Educational Development

Videora to convert and compress video


Lately I have been using the nice and easy video converter Videora Ipod Converter. It converts Camstudio recorded videos, which come out as high resolution AVI, into either of the 2 MPEG4 compressed files - which play in a quicktime player and on many portable video players like the iPod Movie. After making the conversion I upload the MPEG4 to YouTube and/or Google Video where it is converted again to the Flash Video format FLV. This makes it smaller again, but the quality is pretty poor. You are watching an FLV below. Here's a link to the original page where the movie below is coming from.

Camstudio workshop


Am in H208b today, giving a demonstration in the use of Camstudio - the free and open source screen recorder.

If you didn't want to video record your screen, then Screenhunter4 is an excellent free tool for quickly photgraphing areas of your screen for use in print based handouts.

Here are the step by step notes I put on the white board:

Jude Cooke - Outreach


I'm here with Jude Cooke who is running a 3 day workshop with Outreach workers from all around NSW. The participants are looking at Social Software for use in their work with disadvantaged groups. Here is a video of Jude talking about the project.

Video to PDA in the bakery


With Dean Gibson from the Baking Section of the Hunter Institute of TAFE NSW. Here is a video of us talking about using Google Video for instruction in the course. Dean is a member of the Tourism and Hospitality Education Network where he aims to strengthen his role in an international network of trainers who are using these technologies. So far we have 2 people in Otago Polytechnic participating in that same network.

Testing Elluminate in DFLP


So we used a trial version of Elluminate to talk online about the development of learning logs for the Designing for Flexible Learning Practice course. We talked about blogs, and other free and easy web based tools for creating and publishing content.

audio file not available

Links to some of the things we talked about:
  1. Leigh's work blog - an example of a learning journal
  2. Gliffy diagrams tool - a free web based, and great fun tool for creating flow chart and mind map diagrams
  3. Metal Ed Blog - a new blog that will document a group of metal work teachers producing skills videos
  4. Cmaps - a free and open source desktop application for concept mapping
  5. Myomi - free and web based concept mapping
  6. Leigh's bloglines newsreader - where Leigh gets all his info from
  7. Networked Learning workshops - EDC workshops of these tools
  8. Youtube videos and screenrecordings - videos that demonstrate how to do stuff on the Internet
  9. Camstudio - free screen recording software
  10. Australian Flexible Learning Framework - good site to find resources
  11. Audacity - a free audio recorder
  12. Open Office - a free alternative to Microsoft Office
  13. Lulu - a way to produce printed and bound text books for free, and distribute for free, and receive royalties.
  14. Jybe - a free web tour tool

First there was Macromedia Breeze (now Adobe Breeze)
Then there was Elluminate
Then there is Australia's answer to Elluminate called DiscoverE

So it went in the edu world...

The rest of the world went voice over Internet (VOIP), with Skype shooting through the roof with users. Now every Internet cafe around the world has Skype installed...

But skype's weakness is its closed standard, it won't communicate with other VOIP clients. Others promoted open standard VOIP like GizmoProject and Gtalk. The kids kept using MSN, the grown ups kept using Skype.

So it went in the real world.

Now there are tones of people working out ways to use Skype for webconferencing. The edu world meets the real world.

There is the webcast academy - a network of educationalists experimenting with free, easy and scalable web conferencing using Skype, Skypeout, Skypecast and 24k streaming. Its interesting and it works! They've been doing it for quite some time, and I've been talking (through Skype of course) with Dave Cormier, one of the lead fellas of the academy who is willing to demonstrate the set up for us.

Just yesterday, Unyte - a plugin for Skype that allows screensharing or application sharing came into my view. I tested it out quickly with Joe from Australia and it worked pretty well. Here's a screen recording.

So, any day now - free and easy web conferencing on multiple platforms, scalable and familiar to most not just a few, is around the corner.

First line management


Opening course materials up for public viewing is a bit like allowing the public to walk into a library and sit down and read. You'd have to be a member to borrow - but you can sit down and learn for free. Unfortunately, online content is increasingly restricted to those who are members, those who have enrolled, those who have a login and password.

In this day and age, were some of the public have had nightmare experiences with online courses - perhaps its important that we let people try before they buy.

But how to do it?

Check it can be done with the systems you already have

Obviously the first step is to see if the courses that are already online can be opened for guest access. As it turns out, guest access can be done with our learning management system at OP, but it would be a special case. Guest access does not give entry to forums and assessment folders however.

Is the system you have ideal for Open learning?
The next thing to do is decide if making the learning management system course open is the best way to promote the course. What we want people to do most of all is decide if the content is for them. The last thing we want is for them to be turned off simply by stree and confusion with the system interface. But on the other hand we do want them to get a genuine feeling of what the course would feel like.

Build a learning community
Opening the course material up is one thing - its not like we'd be original thinkers in doing that - there are more high quality open courses than one can poke a stick at these days - but providing some level of human social interaction and supportive communication around those resources would be something unique. Setting up a tried and true email list, nurturing a community around that email list, and building it to a level of self organisation may be an effective way of establishing a social experience around your resources.

Make yourself the expert
Then you might like to set your academics towards establishing themselves online as prolific experts in the field. People who are a cut above - finding resources and helpful information, and pushing what they find out to the community, for free. For an example of a person who has certainly set them selves up as an international expert in the area of management, see Creating Passionate Users.

If all this increases the knowledge of your staff, currency of their information, extends your network, and promotes awareness of your courses, then it would be a good thing. If it actually generates increased enrollments in flexible learning courses, then that's a bonus. But at the least what you are doing is building an extended learning network, setting up an audience, making your academics experts within that audience, and promoting the courses they lecture in.

Think about RPL
And if the assessment activities in the open courseware were designed in such a way that the self paced learner (where ever they may be) is producing a portfolio of evidence for their learning, then you might like to streamline your recognition of prior learning process for such a person so that they come and see you for recognition and certification before anyone else. For such a person you would offer your assessment and accreditation at reduced rates...



Recently I was teaching a group of exchange students from Japan how to blog. The idea was they would keep web journals in English, not only to practice their English communication skills but to keep their families updated. I was aware that the Polytech uses censorware to control student use of the Internet while on campus so, I asked the lead teacher to request a check that both the and were not included in the blacklist that determines censoring. Unfortunately on the day we discovered to be blocked. So I had everyone login as me so we could get going quickly.

I'm now on the hunt for some free and open source filtering software were 100's of users can be given the rights to administer to the blacklist. The way I see it is, in an adult education organisation, if we have to control student use we should think of a couple of options.

1. Are communal computing labs set up well enough so as to be able to manage classrooms effectively without having to censor use. Things like wireless Internet will help us eventually get out of the classrooms, but what about recessed monitor desks, and shared screen software? Recessed monitors may help manage the distraction of the computers in class. They would certainly remove the eye contact barriers between students and teachers and reclaim the use of a desk for more than just supporting a monitor. Shared monitors will give teachers the ability observe monitors take over its display to get attention on particular things.

2. Communal censorship should be the way we head in my opinion if we still think we need to control Internet use for the benefit of communal computer labs. Basically everyone (or all the teachers at least) have the rights to manage the blacklist, helping to block and unblock sites appropriately rather than waiting on the time and decisions of the few. While there may be a few bad apples in the organisation from time to time, it wouldn't be hard to track them down, and I reckon there are a hell of a lot less bad than good people in the organisation. The idea software for this would be something that installs a button or quick link on the browser so that when I came across a URL that should be blocked, I click the button, login, and submit. Likewise if I came across a site that should be unblocked.

So there's my suggestions to better manage censorship at Otago Polytechnic.
What I'm doing now is collecting links to articles and software that may support my proposals.

Hospitality Networked


I've been really energised by Thanasi again. For a while there I was worried that he was putting our work on the back burner, but I get the impression he is back on board and raring to go with developing online courses, and more flexible learning options.

Looking at joining a network

Today I showed Thanasi the brief for the Hospitality Networked project in Australia in which the coordinator Steven Parker has invited Otago Polytechnic Hospitality staff to be involved with.

The ‘Tourism Hospitality Network’ project covers the latest technological developments in the world of hospitality education and training. The project focuses on training a teaching team in the use of new technologies to enhance the facilitation of practical learning around hospitality work. The project is tied to the Professional Development project Teacher Connect as well as funding from CSHT&H division (Nerolli Cassidy).

Thanasi was keen to be a part of this so I listed off the pros and cons of involvement just to be sure:

  1. Meet other teachers working with communications technology is the area of hospitality
  2. Find good training resources
  3. Exposure to new ideas and innovations
  4. Start mapping competencies and courses internationally

  1. Needs time and commitment
  2. Need to learn new skills
  3. Need to share resources
  4. Need to communicate openly

Apart from the first con, the rest could be seen as pros actually. But time and commitment are biggies.

Thanasi then responded by explaining that "this stuff is what makes me tick - I have to be a part of it.."

So with that we looked at where to start so as to become involved.

Building a stronger online identity

I advised that he should start to build an online identity to assist in his networking and attract students to his courses. I showed 2 examples of New Zealand teachers using blogs:


While these two examples are not so much geared towards attracting students, they are certainly helping the authors network internationally. My advise was that if Thanasi tried out blogging and thought he could sustain it, then this would naturally build up an online identity for his teaching work. This would help him network more easily with international groups such as the Hospitality NetworkED, as well as start building his profile as a subject expert to which people go to get training in his particular areas.


We began talking about the potential, where school kids start getting referreded to Thanasi's blog for preliminary resourceses to support training in bar and cafe work. They download short skills videos, MP3s and picture stacks - high school careers advisors start pointing to the blog as a regularly updated source of new information and naturally this will attract students into the short courses for preparation into bar and cafe work - skills areas young people are particularly interested in and delivered in formats they are naturally comfortable with. Being networked internationally could also help Thanasi get his courses recognised in other countries thereby assisting some of his students to achieve their goals for working travel.

Looking at quizes.

The other reason Thanasi and I met was to look at quizzes. Thanasi want to use quizzes along with demo videos to help his students study and remember formulas and sequences. On my advise, Thanasi initiated 2 blackboard shells - not so much to take advantage of the quiz feature, but to start saving his course materials in. We did look into the quiz feature although (thanks Bronwyn for the just in time), and I think we came to grips with it enough for Thanasi to be able to use it as a formative assessment tool - and for his students to simply use for practice.

I put it to Thanasi that the Blackboard quizes may be a good place to start, but suggested that he begin looking towards more open tools seeing as he is not using the quizzes for any summative assessment or grading. With open quizzes, not only does he improve the chances of the public finding his courses, but for development collaboration with his international network. So I promised to go on the hunt for free web based quiz tools - so far this is what I have found:

  1. Flashcardexchange - is an international network of teachers developing Flashcard resources for route learning and self assessment.
  2. Zoomerang - is a survey tool that could be creatively used to formulate quizzes
  3. Survey Monkey - Another free survey tool that is popular with many other teachers I have worked with, mainly for creating surveys, but could also be creatively used for quizzes.
  4. HotPotatoes - is unfortunately not a web based application, but their free software can be downloaded and is quite easy to use in creating a variety of tests and quizzes in the form of a web page for uploading.

These tools come close to what Thanasi needs, and easily do what Blackboard offers, but it still is not perfect. I am still looking. The benefits of using free web based tools instead of the Blackboard tool is that Thanasi and his students would be learning how to use a tool that is more likely to be available to them outside their relationship to the Polytech. I call it value added learning for life. There may come a time when Thanasi's students need or want to use a quiz toolor learning resource again and they may remember Thanasi showing them a free web based tool and be able to find and use it themselves. This value can not be provided for if they were to simply learn how to use the Blackboard tool, as Blackboard would not be available to them once they are unenroled from the Polytech.

In saying that though, if Thanasi decided that he wanted to use a sumative assessment quiz, and needed to record student results and keep those results private and secure then he would be best to use the Blackboard feature.

Thanasi is now practicing the use of Blackboard quizzes while he waits for me to send him the perfect web based quiz too. He is also setting up a blog for his online identity and network development.

New book on DIY Wireless setups


Wireless Networking in the Developing World: A practical guide to planning and developing a low cost telecommunications infrastructure.

The book was finished a few months ago. As soon as I saw it I uploaded the free PDF to my lulu account so I could get in printed and bound like a book. The authors have since done the same, and made it available very cheap!

We have wireless available at our work now. I havn't been able to get my personal laptop on with it though, but no worries with work issued laptops...? I'm hoping that a public and free WiFi net will be made available... perhaps this book offers some useful tips on the idea.

$100 Laptops coming


A while ago now, I jumped up and down with excitement about the release of the $100 laptop project out at MIT. I wished for the opportunity to buy one myself even if it meant I had to spend more.

Well now that opportunity has arrived, as well as a new video of the first working prototype of the laptop. You can pledge to buy a $100 laptop for $300. I did. I just have to get my paws on one of these things.
The suggestion has been made that he also offer it for sale for ~$300 to the rest of us so that we do have an interesting machine and can help to support the cost computers for the developing world. If he does offer it, then I will buy one at three times the cost and thus contribute to supplying two to the proposed users.

I suggest that you might want to also pledge so that he would consider this "We Purchase, They Benefit" option.
Thanks Chris for the pointer.

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So much open courseware


There's no doubt about it, MIT's initiative in 2004 to make its learning resources freely available and call it open courseware has taken off. Now we have several other universities in the United States doing the same, several in Japan, China, Canada, South Africa, and this is just the few I know about. Check out what everyone else has been noticing. Open courseware makes a lot of sense on many fronts.

1. It meets the educational and research institutions social responsibility more readily and more globally.
2. It preserves the social role of the library, where password protected courses and their content is threatening the traditions of open access, open courseware is preserving the fact that anyone can walk in and at least look at books.
3. Its good marketing
4. It could integrate into the Institutions Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) when outside learners, having used the open courseware, make an approach for recognition of learning and eventual certification.
5. It helps the Institutions and their departments stay current, or high quality and relevant.

I have been watching the materials that become available open courseware and have been saving them into a resource list for each Department. If you're using and are interested in open courseware, we could combine our findings by using the same tag words...

I'm yet to find any open courseware iniatives coming out of Australia or New Zealand.

Wouldn't it be great, given Otago Polytechnic's current drive towards flexible learning (especially being a rather content and techno centric drive at the moment) if we could integrate that iniative with an Otago Polytechnic Open Courseware iniative.

Not only would we be internationally noticed and perhaps benchmarked for it, but we could quite possibly tap into developing study markets both locally and internationally. Australia, South East Asia, New Zealand and Pacific regions are showing signs of higher numbers of people willing to study overseas. Get these people started using easily accessable and reusable learning resources - stamped Otago Polytechnic and with assessment activities streamlined with our RPL processes, and we could see an increase in student enrolement or RPL processing without having to do too much more than we are doing already. Just do what we are doing anyway (getting courses online) and make their content open.

If this idea interests you, then come along to the workshop on finding and reusing digital resources on the 2nd Monday of every month - 12 - 1pm, H523. That's this Monday by the way.

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