Three Edublogs webinar overviews – e-publish, Serendipity, don’t lose data!


Three overviews in one this week. At the moment I seem to have no time for anything and so once again the previous two week’s webinar overviews were postponed.

(For the link for live webinars and info about the times and topics scroll to the bottom of this post).

E-publish or be e-damned!

In this recorded session Phil  led us through some of the tangled web of e-books, beginning with some discussion on what they are.

From the plethora of formats (file types) and different publisher standards that Phil told us about, it seems that the world of e-books/e-publishing is at that stage in development where the publishers are attempting to “lock in” both writers and readers to their particular format. They are fighting to corner the market so that eventually almost everyone will be working with one format – that of the “winning” publisher who will “own” that format!

Phil moved the discussion on to consideration of e-books/e-publishing from the perspective of the author looking at factors around: saleability, preparation format – prepare in a common format and convert or author directly in the format for publishing. We also took a look at deciding on a publisher/format.

Producing a great (and successful) e-book is not just about having great ideas and content. Understanding the medium, having some knowledge of mark-up languages, presentation and marketing are all  important and the whole process can be hard work!

A great session which certainly made me much more aware of the ramifications of e-publishing and also very conscious that many e-books are not presented or sometimes even written particularly well. Perhaps e-books are currently in a similar stage of development to that of Science Fiction as a genre in the era of the “pulp” SF magazines last century!

Serendipity – what are, and how we use, wikis

This was a very lively recorded session with lots of audio and text chat interaction and not much on the whiteboard, though we did share some wikis and blogs through AppShare.

Initially we tried to get some clarity on wikis. I remember my own early confusion with wiki and Wikipedia when I first came across wikis and this is potentially even worse now with a multitude of online projects prefixed by the work “wiki” giving a variety of different impressions of what wikis are about.

Discussion then moved on to uses of wikis in a teaching contexts with some sharing of wikis and later blogs by participants to show how they are being used. There was a lot of side discussion ranging across many related topics particularly with reference to blogs. I think that the functional crossovers between wikis and blogs make it almost inevitable that if you discuss one you will also include the other.

A true Serendipity session with lots of serendipitous discovery as well as the chosen topic exploration.

Don’t lose your data!

As always we recorded this session and my personal opinion is that this is a “must” for anyone who has ever lost any data – and that means all of us! Again this session was led by @philhart who gave us fantastic insights into risks to our data and some of the ways to combat these. When Phil is not involved in edu activities he is a computer consultant who works with a variety of personal and business clients often advising on data preservation strategies as well as developing software.

Phil kept us busy throughout the session starting with a few questions to get us thinking about what we understand by the terms “data”, “risk” and “consequence”. We then moved on to consider the possible impacts on ourselves of losing data with consideration of where we keep our data and what risks we ourselves see.

Then Phil moved on to discuss some of the detail of what he sees as the three primary risks to our data: theft, loss and corruption. The risks can’t be eliminated entirely but we can control them to some extent. We need to do what is effectively a cost/benefit analysis where we balance the likely “cost”, not necessarily in material terms, of data loss against the “cost” of backing up.

Phil asked us what we do for our own data security – for most of us the focus was on some degree of backing up to reduce the “loss” element of the risk without much upfront consideration of the other . However it was interesting that when Phil shared his own strategy this was a blend which addressed all three areas of risk much more broadly!

To finish Phil asked us what we might do differently in the light of this session – for most of us this seemed to be a variation on the theme of find out more about what we already have and do more backups!

I found this session incredibly useful – despite living with “a backup obsessive” ie Phil it still opened my eyes to more risks that I need to consider!


Three fantastic sessions! I enjoyed all of these as always. I particularly enjoy sessions where someone else is the main facilitator. If you have something to share please let us know (add a comment to this post, or Tweet us – @JoHart or @philhart) and then join us to facilitate a session about your e-edu passion! If you are not familiar with BlackboardCollaborate we can help you plan how best to do your session so it works for you.

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Serendipity” session where we invite you to suggest your “hot” topics for discussion – we then select the topic by poll.  Join us on Thursday September 13th at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning September 14th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Give ‘em a piece of the action!

The second of two related posts about using Application Share (App Share) in Elluminate sessions. The reason for this post is to cover some of the “nuts and bolts” and briefly touch on some of my personal strategies in using Application Share. These were not covered in detail during the Elluminate session “Share and Share Alike” or the related post.

If you have been in Elluminate sessions you have probably experienced Application Share. It is often used by presenters to show a website or application to participants and sometimes is used as the basis of an entire presentation. In my personal opinion using a WebTour is more effective for websites, however it is not possible to WebTour if you want to show a password protected site.

Many people use App Share very effectively to show sites or applications but this can be a bit “teacher centred” and occasionally can turn into something similar to “death by powerpoint”. It is also very easy to fall into the trap of using App Share to show participants a document you want them to read. My advice would be “don’t do it!” Every time you scroll the screen will be refreshed for all participants – it will take different lengths of time to refresh for each participant. Some will be impatient because they have finished what is visible, some will be frustrated because they are never able to read any of it before the next refresh. File Transfer is much more effective – participants can then read at their own pace. There are also alternatives if you must put up one copy for all to see. Either take the time to pre-prepare by using the editable text tool on the whiteboard to create a series of whiteboard sized “chunks” to be displayed successively, or take App Share “snapshots” and place on whiteboards. This last can also be useful to substitute for direct sharing if you have participants with slow updating.

I use App Share myself occasionaly for a very quick, “off the cuff” show and tell. However I use it mostly to share applications interactively ie to enable participants to work with the content directly on my desktop by giving individuals control of my desktop. Secondarily I use it to troubleshoot problems for remote students by requesting control of their desktop.

There are several alternatives for sharing your desktop in Elluminate. It is possible to share your entire desktop. This is something I do extremely rarely as there are some risks in relation to privacy. You can also share specific applications – the app you plan to share must be open before you begin the share. Also if you have two screens make sure that it is “seen” by Elluminate. The sharing that I use most frequently is to share a region of my desktop. This is a personal preference and I find it easier all round as I can set aside a piece of screen and just move applications or anything else I want to share into that space.

Sharing a region is fairly straightforward.


Once you reach the “Host Applications” menu …


My favourite aspect of App Share is the potential for giving someone else control of what I am sharing. This is closely followed by the fact that a participant can give me control of their desktop so that I can demonstrate something directly on their computer or troubleshoot a problem for them. There are several reasons why I really like using these options including the following:

  • I like to keep sessions as interactive as possible – it is all too easy for people to “switch” off in a virtual room & I don’t see their body language to tell me they are bored.
  • Giving control to a specific individual enables me to ensure “taking turns” this is often an issue for me in face-to-face situations because many of my students are Youth at Risk and they often lack social interaction skills and will “talk over” their peers or teacher.
  • If I give control to an individual this enables me to see that they are able to use specific tools in an application – in my context where assessment is often observational and/or evidence based it gives greater validity.

Giving control of shared applications is very simple:

  • Highlight name of the participant to whom you wish to give control
  • Go to “Tools” and select “Application Sharing”
  • Select “Give Control of Shared Application”
  • You will then get a message indicating that you are giving control, “OK” this
  • The shared area will now have a pink border
  • Keep your hands away from the mouse – otherwise you will be fighting for control of the shared region
  • To regain control use “Ctrl+Space”

It’s a good idea to leave your microphone on throughout (unless you have someone else needing to speak). Although you can control the mic with Ctrl+F2 this may “jump” Elluminate to the front so that it covers the shared region – this occasionally happens to me even when I have resized my Elluminate screen to avoid covering the shared region.

I feel it is really important that students have the opportunity to practise remote control of my desktop and that this is done in a friendly and supportive group context. For the initial tryout and practise I use icebreaker type games, at first with a simple task untimed. As the participants become more confident and competent at dealing with the inevitable lag in response when working remotely I sometimes time them in completing the task. However the great thing with Elluminate is that if someone is really struggling we can always blame the technology and thus avoid damage to self esteem.

There are too many interactive App Share type activities/strategies to cover in detail here – some of those I have used successfully include:

  • Icebreaker and team-building activities for developing positive group dynamics
  • Students work in pairs/small groups in breakout rooms (you don’t need to be the moderator in order to share your desktop), completing collaborative tasks on one person’s desktop or peer tutoring
  • A moderator moving with a student into a breakout room and using sharing for troubleshooting, individual support or assessment
  • Learning and practising an App by taking turns to use a tool/achieve an effect with support and feedback from the rest of the group
  • Coaching an individual through a new task/activity while the rest of the group watches as a demo, or having another participant coach someone through a task/activity.

These are just a few of the possibilities for interactivity with App Share in an Elluminate room. As usual I have written far too much, so it’s definitely time to stop. Hope you have fun giving participants “a piece of the action”.

School of the future?

In online PD on Friday (all welcome each Friday West Australian time 09:00 – Elluminate link) one of the potential topics was “what will the school of the future look like”. Someone instantly added “cloud computing” as part of the same question. This was a term I had heard but knew nothing about. Our topic for the day is chosen on a vote for the suggestions and this was not the one selected – we discussed “managing our information overloads” through a great demonstration by Sue Waters. However afterwards I felt I needed find out a bit about “cloud computing” so did a bit of exploring. I still don’t know much but I found that there were many cross links with my recent thoughts as a TAFE (Vocational Education and Training) Lecturer at a college with many distance/flexible and school based (on vocational courses) learners. I have been working cross-college to encourage lecturers to use online/e-learning. In our context the focus is on supporting, and delivering learning to, students who are unable (for whatever reason) to attend face-to-face, This has given me much food for thought regarding the wide variety of configurations and application in students’ home computers and the complexities of working with these in an online context – especially when demonstrating something in the virtual classroom when students don’t all hve the application you are demonstrating.

Through my Twitter stream I have contact with teachers in schools and universities in Western Australia (WA), the wider Australian context and also worldwide (particularly Canada and the USA). A major concept that keeps surfacing in my mind as a result of these interactions is a likely shape for learning in the future. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before schools, colleges and universities worldwide are aiming for the majority of their students to be working online from home for one or more days per week. The advantages of this are huge in infrastructure terms for educational institutions and also potentially in environmental terms for the planet. If we build our infrastrucutre and provide applications virtually “up in the clouds”

this may be one option for providing necessary applications for learners who don’t have them on computers at home. However I think that one of the major barriers to the “virtual campus” – for schools at least – will be the huge outcry from parents who will suddenly become responsible for their school age children for at least one extra day per week. This itself may have economic implications.

I live and work in a regional context – on a personal basis I can see no reason for driving 45 minutes each way to work to do all the admin and class preparation tasks I can do perfectly well from home. Who needs to go to work?

Indeed many of these tasks I can do better or more easily from home as I do not have to contend with surrounding noise and interruptions from my colleagues in our large open office. Additionally I have better ie faster Internet access from home and do not have to waste time frequently contacting the IT department to unblock sites so that I can access them for learning resources. Because, as a college, we use virtual classroom delivery for our scattered students it is also feasible for me to deliver classes from home and I frequently do so as I have fewer connection issues from home.