a single flash file - hopefully smoothly opening in Adobe, Realplayer or Quicktime.
More later.
All Best Wishes

07 July 2007

On using ‘Raptivity’ for packaging e-learning

Hi Folks,

Previously below I have reported that Archibald (2005) wrote that conventional e-learning design involves the subject content expert, then instructional designer, followed next by a developer who makes the interaction solution, and the e-learning programme is then tested out. However in practice, e-learning design often entails far more steps and more people.

Especially, I should like to add that any educative transaction involves a minimum of four interactions – the first of these is the stimulus of need conveyed to the teacher or content expert. This important initiating step was overlooked by Archibald. If there is no want or need then the programme is ab initio redundant - although like popular edutainment, a market could be created through addiction, and this is likely what consortia have in mind : they want to provide the stimulus to employees to learn through offering fun-type gaming modules. Companies however do have real learning needs and wants to be satisfied, so this first step to listen to them is perhaps wise. Timely response to a need is key to the success of such rapid packaging of e-learning. Another point of note here is that once done, the training module can be re-used ad libitum as and when required. This is one of the well-known principles underlying re-usable learning objects in education (well known in academia for the past ten years if not thousands of years).

Several tools for rapidly packaging e-learning are on the market including Raptivity and these will be reviewed here soon. Notwithstanding that Raptivity is not intended for use on Mac computers, I think I have got it to work now (after several days and nights) on my Mac.

A virtual classroom or chat conferencing can be an ideal medium for synchronous cooperative sharing of knowledge ; however, for collaborative learning, the participants need clear structure to bridge differences and co-construct together new shared knowledge. Therefore I have set about using the Raptivity tool to fulfil this need, drawing from my July 05 posting below 'On Synchronous Collaboration', and taking my definition of 'rapid e-learning' to be 'just-in-time training delivered electronically'. The aim is for the resulting training module to be used to teach the desirable skills just-in-time prior to entering the synchronous collaborative forum.

All Best Wishes

Archibald, D. (2005). Rapid e-learning : A growing trend. Learning Circuits, 1, 1-3. http://www.learning circuits.org/2005/jan2005/archibald.htm

06 July 2007

Nigerian Shrink-Wrapping :

Nigerian Shrink-Wrapping : was going to be entitled, On Defining Rapid e-Learning : Part 2
Hi Folks,

The term ‘rapid e-learning’ was coined about three years ago by consortia consisting of corporate business and education providers, as was e-learning about twelve years ago. A simple definition of ‘rapid e-learning’ is just-in-time training delivered electronically. However, REL is not e-learning and is nothing to do with learning. It is best thought of as packaging. I use the acronym REL here not to lend approval or permanence to the term but to distance it from implying any actual learning. I define it as timely chunked-content packaging that is fast and cheap to produce. The term ‘Nigerian shrink-wrapping’ would suggest more about the commercial vested interests involved.

How does REL relate to conventional e-learning design ? According to Archibald (2005) conventional e-learning design involves the subject content expert, then instructional designer, followed next by a developer who makes the interaction solution, and the e-learning programme is then tested out. However in practice, e-learning design often entails far more steps and more people. In some cases (as in the British Open University), actual students are used to test out the not-yet-piloted programme, to save time, energy and costs. The main point to bear in mind here is that there are people involved, and often many people. Rapid e-learning involves in contrast far fewer people – sometimes only one. In such case, a single person who is a content expert can deploy re-usable software templates onto which content can easily be pasted to produce a finished programme within minutes or hours – rather than months or years. Moreover if the content expert uses pre-made master-board powerpoint or other templates, then end-user or stakeholder preferences and feedback can be put into the programme by the writer in the very early stages of development. Archibald (2005) has accordingly defined REL as “e-learning that can be developed quickly and inexpensively”. Bersin (2005) adds to this by saying that the cost-savings are due in large part by reducing the number of people involved in the production of REL “defined as web-based training that can be created in weeks and is typically authored by subject-matter experts” - a particularly weak and useless definition ; given that all e-learning is created in weeks and authored by subject matter experts – as Bersin clearly states on his next page in Table 1 where he with some originality divides e-learning into three ‘categories’ of REL packaging, conventional e-learning, and infrastructure. Terming the infrastructure as ‘strategic e-learning’ is a red-herring distractor, as is his right-most column % of Projects. An REL ‘Project’ might be a ten-minute typing exercise, while traditional e-learning generally takes months, and infrastructure to switch a traditional university to adopt e-learning may take years. To assert that 36% of all ‘projects’ are REL is excessive freedom-of-expression to try to claim some authority by comparing REL shrink-wrapping to building an open university. His left-centre column is missing a + sign in front of the second 3. I am curious about his choice of phrasing “Most [REL] create tests to measure knowledge absorption” (page 2, paragraph 5). Did I miss something in Education 101 ? or is there something called ‘absorption’ ? Is this osmotic immersion or mechanical by rote memorisation ? Anyway, Bersin does correctly identify REL as multiple-choice quiz in Table 2. (He calls his tables ‘Figures’ but his typing is misinformed.) When he writes of putting “learning professionals into coaching and facilitating roles”, you should read this word ‘professionals’ to mean business persons not teachers. I would hope all teachers are professional and already in coaching and facilitating roles. They are in my world, at least.

This Posting was hoping to review the definitions of an exciting new form of e-learning, but has been side-tracked and sunk by pre-set Readings about shrink-wrapping.

I will review the other literature later.
All Best Wishes

Archibald, D. (2005). Rapid e-learning : A growing trend. Learning Circuits, 1, 1-3. http://www.learning circuits.org/2005/jan2005/archibald.htm

Bersin, J. (2005). Making rapid e-learning work. Chief Learning Officer – online magazine. http://www.clomedia.com/content/templates/clo_article.asp?articleid=1008&zoneid=62


On Defining e-Learning and ‘Rapid’ e-Learning : Part 1

Hi Folks,

In order to understand a definition of so-called ‘rapid’ e-learning, we need to be clear on what we understand by conventional e-learning.

E-learning is a relatively new term, and derives from the development of alliances and consortia consisting of corporate businesses and education providers emerging at around 1995 (Jegede, 2001, p.75). Hirumi (2002, p.19) has defined e-learning as learning that is stimulated primarily through the use of telecommunication technologies, such as electronic mail, bulletin board systems, electronic whiteboards, internet-relay chat, desktop video conferencing and the world-wide-web. And a simple working definition has been given by Jung as the internet-based delivery of information, communication, education, and training (Jung, 2002, p. 63). A full treatment of terminologies and definition of e-learning are given in Kawachi (2005), where conventional e-learning is defined as learning that utilizes electronic means of information and knowledge management in a wide sense, and social constructivist learning through computer-mediated communications in a virtual space in a narrow sense.

All Best Wishes

Kawachi, P. (2005). Computers, multimedia and e-learning.
In U.V. Reddi & S. Mishra (Eds.), Educational media in Asia, (pp. 97-122). Vancouver : Commonwealth of Learning.

Hirumi, A. (2002). The design and sequencing of e-learning interactions : A grounded approach. International Journal on E-Learning 1(1): 19-27. http://www.aace.org/dl/index.cfm/fuseaction/ViewPaper/id/6526/

Jegede, O. (2001). Hong Kong. In O. Jegede, & G. Shive (Eds.), Open and distance education in the Asia Pacific region (pp. 44-79). Hong Kong : Open University of Hong Kong Press.

Jung, I. (2002). Promises and challenges of e-learning in a globalized society. Plenary Session II, Proceedings of the 16 th Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities, 5-7 November, Seoul, Korea. http://www.aaou.or.kr

05 July 2007

On Synchronous Collaboration

Dear Folks,

I think there is some need here to discuss if and how collaborative group learning can be achieved using synchronous media.

As I have mentioned before, the distinction between cooperative learning and collaborative learning must always be kept in mind, and moreover cooperative synchronous media are useful in the initial stage of brainstorming or framing a problem, while collaborative asynchronous media are better for the vertical thinking next followed by the horizontal dialectic thinking. And synchronous cooperative learning suits the final stage of personal meaning making, experiential learning and accreditation including publishing. The middle stages involve hypotheses testing and problem solving. I have previously held that the important central stages must be collaborative and asynchronous. Here however it is worthwhile to consider if and how these processes could be achieved synchronously – with specific reference to using a virtual classroom.
I have briefly reviewed the relevant literature, and found two possible scaffolding structures, and these are worthwhile elucidating here. If anyone has any other structure, then please let me know.

The first is by Zimmer (1995) and I interpret his structure as three functional turn-taking steps ABA between two persons A and B which when repeated as BAB give both participants the opportunities each to give opinions and receive counter-opinions empathetically, as follows :-

A) (Hello) Affirm + Elicitation
B) Opinion + Request understanding
A) Confirm + Counter-opinion
B) Affirm + Elicitation
A) Opinion + Request understanding
B) Confirm + Counter-opinion

The second I have drawn from analysis of ideas given by Probst (1987) for collaborative learning in literature and art, in which transactions are not aimed at hypotheses-testing characterised by counter-opinion, but rather a new insight built on critical reflection that while shared may be personalised in each individual. In literature, learning is not cooperative : there is no ‘knower’, the tutor does not guide the student to some pre-set conclusion of the meaning of the text. In literature, the tutor or any student (A) elicits opinion to initiate the three functional turn-taking steps BAB (followed by ABA) , as follows ; -

A) (Hello) Affirm + Elicitation

B) Opinion / Analysis + Request understanding
A) Affirm + Elicitation of Evidence
B) Reflect + Elicit other opinions / Analyses

A) Opinion / Analysis + Request understanding
B) Affirm + Elicitation of Evidence
A) Reflect + Elicit other opinions / Analyses

This framework - basically of reflective analysis followed by articulation, bring in ideas from other own reading or elicited from other students, then repeat reflective analysis with accommodation to construct a new insight – involves the same cognitive processes that occur in individual learning. In the group, content comes from texts and other students, while in the individual learning, content comes only from texts, and in both cases it is the transactions between the student and the content that creates the new knowledge in the student.

There are two additional aspects to consider. One is to implore the participants to be explicit in articulating their feelings since the illocutionary force is lost without video and cultural empathy. In other words use phrases such as “I am confused”, “I am sorry” or “I don’t understand” rather than silence or ambiguous phrases like “Why not this” or “I think I see what you are getting at”. And the other is to keep the virtual classroom uncluttered by moving massive discourse away to a virtual coffee shop or to a blog.

In both the above frameworks, I suggest that any participant(s) may be behind either voice, so the framework could be effective for more than two persons at the same time. Bork (2001) has suggested the optimal number may be four in collaborative transactions, in an optimal online class-size of twenty students, while six has been reported by Laurillard (2002) and about ten by others. Wang (2002) has asserted that engaging as many participants as possible would maximise diversity and optimise collaborative learning. Zimmer (1995) has found that provided at least one participant is aware of the framework, then in practice collaborative learning succeeds.

Concerning synchronous cooperative (in contrast to collaborative) group learning, the optimum number of active participants is different from that for asynchronous collaborative learning. An online survey of those on the DEOS-L listserv, who have had relevant experience in conducting synchronous ‘chat’ (Neubauer, 2003), found the optimum number was from 10 to 20 students : if students were new to the synchronous media then 5-7 was optimum, in groups of 10-15 mixed-experience students then 10 was optimum, while if students were experienced and the moderator (tutor) also was experienced then 15 was optimum. And 20 was suggested as the upper limit to keep the discussion at a sufficiently fast rate to maintain high interest levels. There seemed to be a marked difference between respondents who found 5-7 was optimum and those who found 20 was optimum, and this difference might be related to the task at hand : 5-7 new students would imply that they were at the early initial stage of forming a learning community with personal introductions and so on, while 20 students were likely at the final stage sharing course experiences.

These two frameworks each indicate what content should optimally be included in an utterance, and specifies in what serial order to progress towards achieving discovery and co-construction of new understanding and new knowledge collaboratively using synchronous media such as the virtual classroom.
I could expound further but I am a bit busy actually.
All Best Wishes

Bork, A. (2001). What is needed for effective learning on the Internet. Educational Technology and Society. http://www.ics.uci.edu/~bork/effectivelearning.htm

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking university teaching : A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies. London : RoutledgeFalmer.

Neubauer, M. (2003). Number of online participants. Online posting January 22 to the Distance Education Online Symposium. http://lists.psu.edu/archives/deos-1.html

Probst, R.E. (1987). Transactional theory in the teaching of literature. ERIC Digest ED 284 274. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed284274.html

Wang, H. (2002). The use of WebBoard in asynchronous learning. Learning Technology newsletter, 4 (2): 2-3. http://lttf.ieee.org/learn_tech/

Zimmer, B. (1995). The empathy templates : A way to support collaborative learning. In F. Lockwood (Ed.), Open and Distance Learning Today (pp. 139-150). London : Routledge.

03 July 2007

Synchronous Media in Education : Summary

Hi Folks,
Synchrony Revisited -

Not to waste such a valuable resource, I want to summarise my learning and my experience from the various group discussions that have occurred synchronously using WebCT Chat, Google Talk (including Google Chat and File Sharing), i-Chat, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Gmail and other email so fast that they crossover in the post and must be considered synchronous, mobile-phone and landline telephone. Also live Webinar will be included – especially since it is my favourite tool for future adoption.

Google Apps includes a range of applications generally free of cost to universities in the States built around a gmail hub, with G Calendar and G Talk. Some universities have added social software applications such as photo sharing and calendar sharing, and educational resource building software such as file uploading, storage, search and retrieval. If G Library and i-Library are not already out there somewhere, I predict they will be very soon. Can Blackboard and WebCt keep up with these fast innovative newcomers ? I predict WebCT will downsize to modular units to compete perhaps through offering a free basic version, and G Moodle will likely be launched before or after that.

The irony of synchrony is that its key advantage of simultaneous voice-to-voice is also its key disadvantage. Participants must be online at the same time, with compatible hardware and software. Moreover, participants must be well-prepared ; for human-technological interaction, human-human interaction, and human-content interaction. The technological aspect is not easy and requires preparation and pre-testing. The human-human aspect needs social skills especially of a moderator or conversation leader (though I believe we have had successful interactions where this role was distributed and shared). The human-content aspect needs the participants to have exchanged and shared the agenda and text/visual content beforehand, have read these, assimilated these to their prior knowledge, experience and new studies, reflected upon and re-read these, and have their coherent contribution written out ready. In the next ten years I expect most synchronous tools will move over from one-dimensional (talk) and two-dimensional video and file-sharing to three-dimensional virtual learning spaces. I predict that every university will be offering virtual world education within a year. Evidence to support this prediction includes the fact that the leading universities are already out there virtually, and these all becoming four-dimensional (with lesson transcript retrieval and so on). Moreover leading game software edutainment is based on virtual reality – no doubt we may realize this tomorrow …

Finally I would like to look at the potential for synchrony to help in achieving group assignments. I think this is looking in the wrong direction for adult education. Peer-to-peer and studying together are helpful in schools (and pre-school), but is not highly accredited in universities simply because participation and contribution rates vary. Synchronous group activities online may thrive in the distance education network such as that in New Zealand where children stay at home everyday and study online with regular visits by a school tutor. Cram schools or university preparatory schools such as those in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore will also benefit from adopting synchronous group study. In adult education which I believe now includes most tertiary education, synchronous media can only be used to complement asynchronous actual learning. Here, the synchronous media most likely to succeed will be the webinar with a skilled tutor participating, and the free student-to-student applications. Examples of group assignments that might benefit from using synchronous media (with the proviso that asynchronous learning is done) might include initial self-introductions to speak what you expect to get out of the course, and what dreams and apprehensions you have about the course. Brainstorming will be a leading learning exercise using synchronous, and the webinar will suit this, although other conferencing media such as Skype may work satisfactorily. Then the next stages of learning must be asynchronous. Only the final experiential stage may then benefit from synchronous media. The final stage could be interview teacher-to-student about the course, points covered, things learnt, reasons, and so on – in other words a viva voce. Accordingly synchronous media may become more widely adopted as a standard accreditation technique.

I rest. I want to read some more and add to the above if need be later.
All Best Wishes

02 July 2007

Google Apps - Part 2

Hi Folks,
This is a continuation from my previous Post below on Google Calendar to look in more detail at how Google Apps is being used by various educational institutions. The basic links are hypertext linked in the previous Post for you.
I have reviewed Arizona State University earlier. Here I would like to look at Northwestern University (Evanston, Chicago) and the only other N.Am. university listed - Lakehead University (Ontario, Canada). Then for a change in cultural spice, I will look at the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University (New Delhi, India) and the Victoria Junior College (Marine Vista, Singapore).
First however here is a screen grab of Google Apps-type personal calendar in use at a central Japan university (I mentioned this last time), that has been up and running for about two years based presumably on Microsoft Calendar or on an early Google Calendar beta.

Now to Northwestern University ; there are more than ten million hits for this university, so I selected only the first page links from - of course - Google Search ;-)
They have their own branded version of Google Apps, and they call their online Calendar 'Plan-It Purple', with each student having his or her own 'My Plan-It' (in a Chicago accent, I guess, this sounds like 'My planet' ?). This seems to be only for students since the official webpages such as that of the registrar still use html, and pdf (click here to view it)
Their music school at www.music.northwestern.edu may be using another version since it is out-of-date showing June, though it is July in Chicago. Here is a screen grab superimposed in time and place over the WestGa July 1 dated WebCT calendar ;-

Their law school at www.law.northwestern.edu uses Blackboard, and has what appears to be a non-Google Apps installed as their Course Management System at https://courses/northwestern.edu/webapps/login. This could have Google behind the scenes, and if so this suggests the possibility for universities with Blackboard or WebCT to use Google Apps. One of the clear advantages of accepting Google Apps is that they replace (somewhat slowly) piece-by-piece student-by-student the pre-existing links and put in gmail as the hub of the new communications systems. So the indications from my brief look at Northwestern are that the full Google Apps installation may be not yet completed. Along the same lines, having started in mid-April 2007, Arizona State University plans to complete the switch before the end of the 2007 academic year - fairly soon.
The only other North American university listed by google is Lakehead University. Their CIO (Chief Intelligent Officer ?) writes "Google's track record [i.e. their past] is consonant with Lakehead's philosophy of innovative thinking" - this sentence surely should make one wonder about the cart and the horse. Lakehead set their own criteria for a replacement system as a solution to their communications problems ;
o . . High availability
o . . Scale to grow with Lakehead's enrollment growth
o . . Be fully secure
o . . Have storage space similar to, if not better than, what is beng offered by free email service providers, and
o . . be able to offer email for life for Lakehead alumni
One may wonder why the last criterion was included : their website and that of Northwestern, as well as others I guess, all have links on their pages for giving $$$ to support the alma mater ; - having one's alumni locked in seems a good criterion in this light. They chose Google Apps from a range of similar systems, and deployed gmail, G Calendar, and G Talk (for G Chat and VoIP). These three seem to be the minimum set of Google Apps. They say they will save C$6~7 million by avoiding upcoming Microsoft Exchange upgrading or re-design costs, and maintenance recurrent costs of C$2~3 million/year. Arizona State University saved US$353,000/year on email costs for its 65,000 students.

The Faculty of Management Studies of Delhi University at www.fms.edu have installed Picasa photo uploading and sharing as well. And they still keep their old message boards, and forums. They have made the files uploading function through Google Talk into a searchable storage and retrieval resource. I didn't know this was included into Google Apps, so it might be FMS software or may be G Docs and Spreadsheets beta. Moreover they advocate students share calendars for their friends' birthdays and anniverseries [sic] - adding a degree of socialization into their business-oriented courses. At least their Google Calendar does work, and shows the correct date today as 02 July.

Lastly, please let me briefly look at Victoria Junior College (Marine Vista, Singapore) at www.vjc.moe.edu.sg, one of the best university preparatory colleges in Singapore. Their Calendar of Events has been temporarily suspended. They use Blackboard as does the Ministry of Education, Singapore (click here to view) . And notice Moodle also in the right column of sponsored adverts beneath Blackboard. Surprisingly (since blogger is NOT included into Google Apps) VJC has an acclaimed award-winning students' blog (http://cosiety.vjc.sg) that doesn't appear to be a google-blog. VJC also has an award-winning blog about Second Life VJC . I put this in red, because I think this is a worthwhile direction for educational institutions to move towards. Both blogs appear to be hosted by wordpress.com, not G Blogger. The Second Life VJC started in April 2007, and is a blog-based learning resource for the 'General Paper' for university entrance in Singapore to expose students to new ideas and concepts to learn to write something worthwhile in the General Paper examination. The blog is brilliant - far better than this one you are reading. Second Life VJC reports on their hopes to get into second-life, with their application still-pending for the new island for Singaporeans only, to be named 'Lion City'. While this is drifting away from Google Apps review, it does highlight the absence of Google Blogger integration with the gmail-hub.

Google Apps 2007 say "hundreds of schools" have converted to Google Apps (click here to read) and you can read about "many schools around the world", through a link there. In summary, these mainly extol the benefits of gmail and its spam filter - such has online life become that the quality of the trash basket is the quality of life !! (Please don't overlook the point in my previous posting that gmail does have sponsored adverts included into each email, and / but excludes those spam not paying $ to google.)

At Northwestern, it was the students who told the university to implement Google Apps so the university can focus on education while outsourcing the communication services to google. It does say a lot about education when the students complain about the quality of communication by the university. That said, I have first heard this new word "calendaring' from Arizona State University. Is this a gerund from the verb 'to calendar' ?

Should I review the rival Windows Calendar here ???
It comes free inside the new 2007 Microsoft Office suite, and fully integrates with Windows Vista. There are 123,000,000 hits on a google search !!! on 'microsoft calendar'. Google are not to be undone though and introduce emigration switchover from Microsoft's calendar to its own (but not vice-versa away from Google) similar to its functioning export into gmail. Please see this screen grab, it is worthwhile inserting here
or click here to go to the live page , and notice we can put Google Calendar into our own website independently of Google Apps, and moreover add weather forecasting into Google Calendar.

More on Second Life later, and on Windows Calendar, and ...
All Best Wishes
sleepy Paul

29 June 2007

Review of Google Calendar

Dear Folks,
I hope this Post is not too long. Please bear with me. There are several issues to be covered in a review, step by step.
There are four stages of critical thinking for learning. The first stage involves one's own brainstorming or mind-mapping, before considering the theory and ideas of others. So I would first like to reflect on what a Calendar should do for me, or for others in my experience and knowledge.

I have a tiny calendar on my blog, which is pretty and fairly useless since it is not at all interactive apart from showing the date in the USA. What I want and will build into my new website and blog within the website is an interactive calendar which has each day hypertext linked to notes or webpages. That I would have to update it at midnight each day if I wanted the day’s date to be highlighted is hardly necessary since my computer has the date on the desktop screen anyway (so does my office wall). With the hypertext linked days, and my own html, the calendar is easily uploadable to any website, is safely on a flash-memory stick in my pocket, and highly flexible and adaptable – I can add the local holidays and changes in schedule. And .Mac can synchronize my different Macs to the latest schedule. If an outsider could update events on it automatically, I would still need to okay any new schedule, but if my college administration could move beyond a whiteboard nailed on their office wall to using a keyboard then it would be nice to get updates and warnings of forthcoming or re-scheduled meetings - or even meeting agendas in advance.

Next I would like to mention how online calendars are currently being used by other college faculty and students in my experience. My own college does not have any calendar online whatsoever. I do, of course, plus the Mac iCal, and a Mac Dashboard widget calendar. A new hospital down the road with a new computer system and its own systems software has a hospital-wide calendar on its homepage, giving only the most general information such as holidays, but not departmental information such as out-patient clinic schedule or any doctor’s own meetings. My local university is aware of Google Calendar and is trying to get each department – at least each faculty – to use it, without noticeable success yet. It is still early days : Google Calendar was announced in early April 2007 (I believe). A major university in mid-Japan have their own calendar, and all students can enter their own password to access their own lesson schedule, homework assignments and due dates, and submit files by email - all seamlessly - provided the student is awake and studies. The students use it 24/7 and even access it from home as a personal organizer.

I must include Arizona State University in my experience too since it was required pre-set reading. I don’t want to waste ink on that Reading 5 , which is a magazine article with the print-out text compressed to within a 43mm column crowded out by advertisements. It is an old article from October 2006 talking about Arizona State University partnering with Google (it doesn’t say who paid whom here, but Arizona State gets promotion by being the only featured university on Google's Apps page 3 and the writer was enthusing about getting gmail for its students. Wow. He writes that the university will become defined by who it includes rather than by who it excludes. Very noble words considering the Google Apps it installed has Google Talk that generally excludes all their 2006 current students who had Mac (before Intel) or Linux computers. G Apps is however touted as cross-platform - for Windows, Mac and Linux, but the G Pack (including Google Talk) is only for Windows, Firefox and Explorer, so I am confused. The G Pack for Mac includes only G Notifier (gmail), G Picasa (upload photos instead of using iPhoto), G Desktop (search your screen, instead of using Spotlight), G Earth, G Sketch Up (for drawing pictures in 3D) and the G Toolbar.

Google Apps is free for educational institutions .

Several universities have adopted G Apps - including Northwestern U Chicago, U Tempe Arizona, Lakehead U Ontario, Hofstra U Long Island, a few business colleges, Victoria Junior College Singapore, a school in Thailand, a U in Colombia, another U in Macedonia (not sure where Macedonia is ? somewhere near Greece ??) and a faculty at Delhi U India. Delhi University reported that the point they were most pleased with was the reduced spam in their email inbox - so kudos here for the gmail spam blocker. Gmail does of course come with paid advertisements on the right-hand side, so this could be called blocking free spam and only paying spam allowed in ? I guess we can include WestGa in users of Google Apps in as much as it invites us to review Google Apps. I am still very cautious about becoming overly dependent on any one system.

And so now on to Google Calendar. Nothing but praise here. I have read ten or twenty pages with no bad criticism at all. It seems to be the keystone of the Google Apps applications package and works beautifully, detecting dates and events in gmail for instant request to be pasted into Calendar and even gmailing you reminders for upcoming events (let's just hope they don't start charging for gmail or for including in even more advertisements into each gmail message - they say these are still "optional for students" ... ). They also say they will call me on my mobile phone to remind me of upcoming Calendar events - but I cannot imagine this is a free service (ringing me each morning to wake me up, and before each lesson, and before each meeting surely will cost someone - perhaps other mobile phone users will have their fixed contract rates increased to cover tthe free services to others - or perhaps the advertising will increase. I have heard some free telephone forwarding service adds in some advertisement at the beginning of each call. I am sceptical, but I am seriously considering installing this on my new Mac, to test it out. I can live with the increasing number of sponsored ads in Google Search since their search engine is quite successful for my purposes and life. Will they give me the free Education Edition with the option to exclude advertisements ? - I don't think so. Maybe they will say I must get the individual Standard Edition with fixed advertisements included inside each gmail. Well, one way to find out is to try ! My current email and internet service provision costs me $20/month with no advertisements whatsoever. I feel like maybe I am in utopia missing out on the real world ?

All Best Wishes

28 June 2007

On Synchronous Media for 'Office Hours'

Dear Folks,
I have discussed this topic before but it may be worthwhile to recapitulate here.
With global e-learning, online tutoring requires a team approach for 24/7 availability and service. In other words five or six tutors taking turn being online and available. Google Talk would be very clear and useful in one-to-one tutorial under the auspices of 'open office hours'.

Several problems are arising however.
(1) the tutor(s) may be repeating the same thing to each and every student. Some mega-universities have millions of students, and several thousand on a single course simultaneously. So therefore FAQs (frequently asked questions) need to be put up online (for asynchronous learning - like the standard Help function).
(2) the tutor and student should be engaged in objective teaching-learning discussion, but chat can easily turn to family problems, work or stress conditions and subjectivity. We do not need this synchronous interaction to become sexual or personal in any way. Students must limit their topic to the mind and education, not the heart. Teachers are generally well-trained in this, but students are not.
(3) At the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Open University, several thousand students turned up at the door of the tutor for the open-office tutorial just before the examination ... One-to-one Google Talk cannot cope with several thousand in need at the same time.

Several advantages pertain.
(1) A student can get instant direct help at the right time and right place 24/7. Pre-sent emails should communicate the essence of the difficulty and the time of the online meeting. If several students are requesting a Google Chat, the tutor can allocate five-minute chunks to each in sequence, so students are not on-hold queuing online. And the tutor can get feedback from the student instantly - emoticons are not so many but adding a photo could help fill in for the limited choice of available emoticons in Google.
(2) Google Talk is available on Windows. While windows-users don't necessarily appreciate this gift, Mac-users would opt for iChat and use live-camera and voice. Now of course Mac-users can also use Google Talk. I am not sure yet about Linux which is used significantly in developing countries.
(3) Personally I find only a few students would want to use open office hours, so the few who do should have no difficullty getting through and having a sufficient long and satisfactory tutorial. I find students who write out their problem clearly beforehand end up solving their own problem by themselves through the writing process, reflecting, and aesthetic reading which co-occurs during writing.

Well, three disadvantages aand three advantages seem to constitute an adequate balance, but not by any means a comprehensive review. A more comprehensive review and inquiry would need to ask does WestGa have open-office hours on WebCT ??
More later.
All Best Wishes

More on Google Talk (Part 3)

Hi Folks,
Google Talk is an excellent tool for online commmunication.
Here I would just like to sing more about it.
For me having Google Talk on my Mac live online alongside my Skype, WebCT Chat, Yahoo Messenger, email, mobile-phone-with-texting/photo-sharing/internet-access, and landline telephone is a very welcome addition to my synchronous communications. I have not yet changed my mind about the ineffectiveness of synchronous media alone for learning : I still feel we really need the asynchronous aspect in which the learning does take place, as Plato said - "Learning occurs in the mind, independent of time and place". Google Talk does archive the chats and voicemails and seamlessly connects to gmail (naturally) as well as file-sharing, for asynchronous learning. Here is a screen grab of Google Talk / Chat / Voicemail on my Mac.

While Google Talk does not yet have a three or more participants conferencing mode, the quality is outstanding for one-to-one voice chat. And if anyone has the wherewithal to get Google Talk, then they probably can get Skype conferencing and Yahoo conferencing - both free as well. So where does that leave the white-elephant WebCT ? It takes 200 seconds to open up its Chat Room using the fastest posssible cable connection in Japan with the newest Intel high-speed Mac. In other countries one with narrow bandwidth can only wonder and wait. And a further 30 seconds inside the WebCT Chat Room to activate the typing text-messaging function - incredibly slow. I do not however endorse a total Google environment. I think that this may lead to become overly dependent on a commercial venture business - in which even now the advertisements are overcrowding what was until last year superb search technology. That said, I also do not endorse the dependence of being locked into WebCT - since some students may use Mac or Linux systems and increasingly the digitally-unreached in developing regions globally are now entering the forum - with the high-end WebCT increasingly too overpowering for the low-end student users. I am surprised that even locally in the States, there are connectivity hassles. India (which is probably considered a developed nation by now) of course has its difficulties but they compensate by their great sense of humour, and willingness and strategies to cope with the power cuts.
Up next will be a review of Google Calendar ...
All Best Wishes

26 June 2007

Discussion on Synchronous Media for Learning : Part 2

Hi Folks,
We have had five Readings assigned ;- Reading 1 – a list of media (no hypertext link as this is proprietary to WestGa), Reading 2 – Distance Learning and Synchronous Interaction , Reading 3 – VoIP Has Come of Age , Reading 4 – UNC’s Evaluation of Live Synchronous Tools , and Reading 5 – Google Apps and the New American University . I have looked through the first two and added some comment in a Post here yesterday. Discussion of the last Reading 5 is more appropriate to a separate Post later this week as it involves much more asynchronous study by me. Here I would like to go through briefly Reading 3 and Reading 4. Let’s hope the pigeons don’t kill the cat !
Both Reading 3 and Reading 4 are within the grey literature – meaning they are not published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, though they add to research resources and serve the academic community. ‘VoIP Has Come of Age' by Sandy Berger appears in a magazine LearnTech undated but carrying a copyright 2007 so we can expect this to be up-to-date. However it mentions Windows XP and 2000, but not Vista. And it mentions MacOSX but indicates Google Talk is not for Mac. So this article is dated at least by one more year backwards. Sandy writes that "you need an invitation to open a Gmail account" (page 1). This is no longer true. The overall impression from this article is that "although you can use these [VoIP synchronous tools] over a dial-up connection, a broadband connection like cable or DSL is really necessary for adequate speed for the voice transmissions". The implication is that VoIP may be not useful in the developing world : since it really does benefit from good broadband infrastructure, VoIP does not reduce the digital divide. However in my own experience across Asia, VoIP is being very keenly adopted (in 2007) – as well as gmail accounts – because they are free of recurrent costs. If we were to compare VoIP with WebCT-chat , then cost may likely be a leading concern – particularly if we were to aim for open access and inclusivity. Sandy concludes with two caveats ; - one, that you need to be near your computer to see or hear a call coming in, and two, that there is some echo. We have tested out VoIP Google Talk and Skype, and external speakers compensate for the low-volume of most computer built-in speakers, and echo can be eliminated by using headphones. Both these problems were initially experienced and were both resolved perfectly satisfactorily.
One of the great things about the grey literature is being free of editorial oversight : the author(s) can invent new punctuation and new words without fear of being hammered. In Reading 4 (a 'Final Report') for instance, the authors choose not to use a period full-stop at the end of their Abstract, and not the three dots signifying to be continued; rather, they choose two dots which is cute – somewhere between one dot and three dots. Reading 4 is an in-house report on the four synchronous tools that they use and also reviewed by their staff who use them. No comparison is made to tools they don't use, and there is no outsider review comment. The most detrimental aspect however is that this is written by teachers for teachers with no concern and no mention at all whether or not these tools improve learning. No student comments were included, and no recognized evaluation design on the achieved quality of learning using these tools. So when they say it was easy to use by the teacher familiar with it, there is just total absence as to what the students thought or whatever. (They write "and other information from faculty and other active users" – if they mean students here, surely they should expressly say so.) It is a subjective not objective report – actually a collection of subjective reports. It is true that two subjective perspectives can produce an objective result, but their second subjective perspective was from the vendors. However, I do recommend your reading this article. They clearly state that it is intended for "potential instructional and collaborative use within" their campuses ( I suspect they mean 'cooperative' here), and it fulfills their mandate. How useful is this report to others ? ummm it reviews Centra Symposium 7.5, Elluminate Academic version 6.5, Horizon Wimba Live Classroom 4.2, and Macromedia Breeze Meeting version 5, and concludes of the four that Centra was best, and Elluminate was second. Centra was cited for its conferencing capabilities and advance organizer 'agenda builder' (which I personally think is a necessary tool for any meeting online or offline), and Elluminate was cited for its cross-platform compatibility with Windows and Mac simultaneously. They say Horizon Wimba is cross-platform, but don't mention Mac, only citing its compatibility with Blackboard and WebCT. WestGa use Horizon Wimba, and perhaps others - Is there a review available among the University System of Georgia, and do Georgia find Horizon Wimba to be the best? From these four reviews, I would choose Macromedia because is highly customizable and accessible by most students using basic Macromedia Flash (free reader, and widely available through Macromedia Flash creation tools such as Dreamweaver). Reading 4 does not include any review of any open source free tools. I am curious, but then the authors probably have no idea or experience or care about such free tools. Maybe the TLTC Board that instigated the review wanted to know whether it was or not getting value for the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has spent. Moodle and many other open source teaching / learning tools are taking a greater share of the market day-by-day, and reviewing only those expensive tools that they have already installed leaves room for further review studies. Of their four moreover, which did the students prefer? Which brought about the most stimulating educational experience for the students and achieved the best improvement in quality of learning?
All Best Wishes