Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Elluminate didn't shine last night!

I forgot to write about my Workgroup's chat session last night. I was so organized in that I booked the free Elluminate room and sent the invitations out to Joyce and Nathalie in lots of time. I opened the room at 7 pm to ensure it was in good working order and then returned at 9:50 pm only to see that the connection had timed out so I had to log back in.
When 10 pm my time arrived, it didn't work for us!! It was loading very slowly for Joyce and when she did get on, her audio was all crackly. Nathalie didn't have speakers, a microphone or a webcam so we wouldn't have been able to hear her anyway. And I must've sent the moderator's link instead of the participants link to everyone, so when they logged on in Vancouver and New Zealand, there were three of me logged on as participants! It was too ironic - here we are all studying 'emerging technology' and we couldn't use it or rather, it didnt' work for us! So we decided to go with MSN! It was great that we could all type quickly and the meeting went well. I initially thought we wouldn't have a very good meeting if we were using MSN and typing on the keyboard instead of hearing and seeing each other. However, when I asked Joyce and Nathalie how they felt about it at the end, they said it was just fine and it didn't matter that we didn't have an Elluminate session after all.

So much technology out there!

Just spent an amazing day at home using and reading about technology. I only wish my students were as excited about discovering new things on their own as I am. Today I started research on TextAloud, a software that converts text into audio. I am participating in a masters research project for a colleague at USQ. I'm very impressed with the way Jennifer has organized her project. Last week she emailed a welcome letter with my log-in instructions. She is using the EDNA website and I am Number 8 in the Technology Users group (reminds me of The Prisoner!). There are six exercises that focus on a different feature of TextAloud. Since I'm using the 14 day free trial version, I couldn't change the R2D2 default voice (his name is Sam) to a more sophisticated natural voice which can be downloaded with the fully- paid version. I can definitely see advantages to this software. It takes a complete article on the web and saves it into a sound clip at the click of a mouse! Also you can edit the parts of the web page by deleting the extra frames and navigational words before saving it. TextAloud will then only read the article, and none of the non-important text.

Later in the day I tackled Wiki markup/markdown as I've been curious as to why it's so different from xhtml . I've been wrestling with wiki language ever since Day 1 of the course when I tried to set up my userpage in Knowledge Garden. Armed with new knowledge about Wiki markup and the fact that Wiki language is not the same for all Wiki software (so anticipate another learning curve in the future) , I contributed to the Wiki for Dummies page in Knowledge Garden, which I need to do to get brownie points for Assignment 1. I wouldn't have imagined I could contribute anything to a wiki page last week, but now I just type in those symbols *(^_= !{] from memory, thanks to Peter and others who came to my rescue. I even made my own facilitated page which is about social networking software.

The last thing I want to write about is Twitter. Really - it grows on you. That's where I've learned so much about new stuff . Twitter is like a name dropper - like going to a cocktail party every night and mingling with the elite! I learned how to add twitter4me to my Skype contacts so that the next time I write a chat message to twitter4skype, the entry will appear on my account and hopefully I'll receive my friends’ twitters in Skype. But the last thing I did tonight is tweet my friends. I clicked the twit this button on the blog I was reading, and it transformed the URL into a tinyurl and miraculously pasted it into the Updates box on my twitter page which I've shared with all my followers. I have a new follower - Chris of Betchablog. I don't think he realizes I'm a newbie at all of this stuff! But as my friend Laurie would say: "It's all so wonderful!" Good night.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spoiled Already by Technology!

Being part of this course is addictive - I went to sleep at 2 am last night and was up at 6 am - couldn't wait to get to work so I could MSN with Peter about Elluminate. In my dreams it came to me that Joyce, Nathalie and I wouldn't be able to see and hear each other if we met tonight using Windows Messenger. That's what I have become accustomed to when I meet online now. I use the videocam feature in Windows Live Messenger every night with my friend in Al Ain. Peter referred me to the Elluminate website where I booked a free room for three participants. I waited for the confirmation email from Elluminate, clicked on the link for my private room and invited my two friends. Awesome stuff!

Time Zones

This morning I was chatting on Windows Live Messenger with my colleague Joyce, from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. It is quite amazing to wake up at 6 am, log on to a computer and actually 'talk' to someone over my laptop before my first cup of coffee. It was midnight Joyce's time and we had a quit chat about our Wiki page. How amazing! We decided it was time to arrange a meeting with the third member of our group, Nathalie, from Vancouver, BC. It can all be easily arranged using the World Clock. We had a lovely snow fall today and the Christmas lights at the neighbour's house look so beautiful through the snow.

Twitter, Tweet, Nudge!

I've just spent a very long time looking at Twitter. What is it - another social networking software. Do I like it - at first blush, not really. It seems to be big on interfacing with mobile devices and alas, I don't own one so I can't really experiment. In a nutshell, when you log on, you send 'updates' or 'tweets' of 140 characters or less to your 'followers'. I let my profile roam free over the twitter site and have picked up a mysterious follower. That is one aspect that instantly does not appeal to me. But for avid social networkers, this software has great possibilities. You can grow a network of friends who know friends who know friends - you can have your 'tweets' become part of your blog automatically.
When Chris, of Betchablog was first introduced to Twitter, he was a non-believer just as I am. But he's changed his mind now Why? Well in his words " What does make perfect sense is what Twitter suddenly enables. I have a network of 63 people, comprised mostly of some of the world’s most innovative educators. 63 people to bounce ideas off, share links with, get advice from. 63 people who are willing to share a little insight into how they think and what they do. 63 people all stumbling across new cool web tools and willingly sharing them. 63 people to tap into when I need to gather a crowd to try an idea, find a partner to test a technology, or simply have a whine about my day. I know it sounds bizarre, but it works, and its awesome." I'm not sure I'll change my mind just yet. If I understand correctly, the 'tweets' from friends would be an interruption, an inconvenience to me. I have difficulty enough keeping up with my emails and blogging, let alone receiving tweets from everyone throughout the day! But take a look for yourself at Twitter and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Elluminate - Session 2

Another early morning for me as I participated in our second Elluminate session at 5 am!! It was nice to meet colleagues from all over the world. Using Elluminate with voice and webcam makes you feel you're in the same room with everyone. The only thing missing are the handshake and refreshments! Interesting to note that a few of us were 'disconnected' from the session for some reason, however, it was easy to log back in. There were some audio problems causing a lot of echoing, but hopefully that will be worked out soon. Although it is suggested we use a headset with microphone, I used a headset but spoke in the microphone that comes with my laptop, and didn't have a problem with echo. It's important to remember to change the audio preferences to mute the speaker when talking.

Tonight, taking Penelope's suggestion, I edited the video that's a few posts down, in Windows Movie Maker. Because the video can't be seen in Full Screen, I added text to explain each frame since they are so small. Hope it makes the video more useful.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Add to the Glossary

Today I was reading through some posts, which led to some links, which led to some other links, and before I knew it, three hours was gone! I am so new and unfamiliar with many terms and thought I'd start a glossary of words I'm learning since this journals my learning through FET8611 at USQ. Please feel free to add new words, correct definitions or expand on my understanding of these words.
  1. M-learning - refers to mobile learning, i.e. using mobile phones and other mobile devices. That is so relevant here in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario since this is the home of RIM (Research in Motion) , developers of the Blackberry wireless communication platform. M-learning would certainly work well in the UAE where I lived for 7 years, because everyone owns at least one mobile. I'm finding here in North America, users need to sign contracts for different billing plans, and accordingly, everyone does not have a mobile. In the UAE, it didn't cost anything to accept a call. Here, unless it's in the evening or weekends, you are charged from 20 cents a minute or more. Back in the UAE, I couldn't imagine living without one, but here - I'm managing without one. If I were to send lessons to my students here, I'm sure they wouldn't be happy having to pay for it!

  2. Open Source - Moodle is an open source learning management system. I think thie term 'open source' is too technical for me to understand but I know that because Moodle is 'open source', our college decided not to adapt it. "Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in." (Open Source Initiative) Open Source has something to do with access to the source code. If your software is labelled open source, it must have a licence from OSI, otherwise, as Michael Tiemann, president of OSI states - call it something else as Microsoft did with their Shared Source software.

  3. Blog - a live journal, a web log, but so much more. Unlike a handwritten diary that is under lock and key, readers can add comments and get a feel of who the blogger is through the shared links, images, style of writing, content of posts, etc. Did you know there are some tips for writing a blog. See Daily Blog Tips. This is my first attempt at a blog. I find is a very informative site with tips for beginners like me.

  4. Push Content - content from a web site that is customized and channeled specifically for the user. For example - receiving feeds of only latest sports news from CNN. This is great for educational purposes. Push technology is used to narrow huge amounts of data and feed timely customized information into the classroom.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Adding a Userpage to Knowledge Garden

Tonight when I logged on to the Forum, a colleague had a question about adding a userpage to a Table of Contents in Knowledge Garden. It's only because I sat in front of this computer for hours a couple of nights ago that I know how to do this!! And it's not necessarily that easy to add a Userpage if you miss clicking the Edit button. Because I find Knowledge Garden very congested, I decided to use SnagIt8 to make screen captures to clarify my response. Unfortunately, the post only allows one attachment! So I've spent an hour or so (no, probably two!!), trying to put the frames together into a video using Windows Movie Maker. Here is my second attempt at making a video. I didn't realize that when I was creating the first video, the music from the gorgeous classical music station 96.3 out of Toronto that I so enjoy listening to was recording. We didn't have any radio stations to listen to in Al Ain and I've been starved for good classical music for seven years! However, I cropped too many frames using the timeline feature and had to begin again! Ah, the trials and tribulations of a movie director!! This one still has nice music - next time I'll try for clearer pictures! Janet

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Elluminate - Getting Brighter all the Time!

This morning at 4:15 am, I had my first Elluminate session with colleagues from Australia and the UAE. Elluminate is a live eLearning and collaboration software - very easy to configure and work with. The time difference was the only drawback! It was great to 'chat' to Peter and colleagues. There are mechanisms to ensure there is order "in the classroom" such as raising a hand, voting, and turning off microphones when someone else is speaking. The whiteboard is fun - we all made our mark, so to speak with the drawing tools. Peter put up slides with his announcements which were very easy to follow. Although it's recommended to use a headset, I'm used to talking into my laptop and didn't have a set available which could cause a lot of background noise. To avoid hearing the background noise when someone is talking, there is a great feature under Tools - Audio that mutes the speakers when the microphone is in use. Someone signed in without a microphone but it didn't matter as they can always 'text' in order to participate. Elluminate was very 'illuminating' and I look forward to scheduling further sessions. Just hope I won't be watching the sunrise when next we meet! Over and out!...Janet

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Dashboard

The Dashboard is like being in the driver's seat and looking at the dashboard of a car. It has all the bells and whistles that lets you navigate your blog. You can edit your blog when you're on the Dashboard. But there are also links to other Help resources such as the Help Center and the Help Group. The latest news known as Blogger Buzz also provides new information. I wish adding an image to my profile was as easy as adding an image into this post. Can someone give me some advice on this subject?

Graphic Generators and General Comments

I've had a few frustrations editing this blog. Once I signed out, I didn't know how to sign back in. My advice is to jot down your username and password as you are creating your account! I was so excited about getting a blog started, that I forgot which password I used to set up this account. Thankfully I have a few standbys that I reuse! Then I found this neat code for the clock and calendar and have spent quite a bit of time adding an element to my template, editing the Html code and previewing the blog. When I was in preview mode, I didn't know how to get back to edit mode so I just started again. There are three tabs and sometimes it's confusing to return to the tab and menu you want. I'm sure with time it will become more familiar. To add an element, click Template. Once you've added an element (and they provide many element templates), click Preview. To return to the editing window, click Hide Preview.

I'm Blogging!

Signing up with is very easy and intuitive. I like the templates that are provided when setting up an account. I am not exactly sure what to write, however. It seems that a blog is similar to a daily journal and that this blog will be used to document my learning journey through FET 8611. If I were to use this at college, at first blush, I would use it as I use the Bulletin Board feature in Web CT - to apprise students of upcoming lessons, advise them of announcements, or provide general feedback. However, I'm sure as I work further through this course, I'll find more uses for this blog.

The writing window is very easy to use. I find it easier to use this blog format than the blog in My Profile. Features that I especially like are how easily it toggles between html and compose, the preview window, the fact that it saves drafts automatically and it is easy to upload an image or video. I couldn't figure out how to do that in My Profile.