Connected Courses

Connected Courses new MOOC about MOOCs without using the word MOOC is about to start on September 15. The line-up of speakers and leaders is outstanding. Jim Groom, Alan Levine, and Howard Rheingold are getting people set up for the class now. This entails getting your blog linked to the course. Most of the content is created on individual blogs and aggregated at the site. To participate you write blog posts after reading and discussing with other members.

CC2014Week 1 starts off with speakers like Cathy Davidson, Mike Wesch and Randy Bass. And goes on from there with top people in the field.

The University of California Irvine has sponsored this 12-week course about how to make open courses, and more important, why open courses are going to change education. This looks like the best prepared course of its kind I have seen, but will keep you updated on the content. But I do recommend this to anyone interested in developing online open courses in the future.

Converting text from analogue to digital using OCR


Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is used in the process of digitizing paper based text.

In trying to keep up with the digital age, there are many solutions for those seeking to go paperless, or at least looking for more options concerning how to utilize resources. Converting static analogue texts over to digital documents allows for these resources to be manipulated, altered, stored and distributed in a variety of new ways (Of course, we must be careful not to infringe on someone’s copyright).

OCR technology has been around for a while. There are many options for those with big budgets for this sort of thing. Thankfully there are also some options for the non corporate-financed.

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Fitness and Social Learning

I have been interested in the Quantified Self for about 3 years now, measuring whatever could be measured in an effort to see how I can improve it. One of the most common things to measure is how many steps you take, using a pedometer. I bought a fancy pedometer that also measures how much you toss and turn at night. Then I got three friends to buy the same thing.

I found that we spurred each other on, in a friendly competition. This social aspect is exploited in many online games, but not enough learning websites.

Garmin Vivosmart, if you must know

Garmin Vivosmart, if you must know

My tracker broke, and I have been shopping for a new one. Just pre-ordered a brand new one with many more features (measures my cycling too, works as a wristwatch, is water resistant, and measures my heart rate). It even helps me find my lost smartphone.

I agonized over this decision until I found that through an intermediary web site, I could swap data with my friends and their “old” trackers. Now I will be able to have the best of both worlds.

Mozilla’s Open Badges could be considered like that intermediary website, providing a standard that can cross platforms. I can’t think of many others. Is there a place where Moodle and Blackboard and Sakai users can measure themselves against each other? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Team teaching with a video camera


Frank on the right, Yin Lai Mon in the center. Teaching together

I spent the last month leading training sessions with a partner. Some would call this team teaching. We would plan ahead and decide who was going to do what, and when that was going to happen. Most times we had different ideas about how to approach the training, so we would give our own interpretation and try to complement the other’s. This worked after a fashion. With more lead time we could have prepared a more coordinated effort.

But the biggest benefit was to see how my partner pulled off what I thought was a ridiculous series of activities in the pursuit of an irrelevant goal. After dispensing with my built-in critical ideas and prejudices, I found that there was definitely more than one way to get to the goal.

We would sit down after class and Continue reading

Bonk and Dogme

teaching-unpluggedI have used Teaching Unplugged as a template for class activities since publication in 2009. Based on the ideas of dogme school of language teaching (if you can call it a school), Unplugged stresses emergent language built into conversation driven classes that are materials light. Teachers develop skills to measure needs and develop materials from those student needs using a set of templates of activities, adapting those to the language at hand. The set of activities in Teaching Unplugged works anywhere, with any group. They are easily grasped and motivate students much more than a textbook. The materials light part is the one I still cannot reconcile with my teaching style. Most dogme teachers eschew technology as well as textbooks, but I think it can augment the emergent language.

Bonk_TECVARIETYCurtis Bonk is well known as an evangelist and influential mover in Instructional Design. He has written a new book with Elaine Khoo, available free online, of 100 activities to increase motivation in online classes. TEC-Variety is a list of ten principles for online learning and instructional design. The 100 activities serve as templates to customize for your online classes, all intended to increase motivation.

There are a number of remarkable similarities between these books, even though they are for very different audiences. Both back up theory with practical suggestions, and make it easy to implement them with quality suggestions. Curiously, Dogme language learning also has ten principles, but they are very different from those of Bonk and TEC-Variety. I see many parallels in these two books, and would recommend both. I am going to use both this upcoming semester.

Smartphone documentaries in the language classroom?

Norwegian alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal being interviewed with an iPhone

Smartphones are playing a larger and larger role in media coverage, in some cases functioning where traditional technology has failed. The serendipitous interview above, for instance, was conducted by a journalist during the Sochi Winter Olympics–using only his iPhone.

So, how about student use?

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