Lighting up my students’ online lives with interactive Elluminate

Its a long time since I wrote a post so after Free Online PD on Friday (09:00 Western Australian time – GMT +8) where I did a session on Elluminate interactivity in the Edublogs/Elluminate community partnership virtual room I thought I really should continue my posts about using Elluminate. Last year when I was providing cross-college PD in e-learning (including Elluminate) I started a series of cartoons made with ToonDoo introducing some of the facets of working in virtual classrooms. I used a couple of these in Fridays session and thought maybe it would be fun to put some of them in posts when I’m writing about Elluminate and some of the tools and strategies that I find useful.

Most of my cartoons are two ToonDoo cartoons joined together like the one above on the social dimension in online learning.

For me – in my context – ie working with students who are often geographically isolated that social dimension is critical – both in Elluminate and in the Learning Management System that we use (currently CE6). On Friday in Online PD I tried to give all those in the session a feel for some of the strategies and Elluminate tools that I use to keep that social dimension in the forefront throughout my virtual classes.

I use a lot of game type activities – one of the simplest that is really good to help students get familiar with tools and also get some practice with them is a version of “Simon Says”. I think this has different names in different countries – so here is a short “toonscription”

Another advantage of this game is it gives you (as moderator) an opportunity to see if any students are particularly slow with the tools and to assess whether they might need extra help or are suffering from bandwidth/connection problems.

If you don’t normally have access to Elluminate and would like to try it out or use it for small meetings you can use this link to get your own free 3-user Elluminate v-Room! you are also very welcome at the Free Online PD sessions that happen through Elluminate each week Friday (09:00 Western Australian time – GMT +8). Read the Edublogger post from Sue Waters for more information.

This Friday (3rd April) we are following on from last week’s how to keep Elluminate sessions interactive by suggesting that participants try out something interactive they might use with their students. This should be an “elluminating” session! If you are coming along and plan to try something and there is anything you need clarifying beforehand then you are welcome to Tweet me @JoHart or ask your question in a comment to this post.

Back to Work – Tomorrow

The “Plan” for this year!

Well its back to work for me tomorrow. This year I am (hopefully) going to concentrate on getting a lot of e-stuff happening for my students. The plan is to provide very customised online resources and links for adolescents and adults in Literacy, Numeracy and Employability Skills. This is already under way – thanks to project funding from the WA Department of Training.

In 2008 we won Building Diversity funding from the Equity Development and Innovation Program to start developing an online blend for delivering and/or providing additional support/resources at Australian Certificate I level in the Certificate of General Education for Adults (CGEA). This is particularly useful for our regional students as they often can’t attend a campus because of distance. We still have some funding available to April which will help us have time to continue development.

First page for Cert I and Intro

What was and what is!

Traditionally distance learning for CGEA in the Wheatbelt of WA has taken the form of booklets (called learning guides here). For me this doesn’t make much sense because giving students who have low literacy levels a written booklet to read with activities to work through in isolation seems like setting them up to fail.

So far we have developed a blend that uses virtual classroom (Elluminate) for delivering some topics and/or for tutorials and a range of resources and tasks provided through a Learning Management system (LMS) – Blackboard CE6. We piloted this with a group of English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

The best thing for me about using an LMS (at least with CE6) is that you can provide each student or group of students with a customised pathway through the resources using the selective release options. However you can also enable them all have access to some shared discussion topics which is great for our students who are often geographically isolated from their peers.

What will be!

This year I plan to extend the range of options for customisation for Introductory and for Certificates II and III as well as Certificate I, so that we have focussed resources that address the possible interests and preferred learning styles of youth at risk students and Indigenous learners.

Currently I use one of the discussion options (an individual journal) in CE6 for students to collect together work/tasks they have completed, although this is quite limited in some ways it has the advantage that the students only have to go to one place for everything. This helps some of our students who don’t have high levels of computer literacy – but may disengage those who have, so I am looking at other options and may use blogs, Flickr, and other tools with some students instead of the LMS journal.

It is difficult to customise completely for individuals (time constraints) but by using groups I hope to use different strands for each of our broad target groups and then some individual threads if needed

Well I finally did it!

Started a Blog I mean! I have though about it on and off for ages and thanks to Sue Waters (and her original Mobile Technology in TAFE wiki) I actually know the difference between a blog and a wiki.

My main problem with starting this was what to write about. I didn’t think I could split myself in two the way Sue does and manage two separate blogs (Mobile Technology in TAFE and The Edublogger) with their associated sibling rivalry! So I decided to write about everything in one place and as my focus is “E-stuff” of all sorts E-verything seemed to fit the bill.

I am an educator in Western Australia currently lecturing in the Vocational Education and Training sector in a TAFE College (currently CY O’Connor) based in the WA Wheatbelt region. The Wheatbelt is a very large sparsely populated area so e-learning is becoming more and more important in providing learning opportunities for the people who live there. Many of our students are geographically isolated and often also socially isolated from their peer group on the same course. Mobile phone coverage is poor as is access to broadband. Thus we have an increasing focus on online learning (synchronous and asysnchronous) but with the requirement that we also keep it a simple as possible.

As well as my usual lecturing (mainly literacy/numeracy but also some IT and Business at low levels) I have also been fulfilling a professional development role in training and mentoring colleagues in their uptake of e-learning tools and strategies for delivery and assessment. This has included facilitating several Australian Flexible Learning Framework funded projects over the last two years.

Here you will find my thoughts (if and when I can organise myself to post them) about using various e-tools and strategies in learning contexts – including the trials and tribulations of getting my head around new applications for me (eg Flash).