wbtexpress – free authoring tool for learning content

This is another one for the list to check out in more detail.


The need to find easy-to-use tools for instructors to create content for online consumption is not new; my own personal interest has recently become more acute after working *in* Moodle – where content stays,  in Moodle course format only.

Posted in e-learning, learning, tech notes and tools

tony bates’ take on 2010 higher ed technology

I like this.

If this is the way of the future, frankly I give up. We should just stop trying to use technology in higher education, and give the money to poor kids in Africa to buy themselves something useful.

Read Tony Bates’ post “5 Higher Ed Trends NOT to Watch in 2010”. His comments put the predictions in perspective nicely.


via jclarey on twitter

Posted in e-learning, learning | Tagged , , ,

our job is to help people learn solve problems…

…in the real world.

That’s a quote from Cathy Moore, as seen in this slideshow. Take 10 minutes and watch it. If you’re stuck developing elearning content that requires information dumps (higher education, anyone?) this will inspire you to sneak in some problem-solving activities for long term learning (your secret’s safe with me ;)).

For me, Cathy Moore’s wisdom is right in line with O’Reilly Media’s Head First learning principles, just applied to online learning. Excellent stuff. Higher education does not have to be an information dump. Now to move on with that writing course I was working on…

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firefox, swfobject and zotero not playing well together

Argh. Four steps back, none forward, can we start over today?

Couldn’t get a swf to display in Firefox today. Found out pretty quickly that it had to do with the swfobject code used to embed it. Search search read read argh argh. Some folks with similar probs found out that they had to put the swfobject js code in the head section of the html page. That’s where mine was. Search search read read argh argh. Aha, plugins. Disabled the latest one, zotero. Bingo.

Looks like Firefox 3.5.4 with Zotero 1.0.10 plugin and the swfobject.js do not play well together. Zotero has been sent to sit in the corner.


Thanks to this post for turning the lightbulb on: http://activeden.net/forums/thread/problem-with-swfobject-on-firefox/14944

Posted in flash, actionscript, flex | Tagged , ,

higher education and information dumps

Been thinking lately about the nature of learning at higher ed institutions – and how it effects content development for online courses.

In an “old” episode of a  TWiT, This Week in Tech podcast (from May 31, 2009), they were discussing the shift to new media especially among young people, and how universities haven’t really caught on yet. The whole episode is interesting, but at about 50 minutes in, a comment from Don Trapscott really resonated for me:

…if somebody was frozen a hundred years ago and they miraculously came alive today and they looked around at the professions, a doctor in an operating theatre or a pilot in a jet, they’d think “Wow has the world has ever changed”. And technology has been at the heart of it. While if they walked into a lecture theatre at a typical university or in a classroom, they’d breathe a sigh of relief, they’d say this something I recognize…               transcript

The model has remained basically the same: lecturer up front (or behind the learning management system) pours out knowledge to brains that will hold onto it until they’re tested on it. Information dump. Students are tested on knowledge and how well they retain it, so they develop strategies accordingly.

Then just today I came across a comment from Cathy Moore, author of the blog Making Change – ideas for lively elearning. (It’s also from months ago – what can I say, it’s impossible to really stay up to date.) What Cathy says ties in well with the quote above, I think:

I agree that a lot of instructional design as it’s currently practiced has been influenced by thinkers in higher education. Since in higher ed the goal really is to get knowledge into people’s brains and not necessarily to have them use that knowledge, it makes sense that a lot of the models and theory put knowledge first.

Her comment was on a post about focussing on actions rather than “learning objectives”.  After the first time I read that post I tried to pay more attention to the learning objectives written for content I was developing. Many of the objectives started with the words “know”, or “recognize”, or other similar terms for “get this in the head and hold on to it”. Cathy’s blog emphasizes the action that your learners need to perform (maybe with the help of some missing knowledge) and developing activities that support that active goal.

The question that seems to be lacking in a lot of higher ed offerings: “What do you want to do with that knowledge?”… (besides pass the exam 😉 ).

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group study and note taking in moodle with mediabird

Just came upon a nice little note taking plug-in for moodle. Mediabird allows students to take notes and share them if they want to, as well as publish questions about their notes to others in their study group. They get to form their own group(s), and so don’t depend on instructors, nor are they limited by rigid rules about group activity. The youtube intro is worth a look:

The plug-in needs to be installed at the site level by a moodle administrator, of course. Wonder if system administrators would have any hesitations about security, data protection or other concerns that sys admins are supposed to have (for good reason).

One to keep an eye on…

Via D21-Projektblog at http://www.blog.initiatived21.de/?p=2848 Danke!

Posted in e-learning, learning | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

unitasking is catching on?

photo from dumblittleman.com

It’s not new, but hopefully it’s starting to gather momentum: unitasking. I’ve never been a big fan of multitasking, but somehow I got through the last decade or so of its popularity, one task at a time (ok, mostly one at a time). The article’s title, The Death of Multitasking and Rebirth of Unitasking gives me a bit of hope that continuously interrupted attention will soon be regarded widely for what our brains have long known it to be: a waste of time.

Now off to finish cooking dinner… 😉

Thanks to jclarey on twitter

Posted in e-learning, learning, people, fun | Tagged , ,

how learners experience information dumps

This comic from The Usable Learning Blog provides the perfect, visual, I’d say even visceral, explanation of why information dumps do not work. You can really feel the learner’s reaction.

I especially love how the author/artist Julie Dirksen concludes (emphasis added by me):

You can make them sit through it, but you can’t make them pick it up and carry it around…

Thanks to a tweet from Kathy Sierra.

Posted in e-learning, learning, people, fun | Tagged , ,

learning – and improving – by doing

Want to improve your photography? 

This looks like fun. Work, but fun work. The best kind of work: the kind that gets you motivated by your own progress.

Join Tasra Mar on this photography improvement challenge: each day, make a photo, read a page of the camera manual, and look at pro photos.

Posted in e-learning, learning, people, fun | Tagged

pear note: take notes synced with audio, video or slides

Do you sometimes have trouble understanding your own notes? Miss a point or two in a crucial meeting? I know I do. And I know that I definitely want to check out Pear Note: “A note taking utility” (how unsexy sounding for something so tempting)…

Pear Note records audio and/or video while you take your notes, so later you can find what was being said when you typed something. You can play back an entire recording, or jump straight to the point you need. Watch this short video to get the full picture.

From a learning theory point of view, having to take notes in class is a serious dump o’ cognitive load (yo’ po’ brain is doing double duty trying to understand and trying to record it all for later). So being able to take down the very minimum and know that you can go back and hear critical parts without hunting could be a real relief for students sitting in a lecture hall. Or for anyone sitting in any meeting room.

You can listen better, so you can understand better and participate more effectively.

Pear Notes is only for Macs running Leopard (10.5) with an update for Snow Leopard (10.6) in the works. This might finally get me to update from Tiger. Finally… 🙂

P.S.  Assuming he’s been correctly quoted I can’t help passing on this quip about face-to-face teaching from Open University’s James Fleck:

“[…] It’s a process whereby the notes of the lecturer are transferred to the notes of the student without passing through the brain of either […]”

Posted in e-learning, learning, tech notes and tools