Edublogs webinar overview – Serendipity, ISS watching & Facebook apps

Introduction

In this recorded Serendipity session we actually took a look at two topics – “spot the station” and “Facebook apps”. For both we asked the proposers to expand a little before we decided this.

Spot the station

This intriguing title gave us a fascinating subject. The International Space Station (ISS) and related matters in the context of learning. “Spotting the ISS” was something recently discovered by one of our participants but unknown to the rest of us. So none of us had in-depth knowledge to share on how we could use this with students.A cartoon image suggesting the ISS as a teaching resourceHowever we all had snippets of information about the ISS and other space related resources, so we each spent five minutes exploring and then shared links and thoughts on the whiteboard, in chat and through audio. The NASA ISS webpage has lots of exciting content and the ISS tracker page shows the current position and track of the ISS. Lots to explore and huge potential for educators especially as the astronauts are on several social networks!

Facebook apps

We moved on to talk a little about Facebook apps, although inevitably there was some broadening of this into other social media. Concerns raised were about security issues and the increasing amount of advertising in one form or another. We all recognise that advertising is what enables Facebook to be free for us to use. However with Facebook and with other social media this seems to be on the increase and becoming more and more intrusive. In terms of security most of us are cautious about using apps in social media. It often seems that the security and privacy settings are far from simple to use and that they sometimes revert to defaults! This is a potential topic for a future FineFocus session.

Conclusion

As always Serendipity gave us much food for thought!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is a FineFocus session where we will take a look at learning style inventories and their usefulness or otherwise. Join us on Thursday April 18th 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 April 19th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – four topics!

Introduction

This recorded Serendipity session was a little different from usual in that we took a brief look at several different topics:

  • 2 minute teaching presentations in job interviews
  • managing image sizes
  • technology troubles
  • the new look Twitter – what are the differences

This was fun – we used the timer to ensure that we spent similar time on each topic.

The Session

We started with “2 minute teaching presentations” this topic was proposed by a participant who has a job interview coming up. It is a topic that I think most teachers find interesting bcause we have all been there at some point whether it be a 2 minute, 5 minute or 10 minute presentation. In my personal opinion the shorter the time they allow the harder it is! We used a whiteboard to make suggestions and there was also discussion in text chat and through audio.

The second topic was “managing image sizes”. A topic which often surfaces as a result of people trying to send  files (eg “Powerpoint) by email or to upload them and discovering that they are too large for sending and/or they take an inordinate length of time to upload.

As someone who lives in a “bandwidth challenged” region it is an issue close to my heart! Because of this I probably talked to much in this part of the session :). The topic was the subject of a Fine Focus webinar “Imagine your Image” overview here some time ago and is also one the the Free Tools Challenges in the Edublogs Teacher Challenges. There were a variety of links, tips and ideas for image management shared in text chat  As a result of the discussion @philhart with input from @MrsSOnline produced a Google Doc on managing images post download from camera and has posted about this with the link on his blog in “Pictures and presentations: an issue of size”.

Our third topic “technology troubles” lent itself very well to a whiteboard where we shared the technology troubles that are currently at the top of our respective lists. For several of us one of these was the perennial “getting others to use the tech!”. One of the best things about this sort of topic is the realisation that “one is not alone”! Another plus was the sharing of suggestions on how to solve particular tech issues.

The final topic was “new look Twitter – what are the differences?”. Coincidentally, and serendipitously, I had been exploring the new Twitter just before the session. I rarely use Twitter web, Tweetdeck being my client of choice, however I accessed Twitter web directly because of a glitch with Tweetdeck. Found myself unexpectedly in the new version and so did a quick explore. As a result I was able to share my Twitter page and do a quick tour of similarities and differences. The main plus I think for me is the inclusion of “Interactions” enabling me to see new follows and RTs easily. This was a very quick skim and I’m sure I missed things that are significant in the new version. We may take a closer look in a FineFocus session soon!

Conclusion

This session was quite fast paced – Serendipity sessions are often slower paced and reflective. However fast or gentle paced there is always that Serendipitous learning element. I really enjoyed this session and think that perhaps we should do more Serendipity sessions where we have short discussions about several topics – what do you think? Feedback would be very welcome – let us know if you think this would be a good idea.

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This will be an exciting session with Jo Freitag (@jofrei) who coordinates the “Gifted Resources” information service website. Jo will tell us about her blogging project “Birdwatching With Biblical Binoculars” that she has been undertaking with her Sunday School group.  Join us on Thursday February 23rd 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 February 24th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs webinar overviews – three in one post

Why three in one?

Apologies all for very tardy posting! As usual the return to work after our long summer break meant a frenetic few days before returning and subsequently 2 weeks where I have felt more and more overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do.

Introduction  to Serendipity – Teachers and blogging

This recorded Serendipity session took a look at teachers and blogging – whether all teachers should be blogging and just what should be made public/included in a professional blog. We had thunderstorms during this session and I missed a bit in the middle (power outage) which took out my desktop and also temporarily my backup laptop internet (wireless modem). Everyone just carried on with the discussion – my idea of a perfect session is when everyone just carries on if the moderator drops out :)

The Session

We followed our usual format of putting our topic ideas on the whiteboard and then polling to choose the subject for discussion. The winner was a combined topic around “All teachers should blog” and How much private info/thoughs should we reveal on a professional blog.

We started with a whiteboard although, as is often the case when we are a small group who all have audio, the discussion was quite audio based.  Discussion ranged around the pros of blogging for teachers, should it be compulsory as part of professional development and some privacy thoughts.

Conclusion

This session illustrated to me that sometimes you just can’t be sufficiently prepared for contingencies. During the session we had a major thunderstorm and I lost power. I had anticipated the possiblity and was also in the room as a moderator via laptop and wireless modem. However the strike that put the main  power off also temporarily knocked out the wireless modem and thus kicked me out of the BbC room. Luckily the participants (all very experienced users) just carried on. In retrospect I probably should have made someone else moderator as well!

Introduction to “Do you Toon?”

The second webinar in this post was an Edublogs Fine Focus – Do you Toon? As always this was recorded. This topic happened because I have cartoons and animations on my mind at the moment. One of the mini-projects that I will be using with students in my National VET E-learning (NVELS) project “E-xtraordinary Learning For A Digital Age” (ELFADA) is for the students to explore some video and cartoon texts and then make their own and embed them in their blogs, so I am exploring the tools available so that I can focus on the easiest to use. It seemed a good opportunity for one of our occasional explore and share sessions.

The Session

When we explore tools in webinars one of the major considerations is how easy it is to learn the tool because we always have in mind the potential for using with students without them needing a long time to acquire the basics. We began with a list of 5 tools (including one iPad app which no-one explored leaving us with four). The first

activity was a look at whether we knew any of the tools. Then we followed a similar pattern to previous tool exploration sessions. Everyone chose a tool to explore from Go! Animate, Make Beliefs Comix, Pixton and Toon Way.

Having decided which tool to explore the group dispersed for ten minutes to explore their chosen tools. Then we reconvened to share ideas on: ease of learning the basics; how engaging to use; possible lessons/contexts; whether we would use with students.

Conclusion

These sessions are always both fun and informative! Exploring something new in a short time frame is always challenging but is authentic in terms of potential use with students. Students need to be able to grasp the basics of a tool quickly because it is a tool and not the primary learning objective of the activity. In my context, with often disengaged and/or not very ICT literate students, I find that tools have to be both quick and easy to learn in order to engage students and enable them to develop their “text” (visual, oral and written) creation skills.

Introduction to Serendipity – Strategies for overwhelmed teachers

Reaching the end of the marathon post with this recorded Serendipity session. This is an issue close to all of us who teach in any context. Teaching itself is demanding enough with the need to meet individual student needs across many levels, learning preferences and personal interests. Add the demands of curriculum and standardised testing or excessive audit requirements, and the increasingly heavy administrative load (this latter often the result of a requirement to justify almost every one of the myriad professional decisions we make each day) and it is unsurprising that the majority of good and conscientious “teachers” feel overwhelmed!

The Session

As always we started with ideas for the discussion topic of the week, and then moved on to vote on these. Perhaps predictably “Strategies for overwhelemed teachers” was the absolute winner. Certainly as one who has just returned to my role as a lecturer in public vocational education at the start of a new academic year in Australia I already feel overwhelmed, and for colleagues in the northern hemisphere that return to teaching after the Christmas holiday in the darkest, coldest time of the year can (as I well remember) be soul destroying in itself.

We decided to take a brief look at what it was that made us feel overwhelmed – inevitably the main culprits are those things we have to do that don’t directly relate to teaching eg admin/paperwork and also the ever moving “goalposts” imposed from outside.

Then we moved on to look at the strategies for dealing with these.

Between us we actually had two whiteboards of ideas – one is shown above. As always the discussion and sharing was not limited to the whiteboard and there were also many textchat and audio contributions to our thoughts making this a session where it is well worth catching the recording. One of the most significant things that several of us took away at the end of the session was the awareness that we all have the same issues wherever we are in the world.

Conclusion

I think this session will resonate with teachers everywhere! I certainly found it helped me with my current sense of being overwhelmed. In common with others I find/have found that my global PLN has been a phenomenal support for me in helping me to survive and manage all those pressures that overwhelm me. Often the the support comes in practical help, advice and suggestions. Sometimes it is just that with a global PLN there is someone I can connect with and chat to via Twitter in that “dark night of the soul” when once again I am up at 3am working because the “overwhelmedness” is preventing me from sleeping!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This will be a fantastic session with Sue Wyatt (@tasteach) who will tell us about (and invite you and your students to take part in) the Global Student Blogging Challenge that she has now been running twice a year for the last few years. Join us on Thursday February 9th 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 February 10th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – “Essential questions”

Introduction

The chosen topic for this session was “Essential questions”. The term was new to me although the concept was not As always the session was recorded and with a good blend of audio, text and whiteboard is well worth catching.

The Session

We had several topics to choose from this week and the choice of “Essential Questions” was intriguing for me as I was unfamilar with the term – however the early discussion revealed that these were the driving questions of inquiry based learning.

During the session we used three whiteboards:

  • An intial one with some ideas about  the need for essential questions and how to provide professional development for others in developing those questions.
  • The second one was a brief foray into developing some essential questions
  • The third one was our “takeaways”

Because we were using audio and textchat to a large extent the whiteboards have perhaps less than usual of the session content.

Conclusion

This session certainly gave me and I think other participants food for thought. Mulling over the session afterwards I was thinking about the many skills that students need for this kind of learning and in retrospect I don’t find it suprising that the majority of resources that I use myself are what I would term “guided discovery” in that I provide a framework and scaffolding using a “research” model to support students in developing the skills.

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session in which Jane Curry (@parrpakala) and some of her English Language students will join us. Jane will show us how she is using the class blog and other e-tools to help her students with English, and the students will answer some of our questions!   Join us on Thursday August 11th 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 August 12th in Australia – in the usual Elluminate room

Hurdl-e the barriers to online learning!

Introduction

Since I read Britt Gow’s post on her online class a while ago I have been trying to find time to write a post myself because I have been teaching using a fully online blend for some time and I have many thoughts on what works and what doesn’t work for me and my students. I am also continually “tweaking” and changing both to deal with issues that arise and to try and make it all work better. I am an adult literacy/numeracy lecturer working in the public vocational education and traning sector in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. My classroom is 115,000 square kilometres of sparsely populated country with a scattering of small towns and even smaller communities so going online was a logical step to increase the accessiblity of our adult literacy/numeracy courses

Most of my online teaching has included a large Elluminate (virtual classroom) component. My other main thread for various reasons – these deserve a post of their own – is a course website in our organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS).  I also use email a lot. However I always use other e-stuff as well and this year have started a Facebook group. My current courses are three Certificates in adult literacy/numeracy – Certificates in General Education for Adults (CGEA). Students need to complete around 12-15 units for a full certificate and in a face-to-face context this would involve around 240-350 hours of class contact time. We have continuous enrolments and each student is enrolled on an individually determined suite of units.  My students are regionally based – unable or unwilling to attend on campus for numerous reasons including geographical isolation or family commitments. These students are highly diverse including: teens who have dropped out of school (youth at risk); mature age return to learn; those who must be undertaking training in order to get their benefits; and culturally and linguistically diverse learners. As well as the literacy/numeracy issues that are the reason for them doing CGEA many of these students have low IT skills My background is in sciences and in equine studies but I also had a literacy and numeracy component in my previous adult education role in the UK, I think that the diversity of my own background and experience is extremely helpful in working with such a range of students.

I could write reams about both the barriers encountered and the things that work so to try and keep this brief I will just talk about some of what have been key issues for me with solutions I have tried and the effectiveness of those solutions.

1. Diversity (and age) of student computer systems

For anyone teaching online in any way other than with the students all in one room on organisation computers that are very similarly configured this has to be one of the most significant barriers to success! It not only impacts on students getting online in the first place but also poses ongoing problems for submission of work or for students reading specific documents that may have been posted in formats that they cannot read. This diversity of systems issue is compounded by the low computer literacy levels of many of our students across all age groups.

StudentSystemsDiversityresize

Solutions to date

  • Start with getting students into the virtual classroom – it is much easier to problem solve once we can talk and application share
  • Do this with stepwise generic instructions for Elluminate configuration – this really means get the students to access the Elluminate support link because thankfully this detects the current situation and then steps the user through configure and audio set-up
  • If the student has problems at this stage (about 3-4% may do so) then get as much information as possible and use email with screenshots and phone calls if necessary to help them
  • Once students have accessed Elluminate we do an induction into Elluminate and also demonstrate the LMS (course website) through application share
  • Any later issues can be addressed by the student sharing their desktop I can then observe and coach the student through the problem process or if necessary be given control of their desktop

The above has generally worked well for me in getting both my own students and those of my colleagues online. Occasionally the problem solving can take time – one instance in particular was a student whose Java had become corrupt. There have also been one or two students who have been unable to get online  from their home computer because of hardware issues or age/sufficient free memory on their computers.

I am in the process of developing a DVD that we can send out to all students on enrolment that will include all the start up information (including some of the troubleshooting), an overall course induction and useful open source applications with links for downloading current versions.

2. Communication

When students are regional/remote and we never meet face-to-face communication strategies become a key factor for success. I certainly don’t think we have this one full solved by any stretch of the imagination. I think it is critical that there are several different communication strategies in addition to planned virtual synchronous sessions.

When students enrol we emphasise that most communication is through email. We ask that they have their own personal email address (recommending Gmail if they don’t have email already) and that they initiate contact by emailing me to tell me they are ready to start. They are strongly discouraged from trying to phone me if they have questions or problems (except if they can’t access their email) – there are several reasons for this:

  • Establishes the online nature of the course more strongly
  • Gives practise in writing emails and messages
  • Provides a written record of the communication so that students can refer back to it to check the answer they received to any questions
  • Allows me to provide “how to” instructions in a stepwise manner with supporting images
  • If I am online in Elluminate I don’t answer the phone but will see an email as my email is always open
  • I do much of my Elluminate work from home (better connection, quieter environment) so I may not even know someone has called until I check my work phone for messages

Currently students communicate with me mainly through email and Facebook although occasionally through the course website (LMS) mail system. They submit work via email, their personal journal in the LMS, completion of quizzes in the LMS and via the LMS mail system. The submission of work is very “messy”. Because much of the learning for these students is about process a piece of writing may be drafted and redrafted and thus sent electronically between lecturer and student several times. So we have multiple versions and now with a second lecturer joining me in providing feedback we are involved in multiple handling to try and track student work and ensure it all receives comment/feedback.

I am hoping to develop a more consistent structured approach by using individual student blogs as personal portfolios where lecturers and the individual student have admin access so that work can be submitted by posting to the blog and attaching documents as necessary. That would make the process much more transparent and keep all the versions chronological.

3. Lack of a social dimension to the class

SocDimresize

In my experience online students can feel very isolated, this happens even if they are not geographically remote but is more of an issue for those who are. Students in a face-to-face class will chat at the start and end of (and often during) class, they will share morning, afternoon and lunch breaks. Even if they are at a different course level or a different point in a course they will discuss, share ideas and collaborate to some extent. This is very hard for them to do during an online course (especially with rolling enrolments) even if they are highly motivated to complete the course, and in my opinion it is one of the major reasons for the reported low levels of retention and completion experienced by online courses in general. Collaborative projects are also hard to organise and manage in our online environment as we have self-paced, flexible learning that also has a degree of individual customisation in content. This means that we rarely have two students doing the same activities at the same time.

Retention in CGEA face-to-face classes is generally poor and completion rates are very low some of the reasons include:

  • Student motivation (lack of!) the reason for studying is often because students are required to be in education or training as a condition of receiving benefits
  • Previous negative experience of education – in my opinion this has extremely complex impacts with students intensly disliking/fearing a traditional “classroom” environment but also clinging to it as familiar and also simultaneously having negative feelings about a more appropriately adult learning environment
  • Lack of study/learning skills and no “habit” of study – these take time to develop and establish
  • Students often need more time than is available and so may have to re-enrol
  • Unrealistic expectations – younger students often expect that the course will be easy/quick to complete or that by simply enrolling they will automatically learn and gain the qualification

Low retention/completion is common for courses where the main learner groups are those disadvantaged in society for whatever reason. This is an added challenge to successful online delivery!

I use a a number of strategies (described below) to try and establish a “community” and develop positive group dynamics.

Elluminate inductions tend to be individual or small group because of our rolling enrolments so I use several activities that can be cumulative. For example I have a regional map for students to add their location), this is saved and added to in successive inductions to build a picture of student locations throughout the year.

Map2Resize

There is an “introduce yourself” discussion topic on the LMS which I had hoped would develop into a longer term conversation although this is not very effective. I think that the student perception of the LMS is of a “classroom” and that it is too formal an environment for them to chat, this is made more so by the lack of flexibility in the LMS.

I started a class blog last year and have trialled using this with a few students. I haven’t really worked out the best way to operate this with rolling enrolments as I haven’t found a good strategy for using this consistently – putting up a weekly post for comments when all students are doing different activities doesn’t really work.

This year I have initiated a Facebook group for students to participate in if they wish to do so. FB is an environment that is familiar to most (though not all) of my students so I am hoping that in time we will have a thriving group who can help and support each other in studying. This has already had some benefits in students who already know one another discovering that they are both doing the same course and in some increase in communication – mainly in letting me know that they will not be attending a drop-in Elluminate session or in asking for sessions times and questions about their work. I really need time to develop this and to put more posts on the group to try and initiate activities and start more discussions.

All of these have helped to some extent but none have been “standout” successes. I keep tweaking and adjusting how I do these, and I plan to try additional ideas as and when this becomes possible.

Our regular Elluminate sessions are “drop-in” in nature at the moment. I am available online for a number of timetabled sessions each week and students are very strongly encouraged to “drop-in” during these for help and to discuss their progress with work. This means that there are at most 3-4 students in the room at any one time and usually these just work on the LMS until I am free for them. I am working on developing some whiteboard and/or research type activities could be available for the students to work on collaboratively while they wait to catch up with me eg building a Wallwisher or making and sharing Toondoos. When the need arises I do topic focussed sessions for individuals/small groups and feel that if I can extend these this would be helpful for developing a sense of community. However my main enemy is lack of time!

4. The extra time taken to do almost anything in an online context.

Expect everything to take longer. This is true both in Elluminate and in the LMS and with written work

Although text chat can be very fast in Elluminate, it can also be very slow with students who have literacy issues and are not natural keyboarders;

The lack of visible body language in Elluminate slows everything down as does a lack of microphones (some of my less motivated students often have “not working” microphones). When using the whiteboard to explain maths I can’t just look at my student to gauge whether they are “following” thus I need to include additional checks by asking them for their own input on the whiteboard more frequently than I would in a face-to-face situation. This issue becomes less of a problem as I get to know the students better.

Time for developing/sourcing and improving learning resources for the LMS. The notional face-to-face contact hours for our three courses add up to over 1200 and we have to have a strong element of guided content in the first part of each level because of the literacy levels and the lack of study skills and motivation when students begin. Maintaining the content is also an ongoing activity (links change!). I strongly encourage my students to let me know if there is a link that doesn’t work and this helps immensely but it is a reactive rather than a pro-active solution

Responding/giving appropriate feedback (this usually means adding comments on texts to enable students to edit and return for further feedback) asynchronously. I find I have to give much more detail and think very carefully about wording as I am not there to explain if there is not enough information to help the student.

I’m not sure there is a solution to the time taken issues except that they all improve with practise and familiarity. I have already utilised as much pre-existing content as I can through weblinks. This has a downside in the changing of links and in the time taken to find good resources and good example texts but it is much quicker that having to develop all the resources from scratch. Some resources that have had to be developed as I have been unable to find anything suitable that is already available. For me it is critically important that managers/admin realise the extra time needed and this in itself can be a major barrier.

Conclusion

When I look at what I have just written (and those are just some of the primary barriers that we are tackling) I’m surprised that my journey into fully online classes has actually happened at all! Writing this post has helped me to stand back and get a better perspective on just how far we have come along this road in two years. I know there is still an incredibly long way to go and what I’m doing will never be perfect but at least we have made a start and have improved access to literacy and numeracy courses for students who live in regional Western Australia and for whom attending a face-to-face class was not an option.

I would very much welcome some feedback and especially ideas and suggestions for what I might do to make it work better! It isn’t only online students that can feel isolated – online teachers can also feel this way – although I have colleagues delivering courses with blends that include some online they all use traditional paper-based flexible learning and/or face-to-face classess/workshops within their blends. I would particularly love to to hear from others delivering anything fully online with a blend of platforms, buteven more so if you are a literacy/numeracy teacher/lecturer.

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – What can we learn from gifted learners?

Introduction

Exciting news – I have been holding this post awaiting confirmation that our next webinar will be @suewaters talking about RSS – see bottom of page for details!

My apologies in advance to anyone who accesses the recording – I was slightly late starting it so the poll itself is not recorded. This is almost certainly because I was being distracted by the fact that immediately after the webinar I was going to be the primary Elluminate Facilitator/Moderator for a major regional consultation involving focus groups with participants moving between several rooms and whiteboard roaming. All of the other focus group sessions around the country have been done face-to-face so this was very much a first. It went well – probably more of this in a later post!

In this recorded session – please let me know if you access the recording – the topic chosen was: “What can we learn from gifted learners?” As Serendipity sessions often do this diverged a little out of the topic into surrounding issues.

The Session

We started with the discussion question posted on the whiteboard. This first generated another question “What do we mean by gifted learners?” This gave rise to some interesting thoughts and ideas that addressed this very clearly, and also made some excellent points on the incorrectness of perceptions and stereotypes that exist.

The whiteboard was left in place throughout and some later additions were made but most of the lively discussion that followed was through textchat and audio. We digressed at times into consideration of  issues around the perceptions of some teachers when they encounter gifted students.

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We also talked about issues around diversity and student reluctance to be identified as different in any way from peers.

Conclusion

This was a great session with lots of  ideas shared. The discussion flowed well in textchat and audio so that time flew by and the end came all too soon!

Our Next Session

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session.  In this week’s session “RSS – your connection to the globe”  Sue Waters (@suewaters) of Edublogger fame will share her insights on how to use RSS to keep up with your global connections. Join us on Thursday April 7th 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 in Australia – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Edublogs webinar overview – using ToonDoo

Preface

If you access the link to the recording it would be great if you could either tweet me (@JoHart) or leave a short comment on this post to let me know. I would really like to know if it is useful to people when I post the overviews & recording links

Introduction

The purpose of this session was to take a look at one of my favourite online tools, the cartoon making site ToonDoo. I use this a lot both for learning resources and to engage my students in developing texts.

The Session

As usual the webinar was recorded and we began with a look at what people would like to gain from the session and finding out who was familar with Toondoo. This led smoothly into an opportunity to share links for other cartooning websites.

We moved on to look at a couple of the ways I use ToonDoo both for learning resources and for students to create their own visual texts. Then came the really fun bit, using Application Share to share the Toondoo website and to jointly make a cartoon. I asked for volunteers to build a cartoon and gave control to several people in turn. The resulting cartoon is here:

WebinarToonResizeFollowing the successful use of “homework” last week when we went away to make Vokis. I thought maybe a similar homework this week would be fun. So we invite anyone who was at the session (or in fact anyone who reads this post/watches the recording) to make a ToonDoo and either Tweet the link or put it in a comment to this post. Then we can all enjoy. :) We already have one person @jofrei who has completed the homework with her ‘toon entitled Webinar Toon

UnforseenResize

 

I was rather hoping I would not be expected to do any homework this week but decided that it is always fun to make cartoons so here is mine. I have cheated a bit in that this is one is one I needed to make for the Induction disc I am developing for my online literacy students. I’m trying to underscore the information on digital safety and digital identity with cartoons.

 

Conclusion

I enjoyed presenting this session very much. Partly because it felt very interactive with lots of particiption and partly because I like “playing” with ToonDoo. I also think that these sort of combined “techie how to” and “teaching strategy” webinars are a good combination. This is because sometimes learning about a great tool is not enough in itself – ideas on how it can be used/applied in a learning context are really helpful.

Next Webinar

SerendipitybsmallOur next session is an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday March 17th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (6pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday March 18th at 1am CEST, 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual Elluminate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic of the day. If you want to propose a topic in advance then visit the Serendipity Wallwisher and add your topic.

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Edublogs webinar overview – End of year party

Introduction

First an apology for my tardiness in posting this overview. Since the webinar my impending (and now arrived) Christmas visitors have tended to take priority.

We had a great party this year – as always, and also as always it was recorded.

The Session
We started as always with some chat in audio and text while people were arriving. Then we moved on to the “goodies” table inviting everyone to share  yummy edibles and drinkables on the whiteboard.

XmasPartyGoodiesResize

Once we had eaten and drunk our fill (virtually of course – so no negative impacts on waistlines!) we moved on to share and play a variety of games and activities. These included: a spot the differences cartoon from Kipper and Flipper; decorating the Christmas tree; a variant of Mr Squiggle; a trivia challenge; and characterising ourselves with an image. All of these were great fun and we were enjoying ourselves so much that we over-ran! As always you will get a much better idea of how the games worked in an Elluminate context by catching the recording!

Conclusion

This was a great session for the end of the year with everyone entering into the spirit of the party with enthusiasm. I would love feedback from anyone who has attended any of our webinars (Fine Focus or Serendipity). Please add your comments about past sessions, suggestions for how we can do it better and ideas for future topics! I hope to post some thoughts and reflections about this year’s webinar series at the beginning of January – once I can actually find time to reflect!

I would just like to wish everyone a very happy, peaceful and safe holiday season from both myself and Phil. Here is our happy holiday message – this will be unavailable after February 2011 – that we hope will make you chuckle :)

Next Webinar

SerendipitybsmallWe a are taking a break over the holiday, and will be back in 2011 with an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday Jan 6th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (6pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday Jan 7th at 1am CEST, 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic of the day. If you want to propose a topic in advance then visit the Serendipity Wallwisher and add your topic.

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Overview Edublogs webinar – “iGoogle, do youGoogle?”

Introduction

This recorded Edublogs Fine Focus session followed the recent Google theme. This time it was my turn, the topic was iGoogle and how it provides the hub of my Personal Learning Environment (PLE)

The Session

I very much enjoyed this session as I  love to “play” with Elluminate and always like to share the various Web2.0 tools that I find useful.

The main aims of the session were to:

  • check we all had some idea about what iGoogle is
  • explore its use as the hub for a PLE
  • look at how the PLN strands can be drawn together on iGoogle through a variety of  available gadgets.

iGoogleDoYou resize

We made use of polling and whiteboard in the early stages of the session. However I mostly used Application Share to show everyone how I use iGoogle as the meeting point for all the strands of my PLN and my “e-life”. Then we took a look at how the new pages can be created and personalised with themes and chosen gadgets. During this section I handed control of my desktop to others so that they could add gadgets to one of my pages. As always I tried to pick up on questions in text as we went, but also asked for them after the Application Share ended. Finally we did a round up of “take-aways followed by feedback.

Conclusion

This was a fun session from my perspective and seemed to be enjoyed by all. My greatest satisfaction as always is when people have “take aways” that they feel will be useful to them and there were a number of these from this session.

Next Week

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Serendipity” session, one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic of the day. If you want to propose a topic in advance then visit the Serendipity Wallwisher and add your topic. Then join us on Thursday Oct 14th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday Oct 15th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Serendipity webinar overview – Elluminate playtime

Introduction

In our recent recorded Serendipity webinar we “played” with Elluminate. This was the topic chosen after some discussion.

The Session

For this session everyone was given moderator rights.

FeralEllumToonResize

This always gives rise to very “interesting” times with whiteboards whizzing rapidly by as everyone experiemnts with all the extra tools they get as moderators. If rapid image movement unsettles you you might want to keep your eyes closed during some of the recording :). We took a quick skim through some of the main features that moderators use: whiteboard – loading content, moving slides, seeing who has used whiteboard tools to add content; saving whiteboards; polling – publishing the results to the whiteboard; application share – giving and taking control of desktops.

Conclusion

I always enjoy this type of session – they tend to stretch me because everyone is exploring and asking questions. So even with a small group I am sometimes trying to address three or four questions at the same time. However I always also have some concerns that these sessions don’t always work well for participants so I wouldparticularly welcome any comments about that. I have thought about using breakout rooms for these types of sessions and may well try that next time – if anyone has any other ideas about how to run “playtime” sessions in Elluminate without a degree of chaos I would love to hear them.

Next Session

FineFocusSmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This week Ellena Bethea presents the second of our sessions on GoogleDocs  “Using Google Docs to Go Paperless, Collaborate in the Secondary Classroom”. In this interactive session Ellena will focus on using Google Spreadsheets, Google Drawings, and Google Forms to eliminate worksheets in the high school classroom, with an emphasis on high school science. Ellena is a fourth year high school chemistry teacher at a private school in Manhattan. Her focus is finding ways to use technology to enhance inquiry and learning in the classroom. Join us on Thursday Sept 23rd at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday Sept 24th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.