Thursday, 23 April 2009

Whiteboarding - ShowDocument

I've just been browsing around the various free Whiteboarding tools out there as listed within the Best Online Collaboration tool 2009 mind map. What I was looking for was the most intuitive and least hassle to access and use.

The winner was ShowDocument. Although it's principally designed to be a document collaboration tool, the whiteboard feature is great. The fact that there is no-sign up, no download and no installation makes it perfect to fit into a course that uses a VLE which already has a login. It's best to avoid having people uses two logins where possible. There was also real-time updates which surprising was absent on many other tools.

We may well use this next term on a course at the Institute of Education. I'll record here was it goes.
Taken from the Successful Teaching blog, this passage really resonates. The question of why is always in the background when you are talking about anything to do with Learning Technology in education. This is an area I need to have more to say about. This passage is going to help:

"Because our students have embraced digital forums: I've always been taught that responsible educators try to tailor learning experiences that align with the interests and motivations of their audiences simply because increased levels of motivation most often result in increased levels of learning. If that's true, then digital forums for communication and growth simply must begin to find a home in the American classroom.

When educators refuse to learn digital forums for communication and growth, it is like showing up at school today with a horse and buggy because you refuse to learn how to drive. The world is constantly changing and educators need to be able to look at the big picture and see the changes that are coming. We need to be the “go to” people for our students and not the “left behind” people."

This goes to the heart of perception of education. Sadly, many would argue against the above statement. My point is that the needs of the learner should the of prime important not the teacher.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Web 2.0 Definition

Although I know or think I know what Web 2.0 is all about. Giving a clear and concise definition can be difficult. I always described it as a ethos of creation and active participation, but a longer more detailed definition comes from the original brainstorming session where the phrase Web 2.0 was formed.

Web 2.0 applications and services have at least several of the following elements common:

- fresh, useful data is the core
- the ability for other parties to manipulate that data
- "living" applications that can be easily adapted
- harnessing the collective experience
- the web as a platform, independent of user platform
- primary focus of participation, rather than publishing
- trusting of users to provide reliable content

Here is the source

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Teach, Learn principles

I needed to make an entry to record some key messages from a Downes presentation:

  • To teach is to model and demonstrate; to learn is to practice and reflect
  • To gain from self-directed learning you must be self-directed

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I went through the interesting process a few days ago of recording my own PLE. This is something that is constantly evolving. For example, this blog has only existed for a couple of months. I will try and do a PLE every few months to see how things have changed. I aim to get an iphone (or some similiar device this summer) and I am sure this will impact on how I learn.

By doing this exercise you are forced to reflect on how you are learning which can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Reflecting on your teaching practice

What is the process a teacher goes through when incorporating learning technologies into their teaching? An important stage is reflecting on your teaching practice. You need to understand why you are teaching in the way you do. Only then can you understand where the learning technologies on offer can enhance the learning of your teaching.

For the context I inhabit, the focus is on where the learning technologies can enhance the learning of a particular course or module. The challenge is to try and get the lecturer to go through this process. Unfortunately, most do not or will not with the common outcome of tagging on a VLE presence to their existing course delivery. This means an online resource depository. The situation I’m describing uses the VLE to support the transmissive mode of delivery and my position is that we can do things differently. You could say it is a pro-constructivist stance (if I thought that didactic teaching was the only way I’d be in the wrong job).

So the process I ask lecturers to go through will often involve them questioning the way they teach. This is understandable not a comfortable process and, in my judgement, the main reason there is limited success.

One way I use to tackle this issue is to use a document produced by the Work Based Learning centre within the Institute of Education. It is called Pedagogical templates for e-learning. Basically, it’s an aid for a lecturer to help with analysing how they are delivering their teaching at the moment and what online tools could be used to deliver the different components of the course. Within the context of the Institute of Education, where many of the lecturers are also active in the research field, this kind of academic papers is quite useful. It may be less so in your context. However, it is worth a look for those interested in e-learning.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Valuing Informal Learning

A good posting by weblogged recently concerned the article Learning: Peering Backward and Looking Forward in the Digital Era from the International Journal of Learning and Media (IJLM). I liked the para:

"While the ubiquity of digital media resources allows for more customized learning within a formal learning context, its primary value lies in the acknowledgment of the legitimacy and value of learning that take place beyond formal schooling."

The notion that exists within education is that the type of learning taking place in the world of social networking (structured by individual through their own personal learning environment) is of less value than anything that takes place within an approved, clunky, out of date LMS where nothing much takes place. Why is this informal learning not given value? In using a particular web 2.0 tool within a VLE (for example), the whole context and driving force behind it is lost. You might get some activity around a particular resource or set task but the type of learning you get in the social networking world will never occur.