Tuesday 28 April 2009

eLearning mash-up follow-up: Articulate presenter and Flash 10 compatibility

Just a quick note: a useful fix for those working with Articulate presenter and are upgrading to the Flash 10 player.
A couple of months ago I wrote a post about a combination of Articulate presenter, Captivate, Camtasia, social media incorporation and a high definition webcam. It was a quick mash-up, but it resulted in a useful combination of tools that simply look cool.

But when the Flash 10 player came along, that presentation no longer loaded in my browser. This was due to a swf file that was not correctly decodable by any of the browsers that used the new Flash 10. Luckily Articulate came up with a solution, the Flash updater for Articulate.
For all of you that are experiencing the same problem (articulate presenter not loading in browser after upgrading to Flash10) a detailed problem solving page was written.
After installing the updater for Flash, I scanned my swf-files build by articulate. This resulted in Internet Explorer 7 working again. After this I only had to erase the cache in Firefox 3 and Opera 9.64 and Safari 4.

Mobile content community: great news Judy Brown has launched a mobile content community

Judy Brown is a pioneer in mobile learning. She has worked on a variety of mobile projects both in the North and in the South. If you ever have the possibility of meeting her in person and see her present her work, take that chance immediately. You will notice that she is not only a very knowledgeable person, but that she is great human being as well. I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2008 about which I wrote a video filled blogpost (yes, I was overdoing the video part, just trying out a new camera at that point).

Together with Tony Karrer, Judy has started to bring together many people who are into mLearning and they have created a Content Community mLearnopedia that gathers all the mobile learning content people are writing about. It is a really great resource to peruse through, so take some time and see for yourself. Her own current interests can be followed on the mLearnopedia blog.

Judy has graciously allowed me to become a participant in the mLearnopedia content community, for which I am very grateful.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Join the free CIDER session on Wednesday 6 May, entitled: Re-Thinking E-Learning Research

All of us eLearning researchers and teachers are invited to the next presentation of free CIDER sessions. The next session features a presentation and discussion with Dr. Norm Friesen, Canada Research Chair in E-Learning Practices at Thompson Rivers University.

Title: Re-Thinking E-Learning Research

In education, novel practices, applications, and forms - from bulletin boards to Webcasts, and from online educational games to open educational resources - have been proliferating rapidly. However, research of these changing forms and practices has gravitated towards the methods and philosophical frameworks used to investigate and design earlier instructional technologies and practices: Technical progress is seen as single-handedly "impacting" education, human action is understood as fundamentally rational and rule-bound, and phenomena like education and communication are understood according to strictly functional models.

In this talk, Dr. Friesen will describe how these understandings have been contradicted by unpredictable developments in technology and practice, and by changes in the theory underpinning research itself. Referring to his 2009 book, "Re-Thinking E-Learning Research: Foundations, Methods and Practices", he will outline ways in which research in distance education and e-learning can be re-thought, to catch up to new theoretical, technical and empirical developments.

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 11am-12pm MDT (Edmonton)
to get your local time, look at the worldclock time converter here.

Where: Online via Elluminate at:

Please make sure your Mac or PC is equipped with a microphone and speakers, so that we can use the Voice over IP functionality built into the web conferencing software. Please note that it is extremely important that you get your system set up prior to the start of the event. Information on installing the necessary software and configuring your PC is available at http://www.elluminate.com/support/ in the "First Time Users" section.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Throw away your powerponits, simply use Prezi

Prezi is rapidly becoming one of the new buzz words on the internet. Prezi enables anyone to quickly build a multimedia rich presentation/visual/mindmap... that offers all the flash dynamics you can wish for. This is not a software for the meek and weary, it is for those of us who like to jump, run, dive and stand out in a crowd.

For me this will be my presentation software of choice for the next couple of months. I have only been trying it out, so I still have to come to terms with the great detail it offers, but it already has blown my mind because it is so easy and looks so sleek, just look at the showcases. Just try it out, you will immediately feel the possibilities it offers. One minor remark: if you type in a link, it takes a bit of time for it to become active.

For eLearning purposes it offers the unique feature of enabling any learner to set out there own learning path. For those who rather put in a learning path, you can easily add it to the Prezi presentation as well. You can really draw the learner in, use different types of media, group the content if it is relevant or leave it to the learner's choice.

Prezi offers quick online tutorials to get started. There are different options, you can either go pro (119 €), go private (39 €) or use the free version (free).

This application was also one of the finalists in the Next Web Rising Sun Startup competition and although it did not win, it certainly got the jury raving. The Next Web conference took place 15, 16, 17 April 2009 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So it is crispy new.

It's groovy, it's now, it's blitzy... yes, it is Prezi (mmm, I suddenly remember why I did not go into copywriting for commercial companies).

This is what I could make in less than an hour.
It works mighty swiftly, this was my first try out: http://prezi.com/38600/

Thursday 9 April 2009

Book: Mobile Communication Studies, edited by James E. Katz

Before jumping into the Easter holidays: another informative book. If you are into communication, culture and mobiles, this book will be a good buy.

The Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies was released by MIT Press in 2008, it covers 485 pages and the book is edited by James E. Katz. ISBN: 9780262113120. The variety of researchers and topics make this into a worthwhile book if you are looking to get a deeper understanding of what mobile roads are being explored right now and all over the world.

Taken from the introduction: "My choice of topics has been guided by the overarching idea that mobile communication has become mainstream even while it remains a subject of fascination in usage configurations and social consequences. As such, the handbook aims at examining the way mobile communication is fitting into and altering social processes in many places around the globe and at many levels within society. In essence, then, it presents a series of analyses of how the reality of being mobile and in communication with distant information and personal resources affects daily life. Of course, with more than a third of all humans in the world operating under such conditions, it is hard to make precise claims that are at once manifestly universal and useful. Yet, as the chapters in this volume demonstrate, there are some remarkably consistent changes in personal routines and social organization as a result of literally putting mobile communication resources into the hands of people.

The contributors show how mobile communication profoundly affects the tempo, structure, and process of daily life. Topics discussed include

  • who is integrated into mobile communication networks and why.

  • how social networks are created and sustained by mobile communication.

  • how mobile communication fits into an array of communication strategies including the Internet and face-to-face.

  • the way traditional forms of social organization are circumvented or reinvented to suit the needs of the increasingly mobile user.

  • how quickly miraculous technologies become ordinary and even necessary.

  • how ordinary technology becomes mysterious, extraordinary, and even miraculous.

  • the symbolic uses of mobile communication beyond mere content.

  • the uses of mobile communication in political organizing and social protest, and in marshaling resources.

The chapters in this volume cut across vast social issues and geographic domains. They highlight both elite and mass users, utilitarian and expressive uses, and political and operational consequences. The chapters also have foci that range from individual to collective issues, and from industrialized to rapidly (or slowly) developing societies. The themes also cut across psychological, sociological, and cultural levels of analysis. At their heart, though, is an enduring theme of how mobile communication has affected the quality of life in both exotic and ordinary settings. Mobile communication is now a mainstream activity in all human activities, and is increasingly sharing if not (yet) predominating life's center stage in both intrusive and subtle ways.

The volume has four main themes, with chapters drawing out each of them. These themes are digital divides and social mobility, sociality and co-presence, politics and social change, and culture and imagination. The book concludes with a few comments by the editor and an afterword by Manuel Castells."

Yes, I am off for a couple of low-connectivity days. Happy Easter to the people that celebrate this possible holiday!

Tuesday 7 April 2009

free eBook on mobile learning just got published by Athabasca University, Canada

Jeroen Van Eeghem from Ghent's eLearning company U&I learning, twittered me this newly published eBook on mobile learning. The eBook is published by the Athabasca University library (2009).

The renowned Mohamed Ally is the editor and the authors that dedicated their knowledge and thoughts are amazing people. I had the pleasure of meeting: Agnes Kukulska Hulme, John Traxler and Marguerite Koole in the past and I can assure you if you have the possibility of talking to them, their knowledge will no-doubt add to yours (really great and knowledgeable people). The other authors are equally impressive (Tom Boyle, Gill Clough, Merryl Ford, Teemu Leinonen, ...) and even when you just roam the eBook chapters, you want to start reading the articles right away.

The book addresses: informal mobile learning (great stuff on which I have a project running with colleagues from Peru, started blogging on that project here), mobile teacher training, advances in mobile learning and different cases ...

Writing an article on how mobile learning devices can bridge DE challenges in developing countries, and this book certainly added to the background of the article.

Solar power for your small and big mobile devices!

While trying out different types of solar panels, I began to like the set of solar panels mentioned below. Just imagine having to go abroad and no longer having to worry about electricity... ah, what bliss!

With solar powered technology you will get all the workspace and electrical independence you need, even in your back garden. This sounds a bit like a sale pitch, so I have to warn you in advance, there are a lot of other solar panels for different equipments out there. I just like the ones below because it caters to a variety of models, is delivered with a wide variety of connectors and it is rather robust, that is all.

SolarGorilla and PowerGorilla
In this day and age the laptop is at the center of your workspace. With the SolarGorilla (137£) you can charge a wide variety of laptops and mobile devices straight from the USB-port. Techies: capacity: 500mAh @ 20V or 5V.
If you want to work all through the night (ahum), you might want to purchase the PowerGorilla (147£) as well, which is a perfect addition to the SolarGorilla. The PowerGorilla is a universal back-up battery that can fuel your laptop when you lack electricity. The PowerGorilla only works with laptops of 16V, 19V or 24V, so check before you buy! Techies: output capacity: 21000 mAh in 5V; 5500 mAh in 19V; 4200 mAh in 24V.

PowerMonkey eXplorer
If the above package is too much and you only need to charge your mobile devices, it suffices to use the PowerMonkey eXplorer (64£). Techies: output current: 700mAh max.

Both solar power packages can also charge your PSP, iPod, Nintendo DS, mp3-players or any USB chargeable device as the packages include different connectors. Power sockets for up to 150 different countries are also included.

How quickly does it charge?
There is no clear answer to that question. The charging time depends on the type of battery of your equipment, the type of sunlight (depending on your local coordinates and the height of the sun), whether you use a lot of Wifi or Bluetooth (this drains any battery) and how you aim your solar panel (depending on the coordinates of the sun, your panel is ideally tilted to maximize the sun’s intensity).

Can you use it less sunny regions, for instance Belgium? Yes, but as mentioned depending on the intensity of the light your charger will work slower or quicker.

Anyway, from now on you can work from your garden, hammock style.Green power rules!

Monday 6 April 2009

My top ten tips for getting started with eLearning:

The eLearning Guild is putting together a list with top tips for starting with eLearning. Anyone who wants to contribute can send their tips to the eZine, maybe our tips will get quoted and published.

It ain’t always easy to dive into eLearning. It always looks much easier than it ease. Although everyone learns most from their mistakes, it does save a lot of money if you keep some tips in the back of your mind.

If you are indeed considering to start with an eLearning project, you might want to demystify some eLearning myths... just read this short list of eLearning myths to get your mind focused before leaping into any project.

Here is my top ten list of things you need to consider when you start with an eLearning project.

1. Try it for yourself and learn: if you have never developed an eLearning course: follow at least one full online course and if possible with a renowned institution or company. There is no substitute for real life experience if it comes to eLearning. While following an online course, keep track of your thoughts, ideas and learning processes. You can start your Personal Learning Environment if you feel up to it. Keeping track of your knowledge at all times will facilitate retrieving your knowledge later on. This will come in handy once you start developing your own courses.

2. Clearly indicate your learning objectives: learning objectives are at the core of the activities of your eLearning course. Any content can be stripped down to its learning objectives. Analyzing your learning objectives will also increase your understanding of what it is you want your learners to achieve. This in its turn will allow you to decide which type of eLearning activity should be developed (educational games for simulations, quizzes to check information assimilation, discussion forums for looking at in-depth understanding or group work…)

3. Develop your own content: try to limit the amount of content that is outsourced. Most of the time content needs to be updated regularly; you will pay too much if you need to ask outsiders to update it for you. If you develop your own course, you will be able to keep it updated. If you do outsource it, ask the outside developers to make the course generic so you can adjust it to your need and possibly reuse it in other courses.

4. Interactivity is crucial: do not limit your project to (multiple choice) quizzes, but see if you can fit in interactions between peers and peer-to-tutor: discussion forums, letting the learner build part of a course, providing knowledge not only information.

5. Use social media: use social media as a means to increase the peer-to-peer and peer-to-tutor interactivity. In this day and age you should implement social media in your new eLearning projects. If you are not accustomed with social media (or web2.0) enroll in a couple of social media applications (Flickr, Friendfeed, blog, twitter…) to feel what it can add to a course. Social media will allow your learners to learn in an informal way, thus adding to there lifelong learning skills as well.

6. Address different learner skills: use text, pictures, video, and audio in your provided eLearning content. By diversifying the content you address different learner types which will increase your learner’s satisfaction.

7. Bite size content for easy updating: in this rapidly evolving era, it is essential that you can keep your content easily updated at all times. Especially if your content is specialized or provides just-in-time learning. Use software that makes it possible to quickly put in new information.

8. Bite size content to keep your learners focused: try to limit scrolling down webpages or multimedia courses that extend 20 minutes in total. Keep your content bits small, this will keep the learner motivated to go on and give them a sense of speed. It is much better to have ten chapters that each take up to 15 minutes to learn than to serve your learners one lengthy 150 minutes piece of content. You want to keep your learners focused, so give them time to breath.

9. Take low resource learners into account: not all learners have access to high speed broadband connectivity. If the technical reality of your learners is very diverse, it is good practice to provide your learners with a CDRom containing the eLearning content and basic plug-in’s needed to open your eLearning content.

10. Test everything in a pilot course: first you test your course on a small group of people you know, than you gather a pilot group of learners that are part of your learner target group. This pilot group of learners will allow you to learn, see if your learning objectives are indeed reached, adjust your material were needed, see whether the student investment time you had in the back of your mind is indeed realistic and … start the real course with the knowledge that it will be a rock solid eLearning course.

Yes, eLearning thrives on creativity and organizational capacities. Looking forward to reading your tips!

(image from http://lals.la.psu.edu/ling001/myths/intro/index.php)

Friday 3 April 2009

Why mobile learning is on the rise and benefits diverse populations

In January 2009 Carly Shuler (a fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center) came out with a fabulous paper on the benefits of mobile learning entitled: pockets of potential - Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning.
Although the document focuses on mobile learning for children, you can easily deduct the benefits for all learner groups. Carly Shuler recently graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation and Education, where she studied how new media and emerging technologies can be used to effectively educate children.

The document is 56 pages so you can read it easily on trolley or bus.
Some of the issues talked about are known to most of us:

1. Encourage “anywhere, anytime” learning Mobile devices allow students to gather, access, and process information outside the classroom. They can encourage learning in a real-world context, and help bridge school, afterschool, and home environments.

2. Reach underserved children Because of their relatively low cost and accessibility in low-income communities, handheld devices can help advance digital equity, reaching and inspiring populations “at the edges” — children from economically disadvantaged communities and those from developing countries.

3. Improve 21st-century social interactions Mobile technologies have the power to promote and foster collaboration and communication, which are deemed essential for 21st-century success.

4. Fit with learning environments Mobile devices can help overcome many of the challenges associated with larger technologies, as they fi t more naturally within various learning environments.

5. Enable a personalized learning experience Not all children are alike; instruction should be adaptable to individual and diverse learners. There are signifi cant opportunities for genuinely supporting differentiated, autonomous, and individualized learning through mobile devices.

But what I found very interesting and useful was the section with the Goals for Mobile Learning. In this section she touches a point on 'Understand mobile learning as a unique element of education reform' which is VERY important in our current educational environment. In many schools mobile devices are banned, and as such young learners do not get the necessary responsibility to enable them to work with this new tool that offers immediate contact to knowledge and content. She dives deeper into this topic in the paragraph 'Engage the public and policymakers in defining the potential of mobile devices for learning'.

If you are into mobile learning or you think about adding mobile learning into your learning environment, this gives a good overview of the issues that are currently being discussed worldwide and the advantages it offers. It also offers great resources.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Big Question: get your innovative eLearning ideas out no matter what others think!

Big question of April launched by Tony Karrer via the Learning Circuits Blog is: stuck/unstuck or how to cope with old-school learning when your head buzzes with new eLearning methods and ideas.

eLearning is fun, great, innovative, wonderful…. up until the moment you meet – most of – the clients (corporate or educational) feedback. While talking with a teacher-centered drilled client, your initial eLearning models and suggestions can be downsized in a way that leave you feeling bewildered.

Creativity can seem weird, unprofessional and irrelevant TO THEM, additionally anything2.0 is unsafe (“sorry we firewall it”) and inefficient in their eyes (“it is just a waste of time”); interactivity is reached by adding (multiple choice) quizzes and at best a discussion forum might be part of the eLearning course you are asked to develop because “that is proven to work throughout time” – read: the past is safe, what has been done works.

Yes, that is the moment you sigh and you want to yell “If only the proven things were worthwhile, than humanity would never have evolved!”

Enter the different stages of being stuck… let me tailor it on my life in the stuck/unstuck roller coaster.

First stage: get all droopy and wonder why I do not go to the Arctic Circle and live of the land (conveniently forgetting the ending of ‘Into the Wild’). It worked in the past, so why would I want to work towards the future anyway?

Second stage: after a night filled with angry cries in the dark; I get out of bed all fired up. And than I remember what Randy Pausch said in his last lecture “The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.“ I have never taken no for an answer! So I look into my reference files: is there any research that I can use to build my case in favor of what I propese as an eLearning project. After that I write down arguments that can be used in future, similar discussions in a face-to-face situation: the military always works with the latest innovations and they need to stay on top (scores very good with conservative minds): blogs in Irak, educational games to increase survival…all have been successfully used by them. Or I have a convivial talk with them about children (yes they already use new technologies, even in primary school) or other regions (Africa is indeed into social media, and they leapfrog the North with their innovative mobile applications, India is getting very competitive with their innovative approaches)… something that might just move the clients frame of thought a bit, because everyone wants to be seen as someone who knows what is happening on a global scale.

Third stage: strategy is always important. So I promise myself I will develop a plan that will include innovation – hey, it is my name on the developed program - but it will be a plan disguised in sheep’s clothing, so not to shock them. Example: don’t call it micro blogging/twitter for learning, but staying on top with all the learners and adding to the much needed team spirit to increase performance as is proven by (any big company or big local university will do: let’s say IBM or Harvard depending on which identity the client has). And if possible pull out your show cases to convince them (be sure to make some show cases they can relate to, meaning do not make everything to flashy).

Possible fourth stage: You do not have a solid showcase for this proposal, time is running out: so you launch a call for help in your informal network. Maybe they have something that proves your point. If necessary I go the hype way: “it is what got Obama elected, it is the new world”.

The – sometimes - fifth stage: the client smells out any innovative initiative I might want to launch or smuggle into the project. I am stuck, there is no way out. If that is the case I will build my own set of learners (free lecture, volunteer for something...) and tryout the ideas I have. If all things are well thought through, chances are the class/lecture in itself will become a promotion for the techniques used. As long as I remember that some people are willing to dive into new learning, I stay hopeful and energetic. Additionally my showcase examples grow.

These are my levels of being stuck. It is my solemn belief that you have to unstuck yourself at all times and at all levels during your life. Life is too valuable to leave it hanging in the hands of others. So build your showcases and promote innovation.

But the best strategy to not get stuck is giving clients the idea they came up with the innovative approach or part of it. Let them get the feeling they put the idea forward. Never be proud, if a person thinks the idea comes from them, they are bound to be more motivated to back it up.