Group 3 Technologies – The activities

Following on from the last post this one reports a bit more on activities associated with the Group 3 technologies, tools that “present learning or information”. The point is mostly to document that I’ve done this stuff (for assessment purposes) and also to implement the necessary analysis of one of the tools.


Beyond the presentations that are on Slideshare (including some that have audio narration), in completing my experimentation with Prezi yesterday I included a stop-motion animation video that was created using Powerpoint.


As outlined in the last post I did transform some of the ideas/resources from a previous presentation into a Prezi. It’s by no means complete and needs some work to really be a good Prezi, but it’s made me familiar with the tool and its capabilities.

Perhaps the biggest annoyance I had was the apparent inability to select a collection of elements simply by “dragging a rectangle” over them. You can do it by “shift-clicking” on each element, but when the elements can be radically different sizes this can take some time and planning. If that’s my biggest annoyance, the tool works quite well.

That said, however, I’m not sure that the tool holds a really huge advantage over Powerpoint. In the future, I’d probably give Prezi a go with my own presentations. But I wonder if having students use Powerpoint and then engage them in discussions about what makes a good presentation would be more beneficial. Having them battle against the constraints of Powerpoint might help them learn more.

But then, perhaps the best approach is to let the students choose. Rather than require them to use a particular tool, let them use what ever they want and then engage them in discussions about the relevant strengths and weaknesses of the tools.


So, I haven’t played with this tool and am feeling somewhat reluctant to, for some reason a “online scapbook” doesn’t excite me. To juvenile? To strong an association with the “scrapbooking” that my mother-in-law loves?

Of course it could be used for more than that. For example, I was involved in a project a few years ago called Voice Thread for Research Posters. The description of the project was

For 2008, Term 2 the course PSYCH13021, Special Topic in Psychology has used to host research posters generated by the students as part of their major assessment. Normally this would have been done using Word/Powerpoint files.

From the start the coordinator wanted to organise a social event to show off the posters. Local psychologist would be invited to attend through the professional association.

I’m somewhat interested to see if any of the research posters is still available. Yes, at least one is.

You could do something similar to this project using Glogster, but I think VoiceThread has one advantage which was important to this particular project. VoiceThread allows other people to comment – with text, audio and video – on someone’s poster. With the social event we organised for PSYCH13021, rather than put physical posters up on a wall. We set up a half-dozen computers around the room. The attendees at the poster session could walk between computers and look at any poster they wanted to. If they wanted to ask questions or make a comment on a poster, they used voicethread to make the comment.

The first example poster has some textual comments. This one has a couple of textual comments, including one from a person who has uploaded an image of themselves that is used for the comment. Even better, this poster has a narration from the author of the poster and an audio comment from the lecturer of the course and a “test message/comment” from one of the attendees.

Which raises the question, does Glogster support comments? It does allow text-based comments. Not quite as good as the audio and video comment support on VoiceThread, at least in terms of impact/connection.

This is the type of application of this technology that interests me. It involves the students in developing something real, that is then shown to an audience that provides feedback to the students. It’s resonates with the “constructionist” in me.

One of the drawbacks I think we experienced in the PSYCH13021 project was that the students (I believe mostly 25+ university students) had some difficulties in creating their posters. VoiceThread, unlike Glogster, doesn’t offer support for creating the poster. Instead students used Powerpoint, Word and other tools they had access to. This made it harder for them. Glogster seems to be focused more on scaffolding the act of creating the poster. From this perspective, it looks to have the advantage on VoiceThread.

Especially given its ability to include video etc such as in this example I came across via Ian. Ian also makes the point about having to upgrade from the free version to access some of the features. More on this below.

Analysis – research poster presentation

This is the application I’ll analyse for the assessment, will stick with VoiceThread and in particular the idea of using it to produce a class poster session similar to the PSYCH13021 project from above.

The question I have is just what topic such a poster session might take for my subject areas: information technology and mathematics. One possibility for mathematics arises from this video showing comedy in some incorrect mathematics from Ma and Pa Kettle. There are similar videos from Abbot and Costello. “Correct mathematical mistakes” might work as a poster topic. The process might include the following

  • (Optionally) Identify some example of incorrect mathematics from the public arena.
    They might be asked to identify their own or pick one from a selection. If they were to identify their own, I might warn them at the start of 1st term and only start working on the posters in 2nd/3rd term. Providing a selection would be easier for them, but there is benefit to them having to look at their world for a while for examples of bad mathematics. In fact, this might be the biggest advantage of this approach.
  • Create the posters.
    Have them connect the maths to their study and develop explanations about why it’s wrong and what the right answer would be. Perhaps even design the posters to use VoiceThreads multiple slides approach to introduce the problem (e.g. show the video of Ma and Pa kettle) and ask the viewers to see if they can identify the problem.
  • Engage a community.
    Identify a mix of people to interact with the posters such as students from other classes, other teachers, parents and siblings, classes from around the world, mathematics experts and organise session(s) in which that community interacts and comments on the posters.
  • Do it groups.
    The project could be group-based, perhaps it would work better that way.

As with the group 2 technologies, I’m going to do a SWOT analysis where I classify the technology itself (voicethread) as “internal” (strengths and weaknesses) while everything else, including pedagogy and school context, is external (opportunities and threats). As with the previous analysis, I am going to try and give the students and high school leadership a voice in this analysis.

Analysis Teacher Students Leadership
Strengths Multimedia in terms of creations and comments.
“Advanced” support for comments enables great sense of community/connection with audience. It’s aimed at enabling group conversations.
Allows moderation of comments.
Offers some support for teachers.
A class subscription only costs $USD60 a year.
We can save our voicethreads for ourselves.
We can use our Facebook stuff.
Threads can be limited to school groups, maintaining privacy and there’s also a safe K-12 space
Includes support for integration with LMS/Authentication
Weaknesses Creation relies on existing tools and capabilities (i.e. not as scaffolded as Glogster).
Creating and managing class accounts can consume a bit of time, even with support.
I can’t embed YouTube videos A class subscription costs $USD60 a year!!!
Opportunities All the typical advantages from constructionism (Papert et al, 1991) and engagement theory (Kearsley et al, 1989)
Developing multimedia literacies with a real purpose and developing engagement with an external community.
Some with a real job (i.e. not a teacher) actually liked and commented on what I did!
I began to see mathematics everywhere.
Demonstrates multimodal literacies and community engagement, tick those boxes.
Threats Do the students have the confidence/skills to create and share posters?
Does the school have the resources to support this?
Will the chosen external community engage?
Will the engage in supportive ways?
Helping the students, setting up Voicethread, identifying and engaging the right external community and managing the interactions all consume time.
Identifying a good purpose for the posters may take a bit of thinking and work.
Sharing our work is scary.
They made me work with “joe”.
There will be at least one student that embarrasses the school.
How will this increase NAPLAN results?


Kearsley, G., & Shneiderman, B. (1998). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Educational Technology, 38(5), 20-23.

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Constructionism. New York City: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Mathematics and the net generation – not in textbook exercises

So, in a few weeks time I’ll be teaching mathematics to high school kids. Almost certainly grades 8 & 9 (find out next week). I’ve been doing a bit of reading and have joined various online groups. Last week I purchased a couple of textbooks used in local schools to refresh my knowledge and see what’s being covered.

As it happens I started looking in the textbook for ideas for a video. In this post I was playing with What can you do with this (WCYDWT) idea from Dan Meyer. That’s when I came across this problem

Ying has five 90-minute cassettes that have been partly filled with recordings

I’ll stop there, I’m trying to imagine explaining to a 13 year old kid that doesn’t see the relevance of mathematics what a cassette is. I was a late adopter of CDs, and I don’t think I was buying cassettes after 1995. a 13yo will have been born in 1997/1998.

The “net generation” and “they think differently due to technology” has been getting a run in the some of the courses we’re taking. It seems that message hasn’t gotten through to the textbook folk.

Though, I do have to admit, that coming up with a textbook’s worth of authentic exercises and examples that can be fit within the constraints of a commercial textbook, is not a challenge I want to take on anytime soon.

Two questions down, there is a similar question, but this time it’s a 3-hour videotape.

Group 3 Technologies – The readings

So, these are tools to “present learning or information”. The chosen representatives are Powerpoint, Prezi and Glogster. Am thinking I’m might try a quick search for some alternatives, time permitting.

Have to admit that I’m interested in having an excuse to play with Prezi a bit. To now I have failed to see the point, Prezi is just as capable of being used to give crap presentations as Powerpoint.


Positioned as more than just an application to support oral presentations, but a platform in its own right. We’re encourage to “consider multiple uses and think beyond the tired presentation”. My initial reaction is, if this was the case I’d probably be using a different tool. Some examples given on this page. Yes, Powerpoint can do those things, but there are other tools that could do them, often better.

And over here is Mouse Mischief, which looks like an audience response system integrated into Powerpoint. Though the drawing aspects seem a little more expanded. It does appear to be limited to Windows though.

I remain unsure just how much I’d be using Powerpoint, or any presentation software, in a school classroom. But then I’ve yet to have an experience within that context, so that’s a somewhat ill-informed perspective. I am interested to see what the much vaunted Interactive White Boards can provide in terms of integrating Powerpoint with other activities/tasks.

In terms of playing with Powerpoint, my Slideshare account has a collection of the more recent Powerpoint presentations I’ve given. The following presentation is just one, if you start at slide 61 you will see an example of “Powerpoint animation”.


Oh, it’s billed as a “zooming” presentation too in the notes. It’s strong advantage is that it isn’t linear. We are directed to this Prezi to hear some thoughts on using Prezi as a teaching tool. Actually, the Prezi page has a comment that links to this post which has an interesting perspective on Powerpoint and Prezi. In particular the description that Prezi is a tool for creating presentations in space.

Almost straight away the zooming is seen as a positive because it allows you to focus on specific sections of long text. Two responses to that: it doesn’t stike me as a great application for a presentation; and, a “zoom” can be achieved in Powerpoint with a bit of manipulation.

Perhaps this can be the theme of my analysis, using Powerpoint to do everything that Prezi offers?

Okay, onto the zooming into text showing off how the dot on an i was actually a lady bug. Neat, but not sure it’s tremendously pedagogical useful in a broad collection of areas.

Now showing the zooming in and out on images and concepts, oh dear it’s using the old DIKW hierarchy as an example.

Okay, onto the non-linear part. The presentation recognises that other presentation tools (signified by a set of images of bog standard Powerpoint slides) can do this but argues that the affordances of the tool encourage linearity. One response might be to argue that the affordances of Prezi encourages people to engage in “flying navigation” that encourage motion sickness.

Back to the notes, it is argued that Prezi’s “zooming” allows students to present, “but also to justify, explain, illustrate, give examples etc. So where you are asking students to make their thinking and ratinale visible without adding detail in ways that confuses the big picture.”

I’d argue that the same can be achieved using Powerpoint (or Keynote etc) through engaging the students in reflecting on effective uses of Powerpoint for the purposes they are trying to achieve. This would provide an opportunity to talk about how technologies have affordances which make certain actions easier, but that those actions aren’t always what you want. This might be more useful than getting them to learn yet another presentation tool. i.e. there might be more value in developing deep skills in one technology, than shallow skills in a couple.

But I perhaps should play a bit, and that’s what we’ve been asked to do.

Create the account and checking out this prezi showing a conversion from Powerpoint to Prezi. It’s not a fair comparison and frankly, the zooming and rotating transitions used encourage a bit of motion sickness. Am also finding that while I can click on parts of the presentation to break out of the linear presentation, once I’ve clicked I’m stick with the back and forth arrows. No way to zoom out again and continue my non-linear exploration. Is there a way? Yes, you can use the two finger drag on the Mac laptop to move in and out. Now that’s an advantage that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

Designing a Prezi

So, here are the steps I’m hoping/assuming I’ll use. This won’t be a complete presentation, that would take much longer than I have.

Choose a Topic – The disease of big up front design

This is pet peeve of mine and has formed the basis of a number of presentations and publications (e.g. Jones et al, 2005).

Get some sort of structure

The aim here, for me at least, is to tell a story. Which will be linear. However, with Prezi folk should be able to navigate non-linearly.

Apparently Prezi is good for including the justification but not letting it get in the way, so some depth would be good. Also want some neat multimedia resources to within it. This prezi on how to create a Prezi suggests “thowing it in”. So, some brainstorming in Prezi might be the way to go.

So, here’s the high level structure in the following screenshot of Prezi.

Evolution of a prezi - Step 1

This defines the high level frames. The idea now is to expand each of the frames into its sub-components. So, zoom in and work on each frame in turn. In order to experiment, I might go overboard a bit with the frames related capabilities.

So, here’s it all a bit fleshed out. I could probably lay it out better, but this is just an experiment, don’t want to waste too much time.

Evolution of a prezi - Step 2

Polish up the content

Here’s where the multimedia polish usually goes. In this case, will see what I can do with some of Prezi’s “zoom and rotate” features.

I plan to reuse a bunch of multimedia I already have/know about

And done, probably spent too much time on it. The image below shows it in action. Use this link to see it in action (embedding Prezis in a blog is not straight forward).

Complete Prezi

It’s by no means complete. The spacing, sizes and rotations of the different components could be improved. There are also some content issues and there are sections which are very “powerpoint”.


And now onto Glogster, which from the education version of glogster is

the leading global education platform for the creative expression of knowledge and skills in the classroom and beyond. We empower educators and students with the technology to create GLOGS – online multimedia posters – with text, photos, videos, graphics, sounds, drawings, data attachments and more.

This gives an example of what it can do. Could be useful as a medium, but the basic skills look pretty much the same, really don’t think I’d learn much from putting one together.

Will leave it there for now.


Jones, D., Luck, J., McConachie, J., & Danaher, P. A. (2005). The teleological brake on ICTs in open and distance learning. Adelaide.

Why are we analysing ICTs for learning?

I’m in the midst of a course in which the second assignment is asking us to analyse four groups of e-learning technologies and how they apply to our future learning and teaching activities. Today I’ve finished some readings and some activities around the group 2 technologies: online images, audio and video.

The reading included a look at a report from a 21st literacy summit held by the NMC, it included the following quote as part of the description of a “world that values 21st literacies”

These new teachers model the new language forms for the next generation simply because that is how they already communicate.

After the activities today, I’m wondering why I’m still having to analyse tools like digital images, audio, and video. These are “technologies” that are already part of how I communicate, they have been for years. No-one is asking me to evaluate technologies like the book or pencil.

Then I recognise that I’m probably in the minority amongst the other folk in the course, but perhaps not in the undergraduate course which has a significantly younger demographic. I’m also not convinced that a majority of the academic staff teaching our courses could claim “it’s just how we communicate”. And I’m certain that the folk setting policy within the university couldn’t make that claim.

Too much to unpack and I’m tired. Time to play minecraft.

Group 2 Technologies: Images, Audio and Video

Following on from the last post, this one reports on the experimentation with a collection of technologies that fall under the category of Group 2. We’re meant to play with these technologies and then select one to analyse in a little more detail. This builds on the analysis of group 1 technologies.

Digital images

This is basically an experiment with Flickr and image manipulation tools, including Picnik.

As it happens, I’ve been using Flickr since August 2005 – bugger, that’s almost 6 years – and have over 1600 photos/images in my Flickr account. These include personal, study and work related images. If you look to the right of this post (and perhaps scroll up/down a bit) you should see some examples of images from my Flickr library and also images that I’ve favourited. Most of the images I include in my blog posts are from my Flick library.

In terms of images I have favourited (you can see the full list of favourites here), most of these are images I’ve used in presentations I’ve given. Over the years I’ve adopted a style for presentation slides that results in huge numbers of slides. For example, this 60 minute presentation has 129 slides. But, each slide only encompasses a single idea, usually with a minimum of text and a relevant image. All of these images have been found via the Creative Common image search facility.

Other images arise from screen shots of various technologies, and have often included sensitive information that needs to be blurred out. For example, the following image that was part of a description of creating an OPML feed for the ICTs course. The names/URLs for individual student blogs were “blurred” out as I didn’t have permission to release these. This was done in a free Mac image manipulation application called Seashore which is based on the GIMP, but brought into the Mac interface a bit more.

NetNewsWire and the EDED20491 feeds

Flickr is much more than a place to store photos. It has good features to support groups and interactions, many of which are used for set tasks. These could be adopted for assignments. There is also a range of tools that have been built on top of the Flickr API (application programming interface). One example is Mosaickr, which takes a large number of images and puts them together into a mosaic that resembles another master image.

Though, I have to admit that an attempt to make a mosaic image of the course banner image didn’t work real well. The predominance of the dark background colour doesn’t work well with photos.

In terms of using in education, the Tell a story in 5 frames approach has been used in a variety of ways. There are some additional ideas within the Flickr section of the 50 tools to tell a story page.


Yesterday, I created a “collaborative CV09 podcast” using diigo and feedburner. This post explains in more detail what was done, why and how. The podcast is available and currently has 3 subscribers, including me.

This approach provides the basic structure for putting a collaborative podcast together. This “structure” could then be used to implement a range of different pedagogies. One example might be in a media studies course. The students could be required to look for audio/video online about a particular news event from different media sources. Then have them (or another group) examine the podcast for differences, similarities etc.

Another alternative might be for the teacher (or previous class) develop the podcast and then expect another group of students to engage in a thinking routine around it. For example, the reporter’s notebook.

Digital video

At the moment, I have 11 videos on . Most are either videos of presentations or screencasts showing how to use a particular technology.

I also have a “show” on as part of an experiment in using live streaming. It’s of a presentation where we were experimenting with alternative technologies for lectures and the LMS. More information about the experiment is available on this blog page. The presentation was streamed live onto the net and user participation was encouraged through the use of Twitter and a mobile phone-based response system (Votapedia).

The only other use of video I have made in teaching is as a resource to encourage thinking or to prove a point. A video I’ve used a lot in recent years has been the Bear/Gorilla video that is discussed in this blog post. There is an interesting, not really extended, discussion on the question of copying between the bear and gorilla camps.

What could I do with video?

I haven’t actually produced a video specifically for learning, so I’m thinking I might use this as the technology to analyse from this group. So what will I do?

One of the applications of digital video to teaching mathematics which I’m interested in is called What can you do with this?. It’s an idea from Dan Meyer.

Aside: In googling the “What can you do with this” site, I came across the following video (language warning) called “Can you do this?”. In the video the presenter shows off her “double jointed” party tricks. Towards the end she asks people to respond to her video and show their strange party tricks. It looks like there are 333 responses. It’s a fairly extreme example, but it is perhaps one application that could be used in a class to break the ice and/or highlight the diversity/hidden talents in the class. Might also be a good “real” task for the students to use to get familiar with shooting, manipulating, and uploading digital video.

If I were to do mine, it would be touching my nose with my tounge. Of course, my sense of dignity will likely prevent me from doing it, which is probably one of the drawbacks of using this in a class setting.

Returning to “What can you do with this?” (WCYDWT), it’s a design strategy that seeks to draw on multimedia to set up a problem and guide students through some inquiry-based learning related to mathematics. At least initially it was mathematics, various forms of science have picked it up. You can watch an Elluminate recording of Dan Meyer explaining the idea and giving examples.

It works on the assumption that you want to pose to the students a real problem, one illustrated by a video or some other multimedia resource. In this example the students take the video themselves using their phones. The following is an example of how a commercial from Subaru can be used.

The students are then asked what questions they have about the video/multimedia.

In this blog post from Dan Meyer there are comments from people that end up with “How fast was the car going” and “How many frames were on the wall”.

Once you’ve focused on a question, get the students to guess. How fast was the car going? Then try and generate a ball park, i.e. get them to guess upper and lower limits for speeds that they know the car wasn’t travelling at.

Then ask them to identify what extra information they are going to need to figure out an answer. All this can be done with the students working in groups and perhaps scaffolded by other methods.

Analysis – WCYDWT

The aim is to stick with the SWOT analysis to use a common analysis technique across all 4 groups of technologies. Perhaps by the end I might have gotten the hang of it.

For this analysis I’m going to try a slight modification. SWOT analysis has for components. Two of which are meant to be internal (Strength and Weaknesses) and two that are external (Opportunities and Threats). For this analysis, I’m going to limit “internal” to the technology – digital video, both production and consumption – and the external components will include the use of the technology (pedagogy – WCYDWT) and also the broader contextual factors.

Analysis Me (Teacher) High school student(s) High school establishment
(Digital Video)
Allows students to view experiences etc that they would never normally be able. We actually get to use our phones to take video.
We have something we can show other people.
It is a good example of how we can embed 21st Century Literacies into the curriculum.
(Digital video)
Are the school’s technical resources (network connection, computers, software, cameras) powerful enough to allow students and staff to view, retrieve, take and manipulate video in a timely manner? I don’t have a phone that can take video. Your allowing students to take video with their phones?
Is there any issue with bandwidth usage?
People outside the school are seeing the students’ videos, is that ethical?
Creates a more authentic, collaborative, and engaging context within which to learn and practice mathematics. It’s fun
Threats The WCWYDT approach (like much PBL/inquiry learning) can be a bit threatening in terms of its open-ended nature. Requires a teacher with more expertise.
It consumes a fair bit of time in terms of preparation.
I liked the old style maths, I could show what I know. Is this group work going to improve the school’s NAPLAN results?
It looks fun, but are they learning?

The easter egg

If you got this far, consider the following video proof that I can touch my nose with my tongue as your reward.

The process for the video, on the Mac laptop

  • Shoot “portraits” with Photobooth.
  • Crop them with Autocrop to cut out the nasty bits.
  • Import back into iPhoto.
  • Set up a iPhoto slideshow.
  • Export it as a movie.
  • Upload into vimeo.

ICTs for learning design: Group 2 Technologies – The readings

Another week, another group of technologies for the ICTs for learning design course. Group 2 is focused on images, video and audio tools. This post focuses on the readings, the next on the activities.

A global imperative

But first, let’s take a read of The Global Imperative which is apparently a report on the 21st Century Literacy Summit from the New Media Consortium (NMC).

So a report on a 2005 summit focused on the concept of new literacies. Some of it echoes what was presented in the Literacy and Numeracy course. Liteacy is no longer just textual. While textual literacy remains an important component, literacy is now multi-modal.

And there’s the net gen/Prensky quote, yep 2005 was before the Prensky-backlash really kicked in. Ahh, a working definition of 21st century literacy

21st century literacy is the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual and digital literacy overlap. These include the ability to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute them pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms

And some characteristics of 21st century literacy

  1. It’s multimodal.
  2. Includes creative fluency and interpretive facility.
  3. Means learning a new grammar with its own rules of construction.
  4. Lends itself to interactive communication.
  5. implies the ability to use media to evoke emotional responses.
  6. Has the potential to transform the way we learn.

Am thinking I might well use components of this quote in the assignment

The leaders that gathered in San Jose recognized that we must seize that opportunity, first by understanding this new literacy, then by encouraging, stimulating, modeling, and using 21st century literacy skills and methods. We must find ways to more fully engage young people in schools and universities worldwide, and use their natural talents to help them to be better and more effective communicators. That is our imperative, and it is global in its implications.

What first strikes me is the question of “modeling” and wondering about what I see in terms of modeling from teachers I know, other student teachers and the staff teaching us.

Participants were asked to describe “What does a world that values 21st century literacy look like?”. Some excerpts have interesting implications for schooling, e.g.

Education is optimized for multi-tasking and tailored to each learner.
Teachers entering the workforce have grown up with easy access to computers, powerful creative tools, and the Internet. They epitomize the concept of the “digital native” and are comfortable both with the new forms of expression that are emerging and with the tools that make them accessible. These new teachers model the new language forms for the next generation simply because that is how they already communicate..
Assessment methods focus on performance and use blended modes that take into account the various facets of the skills imbedded in 21st century literacy.
Funding for schools to acquire the necessary tools is available through government grants and partnerships with industry, and students around the world have access to the materials they need to explore, experiment and learn with the new language.

The summit also tried to describe enablers and barriers. THey found 7 which are a mix of both

  1. Intellectual property & business practices (seen as potentially both barrier and enabler.
  2. Tools, standards, licensing and pricing (also both).
  3. Policy changes (could be enabler).
  4. Systemic barriers to change.
    This is one to come back to in the assignment

    There are many levels of systemic barriers that permeate government, school systems, curriculum, and bureaucracy of all kinds

  5. Digital natives
    Seen as an enabler, but I wonder if the subsequent questioning of how consistent the “nativeness” of students impacts on this.
  6. Erosion of art in schools.
    This has become even stronger since 2005, the focus is increasingly on numeracy and textual literacy.
  7. The Internet.

And now some strategic priorities

  1. Develop a strategic research agenda.
  2. Raise awareness and visibility of the field.
  3. Empower teachers with 21st century literacy skills.
  4. Make tools for creating and experiencing new media broadly available.
  5. Work as a community.

Each of these have some action items described in the document. And if I really had the time, there’s always the list of readings sent to participants prior to the summit. Including a couple directly connected to IT.

Using images in e-learning

Somewhat confused by this

Please be aware that any images of people need permissions to be uploaded online, this includes your children. And please remember that your children should not be identified online, and their images should be held in secure environments

Does “your children” refer to my sons and daughter or to students in classes I teach? If the former, I see the advice (unreferenced) as somewhat out of line. If learners, then perhaps some references to why this is the case would be appreciated. I agree it should be the case, but justification/references would seem appropriate.

Pointer to an introduction to visual literacy which points to this page that has some nice resources/ideas for using images in teaching. Not to mention a much broader collection.

And yet more thinking/class routines

Basically a quick summary of different pedagogical approaches that can harness images.


Quick overview of how and why.

Digital video

Another overview, now pointing to this paper – “It is not television anymore: Designing digital video for learning and assessment “. Which includes the following interesting figure.

A space of learning for the use of designed video


Schwartz, D. L., & Hartman, K. (2007). It is not television anymore: Designing digital video for learning and assessment. Video research in the learning sciences, 335-348. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from

BIM on the back burner

The purpose of this post is to make formal what many people have already assumed. Work on BIM and BIM for Moodle 2.0 is not really happening at the moment. I’ve already missed the “early 2011” release of BIM for Moodle 2 I was aiming for and have been incredibly slack in solving an issue with BIM for Moodle 1.9 and Yahoo Pipes.

This announcement doesn’t mean BIM development will cease, just that it will be delayed somewhat while I complete other tasks. In particular, my current full-time study has to take some priority. Who knows in the absence of guilt about not delivering, I may get back to it sooner rather than later.

My apologies to to anyone that this will negatively impact.

The code is all on github: BIM for Moodle 1.9 and BIM for Moodle 2.0, people are free to get on with it. Though I’m not sure I’d wish my code on anyone.

Group 1 Technologies: Blogs, Wikis and Websites

As part of assignment 2 for ICTs for Learning Design we’re meant to examine/play with examples of four different groups of technologies. Choose one each week to analyse in a little more detail and use that as the basis for the assignment. This post is my reflection on group 1. A group that contains blogs, wikis and websites.

Given I’ve done a fair bit of work in the past with these technologies, I’m going to reflect on what I’ve done, rather than engage in new play.


I’m going to start with websites, rather than end with them, as I see “websites” as being a more primitive example of this group of technologies. At least they were when I started with websites for teaching back in late 1994 and then implemented my first totally online course in 1996. The following image is a screen shot of the home page. It’s taken from Wayback Machine’s archive of the course, I thought I’d lost it.

The 85321 (Sys Admin) home page

This website was created using only a text editor and was only really possible due to a couple of years playing around with using the web for learning and teaching. It was this prior experience that taught the importance of consistency of navigation etc within the site. It also became obvious, however, during the implementation of this site that doing this with some form of automated support was difficult and time-consuming. For example, this comment comes from Jones (1996)

When completed the 85321 hypermedia textbook included over 900 individual WWW pages. Producing and maintaining a large collection of WWW pages that also exhibit the above characteristics is extremely difficult and time consuming.

As a result a “tool” was written to semi-automate the process. The result can be seen here or you can view the Table of Contents for Chapter 1. (That’s cool, the audio files still work, at least on my setup).

From all of this experience arises the (somewhat obvious) reflection that creating a website by editing HTML files as text files is a low-level, laborious process that is only possible for those that are technically proficient, very motivated and pay close attention to detail. This is why it wasn’t long before GUI-based web page editor/design applications arose and not long after that systems like Learning Management Systems such as Moodle. Each of these tools raise the abstraction layer, they do more for the author, making it easier to produce websites that are good quality.

Weebly, the contemporary website authoring tool we were asked to experiment with as part of the weekly activities, strikes me as the result of the on-going evolutionary development of these website editing/design applications. It’s a totally online tool that provides a range of widgets/templates etc to create websites and reduce the need for the author to know a great deal about good web-design.

But that said, it still leaves a fair bit of flexibility in structuring a site. This is not a problem if you have 2 or 3 pages, but get beyond 30 or so pages and structure becomes important and difficult to get right. Also, to some extent Weebly retains the focus on creating a web page(s). i.e. the web page isn’t necessarily generated as a consequence of user activity.

Which was one of the outcomes when we played with the design of a “Web 2.0 course site” back in 2007. The content for two or three of the major sections of the course website was generated by student activity. The website served as a central place to bring together the results of the students interacting with Web 2.0 tools like a blog, eportfolio and social bookmarking. A bit of an introduction/overview is available in this video.

In short, I’m wondering whether the days of a “website” – defined as a place where you upload information – are somewhat numbered. This is a nebulous conclusion mainly because of the problem with defining what a website is, after all, blogs and wikis produce websites. But in terms of tools like Weebly, a single tool that provides all that you need. I have a sense that they are numbered, or at least are going to be replaced by other tools with different abstractions.

Or to put it more personally (and perhaps correctly), I don’t currently see much of a need for me to use a tool like Weebly anymore. I make do with services like WordPress, flickr, vimeo and dropbox.


As an example, when I needed to create a “website” for a training session I was running, I didn’t use a service like Weebly. I used to create this site. The following image is a screendump of the home page for this site (click on it for a larger version). It has much in common with a standard website, especially in terms of being divided into 5 or so main sections focusing on a particular topic.

Home page for course design blog

This experience showed that a blog can be used to create something that acts as a website, but retains some of the advantages of a blog. But the approach used in this course was still primarily content distribution. While a bit of interaction was used, the site was mainly aimed at providing access to content I’d developed.

Not a very constructivist approach and not, to my mind, the most valuable application of blogs to learning. Using a blog as an individual, student-owned writing environment seems the most valuable. Having each student have their own area where their thinking is made visible, where they are encouraged to reflect on their learning, seems much more valuable. Not only is there value for learning in the students having a personal space in which to reflect, through the use of RSS feeds and aggregation it is possible to share those reflections with other students and teaching staff. When shared with teachers, blogs and student writing/reflection provide a greater level of insight into student progress than possible in a face-to-face class.

This was the rationale behind the use of blogs I designed for a 2006 course which informed the development of BIM. The approach is explained in detail two publications (Jones, 2006; Jones and Luck, 2009). But the primary aim was to increase the visibility of student progress to increase the ability to provide formative feedback. It wasn’t a great success, mostly because the institutional constraints did not readily enable an increase in feedback and consequently many students did not experience the benefit. I think this approach would work much better within a classroom setting.

Analysing a technology

Which brings me to a few qualms about the “analysis” we’re meant to perform. The following picks up on some thoughts expressed in this blog post.

Any form of analysis of a technology – SWOT, PMI etc. – strikes me as little limited. Some of the limitations I see, include:

  • It’s not about a single technology, but how the technology fits within the ecosystem you and your students have access to.
    In terms of blogs, a blog by itself is fairly useful for the author. But when individual blogs are combined with aggregation and filtering technologies – e.g. news readers, social bookmarking, BIM etc – that’s when the fun really happens. The collaborative podcast is another example of where it takes more than one technology.

    From another perspective, I think how well the technology fits within the students context is another essential aspect. If they don’t see the tool as relevant, or see it as duplicating (badly) something they already use, then there are going to be problems with engagement. And lets not get into the question of whether the technology fits within the constrained technology ecosystem of the school.

  • It’s not just about the technology, but how you will use it.
    I’ve heard of people using group blogs, where a class contributes to a single blog. I’m not such a big fan of that approach, I prefer each student to have their own blog, their individual space. Analysing a blog as a technology for learning and teaching, has to include consideration of the use.

    Would you sit down and evaluate a hammer, without thinking about what you’re planning to use it for? A hammer used as a floatation device isn’t going to be very effective. How I would use a technology in a maths class is likely to differ from how a history teacher might use it

  • There is no single perspective of technologies.
    An analysis of a technology application to learning and teaching by a single person is inherently limited. For example, given my background with technology my analysis is likely to be very different than my 15yo daughter or her peers. It’s also likely to be very different from the IT support person and/or the headmaster of a school. Any analysis that is worthwhile should involve those people in someway.
  • We’re not rational decision makers.
    The idea of this type of analysis is that human-beings are rational decision makers. I think this is a myth, and based on some evidence, think that analysis routines like SWOT/PMI are more likely to be useful for helping us develop justifications for our initial impressions, rather than encourage deep and objective analysis.
  • Analysis requires significant knowledge and experience.
    While this exercise requires us to experiment with technologies, it is not until you’ve gathered some deep experiences that you really understand the implications of a technology. For example, I was a twitter skeptic. When it first came out I “analysed” it as a technology and concluded there would be no value. It was only later – when it was decided if we were encouraging staff to engage with Web 2.0 that we better engage first – when I used Twitter that I started to see its value. I am now a regular user.

    This is one reason why there is almost no point in asking people what they want, there are a whole range of reasons why the majority of people can’t answer that question effectively.

  • Ateleological versus teleological processes, emergent approaches.
    Which brings me to a pet hate, an ignorance of the value of ateleological or emergent processes. This blog post explains that there are two types of processes: teleological (plan-driven) and ateleological (emergent). The type of analysis requested here is a regular part of a plan-driven approach and generally makes assumptions about rationality etc. Emergent processes strike me as having a much stronger resonance with constructivism, of allow meaning to emerge out of the experience. Given what I’ve written in my thesis I believe there is a place for emergent processes in technology and learning.


I have to admit that I am not a big fan of Wikis for learning and teaching. I have, however, had some experience with using a Wiki in a work setting. A couple of years ago I worked with a unit that used Mediawiki (the software used to run Wikipedia) to host our organisational website. The idea was that we wanted anyone, both within the unit and outside, to be able to modify any of the pages they wanted to. At the time, the organisation’s practice was that only a designated person in each unit could modify the website. We wanted to avoid this bottleneck, but also wanted to experiment with Wikis as interest in using them in learning teaching was growing.

On reflection it was fairly successfully, though not completely. Few, if any, folk from outside the unit modified the wiki but a number of folk within the unit did. But that perhaps says more about the unit and the people within it. There is a belief that only a very limited percentage of people contribution to a Wiki. The 90-9-1 theory is one description of this observation and suggests that 90% of visitors to a Wiki are lurkers (i.e. they don’t contribution), 9% contribute from time to time, and the remaining 1% are the active contributors.

With Wikipedia being read by millions of people, 1% can be quite large. But with an organisational or course Wiki where the possible readers are limited to 20 or 30, 1% is a very small number.

In terms of collaborative authoring of documents, I think services like Google docs offer a more user-friendly environment for one-off or small groups of documents. Wiki’s seem best suited for websites where the information have a long life-span and needs to be maintained and improved throughout that life (e.g. Wikipedia or an organisational website).

One application of “Wikis” for learning that I am interested in is where students are tasked with creating or updating a page on Wikipedia. Such as this example of a project from a US high school biology class. There have been examples of where schools create their own online textbook or wiki site, however, I think doing it on Wikipedia has significant advantages. It strikes me as a very constructionist approach.

Analysis of blogs

Within this group of technologies, I have chosen to analyse blogs using a SWOT analysis. I’ve made some attempt to address some of my concerns about this type of analysis. For example, the analysis is based on my significant experience with the use of blogs, both personally and in a learning and teaching context. I’ve included in the SWOT likely responses from various archetypes within a school setting. That I’ve tried to imagine/empathise with the analysis of those archetypes is a weakness of the analysis. In fact, the archetypes may well be stereotypes. I have also just realised that I’ve left parents out of the mix.

In terms of the application of the technology, I am doing the following analysis of the following approach to using blogs

  • Each student has their own blog on their choice of blog engine.
    The blog has to be open to the world and generate a feed.
  • Their blog will be used for their own reflection and purposes on class tasks, but also to present their contributions to some set tasks.
  • Some of these tasks will be aimed at addressing authentic problems or creating artifacts of potential use to people outside the class.
  • The tasks may require the students to engage with a specific online community around the authentic problem.
  • All student blogs will be aggregated into a single feed that is shared with classmates.
  • Students will be expected to comment (appropriately) on the posts of other students, both of their own volition but also in response to certain set tasks.
  • At times and through means to be determine, some of the student blog posts will be promoted both online and throughout the school as useful resources.
  • All this will occur in either a high-school IT or mathematics class.

Must remember that the distinction between Weakness and Threat is internal/external.

Analysis Me (Teacher) High school student(s) High school establishment
Strengths It is the students own place, a place for their voice to emerge, a place they own and control.
Aggregation and sharing amongst students enables collaboration.
The openness of the blogs combined with a focus on authentic tasks and engagement in an existing community increases the “constructionist” aspect. Students are producing real artifacts for people outside of school. Hopefully motivation and engagement will increase.
The quality of the free, public blog engines is high and getting better. Much better than similar tools embedded in the LMS and other institutional tools.
We don’t have to purchase any software.
Weaknesses Writing mathematics electronically is a real weakness of blogs, but online tools in general. This might limit what can be done or simply make it that much harder.
Aggregating and tracking comments on blogs is difficult.
Following all student posts might be a significant workload, for both teacher and students.
You want everyone to see what I’m doing?
I don’t have a computer at home, will I be disadvantaged?
What will be the bandwidth usage/cost implications?
Opportunities Having useful/interesting content on student blogs may increase the involvement of the external community in the students’ learning. Hopefully including the parents. If this works, it might form the basis for some cross-curricula collaboration
Threats The “difference” between this approach and more common approaches to learning within schools will create some dissonance in terms of policies, workloads and staff/student/parent expectations.
It becomes too hard for the teacher, the students etc.
Students aren’t appropriately prepared/scaffolded for writing blogs.
Are blogs seen as “old school” by high school students?
The best blog engines or the community websites are “filtered” out of the schools view of the Internet.
Will there be problems from “helicopter parents”?
What happens when other students steal my ideas? (Aside: I did a quick google search which pointed me to this post from a fellow student) The blogs are going to be public? What happens when the students swear or post naughty pictures? What will the parents say?
What about cyber-bullying?


Jones, D. (1996). Solving Some Problems of University Education: A Case Study. In R. Debreceny & A. Ellis (Eds.), (pp. 243-252). Gold Coast, QLD: Southern Cross University Press.

Jones, D. (2006). Blogs, reflective journals and aggregation: An initial experiment. Retrieved April 4, 2011, from

Jones, D., & Luck, J. (2009). Blog Aggregation Management: Reducing the Aggravation of Managing Student Blogging. AACE. Retrieved from

Building a collaborative CV09 podcast

Another task related to the ICTs for Learning Design assignment is in examining podcasts. Rather than access existing podcasts, I’m going to reuse an idea first generated for a “Web 2.0 course site” and which I’ve reused a couple of times in MOOCs. The use of social-bookmarking and a feed aggregator to enable the creation of a collaborative podcast.

The original task

The course is presenting various technologies and asking us to experiment with them and then analyse them in terms of use in our future learning and teaching. A part of the description from the course content is

Search for podcasts that you believe are relevant to your teaching context. Analyse them in your blog, creating links. How will you use them for great learning?

Going a bit further

Well, first of all constructivist learning theory is a heavy emphasis in this course. But, this one-way consumption of a podcast isn’t as “constructivist” as it could be. We are expected to find an existing podcast and consume it and perhaps share it. We are being asked to “construct our understanding” about how we’d use podcasts in our practice, but we’re not really being shown how podcasts could be used in a really constructionist way. i.e. the learners creating their own podcast.

You can do this by recording your own episodes, but I think a more interesting approach is creating a podcast by having learners find interesting audio/video files on the Web and add them to the podcast.
I think this takes a few steps further along the constructionist spectrum.

It also shows that the really interesting learning possibilities arise not from a single technology, but through innovative combinations or mashups of technology. This example is not in the same league as some of the cool stuff being done in ds106. It does, however, show that the real power in this technology stuff comes from the ability to be able to combine technologies in less than expected ways.

The end product

The end product of all this is what I’m currently called the “cv09podcast”. If you click on that link you should see a podcast you can subscribe to using your favourite tool (e.g. iTunes). The podcast is intended to include audio (and perhaps video) that is of interest to students in my universities Graduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching (GDLT). I’ve pre-populated it with a couple of audio presentations I think might be interesting.

The intent is that other students in the GDLT, or in fact anyone, can add audio/video to this podcast by using the following process.

Contributing to the podcast


In order to contribute to the podcast you have to

  1. Create a diigo account.
    Diigo is a social bookmarking tool (and a bit more). Essentially it is a way that many people can bookmark resources on the web and share them with lots of other people. The Social Bookmarking in Plain English video gives a good overview of social bookmarking. They use as the bookmarking tool, but the idea is essentially the same with Diigo.

    Diigo is the tool you will use to add resources to the podcast.

  2. Install a diigo tool in your browser.
    For Diigo to work well, it helps to have a Diigo tool installed on your browser. This provides you with a “button” you can press when you are viewing a resource you want to bookmark. The Diigo tools page is the place to find the right tool for your browser.
  3. Know the cv09podcast tag.
    To add a resource to the podcast you have to bookmark it with Diigo and tag it with the tag cv09podcast (cv09 is the course code for the GDLT). This is how we know the resource is intended for the podcast.

Add something to the podcast

Once you’ve taken care of the pre-requisites, feel free to add resources to the podcast. In summary, you can bookmark any audio or video file into Diigo with the cv09podcast tag.

Hint: Just take care to bookmark the actual audio/video file and not the web page that has the link to the audio/video file.

An example

Earlier this week I listened to an episode of Australia Talks Back from Radio National. The topic was “e-education” and was talking about the increase in online learning and universities and schools. It’s probably of some interest, so I’ll use it as an example.

1. Find the audio file

I don’t know where the audio file came from, so a quick Google “australia talks back e-education”.

This brings me to this page. This is the page that gives some background to the episode including some links to the audio – see the “DOWNLOAD AUDIO” link.

IMPORTANT: Don’t bookmark the web page.

2. Bookmark the audio file

The process I’ve been using is simply to play the audio file (in this case click on the “DOWNLOAD AUDIO” link) in my browser and then click on the Diigo tool in my browser to bookmark it. The following image is what it looks like (click on it to see a bigger version).

Bookmarking a podcast episode

As you can see from the image I haven’t filled in the description yet. Mainly because the original description is on the previous page and I can’t see it. I need to go back and update this to give appropriate attribution.

I also note that I’ve called the program “Australia Talks Back”, when it’s actually “Australia Talks”. Something else to fix.

3. Update the description

To update the description and fix other aspects of my new bookmark, I go to my Diigo home page. This shows a list of all my bookmarks, with the most recent at the top. It provides links via which I can delete, share and most importantly, edit the bookmark.

The following image shows the edit interface as I’m updating the description

Updating podcast entry

You can see some of the other entries in the podcast – “Howard Gardner”, “Mitch Resnick” – in the background.

4. Check it was added to the podcast

You don’t need to do this step, the process seems to be working so far, however, you may want to. One way to do this is to visit the podcast home page which is shown in the following image.

You may note that the “e-education” episode isn’t appearing yet. This is one of the drawbacks of this approach, delay. The podcast combines two different services to produce the podcast, each of those services are used by a lot of people, there is some caching involved….which essentially means that there is a bit of a delay between when you bookmark something and it appears in the podcast.

5. Listen to the podcast

The real value in a podcast for me is that I regularly use iTunes and my mp3 player to listen to podcasts. So I’ve added this podcast to my iTunes. At this stage I can choose to listen to the podcast. The following image shows the podcast in my iTunes podcast list.

cv09 podcast in itunes

No, I haven’t downloaded any of the audio files from the CV09 podcast as I’ve actually listened to them in other podcasts I’ve subscribed to. You can see in the above image that the “Mitch Resnick” episode from the CV09 podcast is already included in the “EdTechLive” podcast directly under the CV09 podcast.

How it works

In summary, this all works as follows

  • Podcast episodes are all bookmarked with Diigo using the pre-defined tag cv09podcast.
    An important step in setting this up is finding a tag that isn’t going to be used by someone else. The cv09 course code is hopefully a good choice.
  • Get the RSS feed produced by Diigo for all “cv09podcast” tagged links.
    This page shows all bookmarks with the cv09podcast tag. There is a RSS icon on the right hand side that produces this RSS file.
  • Run the RSS feed through Feedburner.
    Feedburner provides some services to “enhance” the RSS feed and “turn it into a podcast”.

Future extensions

One possible flaw is how well Diigo’s rss feeds work. How quickly they are updated and how many links/episodes they will show. This might need some future improvements.

Diigo does support the idea of groups/networks. At the moment, anyone anywhere can add something to this podcast by using the “cv09podcast” tag. Theoretically, this could get nasty. Setting up a group for cv09 students could be one way to prevent this. At least initially, I’d prefer to be inclusive.

At the moment the podcast is simply created from the list of bookmarked links. There is no filtering or manipulation. This is an area where some more work could be done. For example, having a way through which students could “vote” for the best episodes and show those.

The other potential is that more than one person might bookmark a particular episode. The question is whether this would mean the episode would appear many times or would the process pick this up?

How do you analyse and select an educational technology

The ICTs for Learning Design course I’m taking has at least four weeks structured around looking at 4 different groups of technologies where each group is made up of multiple examples. For example, the first group is “Online spaces” and includes blogs, wikis and “websites” (e.g. Weebly). We are meant to explore and experiment with these technologies and then select one to analyse. The analysis is intended to

contextualise theoretical knowledge into individual teaching areas/subjects.

The examples of analyses given include SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and PMI (plus, minus, interesting) analysis.

A tweet-sourced insight on analysis

Last Friday, I was thinking about this assignment and it got me thinking. Given the huge number of online tools and services out there, how could I “rationally” analyse and select a tool that’s right for my class. I tweeted the following

I got a couple of responses from this

@marksmithers identified perhaps the most common analysis technique, I’ll call it “Keeping up with the Joneses”

@s_palm identified this area as a hole

And @sthcrft identified what I think most people use, and what I use in most cases

I know this approach sounds like a bit of a joke, especially to the uber-“rationals” in IT departments, but it strikes me as the one we all use. We use our understandings of the technology and the task to evaluate how well there is a fit. The problem is that our understandings are universally accepted, the perspective of others will differ. So we have to have some sort of “rational” written down analysis to show we’re being logical and objective.

You can’t analyse just the technology

It also highlights how you just can’t analyse the technology. You need to know/specify the task. A wiki might be ok for one task and Google docs might be better for another.

The problem with this analysis

For my situation, I’m analysing how well a technology is going to work in a high-school context, either IT or mathematics. One of the big problems I have is that I have no first-hand experience of that context. I don’t really know the task, beyond assumptions and prejudices. Hence, any analysis, regardless of the rigour will be flawed. Any analysis I do know is going to be significantly different from one I’ll perform in 6 months time.

And here’s one I prepared earlier

As it happens, I actually did prepare one earlier (Jones, Jamieson and Clark, 2003). It made such an impression, I only remembered it this morning.

Here’s the abstract

Due to the constantly evolving nature of Web-based Education (WBE) it is often difficult for educators to understand the issues, challenges, impact, and effort required to introduce WBE innovations. This lack of knowledge can contribute to the limited adoption and less than successful implementation of WBE innovations. This paper draws on an aspect of innovation diffusion theory to propose a model through which educators can evaluate potential WBE innovations. It is proposed that this model can aid educators increase their awareness of potential implementation issues, estimate the likelihood of reinvention, and predict the amount and type of effort required to achieve successful implementation of specific WBE innovations. The worth of the model is demonstrated by drawing on past experience.

The model is essentially a re-structure of some of the insights from Roger’s diffusion theory. A slightly rejigged version is shown below. The basic idea is that if you evaluate the technology, the context and the problem within the ideas of diffusion theory you can get some idea of the types of problems you will get (e.g. an authority based decision in a social system which values freedom will lead to fairly rapid adoption with high levels of reinvention), some idea of how hard you have to work and what types of work to get adoption, and some suggestion of how fast adoption might be.

Rejigged "choice" framework

It was meant to be used in more of a sense-making role than plug in correct answers. It has some problems, not the least of which is some limitations or problems with Rogers’ work as seen by some. For example, people do not form one-off pictures of technologies, they evolve over time.

That said, I found it a particular useful way of weighing up different technologies within a university context. A school setting will be a little different.

Will I use it? Might be overkill.


Jones, D., Jamieson, K., & Clark, D. (2003). A model for evaluating potential Web-based education innovations. Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (pp. 154-161). Hawaii: IEEE. Retrieved from