Friday, 21 December 2007

How to recode a course into a mobile accessible html course


At ITM we make courses with different softwares depending on the content we want to get across. In this case the courses were initially made in eXe, with some interactive javascript and html as the technical basis of the course.

The things I think off while recoding an existing course into an html course that is accessible with mobile devices (even cheap ones):

Html editing software: I use dreamweaver at work, but if you are in need for a free and easy one: coffeecup.com or html kit

Resizing images with photoshop or the free and great photo editing software irfanview to an appropriate size (= less than the screen resolution of a cell phone, approx 128 X 160 )

Limited scrolling is ok: in elearning scrolling is to be avoided, but because cell phones only have small screens, I have felt that some scrolling will enable the reader to keep his focus within the page on the cell phone. Otherwise it would become an endless clicking with the risk of getting lost in the course. So although the page content is kept to a minimum, some scrolling will almost always occur. I you feel otherwise, please let me know.

Because there is a clear limit on the visuals that you can use (download and screen size) it is never the less interesting to incorporate clear icons to specific parts of the course (eg. learning objectives, case study, reflection…) this gives the learner a clear image on what she or he can expect on that page.

If you use javascript do remember to mention it within the heading of the html page.

Use W3C standard html to avoid strange browser conversions. You can validate your coding here. (Still need to get the validation going on this course).

To get CSS going, you can work with a WCSS or wap cascading style sheet to give your mobile courses extra layout energy.

There are also other tools I use, which I have mentioned in a previous post (Opera mini, mobile validator…)

If anybody is interested, the course (which is still under construction, did not get around to finish the WCSS before the holidays) is uploaded here.
Feel free to give remarks that will enable me to improve the look and feel.

how the mind works and how it can benefit online courses



How the mind learns about the mind through the internet: by a post in the internettime group and my twitter acount, I learned this today:

Michelle Gallen put me onto a great post on the architecture of the mind. A post from Andy Brice on how the brain works and how a GUI can grab the mind of people. The author makes a great analyses of how memory works and how we can add to the assimilation of ideas.

Ryan Lanham put me on to Deric Bownds' mindblog which is really interesting (Alzheimer runs in my family so anything that sheds a light on keeping the brain in good condition gets my vote).

This immediately links to a book I will read during the holidays: "Made to Stick, why some ideas survive and others die" from Heath and Heath. I hope it will enlighten my mind and give me extra ideas on how to make e-courses more effective with learners.

Which together with the just published and free e-book from the eLearning Guild on eLearning tool tips, will enable me to have a knowledge and fun filled holiday season.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Open Educational Resources Declaration and info


Mark Surman got me focussed on Open Educational Resources (OER) again with his great post on the Cape Town Declaration. The Cape Town Open Education Declaration is document that will be posted on the WWW in the beginning of 2008 and which builds upon other Open Education evolutions such as Free & Open Source Software Portal from Unesco who put their ideas into open education from as early as 1984 onwards.

There are a lot of OER out there, just to list a few:
OER commons;
the European initiative SELF
the olcos project;
The MIT open courseware which I like a lot :-)
a great open source resource for software engineeering: AVOIR;

A great and more international initiative is RAFT, a Swiss initiative that provides distance continual medical education courses from French speaking developing countries to whoever wants to follow them. It is a really huge initiative that has been growing since 2003. The English paper on their research mention the great lessons learned. They also have a blog that keeps everyone updated on coming courses. I like this initiative because it is low resource, supported by a lot of developing countries and there specialists. It feels more grass roots because it comes straight out of the belly of the specialists, so ... I like this approach a lot!

To come back to the Cape Town declaration: I signed it although I have some remarks. I signed it because any idea that strengthens open courses appeals to me and will benefit all.

Nevertheless I hope that a lot of people will respond to the initiative and ask to open it up to more diversity and that they will act upon what the declaration preaches.

Remarks I had while reading the declaration
(what I send to them as well with a few alterations):
Where is the diversity? I was surprised that the initiative did not include more diversity in the platform of people? Change only happens by the people, through the people. Why not use diversity as your trust in developing countries and as trust in the outcomes of true integrated exchange of knowledge. In my opinion you should have over 31% (threshold percentage) of people in the Cape Town Declaration committee from educators from different developing countries to ensure their demands and remarks and needs on Open Educational Courses get heard. For in my opinion especially developing countries will be able to benefit from this kind of approach, so their voice should at least be heard on a scale that has impact (more than 30%).

A second remark: why not open up the declaration to learners around the world to add their remarks to make it stronger? The fact that feedback is possible is already great, it would be nice if this feedback would be open as a public discussion forum.
This way the cape town declaration will act upon the very words they are writing down. Actions not words make a difference and offer trust to the people that are willing to stand behind those very principles.
Of course it will be difficult to sift through all the responses, but as the Swarm theory shows, the group is right so it is worth giving this a try.

And there is one thing that always makes me a bit uncomfortable: if there is a good idea that would benefit a lot of people, than why are names linked to that initiative in the same page as the initiative? You could add names, but not in the declaration itself, this just looks kind of ego-loving. Why not add knowledge to initiatives that are already addressing this issue.

Well, these are my reservations, but if you want more reservations you can read them here. After which one of the people who worked on the declaration replied on his blog. In both statements I found things I agreed and disagreed with. The fact that the discussion is going on emphasizes the strong need to make open educational resources a fact.

I hope more people will react upon this declaration and if you do, please let me know I love to think, discuss and learn.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

edubloggers that make a difference

A great overview of strong bloggers in the educational sphere. Straight out of the keyboard of Stephen Downes: great minds of great people.

Got some of them immediately into my del.icio.us. Yes!

Improve collaborative writing in a team of online learners


Online collaboration can be a pain. As a team you miss the non-verbal language on which communication is built upon for era’s, so you need to provide different instruments that make up for this lack of the usual face-2-face strong holds of communication. Once you need to write collaboratively, the power to express yourself is also limited in the digital realm.

SCoPE just finished a seminar on the topic: online collaboration. A wealth of knowledge was shared with all participants. The fact that SCOPE is an open, online environment enabling eLearning workers from all around to engage in the topics and discussions puts it right into the new direction education is taking: share knowledge in an open environment.

Janet Salmons
from vision2lead was enabling and moderating the discussion and she guided a couple of Elluminate sessions on online collaboration, you can find the links to the elluminate sessions in this wiki . All participants put in a lot of great points of discussion and gave a lot of ideas and solutions. The participant that blew my mind with the most impressive input was Marsha West of Concord.

Quick and brief overview
What can we do to improve collaborative writing in a team of learners?

Key to all collaborative work is TRUST. To enable online trust it is good practice to start with a ‘get to know one another’ moment before starting any online collaboration.
Provide clear guidelines: if anyone joins a collaborative effort, it is crucial that they know what is expected of them and how they should proceed to build a common document.

Nice ways to cope with the ‘feel’ of being part of a group by using simple language tricks:

• Address the whole group in every remark: avoid one-to-one conversations in online discussions. To do this use third person address. Don't say, "Mary, I agree with you . . . " Instead, say "I agree with what Mary has to say about . . . " (And of course build on those ideas as you respond.)
• Gather ideas together from two or three different colleagues within the team, and hold them up for comparison and consideration . . . weaving them together to extend the ideas with your own remarks, suggestions or questions. Thus more people feel involved.
• Ask inquiry level open-ended questions that encourage further exploration of a topic. Avoid making summarizing statements - they tend to be showstoppers (the same with blog posts);
• Always use bits and pieces from the post to which you are responding, so that context is provided for pushing the discussion forward and to make it easier for quick diagonal readers to follow the point you want to make.
• Use EXPRESSIVE writing or colors to emphasize your point or main focus.
• use images that support the thing you want to say (emoticons or stickmen might also enhance comprehension).

We need to make online conversations "feel" and "sound" like face-to-face ones and that feels as if we need to get to know our senses again and start exploring the way we can use them within the digital world.
I have just finished reading the autobiography of Helen Keller because I wanted to know how she coped without having ears or eyes to depend upon in conversation. She switched to tactile reading of her environment. So I am wondering how we can learn to use different senses to get to grips with the ever increasing digital world and the shift in communication?

What about the different language skills that needs to be overcome by an international group of learners or workers? Going through a non-native language like English is great, but it disadvantages a lot of people. Christian Kreutz wrote a nice post on language and the web. I hope the tower of Babel will come to effect real soon enabling all of us to talk in our native tongue.

I wonder, will we ever learn the skills needed to overcome the non-verbal communication set-back within digital communication?
Will the gap towards easier use of non-verbal language be bridged by future techniques that will allow us a f2f feel whenever, wherever?

Friday, 14 December 2007

Jing tool for help or FAQ movies



Today I used Jing to make a help movie. The Jing tool from Techsmith is a very handy, quick tool to make screencaptures. The benefits are: it is free (limited to 5 minute movies), you can share the movie with others or embed it somewhere.

It is amazingly simple. The installation is easy. After the installation a small 'sun' will be put on the desktop. That 'sun' gives you access to the controls of Jing. The controls are simple: capture, history and more. The capture option gives you immediate access to either capturing a movie or a picture.
The history part gives you on overview of the pictures or movies you have made, with the added possibility to share, embed or delete the files.
The 'more' option gives you acces to limited essentials: send feedback, preferences, help and quit. Preferences: you can set up sharing for flickr, ftp, file or immediately get a URL to screencast.com. You can also add a hotkey and select where the launcher (= 'sun') will show on your desktop.

If you want to start capturing a video, you just click on 'capture' and you can immediately select your screensize. After that you click on movie and ... you are on!

So you cannot adjust quality too much, or edit, BUT you can launch it immediately, so it takes you as much time to make a movie as it takes the time to do something. This makes help movies really easy to capture!

To give you an idea of what a movie could look like: the movie.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Looking for a Flash Developer

Feel free to send the proposal to anyone who might be interested to work for an international Institute in Belgium (Antwerpen).



The Institute for Tropical Medicine (ITM) is in search of a Flash developer (w/m) to reinforce the eLearning team.

Profile
- Flash developer: knowledge of ActionScript 2.0 is a must, knowledge of ActionScript 3.0 is a plus;
- Basic knowledge of graphical design is a must;
- Knowledge of instructional design is a plus;
- Knowledge of 3D animations is a plus;
- Good knowledge French (verbally and written) is a requirement;
- Good knowledge English is a plus;
- Inquisitive and a quick learner;
- Good at structuring your own work load in an independent way so in the end the goals of the team are reached;
- Passionate about new web technologies;
- Interested in eLearning.

Function
- developing eLearning courses, focussing on flash components;
- support the design of generic Flash applications for all departments;
- backup for the system administrator in Blackboard (or future LMS);
- reinforce of the graphics department;
- full time.

What we offer:
A nice working environment in which both employees and employers look for a balance between independent work and team consultation to jointly reach the set goals.
A team that knows the importance of freedom to keep up to date with new technologies. As a flash developer the expansion of your knowledge is ensured by the challenges that are presented to you from a research and educational point of view.

Deadline for submissions is not set yet but will be somewhere in the middle of January 2008.

Friday, 7 December 2007

salary and compensation report from eLearning Guild


Yesterday the eLearning Guild came with their latest report on salary and compensations. This got me thinking. My salary is 25% less then the ones in Canada (taxes not deducted) for similar responsibilities and experience. A mind starts wondering... of course people that give out their salary in a public yet anonymous place will probably be exaggerating a bit, but still there is a significant difference.

Now I wonder if this difference in salary is a difference in appreciation for eLearning per country itself, or if it is an immediate result of differences in living costs ...
Work is not everything, of course the freedom to explore and learn comes into the new world equation. For me freedom to learn and explore new areas is the most important factor in deciding on a job or not.

So should I ask for a raise with this report in mind?

Thursday, 6 December 2007

blogphilosophy me, my ego and i


Sometimes my ego bloats and I do not like it. Those are the times I wonder if my blog will be read around the world, I want doors to open if people would hear my name…. I am ashamed of these thoughts, they make me inhuman. I am lucky that my karma immediately gets into action, in those moments of utter delusion I will get doors slammed in my face, proposals will be plummeted, I will get yelled at so loud everyone hears it... Those things bring me back to the essence: ego must be kept to its necessary proportions: very, very tiny.

Ever since I was a child I had fits, fits in which I suddenly thought I was the center of the world (no, the universe!), the power player of the team … Alexandra the Great. I try to avoid stepping into this trap of make believe by keeping the focus outside myself and on the real issues, but sometimes I fail blatantly. Ego stops my learning process. I am a wimp for letting ego get to me.

Situations that can launch my ego are: getting up on a stage, making a presentation or doing something in front of an audience. This in itself is ok. BUT… when people afterwards come to wish me well, my ego will be sitting on my left shoulder ready to grow bigger than the biggest, ugliest toad ever as soon as I let my guard down. Do I like this: NOT AT ALL. I hate it. My ego throws me off balance, makes me blind for potential chances and the thing I dislike the most is that it strips me from my humanity. Ego stops growth. Self-esteem can be ok, but that is were it stops; anything more will just clog up my soul and temper with my own mental growth.

So from time to time I crush my ego, just to keep me on my toes, to keep me within my human boundaries. At those moments I wonder about blogging… is it my ego that pushes me to blog or is it really my mind that wants to open, share, exchange, reflect, learn? Up until now I believe it is a mixture of the will to reflect and exchange ideas. Openness is essential for a good knowledge exchange. Blogging makes me think more indepth about the things I write down, about things I need in my job. So I am thankful to many. I am humbled by the knowledge of others that are willing to share their knowledge with me, to discuss content.

As long as my ego is kept on a small leash, I will keep learning. Learning is good. Being just me is excellent; moments of enlightenment come in small drops, I hope they will grow bigger.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

ego-centered and object-centered networks

Today I came across some great posts on a potential difference between ego-centric and object-centric networks.
A post by Fred Stutzman;
One by Michele Martin;
And one by Uno de Waal.
I will add the ‘trust’ factor into this equation (see below).

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.



Some questions were raised as to what will be the next big thing after the users of ego-centric networks have gotten bored of the ‘hi, I am into…’? There is indeed a significant difference between these networks, because network size does not trump network relevance as Fred suggests. If I want to learn or reflect on my professional knowledge relevance is of the essence. The rest can be changed around according to the needs. Uno de Waal found a possible niche that is still out there, next to Facebook. He suggests an application that is more object/content centered and as thus be more relevant to the users than mere Facebook ‘I am a friend/colleague….’ approach. I digg his idea and conclusion.

The idea that also jumped into my minds eye was this idea of Fred Stutzman:
“However, this 1-2 year lead time will give mobile devices significant time to improve; the iPhone and iPhone clones will be in the hands of hundreds of millions of youth, priming the market for the next phase transition.”
This is a visionary leap, but it might just be right on the money! At least my gut felt right when reading this.

My additional thought is this: what about trust. Online communities are deprived from non-verbal movements that in so many cases make up a lot of the factors that will get you to either trust or distrust someone. There is a certain amount of digital control to the people that are adding to any network, but still trust is essential. Trust gets even more crucial if users would shift from their ego-centered networks towards object-centered networks. In an article I recently read, they concluded that trust level of users relies on the separate social networks that they are members of. This than puts the importance on the ego-centered networks as a means to be trusted as an individual. A strong digital identity comes into the trust as well. Reference article.

So making sure your ego-centered networks look like they are strong, gives you a stronger basis for being seen as a trustworthy person, even if your main networks are object-centered ones.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

What I learned about learning in 2007



Tony Karrer does a round up to see who has learned what in 2007. A great way to rethink (time of the year) what has gone into my mind and has stuck there.

A couple of things I learned were on how to get people into the sociail aspect of elearning;
another thing I invested a lot of time in, was in making up all kinds of reminders for myself. A bit like guidelines, but that sounds so formal.

I got people interested in using the book 'beyond bullet points', which got a lot of scientists redesigning their presentations into real kick-ass ones (including mine, I cheekishly admit). This approach of using a script helped in redesigning courses as well, the courses stuck to the minds of learners because of their high narrative quality;

as a coordinator, I saw that if I could deliver research that was immediately answering some of the question of sceptics, I got them doubting their questions a little bit (hey, any tiny bit helps :-) The one that had good impact was the 'nosignificantdifference.org'. Another idea that got sceptics moving in their chairs was: 'giving students the possibility to teach a part of the content, will increase their knowledge. When do scientists or teachers do their best work? When they have to put their thoughts into papers and articles.';

my attention shifted to the mobile learning area. I learned a lot on this topic by simply jumping in at the deep end. Starting projects, reading up on it, discussing with people and their expertise (thank you John Traxler!)... This resulted in a presentation on mobile projects that I worked on, this was well received. The discussion during and after this presentation got a lot of ideas going and knowledge exchanged.

I learned a lot by jumping into social media: twitter, etcetera, but most by attending online seminars and groups: CLTI, SCOPe and internettime group to name three strong ones.

books (old school ones) helped me as well in building a framework that helps me deliver my message. 'Informal learning' by Jay Cross and 'the seven day weekend' by Ricardo Semler. Both of which are great visionairs for open learning approaches.

Apart from this I learned A LOT by reflecting, both on my blog and in my bed, bath, on the highway, in elevators... discussing and thinking helps in any learning process. The network certainly helps a lot also! Thanks to all of you!!

The most important one: I learned a lot by taking time off. Each week I put time aside for myself. I do not do anything in it and I do not allow anyone to be in that time. This really opened up my mind. It gave me the possibility to refresh everything I learned or read the past days, months, years.

The new thing I am looking at is 'social media for developing regions'. I get some good vibes from the fact that this will enable secluded areas to get their knowledge and experiences out into to the global world (and have an impact on the total knowledge that is out there). But I am still working on that one to get a better idea.

tokbox

Willem Karssenberg put me onto this tool: tokbox
A good review on this tool (in Dutch) can be found here at Pierre Gorissen's blog.

The great thing about tokbox is that you do not have to install anything and you can simply embed this videotool into a lot of social softwares. People can just click on the embedded frame and start videoconferencing. Nice!

You can even send me a videomail if you want to, simply by clicking the 'mail' button underneath. Neet.

Get your own TokBox at www.tokbox.com.

Monday, 3 December 2007

How do you get teachers involved in social media?

This question haunts me, especially because most of the people are not jumping up and down for change. So somehow, somewhere you must be as cunning as the pied piper and luer them into the joy of social media and participative learning.

I am very lucky because ITM has teachers who relish in interactive courses, but as soon as the term ‘IT’ or ‘wiki’ is dropped, their entusiasm melts like snow underneath the sun. So I knew most of the teachers were behind the idea of social media, but were scared of the technical part.

During the last months some tactics have proven to be useful:
- Give open sessions on new media you will be using. Up until now I made those sessions as followed:
° introduction with a fun movie/cartoon/related picture. The introduction is immediately linked to questions I heard them utter around the water cooler;
° each session does not take longer than 20 minutes and is planned on several lunch time moments (different days to cater to as many as possible);
° the session has two parts: a theoretical one and a practical one. The practical part is co-given by a person in the institute that has had some experience with that specific media (hence making it clear that not only computer savy people work with it - personel sometimes sees me as computer savy, thus not capable of knowing what is simple or not)
° a follow up with mails and motivations for the ones that want to dive into this media.

Although there is not always an immediate respons to the open question to do something with the proposed media, I have noticed that after personel has read an article about it or has encountered a peer that was talking about that specific media, they will pick up that tool. So … I guess patience is a good thing.

- teachers will use any kind of technology enhanced teaching (given its userfriendlyness) as long as it has a familiar ring to it (joint documents, open collaborative writing…) I just stopped using the jargon.
- Get everyone involved in the reshaping of the learning environment. Get teachers to express their ideas (in the online collaborative document - ahum wiki right). Incorporate their ideas;
- Ask teachers to help you out with a digital application (really, ask them, they will look for an answer and in the meanwhile get interested);
- Give lots of attention to anyone that is willing to go ahead and try something new (I write it down in the institutes newsletter), others will talk to the ‘pioneers’ and soon ask you (around the water cooler) if they cannot start something similar;
- At any given stage of trying out something new, ask for feedback (not the written one, just ask them while you are adopting an application and write it down yourself);
- Ask teachers to look for tools and send them to you. Even if you know them, if you did not tell it to others, let the teacher that came up with the tool get the credit. This is a definite motivator.
- Bit by bit a community of practice is growing between teachers. For the most part it is still face to face, but some of them get a bit hungry for digital exchange of knowledge.

So it is a long process, but a fruitful one because slowly but surely more people get interested.

but ... sometimes, it just does not work...

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Online Educa Berlin round up

Online Educa Berlin was very interesting. But still, I have some questions on the formula. The approach is rather traditional: people in an auditorium listening to a couple of appointed speakers on a fixed topic. This is not what web2.0 is about. But than again it is safe. I have a definite need to attend an unconference.



A lot of information was put on the web by colleagues in eLearning. So here are a few of them that I picked up
The movie of the keynote of Sugata Mitra by Willem Karssenberg from Trendmatcher. The text is in Dutch, but the movie is in English.



blogs on educa:
Steven Verjans
e-victoree
Keith Russel
Silke Fleischer with some tool links.

Some Dutch blogs:
edublogs.be
Wilfred Rubens

my presentation on vodcasting

Friday afternoon at Online Educa Berlin. I had just finished rearranging my slideshow on vodcasting so that it would include a theoretical framework (a quick one) as well.

My fellow speakers were Christoph Wenk, Swiss Banking Institute, University of Zurich, Switzerland, "From Blended to Mobile Learning - Experiences with Video-Streaming and Vodcasting" and Andreas Groß, Hasso-Plattner -Institute for Software Systems Engineering Potsdam, Germany, "Mobile Learning with the Teleteaching Anywhere Solution Kit (tele-TASK)". This session was moderated by Helle Meldgaard, UNI-C, Denmark. Both Christoph and Andreas focused on the statistical data they had from their videoprojects.



I gave the presentation with enthusiasm, because I really believe in the benefits of vodcasting and the possibilities of web2.0. In my enthusiasm I taped my presentation, but I did not put myself in the camera angle :-) but still, if anyone is interested the audio will probably be understandable as well. The presentation was taped with my laptop and a webcam and the cheapes (free) microphone available. In the beginning of the movie you can still here Christopher Wenk. My part starts at 5.30 minutes in the streaming.



After the presentation I met some great people:
Maria Teresa Salis Gomes from the Instituto Nacional de Administraçao in Portugal. We will get together through skype and talk about the integration of streaming and other video into Blackboard.
Harry Wittenberg from Genentech who was very supportive during the presentation.
Svitlana Shytikova from the Institute for Leadership, Innovations and Development.
Willem Karssenberg from the great Trendmatcher. We will get together on some tools for low resource settings and maybe a mutual interview through one of the tools (keep you posted on the tools).
And Duane Dunfield from Red Hot Learning came to support and discuss as well. Afterwards Duane and I got together to talk about a collaboration on a (mobile) gaming idea.

When I woke up that morning, the skyline I saw from my hotelroom looked like this: