Category: Uncategorized

Blackboard 9.1 learning modules


I like learning modules for distance learning. One unit, one module. Everything neat and tidy with a clear sequential path that students can follow without too much trouble and then come back and access the material anyway they like. 

One problem with Bb9.1 learning modules is that they force discussion boards to open in a new window (there's no alternative, though discussion boards will open in the same window from e.g. a content page). I really don't like this, but Terry Gray of Palomar college doesn't see a problem with it. Anyway, I enjoyed and found useful his video about learning modules. 

Postmodernity, meaning, identity, globalisation, technology, the narcissism of youth, moral panics and PBL.

A few notes on Mike Wesch’s article “1991: Who we were and who we need to be”. [1. Wesch, M. (2011). 1991: Who we were and Who we need to be. Retrieved August 10, 2011, from]

It pulls the interesting trick of looking back before the present era and finding that many of the concerns people were expressing then were the same as those we have now: young people disengaged with education, having short attention spans, being constantly called into ‘incoherence’ or other social domains by the omnipresence of technology (TV, telephones), education being run on an industrial model for an information age, identity being no longer a social given but the core project of the individual and the individual itself being increasingly set apart from communities.

Wesch could have gone back 50 years or 100 years and found many of these themes: the spur to the fathers of modern sociology was in to explore social change characterised by: alienation, atomism, the place of the individual in mass society, technology defining activities, social relations being obscured.

The Industrial Age is joining the pre-Industrial Age in holding the certainties and securities, the connectedness that we feel we feel we lack now. I wonder to what extent Wesch describes the Human Condition, particularly that of the academic for whom big questions are particularly enticing.

Technology does not define relationships and social processes, but offers affordances to directions that already there. And these directions don’t always run the same way – the picture is complex. We see the Internet also being used to connect people; it facilitates previously existing social forms of thinking and behaving that required you to leave your home and maybe go to a big city. The personal commitment required to join such processes is reduced slightly (it was always possible to buy a book and wear a t-shirt after all), but the connections to other people, though superficial and ephemeral for most are far easier to establish. Twitter exemplifies this. Ultimately what matters will be what lasts, for us as individuals and for the world at large, what is difficult is to know what this will be. The future is unwritten. Twas ever thus.

Powerpoint for interactive learning


I'm currently working on a branching scenario dental trauma tutorial; students are given a situation and have to choose response A,B or C (actually usually just A or B). Each choice takes them down a slightly different path, the paths diverging through 3 steps. That's a lot of divergence. Designing this in html or flash or some other media would be pretty tricky and time consuming. Fortunately, powerpoint is pretty much perfect for it. 

The slideshow software allows linking between slides using hyperlinks which means that the tutorial is relatively easy to set up. Also, the 4×3 slide inhibits adding lots of text which has to be a good thing. You can even if you like incorporate animations and audio (though it would be better to use camtasia or some other screen capture software for your voice overs, powerpoint's native audio is usually a muffled, crackling mess. Finally, using the slide outline pane on the left of the powerpoint window allows you to easily see the content of each slide and arrange them to better represent the flow of your tutorial. 

Powerpoint has got a bad reputation as the medium for long dull expositions, but needn't be so at all. Indeed, Tom Kuhlmann at the Rapid eLearning blog (sponsored by Articulate) has built a career out of showing all kinds of ways powerpoint can be used to rapidly create dynamic, engaging materials. Mostly his market is corporate training, nevertheless there are many contexts in HE in which his approach will work. 

Here's his post on Powerpoint for eLearning:



Residents and Visitors

In seeking to discover the ways distance learners (older than the normal undergraduate population) conceive of and use web technologies, principally web2.0 technologies, researchers at University of Oxford's Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning project used interviews and questionnaires. They found that the main difference in the way people use technology is not technical savvy (a la digital natives), but in attitude and purpose.

Residents enjoy the 'pervasive social ambience' and see online as a space, analogous to a physical environment, a park is shown by way of illustration, in which you have a presence and can interact with others. Visitors, on the other hand, are instrumental and see the internet as being a toolbox – youTube for videos, diigo for bookmarks and so on. They have things to do and want to get them done in the minimum time to the best standard.  The example is given of Skype: a tool which 'visitors' quickly learn to use, illustrating that they don't suffer from some technical or chronological 

The distinction is wrapped up with people's identities and contexts when they go online: people will be visitors in some contexts (e.g. at work) and residents in others (e.g. in leisure), and so on; the distinction is not intended to be boolean but rather scalar.