Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year starts off slowly

2008 is here and I have a head cold, and am slogging through essays and assignments on my holiday days off. Sigh...
Anyway, found a good website on technology at BBC Technology . They had a predictions for technology in 2008 section.
I found this thanks Twitter.. again.
The issue with not being able to add or search for new Twitter people to follow has been solved by 3rd party software called Terraminds - it lets you search for names you might know. link to Terraminds.
One of the best ways to add Twitter links though, is if you've found someone interesting check out their Twitter profile page and check all the avatars for all the people they are following. By clicking the chosen avatar image you will be taken to that profile page and can easily click "Follow", or not.
That's how I found the BBC technology site. It now sends me regular tweets about new tech articles.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

More thoughts on using Moodle for EFL classes in a Korean university

Having spoken now to various teachers about online systems for university EFL postings I am leaning towards Moodle because it is a Course Management System rather than just a bulletin board, or a Content Management System like Joomla or TikiWiki.

I think that Wikis are too technically difficult for EFL students to use at less than advanced level - considering how much difficulty most native-English speaking, computer-literate students in FET 8611 are still having with kG use, I wouldn't consider this for use in Korea.

However, it seems that Moodle is coming up as a good candidate as I have spoken to 3 English teachers who use it successfully with Korean university students. There are no sign up problems reported like the awful mess I had with phpBB, and it is secure and reasonably stable. The only problem I have heard reported about Moodle was the board content suddenly disappeared mid -semester, and was only re-instated after the adminstrator updated to the latest version of Moodle. Something to watch out for, I guess. Also I heard that there is a steep learning curve to set it up for courses, but once it's up and running it's pretty easy to maintain.

So now that I am sure Moodle is free and suitable for use with Korean university students I feel more confident to go ahead and explore its application. I will have to change my Assignment 2 proposal though...and ditch phpBB. There's no point in putting any more energy into an insecure, redundant system that I have no intention of using again for classes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

FET 8611 - Where is everyone?

Well, after the initial flurry of cyber activity in FET8611, everyone seems to have gone to ground.
My thinking is that there are so many disparate elements - personal blog, many kG pages, and multiple forums on the Moodle course environment that it is difficult to know where to post stuff to get a response. I was wanting some feedback on the talking heads animation stuff and maybe finding a partner or 2 to test out the effectiveness of email contributions (ie. starting an animated show and then emailing it to a friend for them to add more dialogue and so on) but there is just no response.
The SHOUTBOX on kG seems a dead loss mostly, and the kG pages don't seem to be updated by their facilitators often enough to get questions answered on the topics.

I am experiencing problems with Twitter and I have had no answer from the other Twitter users, despite direct questions on Twitter, kG SHOUTBOX, the kG Twitter wiki page, or even from Twitter management!
Very frustrating...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm wondering where this kind of talking head animation would fit into educational settings? I used a Comedy Central comedian animation powered by OddCast in my conversation class last year to deliver messages to my Korean EFL students, and I encouraged the students to use it themselves - although I think they found the technical instructions a bit too complicated.
Given the huge popularity of video computer games and the fact that even movies now, like Boerwolf, are being made to look like computer games, maybe this would be a good way of reaching children & teens who are resisitant to normal text-book based learning environments.
Here is a site that allows users to make their own animated Tv shows;
Jaduka TV

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A new CMS - Joomla

Just discovered a new CMS (content management system). Joomla
Thanks again to Twitter.
I wonder how it compares to Moodle? It seems a little more colorful and easy on the eye at first glance, and it purports to be extremely easy to set up and use.

here's a school website made in Joomla (Thanks to Mrs-Banjer on Twitter):

Friday, December 14, 2007

Considering Moodle for Assignment 2

After thinking a lot about the shortcomings of using a public community board like phpBB for university class use, I am now considering using Moodle, mainly because it is secure. I can give the students a one-time initial invitee password to get in and we can set up classrooms etc. This would totally circumvent all the unwanted outsiders dropping in with their pornography, and gambling links, spam etc.

One of the the new teachers at my university in korea -( who incidentally is just completing his M.Ed at USQ too, but didn't do FET8611, only the Internet-based langauge learning courses) - has just shown me his student site. I will check out what he is doing.
I actually thought that Moodle cost money _ I guess I assumed that a big university like USQ wouldn't be using a free piece of software for academic courses...
So I hadn't considered it for personal use a teacher.
But yes, it's free...
Welcome to Moodle!
"Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. You can download and use it on any computer you have handy (including webhosts), yet it can scale from a single-teacher site to a University with 200,000 students".

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thoughts on Assignment 2 - using online forums for Korean EFL classes

After, thinking about Peter's comments on my legal liability of using public forums as a university peripheral course activity I have decided that phpBB is not a very good choice for student postings.
This semester we did have problems with outsiders posting pornography or gambling links, or dating messages on the class boards. As I don't have administrator priviledges this is hard to control. Also I noticed that one of the female students had listed her interests in her personal profile as " pleasing my lover". Uh, oh...

I will have to change my Assignment 2 plan to explore better options of more secure online class activities. I wonder how to create a closed discussion room for only the class members?

Also Peter commented that my use of the discussion forums did not allow for the students to have much control or sense of ownership of the space, but I think in Korean educational culture that is normal. Students don't know how to be self-directed learners, as it's not part of the culture. They have had 20 years of passive rote learning by the time I get them, and they are generally not very motivated students. They think university is meant to be a holiday after the grind of their high school years (they are not allowed to sleep more than 4 hours a night for the last 2 years of their schooling) , and so they expect the university lecturers just to spoon feed them the information. Students in my English composition class complained that I had made them actually write every lesson in a student-centered class!

I think maybe a blog might be more useful for them than a discussion board as they are familiar with making a homepage on Cyworld to post photos etc.
I will have to give it more thought.

problems with Twitter

what has happened to the search function on Twitter?
I only seem to be able to follow people now by sending them an email invitation - that's if I know their email address, which I don't.
I was really getting into Twitter, and discovering some useful Ed TEch people to follow , but now I can't add them to follow as I don't know their email address, only their User name.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Twitter is useful

I looked at the public postings on Twitter today and found a good blog about integrating technology into education by a guy called Glen Moses

He had embeded this thought provoking video:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Plodding on ...

Feeling a little overwhelmed with all the emerging technology. Even the next FET8611 online class discussion was said to be held in 'Wimba". Where or what the *#@! is Wimba? I haven't even got used to Elluminate yet. I wish people (course instructors especially) wouldn't just throw around jargon like that when most of the students probably have no idea what it means. This aspect of the course I find really alienating - many of us don't know the software or the terms and so end up feeling stupid and 'out of the loop'.
Oh yeah, we can Google everything, or open kG and search around but it's tiring having to always do that. I did go to the kG class session sign up Wiki page but under the heading of 'Familiarity with Wimba' was just a blank. It took me a long while to work out that there is a section on the FET8611 course page for the group sessions. There are just so many different cyber places in this course it is very disorientating and confusing.
It would be so easy if the instructor just said, "by the way we will use a new online conferencing system this time. It is called Wimba, and instructions and information about it is here (LINK).It's really easy to use and very similar to Elluminate. We are using Wimba because I want you to have a chance to try out some different software."
Is that too much to ask?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Light at the end of the tunnel...

I had to take a couple days off from the contant barrage of information created by the course, and focus on my university work and preparation for my students' final exams.
Getting that distance was good as I have had some "assimilation" time now for all the jargon, course requirements etc to sink in. I feel like i made a breakthrough today and actually signed up for Twitter and got a 'TwitterPost' widget for my Mac desktop, so I could meaningfully contribute to the kG Twitter wikipage.
I realised that although I had great intentions when I set up the "Exploring Online Virtual Environments" wikipage, I am not actually going to have time to seriously get into using Second Life at this point.However, the page has taken off of it's own accord so that is the main thing.
I also upated my Userpage by getting a better layout ( I actually just copied the code from another student's page that I liked the look of - as I'm sure that student had done herself....) So now I can easily add a record of my course assignment progess to my Userpage.
I find the standard templates provided in kG are not very useful. Maybe it would be better if the templates were updated to something actually useful for students...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More on kG functionality

I guess the best way for me to analyse the shortcomings of the kG environment is to run one of the web design checklists on it, and pinpoint the weaknesses.
One thing I noticed yesterday was how poor the search function is - i wanted to give a link to a kG wiki page but I couldn't find it again. I tried searching for the name of the creator, (too many pages) and then what I thought the title was (too many similar titles) and just got nowhere. I couldn't find it using the history button on Safari (too many pages and not sure what day), and finally I luckily just happened to remember the name of the section where I had located it the first time...and eventually found it again.
Guess i'll just have to bookmark anything interesting I come across in future...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More on Wikis

"What is a Wiki?
Wikis are growing because, at their core, they are about as simple as can be. That simplicity means that people find them easy to use, just like e-mail and blogs."

from How Stuff Works

So why is knowledge Garden so difficult to use? This is really bugging me now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The mud thickens...

hmmm, now that I know what the Tiki is the much touted TikiWiki "content management system" of the USQ knowledgeGarden wiki, (sounds like a tongue twister) I am even less impressed with it's poor navigation.
Their slogan seems like a bad joke: "TikiWiki CMS/Groupware -- Whatever you're looking for, Tiki's got it."

I have never been so disorientated in cyberspace, and so unable to find anything easily.
I cannot form a picture in my mind of how all the elements of the system logically link together, and even after hours of trying I am still getting lost.
I think that when an online learning environment has highly computer-literate people like myself still getting lost and frustrated after more than a week of constant use (and I'm talking hours every day), the design and architecture has serious problems. I am very disappointed with FET8611, as I was hoping that this CMS would be something I could actually use with my own university students, but I wouldn't inflict this system on anyone I liked , let alone anyone I wanted to educate.

HOWEVER... I am wondering if the main problem is simply how congested and cluttered the USQ kG environment is, because there are so many different courses all on the one site, OR if the page layout that has been chosen is particularly poor. I am looking at other TIKIWIKI sites to see if they are as difficult to use.
Other TIKIWIKI-based sites seem clean and user
Here is a TIKIWIKI_based university course page on a similar theme to kG that seems less cluttered and a bit more User-friendly (you can click on the pic to get a larger, high resolution view):
Matt Barton's TikiWiki

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tikis & Wikis...Clear as mud...

Well, had another go at setting up my knowledge Garden User page today. I opened Peter's instruction page and tried to follow directions, but I just kept flipping backwards and forwards between the User Page and his instructions and getting no-where. The problem seems to be that I don't really understand the purpose of the User page and it is just so NON-intuitive to navigate. (Obviously not designed by a Mac user...)

I ended up searching out a past student's Userpage (thankyou Penny Gardner) and starting to just copy what she had done. But somehow just copying something doesn't seem to make the exercise meaningful or useful.
Anyway, I ended up also adding myself (name and avatar) to a couple of other kG pages like the FET8611 wiki page and the Members-Where I live page.
To be honest I had never heard of a Tiki before this course outside of the context of one of those ugly little New Zealand face thingys, and I still don't know what it is in terms of technology jargon. Guess I'll have to Google it -
American Heritage® Dictionary: Description of tiki
NOUN: 1. Tiki Mythology A male figure in Polynesian myth, sometimes identified as the first man.
Oh dear, not getting very far.... it's going to another 50 hour a week course at this rate....

Tried Googling 'Tiki Wiki'
- getting closer....

Learn More About Tiki

Tiki is a free (LGPL), full-featured Content Management System (CMS) that uses:

With Tiki, you can create online applications, web sites, portals, intra/extranets, and just about anything else. Tiki has all of the features you want (wikis, blogs, surveys, forums, maps, and more) in a tightly integrated package. Simply pick and choose the features for your site.
Apparently you can customise them - they don't have to be all boring white & blue like knowledge Garden. Here's a screenshot of a featured Tiki site: Netineo

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The journey begins....

Well, I've finally got a blog set up for the course. I initially tried to set up a blog on Live Journal just to explore a different site, but it seemed to be slow and buggy and I wasted SO much time and still couldn't even get a title up for the blog.
I don't know whether they just don't cater for Mac users or what, but they didn't have a very good FAQ page and I couldn't find out!. Also you have to put up with ads everytime you write a new, I wouldn't recommend LiveJournal for serious bloggers as it seems to be more for chat communities and finding friends.

So I'm back home to where things generally DO work and the environment is very easy to use. I wish I could say the same for knowledgeGarden! Oh dear... the User page set up is the most non-intuitive, hard to use environment I've ever come across.
It started with clicking on the the Google map to insert my location. I kept putting the pointer on my location and clicking save, but the page would come up showing me in the middle of the ocean! but there seemed to be no way to then get back to the User page at knowledge Garden to insert the latitude and Longitude co-ordinates anyway...So I just got a pencil and paper and wrote down my co-ordinates, and called it a day. I'm still not really sure what the User page is actually for, but I think it should be re-named the "User unfriendly page"...