I have come across an exciting website called Wordle. This website has been created by Jonathan Feinberg. He has created a program that will create a "word cloud". A word cloud is a visual arrangement of words. The words can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal or any which way. To see representations of "wordles" you can visit www.wordle.net . There isn't really any educational value in this site, but it is a very cool idea.



Course Management Systems are quickly becoming a standard part of a schools curriculum in higher education. Blackboard is the industry standard for large schools. Other options include Moodle and Sakai. Moodle is very popular due to its open-source nature. It is inexpensive and adaptable to many different applications.

I have had the opportunity to investigate Moodle from both a student' and teacher's point of view. As a student, most of the tools were easy to use. The wiki and the chat function were at times frustrating because they were not consistently stable. The other tools within Moodle like quizes and forums seemed to work fine. From a teacher perspective, the grading within Moodle seems at this point to have a high learning curve. It does offer great customization of weighting and aggregation, but these features are a bit daunting if you have never used them before.


Casting Call

I have been thinking about podcasting lately. How can podcasting best be used in an educational setting. I have heard stories of professors who put podcasts of their lecture notes online and then their students never show up for class. I think that podcasting can and should be more than audio filing. The podcast should enhance or extend the classroom experience in some way. This can be done by posting a discussion idea in the form of a podcast. It might be a presentation of material not covered in the class. It could also serve as an assessment tool either created by the teacher or students. There are many uses for which a podcast can serve.

Blog Anyone?

This is technically my second, but really first experience keeping and writing a blog. I have found it difficult at times to sit down and write, but it has been a good exercise in analysis and synthesis. Blogging does have its uses providing a means of forming and solidifying comprehension. It is a fairly accessible and user-friendly technology. Schools could benefit from incorporating them into their bag of tricks. Blogging would give students the opportunity to react to and talk through whatever topic they are studying. The ability to receive and post feedback make it a great learning tool.

Flipping Video Camera

Yes! It is the Flip camera. I recently got to play with one of these and they are very cool. The one that I had ran on two AA batteries and could capture sixty minutes of standard-definition video. It had a marginal zoom and a fair microphone. The cool thing about this camera is that it has a USB connector that flips out (hmmm...) and allows the user to import directly into a computer. The camera contains software to save and manage the video files contained on the camera. It was very easy to import the captured video into my movie making software.

This has great potential application in many classrooms for documentation of any number of topics. It could be used in a theater class for capturing student projects. It could be used in a science class to document an experiment. The cameras could be used to document a special; event or trip that a class is participating in. The possibilities are almost endless. The user-friendliness of the camera and ease with which the user can upload the video to a computer makes it an even better tool for schools.

Skype 2

I wonder how a technology like Skype would have changed that first online collaborative experience? I have had the opportunity to use Skype with other classes and projects and it works very well. It has many benefits: it is free, it supports, audio/video one-to-one calling, conference calling (audio only), IM (instant messaging) and text chat. In my experience it has been a great collaborative tool providing a cost-effective, stable means of communication. It is very similar to the telephone conference call except it is online. This has the added benefit of being able to work on documents while collaborating with group members making a more efficient use of time.

Online Collaboration 2

There were, however, times of wailing and gnashing of teeth. One of my early experiences with online collaboration involved a group project in which each of the group members were spread across the state. At first we tried using online text chat, and wiki to organize our thoughts, plans and ideas. This took more time than we possessed. The text chat was particularly tedious. Each person had to wait for the other to respond. So much "tone" was missing. Typing is a slower process (more for some than others). We as a group finally abandoned the text chat and began using an older technology - the telephone. All three of us would get on a conference call and work out what we needed to for that time. The audio communication was much more efficient than text chat. We could hear "tone" and say much quicker what we wanted to communicate than we could type it.


Online Collaboration

I was pondering a new-to-me phenomena since I have gone back to school. Up until that time I had known only "cooperative learning" and large group work - all face to face. I have now experienced and come to appreciate online collaboration or collaboration at a distance. There have been times when I did not have the same opinion as I do now. In the earlier stages of learning this new educational format, I did not know which end was up, so to speak. There seemed to be no sense of direction. The physical distance and lack of personal interaction made the task seem that much more daunting.

What I found however is that, given time to steep, the direction and vision for the end product would begin to form and take shape. As the group continued to collaborate, ideas and concepts would begin to make themselves known. It was through the tossing around of thoughts and ideas that we as a collaborative group began to form our own understanding of the topic/task at hand. This made the experience much more meaningful.