Archive for June, 2009

June 26, 2009

DU CourseMedia™ Released!

The University of Denver Center for Teaching & Learning has (finally) released the DU CourseMedia™ Course Media Management System. This has been a focus of my work for the past 5 months or so and is one of the major CTL projects for 2009. Some may recall the mention of the DUVAGA system from time-to-time. CourseMedia™ is DUVAGA reborn.
DU CourseMedia(tm)
DU CourseMedia™ was developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Denver as a course-based media presentation tool for organizing and presenting high quality images and videos to system participants. Although it was initially built with the needs of faculty in the school of art and art history in mind, DU CourseMedia™ is now used by faculty in many other disciplines in approximately 250 courses each term.
Through DU CourseMedia™, instructors have access to over 50,000 art and world history images and over 2000 library reserve videos. DU Course Media™ allows instructors to create online galleries that can include streaming video, images, text slides, discussion boards, quizzes, and voice narrations.
Some of the highlights of the new release are as follows:

  • Complete overhaul of how media objects are accessed
  • Entire media galleries can now be shared across permitted websites
  • Gallery object functionality is raised one level to become more accessible for users
  • The new Media Viewer is written from scratch with the input of DU faculty, staff and students
  • The Media Viewer is a Flash application written upon the Flex framework
  • The VPS Projection System, an application which runs upon the Adobe AIR runtime has also recieved a number of updates

I’ll be presenting on DU CourseMedia™ at the Adobe Education Leader Institute this summer.
To see an overview of the new features, you can check out a screencast produced by Alex Martinez, ColdFusion developer for the CTL.
A screencast specific to the Media Viewer was also authored by Jenn Light.
This article was originally posted at In Flagrante Delicto!

2:28 PM Permalink
June 18, 2009

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

It’s the first day of English class. You’re sitting in the third row, near the middle, minding your own business. Your teacher hands out a contract and announces that each student, and their parent or guardian, must sign and return it. The agreement reads something like this:
“I understand that my access to pencils is dependent upon my commitment to use pencils appropriately. I understand that the purpose of pencils is educational. Specifically, I will not use pencils for any commercial purposes, to infringe on any intellectual property rights, to distribute chain letters, or to libel or defame any person. I will not attach any peripheral equipment to my pencil without school permission. I understand that should I break this agreement, my access to pencils will be revoked and disciplinary action taken.”
You immediately realize that you are already in violation and surreptitiously remove the Hello Kitty eraser head from the top of your pencil, praying that no one has noticed, and trying your best to look innocent.
Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? But substitute the word “computer” for “pencil” and you have a reasonable facsimile of the acceptable use contracts routinely distributed in classrooms from coast to coast.
Responsible use documents began appearing back in the mid-90’s, when it became apparent that the World Wide Web was becoming a permanent fixture in the classroom. It seemed prudent to administrators, school attorneys, and educators to set some perimeters for this learning tool. Then they installed filters on school networks to contain the information available on school sites (Although resourceful students quickly learn how to navigate around them—Last month, I witnessed a fourth grader circumvent a district filter by deftly redirecting his search through google.ca instead of google. us.) Inadvertently, those perimeters fueled the fear for many classroom teachers. They proceeded with caution. A couple of years ago, the National School Board Association released a report proposing that, perhaps, fears of the Internet use in school were overblown.
Even though it’s decidedly uncool to admit it, there still lingers a fear factor when it comes to computer use in schools, generated in part by the long list of don’ts, administrative cautions about inappropriate sites, lurking strangers, our litigious society, and other calamities astir when students access the Internet in school. Those cautionary tales are often compounded by the teacher’s self perceived lack of “tech savvy.” The fears simply outweigh the benefits for some educators. I encountered this recently, while working with faculty members and students in a large middle school. “I’m still afraid of the Internet,” confided one teacher. “I don’t want to be responsible for all of the things that can go wrong when students are unleashed. I know I can’t watch them all every minute.” I pointed out that students are using the Internet anyway. A recent study in the UK indicates that students are averaging a whopping 31 hours a week on the Internet, mostly for socialization and entertainment. The MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Youth Project details how students learn and interact through the World Wide Web. Other teachers pass the buck. “If my kids need to use the Internet, I send them to the media center and let the media specialist deal with it,” another teacher told me.” That’s part of her job.”
That fear is certainly not confined to the United States. A quick Google search reveals that teachers in the UK are struggling with the same issues “afraid of technology, while underestimating the impact of students’ experience in technology outside school” while the Director of Education in Saudi Arabia is implementing teacher training programs designed to “break the technological fear barrier.” There’s even a guy on the Internet who promises to eliminate fear of computers by rerouting your bioenergy system—at a thousand dollars a pop.
There is a less expensive solution available.
It’s occurred to a number of folks that, if our students are spending massive amounts of time on the Internet anyway, perhaps we are all better off embracing the truth of that, and teaching them how to become responsible digital citizens. Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey quantified and elaborated on the concept of digital citizenship by developing and describing nine themes of effective digital citizenship. These educators from Kansas State University’s College of Education spell it out plainly: Kids are not simply not going to become responsible and thoughtful users of technology unless we teach them how to be. ISTE supports this with a student NET standard cultivating responsible digital citizenship. And the new NAEP standards coming down the pike for 2012 remind educators that the time to take that leap is now.
There are a number of excellent sites that provide balanced information and training for educators and administrators to pass on to students. One of my favorites comes out of the UK. Digizen points out that digital citizenship “isn’t just about recognizing and dealing with online hazards. It’s about building safe spaces and communities, understanding how to manage personal information, and about being internet savvy – using your online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way, and inspiring others to do the same.” The site provides a range of information, ideas, and resources on just how to develop that in your home and classroom. Another excellent resource, Digital Citizenship, builds on Ribble and Bailey’s nine themes of digital citizenship education and pairs them with helpful links. The United State government developed a kid friendly site on cyberethics. Netsmartz provides games, activities, and videos that promote cybersafety. Students themselves are getting in on the act: Minor Elementary School in Lilburn, Georgia has developed a webquest on “safe surfing”.
Like any true change, digital citizenship is a learned and gradual process. It begins with awareness, follows with education, application, and lots of practice, and culminates in fluent use, evidenced by the choices that students make about the ways they access and use technology.
Are Internet safety issues real? Of course. Responsible teachers and parents must work together to find the delicate balance between censorship and information, common sense and fear. Surprisingly, the “what ifs” we fear most—online predators, stalking strangers, explicit sites—take a backseat to the single greatest Internet threat facing students today. Art Wolinsky, of Wired Kids, (who, by the way, originally came up with the clever substitute-pencil-for-computer illustration at the top of this blog) talked to me recently about Internet safety. “The greatest threat to students on the Internet is cyberbullying, “he said. He went on to tell me that a whopping 85 percent of students reported either participating or being the victim of online bullying. “It is need for education on all fronts. It is education, and intervention, that is most needed, and will do the most good.”

12:06 PM Permalink
June 10, 2009

Presentations isn’t just for the business world!

Wow- Adobe Labs keeps coming up with new tools that free education to focus on the CONTENT of learning, not the tools and limitations of shared resources. With just five minutes of playing with Presentations in the Adobe Labs I could see numerous classroom applications.
I work in a high-poverty school that shares just a few technology resources among a large list of classrooms. The Presentations tool has many of the same attributes of Buzzword in that I can have students collaboratively work on a project. With just one laptop or computer in the classroom or if I have the entire set of laptops from our cart, students can focus on the content of the presentation. We don’t have to worry about WHERE the original file is saved, which laptop it was saved to, or trying to access a server that the updated files might or might not have been saved to.
Adobe has just helped the collaboration process- this tool is easy enough to use that with just some basic training students can start the creation process.

Continue reading…

10:46 PM Permalink
June 7, 2009

Connect Pro and SMART Board Integration

smart_board_connect.jpg
One of the challenges I tried to overcome for the past couple of years was how to help a math teacher use Adobe Connect Pro. The white board inside Adobe Connect Pro is not designed for a math teacher’s extensive use of a mouse and the amount of time they spend drawing out equations would make any math teacher’s hand ache. They would prefer using a dry-erase marker. At the same time, most of the students won’t be sitting in front of a computer to watch a math teacher draw out the equations. On the other hand, I tried document cameras, web cams, and HD Camcorder’s plugged into a Connect Pro Meeting Room’s Camera and Video Pod with a FireWire connection. The big challenge here is frame rate. The hand motions always look blurred and lagged behind a person’s voice. The solution is to integrate SMART Board technology with a Connect Pro Meeting Room. Basically, a math teacher uses a SMART Board to draw out equations just like if they were using a white board with dry-erase markers. It is a simple set-up and integration with Adobe Acrobat Connect because all a math teacher needs to do is open up a Connect Pro Meeting Room and begin a ‘Screen Share’ and ‘Recording’ of their desktop. The image which is being displayed on the desktop is of the SMART Board, so every hand motion is in synch with the voice and it looks seamless and transparent to the students. They are just watching their math teacher draw out equations on the board just like any other day in the classroom, however, a recording of every move and teacher’s voice is being made possible by Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro in the background. And students who had trouble on particular day and/or where just plain sick can now watch the recording of the lesson from home as many times as they would like through a simple hyperlink found on the teacher’s website. The teacher could also be sick the next day and could make a recording of their lesson from home and give it to the sub for the day and not even come into work, just kidding!
Example of Connect Pro and a SMART Board
Adobe Connect Pro
Smart Boards
dave_ael_picture.jpg
My Connect Card
My Connect Room

9:39 PM Permalink
June 2, 2009

Google wave

Google is showing off an interesting opensource collection in wave.google.com

8:47 PM Permalink

A Software Vendor Is Coming To Your School To Give A Presentation

The Decision Makers Can’t All Make It – What Can You Do?
A simple solution, use Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional to set-up a
Meeting Room to capture a vendor’s audio and presentation. These presentations
are traditionally done with a computer, screen and projector. Basically, the set-up
of an Adobe Connect Pro Meeting Room does not influence this traditional presentation
set-up for the vendor. The Meeting Room is used to capture a screen share of the desktop
of the vendor. All one has to do is start sharing the vendor’s screen in the room and start
the audio capture and recording. Some potential issues are getting permission from the
vendor to record the session, I would suggest letting the vendor know a long way
in advance the recording will be only used for internal school district use.
Another issue is how to get the questions from the presenter into the recording?
I would just ask the vendor to repeat the questions back into the microphone or headset
so the questions and answers make it back on the recording.
Once the vendor’s presentation is complete, all you have to do
is email the rest of the team who could not make it with the link to the recording so they can
watch the vendor’s presentation at their own timing. The hope is with Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional and the rest of the team to make a smart decision on the purchase
of the new software on the re-review of the the presentation from the vendor.
This creates a larger opportunity for a group process even though one person
may have been only present at the vendor’s original presentation.
dave_ael_picture.jpg
Dave Forrester
My Connect Card

7:04 PM Permalink