On Saturday, I’m going to TribeCamp.  What’s TribeCamp?  Here’s what the organizers have to say about it:

TribeCamp is a daylong conference with sessions about Web Content Creation, Social Media, Online Marketing, and “Tribes”, which are really professional groups of people with some commonality (think Designers, Entrepreneurs, Marketers, etc…). However, the sessions are just half of the day.

The other major benefit of the day is the numerous connections you’ll make with a sphere of professionals. TribeCamp is a unique experience by LaunchMemphis and LunaWeb designed to foster the community of entrepreneurship in Memphis.

It’s going to be a blast.  Coming off the high of Project Showcase and then going to TribeCamp, it’s like “learning-crack.”  I’m going to be floating all the way to AERA next week.  Wanna go to TribeCamp, too?  I hear you!  There’s still time to get registered.  It’s not expensive, and there’s lots of discounts.  Here’s the link to find out more:

http://www.tribecamp.com/

Image from http://www.dawghousedesignstudio.comLast week, I spoke with students at Clemson University in their graphic communications program about HTML and CSS, content management systems, and how to combine mediums for publishing.  Yesterday, in one of my feeds this video was brought to my attention.  It’s incredibly clever. Apparently, the video was created by Penguin Group for a sales conference and it sort of exploded from there, as mentioned in at paidcontent.org.  At Penguin Group’s blog, though, they explain the inspiration, idea, treatment, and development process, following “The Lost Generation” video.

Disclaimer:  This video was produced by publishers PenguinGroup USA and DK in the UK.

I encourage you to watch the whole thing.  Don’t stop half-way through.  If you do you’ll be disappointed. This video is very thought-provoking and it’s in the vein of Michael Wesch‘s viral The Machine is Us/Using Us.  I can see this video as a sort of mantra or battle cry for publishing as printers and publishers consider digital technologies and the individuals that rely on them.

So, take this video with awe and a grain of wisdom for recognizing it as a small piece of propaganda, too. Enjoy!  Hey, but let me know what you think about the video.  Leave your comments below.  I’d love to heard from you guys!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Weq_sHxghcg[/youtube]

Guest Blogger PostWhen designing and developing an elearning course you will always be incorporating some combination of text, images, audio, and video. There are several important things you need to keep in mind when working with various types of media.

Text

When designing a course, the wording of the text is not the only thing you should consider. The font you choose can have a huge impact on your elearning course. In one of his blog posts, Tom Kuhlmann points out how the typeface you choose sets the tone or mood for a course. It is important to choose a typeface that matches the tone you want your course to have. For example, you wouldn’t use Comic Sans in a course for business professionals. You would probably be better off using something more traditional like Times New Roman.

While you are deciding on which typefaces are just right for your course, also keep Jennifer Farley’s advice in mind and don’t use more than two fonts per design. She recommends choosing two contrasting fonts such as using an elaborate or decorative font for your headings and contrast them with a sans-serif font for the main text.

Also consider the size of the font in your design. Depending on the age of your learners, a font size of 10 might be too small for them to read comfortably. On the other hand if the font is too large it could distract the learner and make the visual design less appealing.

Finally, if you are creating elearning that will be displayed directly in a browser you should only use web safe fonts. In an article about web safe fonts, Chet Garrison says that if you use an exotic font, only the limited users who have the font installed on their computer will actually see the design as you intended. The thirteen fonts that are considered to be web safe are: Georgia, Palatino Linotype, Times New Roman, Arial, Arial Black, Impact, Lucida Sans Unicode, Tahoma, Trebuchet MSVerdana, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, and Lucida Console.

Images

When using images in your elearning course an important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t use images just for decoration. Although, like text, images can be used to set the tone of a course, they should also contribute to the content and learning.

In another blog post, Tom Kuhlman stresses the importance of using images that belong together. You shouldn’t mix photos and clipart or even different styles of photos and clipart within the same course. The images in your course should have a consistent look and feel.

You also need to consider the direction an image flows when you are deciding where to place an image in your course. You can use images to shift a learner’s focus as long as you place the image in the correct place. For example if you have an image of person pointing next to a body of text, make sure that the image is pointing towards the body of text. Chet Garrison has written a great blog post that goes into more details about this concept.

Audio

Just like images, don’t use audio in your course just because you can. You should only use audio if it helps with learning. Tom Kuhlmann talks about how background audio should only be used if it “contributes to an immersive experience” or “creates emotional cues”. Be careful not to use audio that is distracting to the learner.

Another time audio is often used in elearning is for narration. Al Lemieux offers several tips for recording good narration. The tip that I found to be the best, and that most people overlook, is the importance of using a high quality microphone. Using a good external mic instead of the one built into your computer can make your audio sound much more professional.

Video

Video can be a great way to add content to your elearning course, but it can also be really bad if it is not done correctly. One major problem is having a video clip that is too long. Learners can quickly become bored if all they are doing is watching a video. In an article for Learning Solutions Magazine, Jeremy Vest says that the optimal length for a video segment is two to seven minutes long.

In the same article, Vest says another common mistake, especially with screencasts, is not showing the instructor in the video. The learner can quickly become disengaged if they never see anyone on the screen. So, try to add in some shots of the instructor talking when it is appropriate.

I hope these tips will help you as you are designing your own elearning courses. Please feel free to share some of your on tips in the comments.

Guest blogger: Joey Weaver teaches Computer Technology to high school students at Kansas Career & Technology Center in Memphis, TN. He is currently working on a Master’s degree in Instructional Design & Technology at the University of Memphis.

Images courtesy of Daehyun Park, D’Arcy Norman, & Valeriana Solaris at Flikr Creative Commons.

Guest Blogger PostAs I keep walking this path in order to become an Instructional Designer, there are a number of things that I carry with me. Probably, the one that I keep closer and review every now and then is “the media debate”: does a medium influence learning or is it just a mere vehicle for instruction delivery?  The reason why I bring this up is because I have been considering the connection between SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) and learning. Has SCORM anything to do with learning?

If one had to define what SCORM is and does without getting into very technical details, it could be said that SCORM is a combination of a number of related technical standards, guidelines, and specifications that tries to establish a common approach to developing e-learning products (Loidl & Paramythis, 2003; ADL website).  SCORM provides a way to deliver e-learning content and systems in different platforms, environments, and learning management systems (LMSs) (Buendía & Hervás, 2006). It’s recyclable, including, within every course, a description of the elements used so they can be searched later for new course. By doing this, the goal is to make content accessible, interoperable, durable, and reusable (Newman, 2002).

In order to benefit from all this alleged advantages, courses need to be SCORM conformant or compliant. This seems to be a point in which some developers and practitioners start to question the applicability of SCORM across the full spectrum of areas in education, instruction, and training. As Phillip Hutchison says in his blog, “full-blown SCORM is impractical and unreliable.” He supports this statement by pointing out that, although SCORM theorists have provided e-learning developers with a set of guidelines to integrate shareable content objects (SCOs), shareable content by itself is problematic to implement on a wide range of courses unless those courses are developed for the same company, institution, need.  Others point out that SCORM’s seems to focus on massively cataloguing SCOs into repositories but does not do a good job in helping tutors/instructors to adapt content to specific learners (Bohl et al, 2002).

On this same line, there have been voices that have harshly criticized ADL’s initial claim about SCORM being pedagogically neutral and relevant at the same time (Friesen, 2003).  This seems not possible since relevance focuses more on the connection of learner to content and, in order to reach neutrality, standards and specifications need to focus on the connection of delivery system to content .  For these and other reasons, some, like Aaron Silver does in his blog, are already pointing towards a future in which SCORM, though useful and efficient for what it is meant to do, will not eliminate the need for using other tools in combination.

Has SCORM anything to do with learning, then? Well, I believe that, actually, it does.  Using Clark’s well known analogy of the truck that delivers our groceries and its influence in nutrition, a question arises when considering the SCORM initiative: What if the delivery truck only brings items from only one food group? Wouldn’t this influence nutrition? In this same way, since SCORM imposes a series of technical specifications and standards to e-learning course development, isn’t this technology influencing the way instruction works and, ultimately, enforcing a very specific culture of e-learning?

What do you all think?

References

Clark, R.E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459.

Bohl, O., Schellhase, J., Sengler, R., and Winand, U. (2002). The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) – A critical review. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE02), Auckland, New Zealand, 950 – 951. Retrieved on Feb 8, 2003, from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewFile/155/702

Buendia, F. and Hervas, A. (2006, July). An evaluation framework for e-learning platforms based on educational standard specifications, In Proceedings of the Sixth IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies, p.184-186. Retrieved on Feb 8, 2003, from: http://koyama.inf.upv.es/joomla/documentosAEEVA/Proyecto/MULTI2006.pdf

Friesen, N. (2003). Three objections to learning objects. In Mc Greal, R. (ed.), Online education using learning objects. London: Taylor & Francis Books Ltd. Retrieved on Feb 8, 2003, from http://phenom.educ.ualberta.ca/~nfriesen

Loidl, R. and Paramythis, A. (2003). Distance education – a battlefield for standards. In Szücs, A. Wagner, E., and Tsolakidis, C., (Eds.) The quality dialogue. Integrating quality cultures in flexible, distance and elearning; Proceedings of the 2003 EDEN Annual conference, Rhodes, Greece.

Newman, T. (2002, December 6). SCORM in a teacup. Retrieved on Feb 8, 2003, from Training Foundation Web site at http://www.trainingfoundation.com/articles/default.asp?PageID=945

Guest blogger: Federico Gomez works as an associate professor for Christian Brothers University in Memphis, where he teaches Spanish language and literature courses. He has a background in Psychology and Methodology for the Behavioral Sciences, and he is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. His research interests include web-based instruction, non-profit training, open-source technology for education, and constructivist approaches to instruction. He would like to work in non-profit related instruction and community building through instructional design in the future.

Image from dgroth at http://farm1.static.flickr.com/11/14189873_9316c62b9e_o.jpg

Guest Blogger PostA new year is upon us and thus we should take time to examine some of the potential changes that the year 2010 will bring. Examining potential changes is important because technology is in a constant state of change and so are the lives of those involved with instructional technology. Although this blog post will not attempt to take on all the predicted changes in instructional technology for the year 2010, this post will examine three 2010 predictions I agree with and three that I do not.

I Agree With….

At the beginning of this year, staff members and contributors to eLearn Magazine each described some of their predictions for the year 2010. The first prediction that I agreed with was from Stephen Downes who predicts that the demand for online learning will increase from both the private sector and traditional institutions. I agree with this prediction because the current economic crisis and job situation will compel citizens to take on new positions and roles, requiring them to learn new knowledge and skills. I also agree with Mark Notess’ assessment that higher education institutions will make greater movements towards open source solutions. I agree with Mr. Notess because the economy is forcing many higher education institutions to cut costs wherever they can and because open source options are becoming more accepted and understood by the technological community. Finally, I agree with Jim Hendler’s prediction that the technology gap between students and teachers will continue to expand and widen. I agree with Mr. Hendler because student’s technological exposure and experience continues to grow while many teachers technology learning remains stagnant or does not increase at the rate in which new technologies are developed.

I Don’t Agree With…

From the same eLearn Magazine article, I do not agree with Roger Schank’s prediction that mobile e-learning will go away. I believe that as mobile technologies increase, so will opportunities to learn from mobile devices. I believe that just-in-time learning will become a major form of e-learning on mobile devices. I also do not agree with Hend S. Al-Khalifa’s prediction that portable devices like Smart phones and Nintendo DS systems will make their way into traditional classrooms. I do believe that learning opportunities will increase on devices like these; however, to be implemented into the classroom there would need to be more teachers willing to teach using these devices. I do not think that many teachers are ready to make this leap yet. The final prediction I do not agree with comes from Ignatia Webs. I do not agree with the prediction that pedagogy will overtake technologies role as front and center of innovative learning. I believe that pedagogy should become the primary focus of innovative learning, however technology still offers so much motivation and interest that technology will remain in its central role.

Guest blogger: Jeremy Larson is a 7th and 8th grade American History teacher at Grace- St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN. He received his Bachelors degree in Elementary Education (K-8) at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN. While at SCSU, Jeremy also received specialties in Instructional Technology and Social Studies Education. Jeremy is currently working towards his Masters degree in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. He is interested in K-12 technology integration and helping school districts bring technology into the classroom.

Image courtesy of iLounge at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ipodlounger/4310067280/

Image from quartermane at flickr.comAs students (or anyone) Google information on a specific subject, Wikipedia entries are usually at the top of the search, and, the information, is often trusted as fact.

(Even as I Google “Wikipedia Controversy,” the first entry was a Wikipedia entry! It is about a person who was editing on the popular site and wrote that a well-known journalist actually had been a suspect in the assignations of his friends JFK and Robert Kennedy, Jr. The post remained up on Wikipedia for four months, subsequently, tarnishing the journalist’s image-and hurting his feelings–of course. There are many more stories like this, most are quite entertaining.  If you are bored, Google: “Erdosville, Nebraska” or “Shane Fitzgerald”.)

Back to the topic at hand.  There are two conflicting sides to this well-known internet encyclopedia: To trust or not to trust.

Those leading the charge that Wikipedia is not to be trusted believe as John Bambenek (who was listed as a sex offender for over an hour and a half on Wikipedia and was later deleted because he was not ‘notable’ enough). He argues that the people who edit the site, themselves, are untrustworthy, “Business people and executives are generally far too busy to edit. That leaves a small subset of people… generally not experts in what they are editing…”  He goes on to state, “The fact is that Wikipedia is untrustworthy as anything other than a quick place to look to find other sites with reliable information.”  My personal argument is that the editors are unpaid. You get what you pay for.

The nay-sayers’ argument begins and ends the same: anyone and everyone can edit.

Molly Lewis sums up her experience with Wikipedia in song,

[youtube width=”344″ height=”250″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFxWhzJWJ4U[/youtube]

Supporters of the website are just as passionate, though none admitted to being accused of a heinous crime on the popular site. One supporter of Wikipedia, who wrote on Tech Savvy Teachers stated,” all sources (since they were created by people) can have errors and should be evaluated. Wikipedia can (and does) contain errors, but so does the Encyclopedia Britannica and many other sources.” Another positive feature of Wikipedia is that it is easy accessible and readily available in so many languages.

As Michael, from NBC’s The Office, so eloquently and optimistically states:

[youtube width=”344″ height=”250″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFBDn5PiL00[/youtube]

In addition to its supporters, the journal Nature researched and concluded that Wikipedia’s entries are about as dependable as Britannica’s.

Nonetheless, the teacher quoted above also agrees with Bambenek, “Basically my policy (and I believe many other teacher’s) is that Wikipedia is a great source to get basic information, but don’t use it as a cited source.”  Many believe Wikipedia has a place. A starting place.

So, as both sides agree on at least one thing, I believe we shouldn’t have to worry about a Wikipedia World War –of course, we could edit history ourselves and see how long it lasts.

As you decide for yourself to Wikipedia or not, there is one more important aspect to consider. Remember that Britannica charges a $60 a year for online access, given that it has to pay thousands of dollars to edit articles for accuracy, and, since Wikipedia is edited by the masses on a volunteer basis, it is offered free.

However, feel free to donate. They will accept money (in any language).

Guest Blogger: Logan Prevette has been an elementary school teacher for the past seven years working with second and third graders. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina in 2003 and worked in N.C. for five years. She recently moved to Memphis and is currently working on her graduate degree from the University of Memphis in IDT. She plans to stay in education (in some fashion) after the completion of her coursework. She will probably never be deemed notable enough by Wikipedia editors.

Image Courtesy of Technology Review at http://www.technologyreview.com/files/21853/cloud_x220.jpgWell, now you can. Cloud computing has been a popular resource in the scientific research community because of its tremendous computing power. The amazing realm of cloud computing is now being used widely in the education sector. The reasons for its popularity are the ease of management, availability of consolidated resources and infinite computing power.  Before we go any further about the aspects of cloud computing that make it an invaluable resource for education, let us find out what is cloud computing.  As Christopher Dawson points out, it is “lots of computers somewhere (we don’t actually care where) doing lots of processing to deliver services to our desktops via the Internet”.  It provides computer applications to users without the need for them to purchase, install, or support software on their local computers and/or servers.

There are three key features of cloud computing. They provide Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This implies that not only is the software hosted on a remote computer, but data are stored remotely too. These features indicate large financial benefits to educational institutions apart from the high scalability due to its infinite storage capacity and the ability for users to collaborate and access data and applications anytime, anywhere.

Cloud computing, which is touted as the next big thing in education, already has found many takers in the K-12 education sector as well as in higher education. Thomas Bittman from the  Gartner Group voices the opinion of many technology coordinators for K-12 education when he writes “cloud computing will definitely have an impact on enterprise IT – but the impact on our educational system will be astounding”. Professors at UC Berkley used cloud computing, instead of the Berkley-owned infrastructure, as part of an undergraduate course. They found that the students found it easy and faster to work with. Another promoter of cloud computing, William Hurley at InfoWorld, in an open letter to President Obama, has asked “for a government-funded computing cloud for use by all colleges and universities”. According to him, not only will such a move provide wider access to this technology, but it also will “dramatically improve our collaboration and innovation as a nation.”

As with every technology, this one comes with its bag of issues too. Security and reliability pose a big threat as it lies with the cloud provider. As security guru Bruce Schneier accurately articulates, “Be careful who you trust, be careful what you trust them with, and be careful how much you trust them. Outsourcing is the future of computing. Eventually we’ll get this right, but you don’t want to be a casualty along the way.”

Almost all the computing giants offer cloud computing options for educators. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform, Google’s App Engine, IBM’s Cloud Academy and a host of open source computing tools like Sun Microsystems and Nimbus are few of the many options available. So are you ready to take your teaching to the next level?

Guest Blogger: Prashanthi Selvanarayanan is a former web developer at Arizona State University. After completing her Professional Masters in Computational Biosciences, she was involved in developing online assessment and homework delivery systems for higher education. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. She plans to be an e-learning and training developer in the corporate sector.

I’ve had a really great time here at TETC in Nashville.  The sessions on Wednesday went great.  The feedback I received was really positive, and I hope the information was helpful to many of the teachers.  Today, we’re going to be discussing two topics.  The links and topics are below.

W84-The Secrets to Project-based Learning (2:45 – 3:45pm, Ballroom C)

Here is the link to web page with the details about PBL all in one place. I plan to be adding some more pieces here, too, so let me know if you think something is missing.

  1. Secrets to Project-based Learning

Web 2.0 … from the beginning

Here’s the link to the page that contains details about the presentations

  1. Web 2 from the beginning

I recently had a facebook friend post a celebratory post about reaching 400 friends. Of course, comments of congratulations followed this. However, I could not help but wonder how many of the people he would recognize or speak to if he met them on the street?

A recent blog posted by Dion Hinchcliffe lists the twenty-two power laws of the emerging social economy. I found it interesting that number 3 was Dunbar’s Law that states we can only have 150 active connections. With more than 10 social networking options available, I think of people who have more than 150 connections on each network. For example, on my LinkedIn network, I only have four connections with two group memberships.

So, how many connections do I need? Personally, I have 148 friends in Facebook. In September, Wired published an article explaining where you could purchase Facebook and Twitter friends. Most of my connections are personal connections made through education and church settings. However, I did use my friends list recently to distribute a survey for a course. Because of their feedback, I was able to focus the instructional design of my unit.

The Facebook Song seems to summarize the feelings of the growing population of social networkers. With the number of social networking sites and connections increasing, are social interaction skills beginning to suffer? I love the thought of being able to connect with high school friends or college friends. However, when you begin to suffer withdrawl symptoms because of lack of Facebook time, there is a greater problem.

[youtube width=”480″ height=”295″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSnXE2791yg[/youtube]

  • Have you suffered facebook or social networking with drawl?
  • How many social networking connections do you have?
  • How do you use these connections personally and professionally?

Guest blogger:  Jamae Allred is a former preschool teacher of six years. She enjoyed working with children from three to five years old. After completing her Masters of Science in Education in Early Childhood, she taught undergraduate early childhood courses for one year. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in instructional design & technology at the University of Memphis. Her research interests include online education and e-Learning influences in the early childhood arena. She plans to teach in higher education after completing her degree.

Back in July, Tony over at The Learning Circuits blog (connected with ASTD), offered up the “Big Question” of what are the skills elearning professionals need.  In particular, the discussion centered around elearning 2.0, or elearning in light of Web 2.0 and the culture of informal learning and wisdom of crowds. In addition, a number of weeks ago Michael D., a student and colleague, sent me a post about how instructional designers rely less on theories and models (Someone please extract the stake from my heart.).  Instead, they are using rule of thumbs and heuristics, among others.  So, it got me to thinking:  just what do elearning professionals need?

Well, again this week, my course in Technology Tools to Support Learning is focusing on the overview of elearning.  So what I’d like to do is to broaden the questions for novice and expert instructional designers, teachers, trainers, and elearning professionals.  Here’s a few questions for us all to consider.

  1. What are the knowledge and skills that elearning professionals need today?
  2. How much do you see these skills changing in the next 3-5 years or 5-10 years?
  3. What are the expectations for elearning professionals with regard to learning management systems and Web 2.0 (e.g., blogs, wikis, social media, etc.)?

These are some springboard questions for us to jump off from.  I’d really like for you to add in your thoughts, experiences, and understanding of what’s important for a designer/developer.