Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another reflection, 16 July 08

Today is the last day of the DIL project, and so it is a suitable time for reflection.

I still have technophobic and ignorance barriers, but some of the bricks in the walls are getting looser. I have met many incredibly knowledgeable and helpful people through this project. Probably my biggest barrier is just trying things out and not worrying if they don't work properly the first time.

Recently at home I had to download Skype in order to talk with our younger son who works at Yale. That was fine, but when trying to test the sound, there was none being picked up, and the on-line tester told me that my microphone probably wasn't turned on. Hmmm, I didn't have a clue about what was turned on and what wasn't. At the time that we had arranged to talk, our son hadn't received my e-mail about not being able to get sound, though we established chat on Skype. By this time my husband had escaped to the garden - it is hard to believe but I am a smidgen less phobic than he is!

By hanging in there and trying out suggestions from my son through the chat facility, I got the right bits plugged into the appropriate ports, and we were talking! I felt quite proud of myself! I am certain that if I hadn't had my DIL experiences, I would have given up and then searched for expensive professional help.

I still don't understand about RSS feeds and perhaps I will get closer to working that out at the final session today. Although it is the final official session, I want to continue with my more open mind and keep adding to my skills.

Image: Artic Sea

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Notes from 03-25 June 08

Notes on trying to blog by myself – 03 June 08
Ha! I am confirming for myself why I find all this web stuff so “not me”! I have just tried for about 45 minutes to make a new post for my blog, but I lost the lot twice and I couldn’t get the photo (from Flikr’s Creative Commons) to show at all. This is frustrating and makes me feel stupid!

On 11 June in the optional DIL workshop I did get a little bit further, especially with trying to add photos. I get enormously frustrated and discouraged, but then sometimes determination kicks in and I won’t let go. I did eventually work out what I was doing wrong with trying to insert a photo into my blog. However I need more practice and experience before I can think about encouraging students to blog as an alternative to journalling.

Notes on finding out a little about Zotero
In return for supplying the name of a text book agent, a colleague showed me Zotero, the free software that does citing and referencing from on-line catalogues and databases. So I have it on my office machine, but it is going to take some getting used to. I’m really not sure how to use it yet. I had to download Mozilla Firefox first.

More about Zotero – 20 June 08 (?)
Serendipity (or is it synchronicity?) by definition appears when you aren’t expecting it. By chance I found out that my Zotero-wise colleague was about to run a session with someone else about how to use Zotero. It was OK for me to join in. Having another learner there was a big help, as questions that someone else asks always help other learners.

Our wise colleague stated that if you can’t explain a new piece of software in 10 minutes then there is something wrong with the software. Hmmm – a new thought! But is there really so much faulty software out there, or does it confirm that I’m a slow learner where software is concerned?

Anyway I tried to understand more about Zotero, had to have my wise colleague fix something on my computer, and then I was delighted to see the software create a very satisfactory citing and a reference all by itself! That was exciting!

Sometimes what Zotero writes isn’t perfectly correct, but you can fix it. As with everything else in this category, I need lots of practice to feel confident with it.

And now elluminate – 25 June 08

It is interesting that our DIL workshop today is going to include a session with a Wikieducator researcher through elluminate. Just yesterday in a CAPL staff meeting it was decided to try to run our next staff meeting using elluminate to push us into learning it, because it is an obvious tool for working with APL candidates with whom we can’t easily meet face-to-face. (For half my time I am seconded as a facilitator to CAPL where we work to match people’s experience and prior learning with qualifications and prepare them for assessment.) So much of what I am learning about through the DIL group has a direct impact on my work.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

DIL: Notes on Smart Board Training – 28 May 08

Take notice & describe the experience - description of evidence

Write freely about what you have been doing, feeling, thinking, etc…

Comment on what you know, need, etc…

Comment on initial thoughts and ideas gained in the workshops and from your reading, researching, teaching and learning experiences etc…

List the actions you took.

This morning I met Brian in H513a where he had the Smart Board turned on. We quickly went down to H515 (where I have been teaching) and found that the Board needed to be plugged in there – but it was set up just the same. The computer is incredibly slow to boot up in H515.

So back in H513a Brian showed me how you can just use the back of your fingernail (or your fingertip) to touch the Board, and this is like left clicking with a mouse. This way I could open a Power point show, and using the Board’s pens write on a slide, and erase the writing, or save it.

He also showed me how to bring up a keyboard on to the screen, and more exciting (and so very Brianish) how you could play a video, especially a cute and amusing one!

Next he showed me the Note Pad software that allows you for example, to create a slide show, perhaps more easily than with Power point. This showed me that I really need a Smart Board in my office along with a projector! (More about this later…)

I mentioned about possibly using the Board to record the written results of students’ group work. I had thought how time-consuming it would be for them all to write up their findings onto the Board – or perhaps one group could work with the Board and the others with paper as usual. However Brian came up with the solution – I can use my digital camera to photograph the on-paper writing, and then with a card reader I can download these photos and then insert each on to a new blank page in Note pad. Presto – we can all read each group’s findings! I need to try this!

Best of all, I can access Brian’s training manual on the Shared drive.

Analyse the experience - implications of decision/action, reaction

    1. Think about what happened and why.
    2. Outline what you could have done better or differently.
    3. Indicate some strategies which may help next time.
    4. Comment on what worked and what did not.

This training session was so much more worthwhile for me than one I attended earlier in the year that was run by the manufacturers or distributors of Smart Boards. That consisted of a whole heap of features without any links to how I could use them.

When I think about it, the training session worked because the trainer was friendly and had a sense of humour. He showed me some features, let me try a few things, made very helpful suggestions, and showed me where to find answers if I forgot something or got stuck.

Training that doesn’t cover too much but starts you down a track of useful application of the technology is great. One problem for me is that teaching is nearly over for the semester. However there is next semester – but then I’m not in either of the rooms that have Smart Boards!

Take Action - Reflect on what you learned and how it will be used

Indicate what you learned, what helped and why.

How will the things you learned change or affect your future work or study?

Identify what you need to explore further or seek help with.

List a small number of goals – link these to your decision-making process in step 2.

In future I will definitely have a go at this, particularly the group work idea (GOAL!), as I think students appreciate it when you are trying something new and quite like being part of that. I will do some try-out preparation before actually introducing it in class.

I have the manual for help, but I will not hesitate to ask Brian questions if I still have a problem I can’t solve.

Overall I will appear more techno-savvy! The drawback here is that tapping on the Board isn’t always guaranteed to work – e.g. for closing windows. This could create a few issues for me in class – to be patient, not to panic and to think of other ways to get out of the trap! Brian had to try several times and then to re-align the pointer (arrow) with where you would tap (the software has a function for this).

Something else I learned was that we have only two of these Boards at Forth Street, and they are within 4 doors of each other on the same floor of the same building. Both these rooms are very heavily booked for classes. I suspect that few of the lecturers using these rooms use the Smart Boards because not only is it tricky to find a time for training in one of these rooms, but there is little time to go in a have a go with the Board before actually using it in a class, unless you want to go without lunch or sleep. This takes me back to the need for a Smart Board and projector in my office!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Reflection on second DIL workshop 21 May 08

Bronwyn gave us this three-step reflective framework to help us work with our reflections on our DILOP learnings. I’m using just its main parts and writing pretty loosely around the framework.

Step One: Take notice & describe the experience - description of evidence
· Write freely about what you have been doing, feeling, thinking, etc…
· Comment on what you know, need, etc…
· Comment on initial thoughts and ideas gained in the workshops and from your reading, researching, teaching and learning experiences etc…
· List the actions you took.

Sarah graciously agreed to show us her blog and to discuss it at the second workshop. She mentioned her ‘happy addiction’ to Animoto as well, and showed us the slideshow of her son’s birthday that this website had put together for her as a freebie. Actually I had started to view it in my office earlier but the music was so loud that I just stopped it as I would have had to think about how to turn down the volume. I’ve got that sorted out since!

Sarah was asked about how she managed the lack of privacy involved with a blog on the web. She explained that she managed stuff to do with her children, but the overall advantage was that having a blog allowed other people to contact her, people she would not otherwise have known, who have provided valuable insights for her research. That is a real benefit, especially for improving quality of research.

I feel that I’d not want to have a blog, being such an introvert and a bit of a wimp. The out-there-ness of it is interesting. I am not confident about even commenting on someone’s blog. I don’t know how to create a blog, but the question is, do I want one?

Smart Board
Later in the workshop I spoke with Bronwyn and Dawn about my goal to learn how to use a Smart Board that I’ve not been able to advance. Dawn recommended on-line tutorials. Bronwyn suggested I find out if there is a manual available. I wasn’t having a good day, but I knew that being shown how to use it would work better for me than trying to work it out from a manual.

Step Two: Analyse the experience - implications of decision/action, reaction
Think about what happened and why.
Outline what you could have done better or differently.
Indicate some strategies which may help next time.
Comment on what worked and what did not.

What I don’t know about or understand can sometimes be intimidating, especially anything to do with technology. I have a long history of problems with it and negative experiences tend to be very reinforcing! Since reflecting on Sarah’s session and listening to others who had blogs already or wanted them, I started to think that a blog would be a great way to increase student participation in journal writing.

I was also getting frustrated with my progress in DILOP, how to record any progress, how to comment on blogs, and I’d even forgotten my password for the Group, so I approached Bronwyn privately for some advice. She suggested I contact Brian Treanor for Smart Board training.

Strategies that work for me are:
A new day – after time out I can think more positively about a problem
A new way – I can approach a problem in a different way that works for me

Step Three: Take Action - Reflect on what you learned and how it will be used
a. Indicate what you learned, what helped and why.
b. How will the things you learned change or affect your future work or study?
c. Identify what you need to explore further or seek help with.
d. List a small number of goals – link these to your decision-making process in step 2.

I have now had a talk with Bronwyn, but before that I remembered my password and tried to comment on an earlier posting on Sunshine’s blog. Today the web is telling me that the page is not available, so I can’t tell whether she has accepted my comment about touch typing. I also sent an e-mail to the group to say that I wanted to learn about blogs at the workshop today (28 May) – and start setting mine up (GOAL!). How do people put pictures on their blogs? How do you add links? How can I make it look professional?

I want to learn about blogs because I believe that I cannot ask my students to record their progress and reflections in a blog unless I also have one that would function as a kind of model – at least it would be leading by example! I am still not sure about being out there on the web, but Bronwyn also reminded me how people have several blogs for several different purposes, and if I like, I can use a pseudonym for my blog.

So if I set this up it will hopefully encourage students to consciously deepen their learning. If I set up one for my research, I may make very beneficial contacts. The bottom line is that I’m starting to learn about blogs.

The discussion with Bronwyn was very helpful in that I firmed up directions again – not only the blog, but perhaps in the next workshop I can start finding out about on-line citing and referencing tools.

Smart Board
See further reflection on my training session.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reflection on first digital learning workshop

DIL: Notes on First Workshop – 14 May 08

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect coming into the project and was impressed with people’s planned goals. Many of the members are very creative digitally and I had no idea of the wealth of software that is there for the using. I was among those who laid claim to being the most digitally illiterate.

We saw a video from YouTube about the recent history of the digital world that also projected into the future, and some of the predictions made at the end of 2004 are coming true now – though I can’t remember which ones! I was surprised to learn from one of our teachers that he personally withdrew from Facebook, because (as I understood it) the CIA was in there, with access to everyone’s data, and generally he was not impressed with their information management policy. I felt a bit nervous about this – I use Facebook only to be nosey about what my overseas kids are doing. I don’t understand much about the risks. However I do believe that access to information and perhaps information itself is controlled to a large extent, and that global business organisations are probably the controllers.

My goals are still the same as I wrote on the application sheet. I want to be able to use a Smart board to enhance my teaching. Also, I want to find out how to use digital resources to aid academic writing for my students and myself. I thought of Endnote and Bronwyn (another of our teachers) told me that there is something free I could download to use. I am very interested in this as my students have such problems mastering APA style citing and referencing.

Overall I feel quite excited about it all – especially the writing resources part! The group itself also represents an opportunity for networking (thanks to Sarah, especially!), and for meeting new people.