SoftChalk

SoftChalk is an incredibly useful tool for creating dynamic content for deploying on the web, in a Learning Management System, CD-ROM and a myriad of other ways. The best thing about this tool is the ease of use. Essentially if you know how to use a word processor you can use SoftChalk. Although it isn't really fair to compare it to a word processor because it does so much more. It has a large number of interactive activities (like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, flash cards, etc...) that you can quickly add to your document. In addition to the activities you can search across multiple content repositories (YouTube, Flickr, MERLOT, etc...) and quickly insert the content into your document. A good example of the kind of document you can create with SoftChalk is Tacoma Community College's New Student Orientation.

Dropbox

I have been using

Dropbox

for well over a year now, but very early on it became an app that I could not live without. In fact, I believe I had only used the app for a few months before deciding to pay for the upgrade to 50Gb. For those who may not know,

Dropbox

is an app that you can install on multiple computers and mobile devices that synchronizes everything you store in it, across all of those devices and online. This allows you to have every file you need available at your fingertips at anytime.

Dropbox

is now a crucial part of my workflow and highly recommend this app to anyone that needs quick access to files anytime/anywhere.

Emotional Intelligence

We Had a great presentation today on Emotional Intelligence (EI) at the Learning Technology Leadership institute. The two primary characteristics of EI are Personal (understanding oneself) and Social (empathy and political awareness). It made me think about successful projects and collaborations I have had in the past. I may not have been aware of it at the time but these interactions required the ability to traverse various emotional landscapes in very short periods of time. It amazes me how truly complex human interactions really are!

Learning Technology Leadership 2010

I am in Portland, OR for the Learning Technology Leadership Program hosted by EDUCAUSE. I am pretty excited about this professional development opportunity. The readings on leadership were very interesting.

About 10 years ago I started working in the eLearning deparment at Tacoma Community College. That was pretty much at the start of the College's eLearning efforts and our focus was supporting online instruction. It was an exciting time and was a lot of work. As the years went by role in the department changed. In the beginning it was just me and I reported to the Dean of eLearning. Now the eLearning department has a full time staff of 4 and is responsible for eLearning course support, instructional design, multimedia production, computer lab management and classroom scheduling.

I have learned management and leadership techniques from other leaders at the college and from reading/research. I am really looking forward to meeting and learning from other folks in educational leadership positions this week.

Q & A Session with Cable Green

On Tuesday, May 4th, our English 101 class was visited by Cable Green, the eLearning Director for the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. Our class had read his interview with Creative Commons and was introduced to the Open Course Library project the week before. The students were asked to prepare questions for Cable regarding the interview and the project. We used Elluminate to bring Cable into class from his office in Olympia. I walked around the room with a hand held microphone with the panache of Phil Donahue so students could ask their questions. They asked some really great questions about faculty development around technology, open source textbooks and online education. I really enjoyed Cable’s description of a capstone course that helped students develop a PLN so they are connected with peers in their field that will be able to help them get jobs in their future career. This was kind of the concept that Ken Fox and I had when we first started talking about this English 101 class we are teaching now. I also learned something new about Cable too. I have known Cable for a couple of years now, but I had no idea that he wanted to be a spy when he entered college.

Technology and Education

We are at a crossroads with technology and education. Technology enables all of us to have immediate access to information and allows us to connect to virtually anyone in the world. It is important for the student of today to be equipped to navigate these technological landscapes.

It wasn't all that long ago when information dissemination required and expert to deliver it to a novice. Now, with the internet, anyone can find information about virtually anything. It is extremely important that we all learn how to think critically about the wealth of information at our fingertips. It isn't enough that I can "Google" an answer to a question. I need to be able to "Google" and understand if it is a

good

answer to the question. I think that education will need to focus more on teaching students information literacy so they are well equipped to function in this "information overload" society we all live in. In order to do this the technology must be infused with the classroom. All students should have access to the web in classrooms in order for information literacy to become part of the classroom experience.

The ability of technology to connect us to virtually anyone in the world is extremely powerful. If I were a student today I could have connected to people interested in and teaching Anthropology from all over the world to help me build a wonderfully rich Personal Learning Network. The ability to connect and network with others that have similar interests can really benefit a student through their educational career; they could be resources for papers or provide access to a wealth of information. It is important now, more than ever, for students to take advantage of this ability to connect with others to help further their educational goals.

I think this is an incredibly exciting time to be a teacher and a student. The ability to access a wealth of information and connect with a wealth of resources makes me wish I could be a student again. Who knows, maybe I will...it is never too late!

Photo courtesy

brianjmatis

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing, according to Wikipedia “is a neologistic compound of "crowd" and "outsourcing" for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an "open call" to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions.” This act of outsourcing a crowd can be used for many different purposes. The use of crowdsourcing can have both positive and negative effects, but if used in an appropriate way it can be very powerful.

The article “10 examples of how crowdsourcing is changing the world” from The Social Path contained examples of how crowdsourcing can have an extremely postive impact. The author describes 10 different sites that use crowdsourcing to help with a variety of tasks like scientific research, marketing products and assisting with various projects. The crowdsourcing efforts to assist with scientific research are extremely powerful and can have a tremendously positive impact in the world. Harnessing the power of potentially millions of people can help further research much quicker than any supercomputer. This type of work has the capability of saving lives (Fold.it) or helping us all have a greater understanding of the world around us (BioMapping).

The Seattle Times article on the use of Google Wave to assist in the investigations of the Lakewood officer shooting described an interesting use of technology to help solve a problem, but had the potential for some very serious negative repercussions. The amount of real-time information regarding the suspect and crime available to the 500 Wave participants was astounding. Fortunately the participant level was quite low. Once Google Wave, or other tools like it, hits mainstream and is available to anyone this kind of journalism has the potential to lead to some serious problems. People interested in swift justice and prone to vigilantism would have location and suspect information at their fingertips. Criminals could take advantage of areas that are temporarily chaotic because of events relating to another crime and would have information for ideal areas to target. It will become very important for media and law enforcement to use these connecting tools in a responsible manner so that their use doesn’t cause additional harm.

Crowdsourcing has tremendous potential to have a very positive effect on the world. Since these connecting technologies are still relatively new it will take some time and practice to ensure that they are utilized in a responsible manner.

Second Life Presentation in Our Faculty Learning Community

Last Friday our faculty learning community got a tour of Second Life from a couple of campus experts, John Miller (aka JS Vavoom http://jsmillerrn.blogspot.com/) and Monica Monk (aka Athena Naxos http://thenakedavatar.blogspot.com/). It was very interesting to see the various spaces in Second Life that are being utilized by our faculty. There have been a lot of advancements, since my last visit, in the medical modules that John is using on Evergreen Island (http://tiny.cc/SecondLifeEvergreenSBCTC). We also learned about Cypris Isle (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Cypris%20Village/155/100/24) that Monica is using for her ESL courses. This is an English speaking island where students can interact with people all over the world that are interested in learning and speaking English. We also had a brief tour of Bloom’s Taxonomy island (http://slurl.com/secondlife/Teaching%204/208/175/25) hosted by Iowa State University. It was a great trip and I am looking forward to more tours in the future.

Connectivism

The readings this week illustrate the ability to utilize connections for creativity. In the case of “Dancing To Connect To A Global Tribe” Matt Harding physically connected with people during his travels which helped him create a much larger tribe or network. The participants in the “Silk Road Project” leverage their connections to create art and music. I especially liked the use of indigo dye to teach students about the history and use of dyes. “The Mother of All Funk Chords” and “The Butterfly Jig” I thought were good examples of people using technology to connect with others for the purpose of creating a unique musical mashup. Each reading showed different ways that people connect (physically and technologically) in order to create.

Faculty Learning Communities

Last Friday our Faculty Learning Community on Social Media met at the Mandolin Cafe. This was our second get together. Even though we have only had two meetings there have been a lot of great ideas generated and some wonderful conversation. There has been a lot of sharing of experiences, ideas and fears around using technology in instruction. I have to admit that I expected to see some attrition (which happens all too often in meetings) from the first to the second meeting, but the fact is we grew by one!

So far we have discussed Second Life, digital literacy, instant messaging and keeping up with technology in the world of perpetual beta. One instructor shared her blog and wiki on teaching with Second Life in ESL classes.

http://thenakedavatar.blogspot.com

http://thenakedavatar.wikispaces.com

Wake-Up Call

My Auntie G. and Uncle G. were creative when setting up the speed dial on their cell phones. For instance, when they want to call home they just choose "Anybody Home" from their speed dial list. I am also on their speed dial list as "Andy", which puts me just above their home in the list.

Occasionally, at odd hours we will get a call from one of them and depending on who calls and who answers we may get a "Hi honey" or "oops, wrong number" which causes a bit of confusion on our end. This morning we received one of those calls.

After the initial confusing call my Auntie G. called back to let us know that it was her that had called. She was calling Uncle G. to let him know that she saw a funny bumper sticker on a Smartcar. It read "Actual Size". Donna and I got a good laugh and are now anxiously awaiting our next wake-up call. We may be startled when we get the call, but then it ends up putting a smile on our face the rest of the day.

I love my Auntie G. and Uncle G.!

Panama Day 2 - Panama Canal

Today's adventure was a trip through half of the canal. We started out in Gamboa and ended up in the Pacific. We learned a lot about the canal and Panama's future plans for the canal.

They are building a new canal that can accommodate larger boats. This canal will parallel the original canal. Below is a pic of some large equipment working on this new construction. They plan to have the new canal finished in 2014, 100 years after the original canal.

Here are some pix of the first

They use these vehicles on tracks to help move large ships through the locks.

This is the final locks we passed through. The birds in the air have learned that when the fresh water spills out into the salt water the fish all die and then they can just scoop them up.

This is a view of the locks as we head out into the Pacific.

This ship is used to dredge the banks in preparation for the new canal.

This is a picture of the "Bridge of the Americas". Apparently this road can take one all the way to Alaska.

Panama Day 1

Greetings from Panama! I hope to post a bit every day of the trip.

Even though we arrived yesterday, today is our first official day in Panama. The trip here was exhausting and 13 hours long. Everybody was extremely tired.

Today we spent most of the day in the ocean.

Here are some pix of the house where we are staying.

One of the most interesting things I have learned so far is how cashews grow. We have a a cashew tree in the yard and they are growing now (I think it is toward the end of the season though). The nut actually grows beneath a large fruit kind of shaped like an apple.

Netbook Project: Part 1

Over the past few months I have been thinking about purchasing a

netbook

to use as a note taking device at meetings. I had been looking at the

ASUS

and the

Acer

and liked the form factors. Then one day while I was doing some netbook research I stumbled upon this

article

from

jkOnTheRun

and was inspired.

A few years back my department at work had purchased a few of the

HP tc1100

tablet PCs for faculty to use in the classroom. Eventually our campus added tablet PCs to the computer replacement program so as faculty replaced these machines they found their way back into our office. They were still usable machines so we decided to try loading linux on them to see if we could breathe some life back into them. A few people tested them out but they were never really used much and just started gathering dust.

So after reading the article I decided to try a tc1100 as a netbook. I asked our IT department to image the machine with Windows XP Tablet Edition, the HP apps and nothing else. When I got it back in the office I installed

Evernote

and

ritePEN

. My plan is to use Evernote at meetings and sync using wifi so all the notes will be on my main machine right away. I did all this over our break week. I haven't had any meeting yet since this is the first week of the quarter, but plan to document how this all works once I have my first meeting of Spring quarter.

Elluminate in Action

The new Elluminate install for the State of Washington came at a very opportune time. All state agencies were asked to reduce travel because of budget cuts. Several State groups have decided to run their quarterly meetings in Elluminate. It has been working quite well. We just finished our eLearning Council Orienation meeting today and will use it for our Fall eLearning Council meeting tomorrow.