Saturday, December 18, 2010


Oops, I forgot to post a link to my diigo account. I don't think I have really used this well, but I will hunt around for better examples!

Module 8 - The future

I think the module 8 readings were a bit lost on me. In part, because we have been scrambling to deal with the impact of the snow and the school closures.

The other difficulty I have with the future is that it is slippery, diffuse, and difficult to measure. As the Pew report said "Innovation will continue to catch us by surprise". I am old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall came down, and the feeling then that anything was possible. With so many impossibilities lined up to disappear, it is hard to know the context of where one stands. When you are surrounded by walls, you know where you are. When the walls are gone, how do you know where you stand?

I have spent my whole life immersed in computer technology. This next arcane and pedantic statement still underscores my experience: my cell phone has a faster, more powerful processor, better software, more communication capability and is easier to use than the rooms full of equipment which I thought I would spend my career learning to tame. And not by a little bit .. it is thousands of times faster. It is hard to maintain my perspective on all of the years of obsolete work I have accomplished!

I have learned to teach in a room where, if I can't remember something, or an interesting topic comes up, I say, somebody research that and let us know. Within minutes, we have an update from someone in the room. My teachers never did that .. they were the authority.

So, this course has been a good step for me. It helped me to see some of the walls I had created around myself, quite unconsciously, probably designed to make me feel comfortable in this every changing world. The course has allowed me to knock down some of these walls, or at least push them out far enough to give me a new lease on my career and life.

Thanks to my professor, and to my fellow students, from whom I learned a great deal!

Module 7 - Assessment

I had fun creating the quiz for economics. As promised, I turned it loose on my students, with an interesting outcome. The story needs just a little background.

The economics final is 30 multiple choice questions plus some short answer questions, which are worth about 25% of the total. This year, we decided to focus the short answer questions on two articles plus aggregate demand. This information was communicated to the students in all sections.

Between Monday Dec 6 and Wed Dec 15, we receive about 2m (over 6 feet) of snow. It is very early for the snow this year, and this amount is about half a years worth on average. The college was closed for 3.5 days in this period, which wiped out all of my review classes, and caused the final exam to be rescheduled.

Yesterday, the other instructors on this course sent out emails saying that their students had blown the short answer portion of the test, and that we may need to do some adjusting. My class scored about 15% higher than the other sections, primarily due to the review they had from the online quiz. The quiz focused their attention on knowing the calculations they needed to do on the exam, and even though the exam questions were quite different in format, the students figured it out!

Unfortunately, due to the free nature of the quiz, I do not have a record of which students completed the quiz and what their scores were, as that would be a very interesting correlate. On the face of the anecdote, I am convinced this was a good learning tool.

Module 6 - Creating content

I was pretty scared going into this module, probably because I wanted my project to be great. Consequently, I put too much pressure on myself, and procrastinated a bit, and then life ensured that I finished late. I would have been better off to take the plunge early, and then improve as needed.

I had used audacity before, and I've done lots of studio work recording, so I wanted to try something different. I used Jing to dub my power point presentation on the Canadian economy. I could have done the whole thing in power point, but that I wanted to learn something new. I had some technical challenges with my recording level, and I was using a new (cheap) microphone, which I will replace. In the end, it was done, but ingloriously.

I would like to try out the Prezi application. I can see that you have to be careful about inducing motion sickness and vertigo in your audience, but I see tremendous value in the zooming in and out, as it allows you to create a mind map of the topic, and then drill down in the various sub-topics. All the while, the learner does not lose track of the context. I have an idea for my economics course which will involve a Prezi presentation overdubbed with Jing. All things in time.

Module 5 - Ready made content

Wow, there is so much stuff out there. I think I am like many people in that I find a few places to research, a reliable place to go to find something, and then I stop looking into the "wild". This module forced my eyes out, and helped me to cast a broad net, resulting in feeling a little overwhelmed, knowing that I could never possibly drag my catch into the boat, as there is just too much to look at it.

One simple library, the Khan academy (, has so much material that I can use as mini lessons. It was a great breakthrough for me to realize that if I could find 3 minutes of content, that I could put it to good use (even in a traditional class), and then augment with other material. The analogy I would use is that of sewing a quilt .. each square has its story to contribute to the whole.

Module 4 - Synchronous communication

My regret from this module is that I missed the Adobe Connect, so I will have to try it out on my own at some point. The great surprise for me in this module was how powerful the Second Life demonstration was ( ).

I don't know that we really discussed this in detail, but I found that there was a very powerful personal dynamic that kicked in, knowing that my avatar was there, and that it was interacting with others. There are the emotions of social interaction that immediately kick in .. am I being appropriate, do I look like a klutz as I try to figure out the key strokes, what are the expected behaviours? I felt like a kid on his first day in public school. The feeling was not negative, as there were lots of interesting things going on, and I experienced successes in moving and interacting.

What stayed with me, though, is the power of the interaction. I have long believed that we remember best that which is associated with intense emotion, so the opportunity for amazing learning experiences is right in front of us. I enjoyed the tours, and my mind is still searching for other ways that I can use this powerful technology for my students benefit.

Module 3 - Texting and polling

I had used some polling in the traditional classroom setting, using remote clickers and integrating those into power point presentations. They were great for review, or starting discussions. I believe that this concept translates quite easily into the online environment. Polling can also be used to assist in assessing learner's preferred direction for the course, where we have that flexibility.

Texting was more a challenge for me to get my head around. The first application that struck me as being quite useful was Poll Everywhere ( ). This allows me to do a couple of things. First, if I am running a synchronous session using, say, Elluminate, I can include everyone in my polling community, not just those in the class. Also, I can run my poll asynchronously, and come back to share results with the learners at a later time.

I think there is more potential to the texting technology, but I have not yet put my finger on how to draw on that power. My students can text faster than lightning, and it has become a normal mode of communication for them .. ie. if I want to reach them, then this might be the way to do it.

By the way, my daughter put me onto a great, funny website (caution: contains adult language) about messages which are mangled by the auto-correct function on phones. . I have not laughed so hard in a long time.