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

24 June 2007

Discussion on Synchronous Media for Learning : Part 1

Dear Folks,
In order to discuss the merits and demerits of synchronous media and of asynchronous media for learning, it is essential to know and keep in mind the precise distinction between cooperative learning and collaborative learning. Many lax writers tend to use the term collaborative for fashionable unwarranted claim to authority, since collaborative is more complex and desirable being the mode for non-foundational co-creation of new knowledge. I have previously clarified in detail ad laborium the distinction between group cooperative learning and group collaborative learning (see for instance my Papers, and my Impatica presentation). The Impatica presentation elucidated thus ; “If in a group, there may be someone who knows the content already for example there is a teacher or expert among your group, in which case learning can proceed by repetition, demonstration, translation and sharing cooperatively. If there is no–one among your group who knows the answer, then participants offer up hypotheses in turn to bridge the unknown gap and co-construct new knowledge co-owned by the participants collaboratively. … Learning in a group has two distinct ways depending on whether or not there is a knower in the group.” Please refer to the sources for elaboration.
Here, I want to offer up a critique of the relevant literature, especially of the pre-set readings.
First, Reading 1 says that online synchronous tools include video conferencing, real-time chat or instant messaging, whiteboards, application sharing, survey and polling tools, and moderating tools. Video conferencing can be a most effective synchronous tool, but requires a pre-arranged schedule, agenda, pre-distributed textual materiel, and pre-reading – all of which are asynchronous. Whiteboards are synchronous, and would benefit from adding an E-Beam device for recording, archiving and re-use. See http://www.e-beam.com and in practice Al-Shalabi, H., & Al-Jufout, S. (2005). The electronic classroom through embedded e-learning in Jordan. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 3 (2), 42-47. available online at http://www.AsianJDE.org/2005v3.2.Al-Shalabi.pdf . Application sharing is synchronous and maybe facilitates technology skills training (though not practice by the student and feedback) and trouble-shooting, but hardly constitutes learning in the synchronous mode because the student needs to read, reflect, recall prior knowledge and then get back to the screen – all of which are asynchronous. Students also read for comprehension with assimilation at different rates depending on native language, age and gender – see for instance Kawachi, P. (2002). On-line and off-line reading English rates : Differences according to L1, gender, and age. Proceedings of the XVI Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities. Seoul, Korea, 5-7 November, available online from http://www.Open-Ed.net/Kawachi-reading.pdf in particular here is a plot from SPSS analysis that gives not-the-50%-average reading rate, but the rate at 98% inclusivity : ie the low curves above which 98% of readers are included, and this circumvents the inherent uselessness of 50%-average rates in which half the students by definition cannot cope.

Application-sharing can be synchronous and has been covered earlier today in my post on Google Talk, with the proviso that word.doc files sent will need reading time asynchronously, but slides.ppt and video.imp can be synchronous. A URL shared file is either synchronous or asynchronous depending on the complexity of the task and density of the content on the web-screen. Survey and polling tools need reflection and are not suited to synchronous use. And finally in that list, moderating controls are asynchronous not synchronous. You can moderate something only after it has been presented, though you could put in place synchronous blocking of foul language – Is this what synchronous moderating is about ?
Now let me move on to a review of Reading 2 ‘Distance Learning and Synchronous Interaction’ by Joel Foreman, available online from clicking here . This article is old, first published in 2003. My critique here is mainly negative. Joel does not comprehend the essence of asynchrony for collaborative learning and writes that asynchronous tools are “primitive and significantly limit interactivity and collaborative learning” (page 1). He is wrong. Moreover findings published in May 2007 by Doshisha University in a well-designed carefully controlled study found better quality learning achieved by students using asynchronous e-learning media compared with synchronous lectures, seminars, and slides.ppt. Doshisha University followed students over one year from April 2006 to March 2007, and attributed the better quality asynchronous learning to the potential for students to re-play any part as much as they wished or needed for comprehension. To my knowledge of the no-significant-difference debate, this is the first clear study to report a valid significant difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning. Joel goes on to say that synchronous chat needs good writing and typing skills “which are not widely available” (page 2) – he may likely be talking about himself here. Continuing on page 2, he goes on to write that synchronous conferencing can enable a group to “collaborative write and edit a document”. I would really like to see two or more persons correcting grammar simultaneously on the same open shared document ! On page 3, he writes that “VoIP is intrusive and clumsy” – his writing is out-dated. On page 4, he reveals his colours by saying he is involved with xxxx (I won’t support his unprofessional example of self-promotion and advertising) calling it a brainchild he ebulliently writes that his synchronous tool can get all members in a group to orient themselves to the mission, analyze and sequence the task and perform metacognitive reflections to arrive at a solution. Apart from most of his mentioned activities being asynchronous, I would like to see his great synchronous tool get Jupiter Team together online and complete a group report :-) He concludes (page 5) by saying all too truly that “Under the best circumstances, the students will divide the work, perform it separately, and then gather online …” In other words asynchronous is better.
Synchronous media introduce severe pacing which reduces learner autonomy. I am not against reducing learner autonomy or pacing, but adult education theory at least is against it.
More tomorrow, after some further reflection asynchronously.
All Best Wishes

Google Talk - further explorations

Hi Folks,
A few more words on Google Talk to bring Folks up to date on my explorations.
First, it really does help if each speaker wears good quality headphones – so that the incoming voice does not enter into the other person’s microphone that causes a two-second delayed echo.
Google Talk allows for file sharing. I have exchanged pictures.jpg, word.doc, slides.ppt, and clickable URL that can open up a shared view of a website. I am keen to try out video.imp on Google file-sharing in the next few days. Then with patient slow clear discussions not only cooperative but also collaborative group learning was achieved. Santa Claus might like to know that such VoIP guidance can enable the listener to take an online test with surreptitious fraudulent help from others. We tested it out and the results were perfect. Cooperative learning was achieved by one sender of ppt talking through the content using text-messaging and voice. Collaborative learning was achieved by one person suggesting a potential hypothetical way forward and the other – as well as the speaker – testing this out to see if movement towards a common goal was viable. Then from that stage co-exploring how to move on to a next stage closer to the common goal. All transfers of materiel and all text-messages are archived ; only individual own voice recordings would be necessary in order to produce complete archives of the learning transactions. All this was free of cost, and to a far extent, I believe, a virtual classroom. At least it would be effective for a tutorial, technology skills instruction, and collaboration on ways to proceed with asynchronous media. Accordingly Google Talk is effective in and for distance education, and for open education. In particular with respect to open education, Google Talk would be effective for online tutorials and tutor-student discussions - what may be called 'open-office-hours' when anyone can log in to chat, text-message and file-share to and from each other. Ideal for example for the tutor to comment on a student's essay and get a response from the student in turn (though I hope Santa knows this might not be authenticatable). The advantages would certainly include the any-where aspect, and while the time must be pre-set for both student and teacher to be online at the same time, either could be in pyjamas at the time in a different global time-zone, so this I think would mean the any-time aspect is reasonably fulfilled too. The free-of-cost and superb audio and file-sharing qualities of Google Talk makes this a great distance learning tool. Would this be more convenient than the chat feature in WebCT ? - this would depend largely on whether or not you have the several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the WebCT licence. If you do, then WebCT would have the integrated capabilities for such chat to be logged against each student and into their e-learning portfolios, as well as into the tutor's e-teaching portfolio - both of which would clearly be advantageous in mega-universities with thousands of tutors and millions of students.
As far as Google University is concerned and the offer by Google to allow a university to put their own branding on the media, I am not at all convinced this would be acceptable to the institutional authorities just yet. WebCT has been an expensive option with costs being raised year by year, and anything ‘free’ might be viewed with some incredulity. However, I have not reviewed Google University yet, although I find the sponsored hits on Google Search more than annoying nowadays – appearing not only at the top, but intermingled with research results with very tiny words alongside saying sponsored. A flexible and highly adaptive approach to adopting technology seems to be the most recommendable way forward. At the moment Google Talk is really great.
All Best Wishes

22 June 2007

On Reflecting

Hi Folks,
I have been reflecting on my Post earlier today, especially on the sentences about students in a virtual classroom raising their hands to signal cueing. How can students within a group given only as logged-in names signal to the teacher ? It really does seem that a little 'raise a hand' tab button works ideally. Notwithstanding this, it does bring to my mind the methods used in my infant school days. I just wonder whether this is too harsh a criticism of the technique, or merely simplicity itself. In a large class, we cannot be efficient if all students are talking simultaneously and some technique must be employed.
I don't know what alternative could be viable in practice. This would lead me further along in my belief that synchrony is not as good as asynchronous messaging, email, discussion board and so on - that have the time between utterances for deeper reflection and informed response.
Still reflecting . . . and in this asynchronous blog, I have the time between utterances to think and study, read and weigh possible alternatives . . .
All Best Wishes

On Synchrony

Dear Folks,
I thought a few words here might be appropriate about the use of synchronous (live chat) media compared with asynchronous (email, discussion board) media.
Synchronous media entail the familiarity of facial cues, voice, and even socialization such as chat about one's likes/ dislikes, family and so on. In the virtual classroom or Webinar, the teacher can deliver a lecture with traditional methods such as visuals (powerpoint or e-scans of drawings) and talking, can check the student's attendance, and even ask the students a question ("Raise your hands if you know the answer" which takes me back nostalgically to my infant school days). We certainly don't find today's teenagers using this style with their MySpace chats, which makes me think the designers of WebCT must be fifty years old or more. Is the ultimate goal of high technology just to re-create the Victorian classroom ? There is a case for such re-created familiarity in enabling learning - to extend the student's context into the room, so that the teaching occurs within the student's world. However, that socialization can be described as reducing anxiety and reducing other psychological barriers to learning. Do I myself want to see the faces of other students / teachers / visitors? I recommend your reading the article by Nigel Blake

Blake, N. (2000) 'Tutors and Students without Faces or Places', Special Issue: Enquiries at the Interface: Philosophical Problems of Online Education, Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 34, no. 1. pp. 183-197.

Moreover, I would guess that the teacher in the virtual classroom has (or had) technical support to make it all work, but as far as I can determine none of the students did. Though I will go back and go through the 'Help' button on my computer to see what technical support there is for me - ASYNCHRONOUSLY of course.
So now let's examine the asynchronous aspect. How many of the students in that virtual classroom had done the required / suggested reading (Module 8, Readings 1, 2 3, 4, and 5) ?? I wonder. As for me, I read only slowly, dissecting, reflecting, and re-reading many times over. And I still plan to re-read yet more times. So I wouldn't say that I have finished the reading. I think asynchronous media such as reading and writing are much more powerful teaching and learning media than being in the same room at the same time as peers and teachers. I heard somewhere that learning never occurs inside the classroom, but afterwards where the student has some cognitive intellectual space to reflect and put things in order in their mind, putting things together and joining up points with their prior experience and knowledge. The face-to-face episode in the classroom only serves as a stimulus or guideline. I believe learning occurs at one's own time, pace and place - and this not necessarily at 3:00 a.m. in the morning in a live virtual classroom.

Oh I learnt many things today this early morning, through synchronous media. I learnt how practice with the media would be a prerequisite for more effective participation, how useful an 'advance organiser' would be in synchronous virtual lessons (an advance organiser is like an agenda or proposed schedule and topics, distributed or disseminated beforehand). And I learnt how wonderful Google Talk was !! I would really recommend Google Talk to everyone. I have heard that Skype has more functionality (I have reviewed Skype at length earlier), and that Google Talk was plain and simple - but here I would like to say that the quality of the plain-and-simple Google Talk was overwhelming, and to be recommended : so refreshing, even at 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

I would also like to add that Google Talk is free.
Whereas a WebCT licence (for the bells and whistles and virtual classroom) is several thousand dollars per year, plus technical support. The Chronicle of Higher Education puts the cost of WebCT at several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (see the article here) . More than my week's wages anyway !
I will continue this discussion here asynchronously of course.
My thanks really to Stacey - I really enjoyed our live chat, and to Pam always.
All Best Wishes

21 June 2007

Windows inside Mac

Hi Folks,
Here is the latest news ; the screen-grab photo below of my Google Talk up and working inside Windows inside my Mac.
I have not yet found out what a WestGa 'Google Talk email' is.
But my google account is simply paulkawachi@gmail.com.
If you type this into the 'add contacts' section it should work, to get through to me on Google Talk ...
Looking forward to talking with you !
All Best Wishes

Skype and yahoo messenger are covered a few weeks ago below, and MSN doesnt work yet (the Windows crashes inside the Mac, but I am still trying . . .

20 June 2007

Older and Wiser - Part II

Hi Folks,
Well, I am analysing the findings from SurveyMonkey, not purely for WestGa but for my own practical use. I notice yet more demerits along the way, sadly and annoyingly.
(1) Firstly their pop-up continues to plague and contaminate my peaceful blog, no matter how much I delete my membership with them.

(2) Secondly I am just confused. I adopted their template question (my mistake) for MultiText Boxes ;- my question five = Please list your top three favourite activities for learning English (choose from ; talking, listening, watching video, reading, writing) followed my label 1st then a text box, my label 2nd then text box, and then my label 3rd and textbox.

To me, this was a simple question along the lines of their sample 'Please list your top three favourite brands of peanut butter.' One [text box], Two [ text box] Three [ text box], given above.
Mine was a loaded question since were expected to respond video, and the following question then asked which activity they would prefer to combine with video - quite useful data for me. However, it then proceeded to demand from my respondents a digital number, not text. Luckily for me I had included a closed list from which they might choose their response, and luckily for me too my students realized the confusion and input digital numbers.

Moving along a bit, I notice that the output list of respondents if you click any [view] box the respondent number-1 is Asuka according to the individual answer sheets for each respondent with the 'time started' recorded in minutes-and-seconds. Asuka was the earliest to 'start'.

But the responses elsewhere are collated in reversed order according to the minute - so the earliest three respondents are not in correct order by seconds but junked together as within the same minute - Asuka appearing as third-from-bottom instead of most-bottom, for example in any other question the [view] box gives a number to the the entry (here the bottom three 20, 19 and 18 were completed earliest - number-18 Asuka was earliest to the minute-and-second but appears as number 18.

Such a mess, and they call that analysis ! Well, I have printed out each completed response form, and will do the analysis myself. And I won't subscribe to MonkeyMonkey.
All Best Wishes

13 June 2007

Cyberlearning Definition

Hi Folks,
Several people have asked me what did I mean when I talked about 'cyber universities'.
The earliest literature reference I can find (so far) is by Chen (2002). She coined the term one year earlier in a Paper, but here below she gives a definition.
You may recall that I mentioned the new Cyber University in Fukuoka, Japan, opened in April 2007, and more than one have been open for a couple of years in Korea administered by a consortium of universities, I believe.

As for a definition, I quote ; "Open and distance education … has evolved into the third phase – cyberlearning – conceptualized as teaching and learning interactions mediated entirely through the application of state-of-the-art information and communications technologies, such as the Internet and world wide web ... They offer real-time multicast instructional systems using videoconferencing and cable TV technology, virtual classroom systems via network-based instructional management systems, and curriculum-on-demand systems utilizing video-on-demand technology ... these cyber universities ...”
Chen, Y-J. (2002 ; p1). The development of cyberlearning in dual-mode higher education institutions in Taiwan. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 2 (2).

See also Chen, Y-J. (2001). Cyber university and adult learning. Adult Education Bimonthly, 59, 30-39. And the term 'cyberlearning' was (perhaps) first given by Han, H-W., & Wang, Y-C. (1999). Lifelong cyberlearning system : A pilot project for the learning society in the ROC. Educational Media International, 36 (2), 115-120.

I have several thousand definitions of concepts and terminology in education up on my website, in searchable alphabetic order with full literature citations - with many definitions from different authorities of the same term, to help you in your learning.
All Best Wishes

11 June 2007

Simplified insertion of photo

Hi Folks,
Really for the Mac-users out there, but maybe the PC-users will want to switch over after this ...
After you download the free widget 'Image Upload' from Apple.com/downloads/dashboard, all you need to do is drag your image with the mouse - at the same time press F12 to callup the Dashboard - and then drop the image onto this widget. It produces an URL in your pasteboard for you to just 'paste' into your text in email, html (here), website or wherever. Voila -> http://tinyurl.com/ynsdgy
You can see how useful this will be - avoiding the needed to get into your server to upload a photograph and then type out the URL. Many thanks to the widget 'Image Upload' designer !

(photo of my garden recycle energy generator)
All Best Wishes

10 June 2007

Wave Analysis

Dear Folks,
There was an interesting paper by Larry Leslie at Penn State that has important currency for all of us administering surveys and worried about not getting everyone to return the survey duly completed on time. Provided you record the time when you give out the questionnaire (if the same time for all the respondents, then you can effectively ignore this), and then record the exact time each is returned to you, then a simple wave analysis will give you valid and reliable findings from relatively-low response rates. I use this all the time (even though I collect 100% response rates by never using anonymity) because it can show me if there are likely to be any new response or finding were I to administer the survey to more persons or to an additional cohort.

Basically, you analyse the responses returned within the first week - and note all the different responses or categories and the distribution pattern of the frequencies of each response. Then you analyse similarly those returned in the second week. If you don't find any new category, and you find a similar distribution as in the first-week categories, then you can be fairly confident that you have captured the full range of categories and their relative incidence given in the distribution pattern. Then after you analyse those few late-respondents in the third week, if you find the same range of categories and distribution pattern, you can validly and reliably claim you have got the whole range of potential responses and their distribution pattern, even though a few responses are still not returned in the fourth or fifth week.

Actually, there may be a drift in the distribution pattern from early-respondents to late-respondents, allowing you to extrapolate the pattern drift to cover the few very-late/non-respondents. If you find new responses or a new category being given by the second-week respondents, this means that either your sample size was not sufficiently large or that the time allowed for collecting the early-respondents should be longer than one week. It is easy to change the time allowed for being in the early-respondents group, since you have the time-stamp on each return. However it is usually difficult to change the sample size. You need to do a pilot study, and have at least 2 or 3 times as many respondents as you have question items according to the SPSS version 6.1 software guidebook. However Sanjaya Mishra and Santosh Panda (page 29) in an excellent article on questionnaire design cite Tinsley & Tinsley (1987) as suggesting a ratio of 5 to 10 respondents per item - see http://www.AsianJDE.org/2007v5.1.Mishra.pdf , and Tinsley, H.E.A., & Tinsley, D. J. (1987). Uses of factor analysis in counseling psychology research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34, 414-424.

A pilot study should never be omitted in any case, period.

I have used wave analysis in all my studies. It can show me three cohorts from different places give a same pattern and therefore gives high confidence in the findings. In other studies, I use it to see the drift from one year to the next, over four or five years, in say the use of computers at home, or in the earlier adoption of collaborative group learning skills.
Here is the full citation ; enjoy -
Leslie, L.L. (1972) ‘Are High Response Rates Essential to Valid Surveys?’, Social Science Research, vol. 1, pp. 323-334.
All Best Wishes

Further analyses

Hi Folks,
Well, I succeeded in getting lots of data from my students. They were pretty simple data just to test out the technology and learn the idiosyncrasies of the technology. Nonetheless, the survey was a formative course assessment design, and the data are useful to consider fine-tuning the second half of their course.

I am learning to live now with the snag-it screen-grab images provided by WestGa that don't match what I see on screen - presumably because their screen shots were collected for use last year and not yet updated. This note is more a reminder to me to always go through the online courseware myself just prior to letting it loose on the world, and time permitting to go through the course again in real-time alongside the students checking for any broken links or old screen shots that could then be immediately repaired. While this could and should be done by the course writer prior to the start of the course, there is nothing as sharp and eagle-eyed as a bunch of hyperactive students.

Concerning administration of the survey, the screen-grabs did not match the current options given online by SurveyMonkey- for example; WestGa instruct 'the third option -Send link to your email list', thus

This is now perhaps the first default choice at SurveyMonkey, although it looks like the current third choice. Confusing.
The first given default choice gives me the URL for my survey - the same as that printed on the bottom of the paper when printing out tthe online survey from SurveyMonkey and used in my posting yesterday. Typing in that URL needs hyperfocal attention, so I copied and pasted it as a hypertext link into email to each student along with a personal invitation from me and a deadline by when they should complete the survey.

I tried all three options. The second requested I send my email list tio them, and they can administer the survey and automatically 'track who responds' in my list. I was a bit cautious here, in case they deluge my students with massive instructions and incomprehensible warnings to complete the survey while they watch. Anyway I didn't have the student email list at hand - not that I would have given it to them anyway - it's still illegal in Japan unless the email owner expressly agrees.

I tried the third item too for the html code, which was cool.

All Best Wishes

Older and Wiser

Hi Folks
A few comments on yesterday's offerings.

When I designed my survey (being an obsessive skeptic), I added the consecutive question number to the initial position of each question - since it was not given in the template. Fool that I was, the software then added the question numbers automatically, so I went back and deleted my numbering to avoid the questions looking like "1.1. Please ... " "2.2. Please ... " , and so on until 10.10. And the resulting survey looked okay.
However after collecting the data, the SurveyMonkey analysis deletes all their numbering leaving my results without any numbers. This is not too much strain on my memory - over only ten questions - I can recall what was Q7 without too much effort. But if this was my target survey on learning styles that has 76 items and which need to be re-sorted from random ordering into the ten Areas of Concern and then entered into SPSS, I would need the number to be given beside the response boxes in the analysis ! Not really angry, just disappointed that I had already thought of that, but their software is deceptive - hoping I guess when we have collected all our data to see the numbers are missing that we would sign up for the $$ upgrade $$.
May as well add this other point of curiosity that has resolved itself after looking at the analysis. They don't tell you why they want you to input your time zone. But then in the analysis they give you the time that each respondent 'started' the survey. The time is given correct to the second. Alas, they don't say what time this actually means, was it the time the respondent first set eyes on the questions, or the time (after reading and studying the questions for hours ?) when the respondent entered the first response. They don't give a finishing time, when the respondent presses 'done' - though that should be easiest technologically. And no data on the duration taken by the respondent - potentially very useful for a timed-limited-duration online examination. (I'll take a peek at their software html code, and talk more on this later.) I guess they really really want us to sign up for the upgrade version.
Time for a cup of tea.
All Best Wishes

08 June 2007

Online Survey Instrument

Hi Folks,
You may be interested in the online survey instrument produced by http://www.SurveyMonkey.com . They offer a free trial of unspecified duration, for an unspecified number of surveys. On most of their webpages they present various features - for which you need to 'upgrade now' (this translates basically as you must pay money). However, the trial membership is an excellent way to get people to try it out, and find - as I did - how easy it is to use, and quite effective educationally.

I plan to 'upgrade' to full service tomorrow. Today, I would like to cover just a few points about online surveys generally, and SurveyMonkey in particular. Generally, such surveys could be divided into whether or not they are being used formatively or summatively. A formative survey could be used to gather data from current actors in order to inform a future potential revision in a course (as performed by WestGa), or as summative to judge the learning achieved (usually respondents not anonymous) or the teaching (usually anonymous) or any other completed activity. I am against anonymous surveys as a rule since anonymity can provide cover for incomplete or disruptive responses, that are difficult to repair or recover, and moreover I believe it is better to value and honour the time and effort of the respondent by acknowledging their participation.
My present survey is formative, administered in the middle of a course, and inviting feedback on future potential revisions.

I have designed and applied a SurveyMonkey to 20 students at college, and they should complete this by 6pm. No doubt, then I will be in a better position to report any glitches. The actual survey html code is very complex and looks as if it was developed by google.analytics.com based on their /urchin program. It is not adaptable by the user (i.e. me), which is a drawback. Since it is standard design protocol for surveys to use the native-language of the respondents and my students are Japanese, so then I would want to write the survey in Japanese. Even in English, I would like to adjust the amount of 'white space' in the presentation - SurveyMonkey has everything quite densely packed on the screen-page. The margin widths for my label to go beside their textbox is limited to only nine character-spaces (although in their sample they have 12, maybe because the upgrade version has more flexibility). I wrote the survey questions on paper first and reflected on these for a day or so, before entering their website and creating my survey. Everything went smoothly in retrospect, but in the creation process I did have several worries - for example we do not need to number our questions - they will do this for us. We do not have to 'save' the final creation anywhere or by any special button, they do this for us automatically. It would have been more comfortable for me if they had said we can just shut down our computer and the survey so far will be safely preserved until we next visit and log-in, (who said learners shouldn't take risks?) The 'Edit Question' button was a useful button to allow later changes. Everything was left-aligned in this trial version. I hope the full upgrade version allows for us to align text as we choose.

This morning, I decided it would be interesting in the analyses to look at the responses with respect to the time of day they were written. I can perform a wave analysis to see how results would look if I had gathered data from an unlimited large number of respondents (more on this tomorrow). My final version had ten questions ; - the first asking for the date and time (and forcing a completed response), the second their name, email address and so on (not forced) to deny anonymity, third, fourth, and sixth asked them to select one of a comprehensive range of given answers, fifth write their top three favourite learning activities using three singleline textboxes, and then seventh, eighth, and ninth used comment/essay boxes. The final tenth question asked them to select one of a given range presented on a single horizontal line. Overall, I used four types of question. SurveyMonkey offers these templates for about fifteen different types of question.
You can view my survey here , but please do NOT complete it,
because you would be corrupting my data \\\ thank you ;-)

I am keen to try to use their software to design my own template, but first I want to look at the quality and depth of their analyses, and to check if I can retrieve the raw data easily or not. More later ...
All Best Wishes

03 June 2007

How to Annoy Visitors with a Perpetual Pop-Up

Hi Folks,
Well it's a sunny cool Monday morning out here in Japan.
And about ten weeks now since I started this blog
If it disappears from blogspot, then you can find the archive and new version on my website at www.open-ed.net . Please continue visiting there.

Ten weeks, ten weeks ... now ten weeks I have been visiting a certain study website that is run using WebCT and every time I am faced with this pop-up quiz incessantly blocking the screen. It is a great example of how NOT to design an online quiz.

Apologies to the team of quiz so-called-experts who thought this one up, but in my case and in each case of all the other newly enrolled visitors who similarly want to answer 'no experience' in all areas - this pop-up just WON'T EVER go away. Of course, I could answer the quiz, saying I have experience in one or more of the areas (not true) and it ?might? go away - but it probably would pop-up back to me with a loooongerr pop-up quiz :-(
Frustrating is not the word here. Perhaps 'annoyed' is better - annoyed at the designer's presumptious narrow-minded view. No doubt the designer was and still is (and will ever be) hoping to collect data online for his/her doctoral dissertation, and disserves every sympathy. My advice is 'Please re-design your pop-up quiz'.
All Best Wishes


Hi Folks, Greetings !
Well I tested out VoIP Skype with CapeTown and had a most enjoyable chat for one hour free - thanks Skype !
A little practice is needed to pause after a sentence, to wait to hear if the other speaker has started speaking - to take account of the few seconds delay for the voice to travel (undersea ? or satellite in tthe sky?) -
and no sooner had we set a day and time for a next chat, then Yahoo was ringing with my good friend from Delhi online.

He remarked he has Skype, which -with a large screen - I could access simultaneously, and called him on Skype too. He said on Yahoo his mic was not working, but that his speakers were - so he listened to me over Skype while I read his writing on Yahoo Messenger. This overcame the delays in typing on Yahoo in which messages often arrived a little delayed causing the transcript to appear a bit juggled.

Here is a Yahoo screen grab of this quite amazing experience -
All Best Wishes

02 June 2007

Skype and Yahoo Messenger

Hi Folks,
I hope everyone is coming along fine.
June is here, and the rainy season (like monsoon) has started here in Japan.

Well, I downloaded the latest version of Skype version and am pleased to say it looks and sounds like it is working. My Skype-name is paul-5 and user name is - you guessed it - Paul Kawachi.
I also joined Yahoo Messenger and there my email address is paulkawachi@yahoo.com . Other email for google is paulkawachi@gmail.com , though I hardly use this as a mailbox. All this paul-stuff is because I can never remember all those super catchy nicknames that seem epidemic, and I still believe 'simple-is-best'. Good times to catch me online is any time I am here at home ; most of Saturday and Sunday, and most evenings except Wednesday. Please try to remember Japan time is GMT +9 hours ... if you hope to catch me awake :-)
Don't waste your free five minutes of Skype trying to get through to me on my landline - my computer usually answers - better try someone you know is there then to pick up your call.
Many thanks in advance (for your patience and kind conversation)
All Best Wishes