Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oh no - KG is down!

It's 9:04 pm and I can't open KG. I messaged Peter and then quickly messaged Joyce since I'm in a panic to get this Assignment 1 finished. Joyce reported she couldn't log on to KG either and she asked me if I'd backed up. I said I didn't know what she meant - she advised I could export my page as a pdf file which I didn't do. The humorous thing is that I told her not to worry - that KG has been down before and has returned. I told her about Steve's post on Moodle that he'd taken the day off to work on KG on January 24th. That's when Joyce reminded me that today is January 24th! I couldn't believe it - I'd lost all track of the dates, probably because I am so swamped at work! Speaking of work - I learned something about Teraview today as I was working with a group of students. Each student has to have a separate file number even though we are working on the same matter. Everyone printed thankfully. I missed a step but no worries - we'll fix that tomorrow.

Angel worked well today in Wills and Estates class. Students were listening to the sound clips followed by the quiz. They liked the Tracking a Parcel task. I've given them a discussion topic on Powers of Attorney and they'll also practise inserting a bookmark into their Angel home page. In less than three weeks, these students have been introduced to almost all the features of Angel and have adapted well. I had just put a Discussion Forum link up to act as a Bulletin Board and one minute later, someone had made two posts! Something really satisfying happened today. I had put an image in to click to go to the Discussion Forum but there wasn't a label. I went into the html code and inserted alt text and it worked! It's so cool to really know how to do something!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Angel Progress

So much has happened in the last 10 days and unfortunately there's no time to blog. Two friends in Al Ain have the twitterbug - both wrote to say they've created their accounts and are just waiting to find someone to tweet with! A perfect example of how friends on SNS's grow. I continue to learn a lot about Angel, albeit on my own. I made a voice clip using Sound Recorder and have uploaded it. Made a quiz and a crossword to accompany the listening. Also figured out how to hide the content that I link to on another content page. I put everything in a hidden folder! It's working. Am having trouble inserting .wmf images. I can't see them. Struggled for two days to find the button to press to get to the html code and finally found this unassuming little icon! The poll feature is working really well - students like it. They wanted a poll as to whether to have more virtual classrooms and not come in on Tuesdays! The tally was - 92% in favour, 8% not. The problem with the virtual classroom is that I didn't conduct it as well as I should have. Sedef Uzuner writes about the quality of online conversations. He quotes Gilbert and Dabbah (2005) in referencing what protocols and criteria should guide online discussions on meaningful discourse. Vygotsky (1962) states that 'productive and generative conversations hold the key to collective knowledge building.' A review of my transcript shows there was too much bantering and needless interruption during my facilitation. The window was scrolling too quickly for some students to read what I was writing. One student's comment was "It was just too much for me." From my observations, the same students who do not participate in class discussion didn't participate in the virtual classroom, even when I asked "Are you there?" There was also the problem of their window not scrolling and someone said she couldn't see what she was typing."

Have been getting lots of emails from students - it seems as if they are using the Angel site moreso than they used the Web CT site last semester. I think they like the crossword puzzles and the little humourous bits.

I spent the weekend training on Teraview - the land registration software used in Ontario. It was boring - no sound, no flash, no social interaction - just click here, click there. I fear I'm expecting to be entertained when I'm learning now.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Angel again!

Yesterday I learned something about uploading files. I've been uploading them under the 'Associate' tab whereas they should be uploaded in the Content tab so that they become part of the course and can be used again. When they are in the 'associate' section, they aren't continuously listed as course content.

I also learned how to use the 'Map' section. All components are listed on the course map. So if I want to put a link to a quiz, game, page or discussion forum, on another page, I can create a hyperlink to it by selecting the text and clicking 'map.'

It sure would be great to have tips like this posted on a FAQ site but I don't have any permission to post on any shared site. That defeats any attempt at collaboration. However, I did get a response to my post two weeks asking if anyone wanted to collaborate. I was thrilled - there is someone out there who wants to work together!

I spent all last night preparing the tasks for the virtual class today. I logged on early in the morning and received two messages from students that they couldn't access the virtual classroom. They were panicking! Thankfully the problem was corrected in an hour's time and I was able to run my first virtual classroom from the comfort of Dennis' home!

What I thought would be a day of working on my USQ course ended up to be five hours on Angel. One by one students logged on and I wanted to be available. At 12 noon the virtual class started. I asked everyone to run down the list and say hello. Then I introduced the tasks and asked them to read instructions on the Course Announcements. I initially planned to run through an example and started out by sending them an URL for Ontario municipalities. But then I got nervous as some of the negative comments came in.

Unfortunately I've exceeded Twitter's maximum hourly requests. Wonder what that means - I just logged in and tried to tweet!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Angel Mysteries

Angel is working in mysterious ways. I just hope the students will continue to be patient. I notice that it takes on different characteristics when I'm working from home, just as the Groupwise email does. Three students can't continue the Chapter 34 quiz after question 4. Even when they put in a true or false answer, then click Next, a message pops up that says they haven't inserted a response. Avatars are missing from profiles when I look at home and I methodically wrote to many students to give them some feedback, only to have them reply that they did upload an avatar! As for Gradebook, I may have solved part of the problem. I think I have to indicate whether the task is going to be manually marked or marked as an 'item completion' before it inputs a grade. Resumes are coming in and I've advised their work experience mentor that the students are anxious for his feedback.

I see on Twitter that there's another interesting webcast on edtechtalk "EVO 2008" and that Tom Barrett is looking for students to do an email exchange with his Grade 3 classes. Wish I was still in Al Ain so I could participate.

Facebook is going to the dogs! "Dogbook" has over 100,000 members who upload their dog's picture and on their profile, write about their dog's favorite hobbies, food places to walk - even talk about their owners! There are members from all over the world, most of whom are empty nesters are in their 20's. There's also a group for cat lovers too! I think I'll stick to twitter.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Problems with Angel

Trying to keep track of the problems that crop up.

  1. A student can only get to Question 4 on a review quiz and then it stops and she can't go any further.
  2. A student sees that she has an attachment in her email but can't click on to it.
  3. Students want a feature similar to the bulletin board in Web Ct.
  4. Gradebook shows students have 152% so far!

Something New Everyday!

Why is it 12:52 am and I'm still on my laptop:

  • MSN
  • Skype
  • EdTech Talk
  • Google Docs
  • Twitter
  • Why do we blog
  • Paying my first water heater bill
  • Online course

This is what I did tonight after watching Grey's Anatomy! It's been a very full evening. I raced upstairs to chat with Don in Al Ain - only 20 sleeps left and he'll be here! Last night we tried the yackpack Walkie Talki widget that's on my blog - it worked like a charm. And then I Skyped with Joyce in NZ for almost two hours. She introduced me to Google Docs. I had earlier emailed my draft PowerPoint which she put up on Google Docs so I could see how she was editing the slides. Google Docs allows for collaboration via the web. She opened a new document so we could both work on our timeline for tomorrow's Twitter session. Google Docs is really easy to use. The files Joyce sent to me can be opened in the Shared Files folder. You can edit simultaneously, format as one would using Word, preview, email and save a document.

Previous to that, I was listening to the live EdTech Talk - a Skypecast of some amazing educational technologists talking about Twitter - Art Gelwicks, Courosa, Lizbdavis, Doug Symington. I learned that with Skype Pro, you can conference with up to 24 users but bandwidth may be a problem. The EdTech Talk is hosted by Worldbridges - a community of communities that use 'homegrown webcasting' and other new media technologies to to help people connect, learn, & collaborate from Vancouver Island, BC. Yea Canada! I checked out twitter and responded to technolibrary's tweet about Grey's Anatomy. I tweeted that the relationships are sad. She tweeted almost immediately that she liked the healer - I'd forgotten about her. I liked the healer too because of her strong faith and positive energy. Tweets always lead me to URLS which lead me to reading blogs. Darcy Norman talked about public v. private tweets and how you can't have both. Someone else is opening another twitter account just to interact with his students to maintain confidentiality. The topic for today which caught my eye was reasons for blogging. I have been amazed since I started this course at the number of people who have so much to say and it's all good stuff - probably because of who I choose to read. I like blogging too because it's a journal of my activities, my thoughts, my learning process. I couldn't say it any better than University professor Daniel Lemire as to why I like blogging:

to me, my blog has become the single most powerful knowledge management tool I use. The way I use it, it gives me a view of where I am, where I’ll be, where I’m thinking about being. My blog is like my intelligence department… it collects lots of data in an organized fashion and it sits there, waiting for me to go to. The fact that I’m read means I get feedback, and hence, people help me complete my information. I also find out about new, interesting people because they link to my blog, comment on my blog and so on.”
Professor Henry Farrell identifies five major uses for blogs in [college] education, including the organization of in-class notes and providing equity in discussion for all students.

Before I call it a night, I need to update my Angel site. The students and I are having a few problems as I've not had any training on it. The gradebook isn't recording the fact that they've done the orientation tasks and neither our Ed Tech Department or my contact in Florida can help out. I discovered that I have to answer the short answer questions by clicking Utilities, View Grades. It allows me to see their answers and I input the points. I've got my email forwarded to my hotmail account so it's interesting to see how late students stay up, as notice of their emails pops up when I'm working this late at night! They want to know the results of the poll and the Dog's Trial, and I've found another legal quandry to post for tomorrow's poll. They're still having growing pains with the wiki. I don't like the wiki and blog as much as I thought because you can't change the format of the text or insert an image - it's quite limited. Also I haven't figured out how to see all of the posts - sometimes they hide. I probably need to read the manual! As for the Dog's Trial discussion - I can't find the answer to the conundrum so will have to figure it out again. I noticed that 5 of the students didn't complete the poll on the German luxury car and 350 pound Robert but have posted the results under Course Announcements. I spoke to a colleague today who is developing her own online course. I asked her if she wants to collaborate and she said "No, we all work alone and make the same mistakes!" She was kidding of course, but it made me realize there's little collaboration going on at our college. I hope I can change that. Well, it's 2:06 am and it's time to say goodnight!

I have to agree with this fifth grader who was asked about blogging:

"I think it’s the most beautiful tool of the world and it allows us the most magic thing..."

—Florence Dassylva-Simard

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

All a Twitter

Today I feel empowered! In my two hour class, we worked on Angel and I showed the students how to edit a wiki. They got it!!

I raced home for my 3 pm meeting with Joyce. We started with MSN, moved to Skype but I couldn't hear her, but she could hear me. We messaged back and forth, restarted, I checked my volume, turned on my favorite Classical 96.3 to be sure the speakers were working, sent the URL for my blog so we could try yackpack (which worked), so we couldn't figure it out and decided that both of us would restart. But before I did, Joyce was back online, laughing away, and I could hear her! It was a technical (like plug the correct plug in) problem! Then we really got down to business and opened Firefox, opened KG, opened the Wimba room, opened IE, opened KG, opened the Wimba room, checked out the whiteboard, checked out desktop application, tried to see a tweet on twittervision, checked out twitter map and I learned you tweet with an L: before you tweet and it comes up on the map. There are so many different mashups for twitter and I'm not sure how we'll present them as it takes awhile for the desktop sharing application to show on Wimba. We've decided to do a joint powerpoint on Google Docs which I'm looking forward to experimenting with. I was responding to elemenous's tweet about recording issue and she tweeted back. I find it so absolutely amazing that complete strangers respond - that is the beauty of twitter - constant PD - the mind will never sit idle as long as you can read tweets! I enjoy all the applications I've learned during this course but twitter is the best discovery for me and one I'll continue to use. Earlier today, I was online with Laila from Oman, who I worked with in the spring. She is now working with Joyce on another course - isn't it amazing how we can all know each other. I think it's funny that they call these distance courses because if anything, the distance between us seems minimal.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Yacking and Supporting

Well, it's been quite a day! Going backwards, I've been reading up about YackPack, signing up for an account and experimenting with it. I was introduced to it by Chris Woldhuis, one of my colleagues on my USQ course. YackPack is a very useful application that is so easy to use. Users can have live synchronous chat sessions and for those members who are unable to attend, they can sign in later and pick up a recorded voice message! There's nothing like the sound of a voice - the intonations - the emotions, and I find this application would be extremely useful in our Office Procedures course. I notice that it is integrates with Facebook so now users can have live chats with the help of the Walkie Talkie widget. I recorded a message and sent it to Joyce and also invited Chris to join in my Yack room! As you can see, I've also put the Walkie Talkie widget on this page. I am excited about this software and have commented on Chris's facilitated page. I was originally looking for Chris's room so I skyped Joyce and asked her for it. She was at work! Every day I am amazed at the people I communicate with all over the globe.

Today was a great day at work. The students really enjoyed the Angel orientation and I received some very positive feedback by email. They liked the IM feature and the Live Office Hours and Chat features. It'll be great to use the virtual classroom on Tuesdays - then we all can stay home.

There's an article in The Record about Facebook. Can't believe how much has been written about Facebook. Apparently the University of Guelph is using it as a marketing tool. They have 22,000 registered users. The benefits of using Facebook as a marketing tool is that it takes less time to set up than a college portal, and although it has the same amount of information, it reaches a far wider audience!

All for now - too many late nights so I'm going to have to quit now. Didn't even get time to tweet. Which reminds me - it was a balmy 12 degrees today, the snow is melting and the geese were in the pond. Oh....Joyce signed on to Skype and suggested we Yack. We used the Walkie Talkie widget on her PB Wiki site. It works/sounds much like a Wimba session in that you have to hold the button down to talk. But it' works well - sound is clear - it's just strange talking into a wiki!!

A Serendipity Day

I spent quite a bit of time preparing for my three lectures today. I had precedents ready to project and everything. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the classroom and there was no computer! I just couldn't believe it - I haven't taught in a classroom sans computer for years. So what could I do but wing it, tell funny stories and let the students out an hour early.

I was happy to have the extra time to continue working on the Angel course for Assignment 2. It's like the wiki pages we had to create last November - as you work away at it, the more comfortable you become and more things seem to fall into place and make sense. I was able to move content into a different folder. I made up a new crossword puzzle for Wills and Estates. I was inputting a new html page and decided to include a link to team skills. When I searched for team skills I found a very informative link to Penn State University which had an Angel tutorial and FAQ site. It also had info on Angel Team Tools! I couldn't believe it! I will be setting up 9 teams who will write the manuals for the 5 legal software we're going to learn this semester so this site will be perfect to refer to. There was also a Community Hub which is a user group's self-help blog. That's exactly what I spoke about in our School of Business meeting last Friday and I emailed our Ed Tech department about today, requesting that they allow me access to start one for the pilot group. Meanwhile, I emailed everyone on the pilot project and invited them to join a user group so we could collaborate and commiserate! No responses yet though. I watched the Gradebook Wizard video and learned how to edit the Gradebook. Now I have categories for each area of law plus a Classwork section to cover the Introductory section. There are two ways of keeping grades - by points or by percentage. I was originally mixing the grading system up by using both ways so that’s been corrected.

I panicked this morning before class as I didn't know how the students were going to access the Angel site. Either did the Ed Tech Department! We had to experiment before class! I had three students log on today and I've received such positive comments from all of them. "Yes, I find this really neat too! I like all the information that we have access to and all that we are able to accomplish with it. This will be wonderful."

When I didn't have a computer at my fingertips today, I talked about wikis and blogs. It was amazing how little they know about either of them, although they do follow Paris Hilton's blog! I wondered what type of blog my students would read. I 'm disappointed or maybe I just don't know how to change the font for the wiki and blog nor how to insert images. When I was questioning students how they would communicate/collaborate with group members and got blank stares, I suggested the virtual classroom or IM or Skype. Imagine my surprise when they asked “What is Skype??” so I can see a quick lesson coming up!

I also learned how to use the Attendance feature – students will enter a PIN which shows up on my home page every day.

At 7 pm tonight I had a really enjoyable Wimba session with Chris, Joyce, Cherry, Penelope, Fiona and Peter. Poor Peter is suffering from sciatica. It's amazing how clearly we could hear each other although there were times the audio broke up. Everyone seems to be motivated and excited about the course, and the session provided a lot of good links. I especially like the one about the growth of a wiki.

I don’t understand why I can’t access any sites, my blog won’t save and yet the music is still streaming. I don’t want to close down as my head is spinning with ideas. But it’s almost 1:30 am so it’s time to say good night.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lots of Talk!

Today was an amazing day! However, I spent so many hours on this computer. From the moment I awoke at 6:30 am, I was messaging with Joyce on MSN. We then moved into a Wimba session and it was easy to compare the pros and cons of those two voIP software. I prefer MSN because you don't have to hold down a talk button, but MSN only allows voIP with two people and IM with a maximum of three. We were setting up times for our Twitter session and we both seamlessly went into the meeting planner at and pulled up our respective time zones. I am amazed at the ease with which I move between all these applications as I'd never heard of them before this course. After spending a few productive hours at the college, I was back online with Chris W and Joyce on MSN, and then Skype. Skype won out today. We were able to hear each other clearly, for the most part, and you can conference with up to nine participants. I prefer Skype to Wimba as there is no hesitation while webcams change over to the speaker, there's no talk button to hold down, and the conversation just flows rather than being stilted. We carried on this wonderful conversation for 1.5 hours - there's nothing like learning from and sharing with colleagues all over the world. And we reviewed our session, jotting down minutes. My job was to post a poll on our Time Machine page asking whether or not Skype is a social network software. And again, with ease, I looked up how to insert a poll on KG's help page, inserted the poll, voted of course(!), and invited others to do so in the Shoutbox. I can't believe I know how to do these things! I wrote Peter requesting he insert the Glossary onto Moodle so I can see how it works, as Joyce said it's a really terrific glossary and perhaps I should use one in Angel.

I have been reading some wonderful articles to support my research for Assignment 1 and I just want to share them with my colleagues who have never experienced an online course. I get so excited when people are passionate about the Web 2.0 tools and 21st century skills we as educators need to equip our students with - to guide them into becoming self-learners, to re-tool', be adept at unlearning and relearning, and be comfortable with today's technology for tomorrow will bring new ones that we can't even imagine, and jobs that haven't been invented yet. That's why I am hoping my plan for them to teach each other all of this semester's software through a wiki will be successful. I know there will be moans and groans but that's to be expected. I must say I am happy to read the word "while" instead of "whilst"!! Just a hangup of mine, although I still say "full stop" instead of "period", a left over from my UAE days. Completely out of the blue - do you ever wonder why, although you say "Remember my password", it never does when you open a site again?? It's a mystery to me.

There have been tweets about Scrabulous so I joined today. I thought it would be similar to playing Sudoku online - just me and the computer. But alas - it is not. When I entered the Oasis room, I felt as if three heads turned to check me out and a sign said "This table is waiting for one more player." I panicked and left the room quickly. I think I'll wait until Don arrives and then we can play two against one!

Speaking of tweets, Twitter is amazing. People who are in another part of the world, who I don't even know but am following, are answering my requests. Someone tweeted asking for information on a professional organization which has positive comments about the value of social networking. I responded requesting the link too and almost instantly, someone sent it. And when 'elemenous' inquired as to who removed her post from Steve's social networking site, I asked for the link to the site and in seconds, it was there! Today I found a few 'mashups' created for twitter - twitter karma, twitter vision and twitter blocks to name a few.

Joyce told me she watched a little bit of the podcast "Women and Web 2.0" on EdTech Talk and suggested it would be interesting to watch. I just wish there were more than 24 hours in a day! Good night.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Life is good!

I have so much to write about and I keep making mental notes about it, as everything I learn is so exciting these days, and when I finally have time to write - I forget it all! Don and I shared a virtual New Year's celebration thanks to MSN and our webcams. At 2:59 pm on Monday afternoon, we were online, synchronized our laptop clocks and called out the countdown together! And then I cried - never thought we'd be celebrating together and there I was celebrating the arrival of 2008 with him! I was going to close my Facebook account because I never use it. Two of my friends wrote to tell me they were closing their accounts as well. I'll write more about that on the Facebook KG page. Later that afternoon, the phone rang - it was from my friends in Al Ain calling on Skype! Couldn't believe it. Then on New Year's Day, to my surprise, I had an email from Shawna Corbett, married daughter of my childhood girlfriend Maxine, who died a few years ago. How wonderful to catch up with her and the family after all these years - ah, the power of Facebook and social networks! Later in the day, I checked out Kwout. You paste an URL into the box, it brings up the page, you choose an area to cut out, and it converts it into embeddable code. It has its drawbacks - it doesn't allow you to click into pages on the second level of a site. Then I listened to a webinar entitled Integrating LessonBuilder content with Angel Learning through the magic of scorm. It was very informative - they use Sofchalk, one of the alliance partners, but unfortunately we're not getting Sofchalk or Wimba with our package. It was amazing to see how a traditional lesson in Word could be turned into a three page interactive lesson. The graphic of the eyeball was turned into a diagram that the student applied labels to which was a scorable learning activity. As I was just finishing the Webinar, the Skype window opened and it was my friend from Al Ain. I asked him how he accessed it since it was a blocked site, and he told me about Anchor hotspot shield. I immediately got on Moodle and posted in the forum in the hopes that my colleagues in the UAE will be able to download Hotspot shield and subsequently, access Skype and Twitter. Not sure where I read about Tribbit, which is a free online card that many people can sign. You can embed music, videos, a voice recording, words and include photos. I know this will be of great use in our office. and will save us rushing to the store to buy a card because we forgot someone's birthday!

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."

Courtesy of my dear friend Jax, quoting Neil Gaiman on his blog. (