Posts Tagged ‘Instructional Technology’

Tell Me a (Digital) Story

October 7th, 2010

This year, I’ve heard more about ‘Digital Storytelling’ than ever before.

I had faculty members ask me about it (can we do it? how? is anyone else doing it?). I’ve seen presentations on it.

Is it weird that I didn’t know it wasn’t just a concept, but an actual structured *thing* until now? I always just thought that ‘digital storytelling’ was simply the use of certain media to convey a story. I thought it could be bent and crafted to suit the needs of a project. Unfortunately, it seems I was wrong. Someone owns the term, and has come up with a methodology. This is great for folks that like the structure, but it isn’t for me. I think Wikipedia might even be confused about this, as their description sounds more like what I thought it was. (Not to be negative about official “Digital Storytelling” – I simply want to describe my exploration of the topic)

So I guess I am not actually doing “Digital Storytelling”.

Not sure what to call what it is that I am working on with faculty who want their students to convey a story and make a connection using various media. Multimedia storytelling? eStories? Heh. Maybe it doesn’t need a name, we just have to actually do it.

So what exactly are we doing here?

1. Set a Goal

The Instructor really needs to define a purpose for this project (not just using technology for technology’s sake). Usually, it is to have the student convey a piece of their experience using various media (audio, video, photographs, text, animation). The message is really the most important part, and has to be developed before the technology comes into play. Consider whether the final project will be viewed by the Instructor, by the class and/or by the public – plan to discuss with the students how the chosen audience should influence how they develop their presentation.

Also keep in mind that students may be resistant to: a) being creative and/or b) using technology. Some students have got the paper writing down and are a little bit afraid of having to open up to a new idea. Some people are naturally more creative than others, or more comfortable with technology than others. All of this will have to be taken into account so that there is a level playing field for all students. This is why I’m focusing on the message – the technical and creative abilities should not overshadow the student’s ability to get the story across. A glossier video production should not automatically equal a better grade.

2. Develop the Stages of the Project

Work with the Instructor to outline the various stages of the project. In most cases, you will have: a topic submission stage, storyboard, final project. There may be other stages, such as a list of media to be used (photos, videos, sound that has already been collected, but not yet assembled). The following are some of the common stages of a project like this.

  • Topic Submission – have the students think about the topic and come up with the ‘story’ they are going to tell. This stage ensures the instructor can keep the students on point with the topic, before getting involved with the technology.
  • Storyboard – the students should start to map out what will actually happen in the sequence. This stage helps the student to prepare for what visuals, audio and text they will need to generate for the project. At this point, the student should have a good idea of what combination of audio, video, photography and text they will be using. They don’t need to actually HAVE it all at this point.
  • Media Collection – an optional stage that is really more of a check point for the student. Has the student been able to collect all of the media they need to complete the project? If not, what changes need to be made to the scope of the project? (i.e. if the student had a hard time getting particular video content, maybe they need to plan to use still photograhy instead.
  • Final Project – assembly of the media, possibly including transitions and motion to add some interest (or not), delivery of a final file in a specified manner (i.e. post to blog, post to Youtube, hand in on USB flash drive).
  • Class Presentation – Present in-person, in front of the class, describing the goal of the project and how it was achieved. Another alternative is to have a virtual presentation where the student posts the final “video” to a blog, and adds a couple of paragraphs of description. Comments from the class could be encouraged.

3. What are the rules?

I like to keep things as free as possible, as you might have guessed. The rules should be based mostly around the message portion, deadlines for creating certain phases (topic, storyboard, final project). I don’t think the rules should force students to use certain technologies/media, or restrict them – provided they are “getting the job done”. It may just be that the end format has to be web-ready, and must be in a format that can be posted to whatever delivery system the class is using (a blog, a Youtube channel, etc.). Generally speaking, text-only is not an option, as it doesn’t follow the spirit of the exercise.

4. What media/technology?

I think that the students should be able to choose from the technologies, based on what they have access to and their comfort with the technology. Some students will do amazing work with simple stills and text, while others may get hung up on adding too much “technology” and miss the point altogether.

Some students will have no trouble with this part – many have access to basic equipment (cell phones / computers that can record audio to WAV and video, etc, comfort with the software – maybe they’ve even posted to Youtube before). Other students will be uncomfortable with the technology and need some extra help finding equipment (recording equipment, scanners) and the software to assemble the final presentation (iMovie, Adobe Premiere, Windows Movie Maker).

We’re currently trying to assemble a list of what resources Ryerson students have, from borrowing equipment to editing in the computer labs. (*Note: Students should be aware that they will likely need an external USB hard drive to save their work-in-progress if working in a lab – they won’t be able to store their files there!)

5. What delivery method?

I think that posting the final “video” to a class blog would be a great option, because it can accommodate the various authors, media types, allow for some commenting, etc. We’re lucky enough to have a blog system at Ryerson that can house blogs that are public or private, so we don’t have to worry about sites hosted on servers in other countries. Another option is to have the videos posted on a public site like Youtube – there are pros and cons to a publicly hosted site, but other schools are doing it. A great thing about the blog option is that students could choose to post their video on Youtube and simply embed it into a blog post on our server.

So… at the end of my long post… this is the framework I’m working with right now. I’m sure this will evolve with more ideas and more input from different people. Whatever it’s called, I think it could be an interesting exercise for all of us!

More on this topic later.

Welcome, Thelonius!

July 16th, 2010

We just upgraded our WordPress MU installation to the latest version, 3.0 “Thelonious”.

I was a little bit worried when this version first came out, after seeing posts about things breaking for sites that use certain plugins. Almost luckily for me, I was too busy with the Blackboard upgrade to even think about thinking about testing WordPress 3. Now that I’ve finally found some time to devote to my other main project, I’m extremely relieved to see that these issues have been resolved by the tireless WordPress community.

Now we’re ready to roll! Check out the video below for a taste of what’s new with Thelonious!

iPadiversity?

January 29th, 2010

iPad

Watching the updates as they came in, I wondered exactly how the world would take on the new Apple iPad. I have my doubts that it will ‘replace the laptop’, as some suggested (althought it should be noted that Apple never claimed that it would replace a gadget, but create its own niche in the market). I also question whether those interested in reading devices, such as the Kindle, will flock to this instead – sure, it has some additional features, but Apple chose not to apply a more ‘eye-friendly’ viewing surface, instead opting to continue the sharp, glossy look.

I immediately thought of its use in the school environment, especially considering the $499 USD price point for the base model. If textbook publishers jump on this technology, we could see students purchasing their textbooks in digital format, and carrying around one simple device to view all of them. The same device can be used for note taking, presentation development, etc. This could be an amazing tool for students, who may not need the bulk or functionality of a full laptop in the classroom, and who can’t conceive of taking all notes and reading textbooks on an iPhone.

Unlike technologies that require many users using it in ‘real life situations’ before its value can be assessed (like Google Wave), this is a personal device whose value can really best be assessed by the individual. I’m sure many such individuals will be rushing out to purchase this ‘nice-to-have’ device… I just wonder how many will discover that it is, in fact, a ‘need-to-have’ item in the end. I think students might be the ones to tip the scales here.

Just something to ponder.

I’m not the only one thinking about this:

Reading Materials: Teaching With Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart

November 23rd, 2009

Trying something new here… I haven’t found the perfect way to post articles on my blog. I’ve tried holding them until I make a post of my own on the topic (which doesn’t always happen in a timely fashion), and I’ve tried adding them to my blogroll (which people won’t see if they subscribe, and won’t come up in a search, and isn’t part of my tags/categories).

In any case, I read an interesting article about using Twitter for teaching, the pros and cons to giving students an open (and anonymous) forum during class. A very interesting read, and another look at using a social tool for educational purposes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Teaching With Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart

Enjoy!

EVENT: Teaching and Learning Uses for Social Networking Technologies

October 9th, 2009

A little while ago, I tuned in for 3 of the speakers in this event, and found them all to be very different even though they share a theme (educational uses for social networking technologies). I’ll include my notes from each speaker below, so you can get an idea about the type of projects discussed. You can find the description of each session on the event website.

Some interesting points that I found in all three presentations:

  • You have to integrate the technology into the teaching and learning. It can’t just be added on top of an old learning structure, and expect the students to engage with it. Things have to be properly planned out and executed to the best of your ability!
  • With these ‘social’ technologies, the students are a part of the process, not just a casual observer. You may not want to give them the power to veto your use of certain features, but it can be useful for them to feel included – especially when the technology doesn’t work the way you were expecting. Their input and feedback is as important as yours (maybe MORE because they are supposed to be getting an education out of it!).
  • Choose solutions that utilize interfaces most users are already familiar with. Getting “past” the technology is often one of the hurdles to having an engaged group.

(My notes on each speaker below)

(more…)

EVENT: Adobe MAX

October 6th, 2009

I didn’t catch all of the keynote today, but there was one big announcement that I wanted to repost here.

Flash01Flash CS5 will include the ability to develop iPhone Applications using Action Script 3.

This is one of those announcements that is both positive and yet a little disappointing. Let’s start with the good stuff — Flash can be a great tool for developing interactive applications delivered online. We’ve all seen examples of Flash at work, with things ranging from online games to animations to video sites like Youtube. People with a creative mind can take Flash really far! Now Flash developers can create iPhone Applications that can be delivered via the Apple iTunes Store (or iPhone developers can use Flash to develop… either way). Sounds great!

Apple and Adobe have not been playing well together when it comes to Flash on iPhones. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I know that I want to pull my hair out every time I have trouble accessing a site on an iPhone because it uses Flash. The hair-pulling will continue, unfortunately, because they have not agreed to permit in-browser Flash support for the iPhone.

Regardless, it is a good first step — now I hope they can take it all the way home!

Some Links:

Now to find out about Connect Pro on the iPhone…. saw a tweet about this (#adobemax #adobemaxgs on Twitter) and didn’t catch it in the keynote. This would be a really great addition!

I hope I have some time to tune in to the sessions tomorrow… it’s always good to keep up on this stuff!

Lecture Online?

October 5th, 2009

With all this talk of the dreaded ‘p’ word (that’s PANDEMIC, for those of you not in the University environment), a spotlight has been placed on ensuring courses can continue offsite. We already have the ability to deliver course materials online, quizzing online, assignments online… but what about the lectures themselves?

We’ve probably all seen some examples of lecture content online, and many of us have differing opinions about what is best. There is a big difference between a 1-hour recorded lecture viewed online,  and a free-flowing lecture and discussion where the students are all present and interacting with the instructor and the environment. (Hopefully that’s what happens in a face-to-face lecture, and I’m not ruling that out for online components.)

So what should we be recommending to faculty who want to have an online lecture presence? What is my idea of a perfect online lecture?

If we’re talking about an audio/video lecture, to be viewed asynchronously by students (with no real student participation),  the online lecture components are planned, to the point and as engaging as the technology and the topic allow. When I say ‘to the point’, I think they shouldn’t be “too long” (5-10 minutes is perfect!). That doesn’t mean the whole lecture has to be summed up in 5-10 minutes — but the important concepts should be broken apart into their own separate entries. These may be delivered via a streaming technology (where users must view them online, in a web browser) or something like a podcast (where users download the content, and view offline on their computer or on a mobile device)

On the other hand, an “online class” delivered via a collaboration tool such as Adobe Connect may go for much longer, as there are lecture portions as well as student questions and feedback. This is a less structured model, with its own benefits and drawbacks… and it requires more time. Participant audio and video adds another layer of complexity to this model, but when it works well can result in some really great community building and concept development.

Start to think about some of these possibilities as we plan for offsite learning. The method you choose will depend on the topic, the style of the lecture, the technologies available, and often how tech-savvy the students are.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your ideas and past experiences – we would love to hear them!

Yummy Bookmarks

September 30th, 2009

I surf deliciously. Yes, I said it… corny as it is, it’s been an interesting evolution for me. Let me explain.

This post is about the personal – and not so “social” – side of social bookmarking. (What is social bookmarking? Check out the great link at the bottom of this post!)

I got a delicious account a few years back. Honestly, I didn’t do much with it at first. Like with most things, I signed up to try it out so that I could see what it was about and how people used it. I didn’t end up using it very much, and my bookmarks didn’t get used much, and I basically forgot about it.

This year, I decided to make more of an effort to put important bookmarks on it. I could see its use — being able to access my important links from anywhere, tag them in various ways so that I could find them again (maybe!). Sure, I knew it was useful, but I wasn’t using it. This time would be different, I would make an effort.

And then it happened.

I installed the delicious plugin for Firefox, so that it would be easier and more efficient for me to add links. Little did I know what I had done. The next time I tried to access my computer’s bookmarks via Firefox, I was in for a shock — my local bookmarks didn’t show up, my delicious ones did!! I was angry at first, and then I saw it as an opportunity.

You see, I now had no choice but to actually use delicious. I had to add my links there. I had to properly tag them so that I could find them again. I had to learn how to access them.

I learned that you could create a list of ‘favourite’ tags to appear at the top of your browser window – and you set these favourites on each computer, so they can be different at work than at home. Brilliant!! My biggest fear in using social bookmarking for all of my bookmarks was that I would end up with a meaningless list of hundreds of links with no context. With the browser plugin, you can narrow that view to just what you need in that context.

delicious_plugin

Above, you can see the delicious bar in my browser, showing only the tags (categories, shown here as headings to a dropdown menu of links) that I have deemed ‘favourite’ in this browser on this computer. This makes it easy to categorize and access just the links you need at that time! The list of ‘favourites’ on my home computer is much different, of course!

Forcing myself to use delicious means that I have access to my bookmarks from virtually anywhere! There is even an iPhone/iPod Touch application that you can install for even more mobile access.

Next Steps: to explore the “social” aspect of social bookmarking. I’ve figured out how to use it for myself, but how to I share my bookmarks with others? How does social bookmarking make it easier for you to find resources that interest you?

Related Links:

Idea Thievery!

September 23rd, 2009

Is it possible to steal ideas? Is it bad to steal ideas?

Whose ideas are they anyway?

OK, so I’m not looking to make big bucks by stealing ideas that other people initiated. What I’m really talking about here is the propagation of ideas in this big blogiverse that exists in the even bigger webiverse. As a blogger, I sometimes feel bad when something I post started as someone else’s idea. Maybe someone posted a great video (that I re-post), or someone posts on a particular topic that I reflect on and add to.

How is this supposed to work?

When it comes to instructional technology, I think it’s best when something sparks other discussions. It starts with one idea – and if it’s a good idea, or at least one worth talking about, we’ll start talking about it. Different viewpoints emerge, some posts refer to other posts that refer to other posts, ideas evolve, experienced people offer anecdotes… and then things happen! Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

So when you see me post about something I saw on someone else’s blog, it isn’t because I haven’t got ideas of my own… it’s because I want to remember what I read, and my thoughts on it, and I want to ‘pass it on’, so to speak.

Feel free to pass on any ideas you’ve found on my blog! Honestly, I’d be flattered to know that someone was reading, nevermind that someone was inspired to repost something I’ve blogged about!

Until next time…

Living & Learning with the iPod Touch

August 24th, 2009

Yes, this is my iPod.Welcome to a new system for my Adventures in Technology!!! That probably means that you’ve never seen this blog before, or you managed to find the trail of breadcrumbs left at ye olde site. A giddy ‘Welcome’ to everyone, as we settle into our new home. I still need to paint, rearrange the furniture and maybe buy a new entertainment unit (I broke the old one in the move), but I’m still happy to be here!

With all of the excitement of moving, I’m feeling a little tired and lazy. Instead of coming up with something entirely new, I thought I’d share some info that I found on another blog (one I’ve mentioned before, Kinda Learning Stuff). I recently got an iPod Touch, and am really trying to fit it into my life, for more than just listening to music. Of course, I want to see how it can be used for education as well!!! I came across this article a while back, and keep returning to it to find another task that I can add (I’ve been adding them little by little… don’t want to overwhelm it with apps and features I will never use!!). The format of the blog post on KLS was to introduce the article they read, then add their own thoughts. Sounds good to me… I’m going to do the same!! Maybe someday we can compile a definitive list!!

Articles of Interest:

Some Highlights:

  • Screen-grab – this is my next thing to play with, but sounds like a great tool to have!!
  • Note-taking – I use this feature ALL THE TIME (mostly for groceries). Granted, it’s not the most flexible tool, and I wish I could load pre-made text files from my computer, but it’s handy dandy. Oh, and you can email your notes elsewhere.
  • Synching Calendar & Contacts – this one saved me… I thought I could only access my Gmail, using the available mail option. Little did I know that I could also synch my Google Calendars and stuff using the Microsoft Exchange part.

Some Additions of My Own:

  • Delicious Bookmarksan app that pulls in your del.icio.us bookmarks and tags. I recently switched ALL of my bookmarking over to del.icio.us and now do not use the internal bookmarking in the browser. Since all of my bookmarks are stored centrally, I can pull them into any browser I like, and yes – even my iPod!
  • WordPressanother great free app, will let you update your WordPress blog using your iPhone/iPod Touch! Yes, you might be able to do this using the browser interface, but the app makes it that much simpler. Pretty handy, if you ask me!
  • WPtouch blog plugin for WordPress – OK, this is not specifically an iPhone app… but it is related to accessing WordPress blogs on an iPhone. I’ve also started testing the WPtouch, which automatically generates an m-version of your blog! While it does strip out the “look & feel” of the site, and is a little wonky when you have large videos embedded in your blog, it’s pretty cool! It works for iPhone/iPod Touch, as well as Android! (sorry, Blackberry)
  • Google Apps (via the browser) – still not 100%, but really improving. I can access (but not edit?) my Google Docs, Picasa Photos, Google Reader, etc. Still painful to use with Google Maps, though.

I’m still exploring, and will hopefully have some learning-specific posts after a little more practise with my new toy.

A Few More Articles: