January 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Today’s “tech geeks” are not really tech geeks anymore, when the knowledge threshold is set so low that it requires neither skills or dedication.
First, there is the iphone much like a flatscreen TV designed to be not only touch sensitive but the touch movements also correspond to how we manipulate physical things in the real world. Then, if you so desire, you can get the ipad, an iphone on steroids. If that’s not enough, there is the 84-inch multi-touch table, a sign of Google running out of good ideas.
Admittedly, the Apple iproducts have revolutionized the way we aggregate and manage information, opened the technology to a greater mass, and the “marriage of arts and science” has given us beautiful products. But sadly, Apple and all the tech companies following its footsteps are creating passive consumers.
Our society often has a more negative bias towards people into fashion or buying beauty products, but views individuals with interest in technology positively. We must realize soon that today, people well-versed in the latest products today are no longer the geeks before 2000. Many of them are no longer people who love or have the ability to innovate and tinker (after all the products are not made to be tinkered with anyway).
November 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
I love Dropbox. But to compete with Google Drive, Dropbox will need to work on promoting collaboration, allowing simultaneous editing, moving away from the idea that one file can only be saved in one folder (like physical objects), and adopting some kind of a tagging system for organization. To compete with Dropbox, however, Google will need to work on simplicity. Though Google analytics is extremely powerful for enhancing user experience, if Google keeps changing its things daily, it drives ordinary users away.
Dropbox vs Google Drive
Round 1. Collaboration & sharing
One of the major advantages of Google Drive over Dropbox lies in its capability of simultaneous editing. The collaborators of a document can see one another typing on the same document; when working on a PowerPoint presentation, the collaborators can also chat with one another and do research on the side.
Another advantage is that Google Drive does not count the shared files not uploaded or synched by you. I work with a team of teachers. One of the main problems with using Dropbox is when new team members don’t have enough space and, therefore, have no access to the materials in the shared folder. Though Dropbox gives you the option to increase your space by inviting people (500MB/user), one has to go through the pain of inviting friends, families, or even students – which just doesn’t seem right. For more on Google Storage, see here
Yet, Dropbox now has a neat feature, which allows users to share files or folders with other users – even if they don’t have a dropbox account – using a web link.
Round 2. Realizing its digital potential
In Dropbox, one file can only be saved into one folder, not multiple folders, which is very much like physical objects. One thing in one place. If multiple users are editing the same file, it will be saved as a “conflicted copy” in the folder – plain ugly. Google, on the other hand, allows users to organize files into multiple folders, which used to be called “collections” in the Google Docs era. The same file can be found in different folders, making it more searchable and better realizing the potential of digital files.
Round 3. Design & Simplicity
Dropbox is definitely the winner here. Despite all the analytics and data mining Google conducted, unless you are a faithful Googler, it’s hard to have the patience to look for the button that you clicked yesterday but has now disappeared. Yesterday, I was able to save files in multiple Google collections, today, “Collections” is called “Folders”. And who would have guessed that, today, if you want to save a file in multiple folder, you can’t just check multiple boxes, but have to hold down the shift or was it control key to do that. No wonder, the angry Steven Jobs (mostly at Android) said that other than Google Search, everything else is shit.
Also, the files you drag to the Google Drive on your desktop can’t be edited on the browser unless you “export the file” by right clicking on the file name and find the option on the browser – another nightmare.
The Google layout, too, is just a lot more complicated, especially with the Google+ Share icon above. Ordinary users just won’t know what they are really sharing. Also, the recently added Grid view is supposed to enhance user experience, but it showcases lots of blurry images that make you dizzy.
The tradeoff here could be that Google has to give up usability for functionalities. The simple Dropbox is much easier and more intuitive due to its resemblance to physical objects. To compete with Drobpox, Google will need to use its analytics wisely - work on your layout before testing it on users. Upgrade your functions without significantly altering the look.
July 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The proposed distinction between digital natives and digital immigrants, or the generation bound definition of millennials is unlikely to withstand scientific scrutiny. (Listen to the Myth of the Digital Natives on CBC’s Spark) In fact, most “digital natives”, as Douglas Rushkoff pointed out, actually can’t read computer codes and fail to understand how they are being controlled and programmed by the devices that they have grown up with.
In fact, technology doesn’t discriminate against age or generations. The kind of millennials described in this Forbe’s article “How Millennials are redefining their careers as hustlers” are simply people who have built an effective learning network for themselves. As learners, they may not fit well into the single-disciplinary studies in traditional universities; nor can they, as workers, be confined to a narrow job description of a particular position. Rather they are multi-taskers or system thinkers – companies that are able to harass their abilities and manage the diversity of knowledge sources are likely to be able to develop a system much more responsive to the changing market. The sad truth, however, is that many bosses don’t get millennials.
July 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Screenr is a free screen recording tool, easy to use to support language teaching. The following are a few voice-over videos I had my students do in a pronunciation seminar.
Pronunciation: Pausing in speech
Pronunciation: Sentence Stress
To make voice-over videos, simply
- Go to Screenr
- Click the “record” button
- Resize the frame around a video on your computer
- Turn the sound of the video off
- Start recording
- When you’re done, you can see your voice-over on the screenr page
- To save or publish the video, you’ll need to sign up for an account.
Have fun with it!
May 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
1. Program or be programmed (2011) by Douglas Rushkoff
2. Consent of the networked (2012) Rebecca MacKinnon
3. Alone together by Sherry Turkle
May 3, 2012 § 1 Comment
Siemens & Tittenberger (2009) pointed out that technology is not neutral. Rather it comes with assumptions and ideologies. For instance, using LMSs gives teachers greater control over the information. The knowledge is more centralized and is closed by default (i.e., students need to get permission to participate). Conversely, using blogs and wikis not only decentralizes control and the information source but also promotes open access to knowledge and user-generated content. These web 2.0 tools are also more conducive for continuous learning. A blog, unlike a Moodle course, exists beyond the duration of the course.
The future of DE will likely be dominated by the use of Web 2.0 tools, but whether LMSs (like Moodle and Blackboard) or some forms of them may survive seems more of a question of debate. Recent research by Bates (2012) suggests that LMSs will stay because they provide teachers and students a clear learning framework, offer the institute a centralized platform that can be integrated with the administrative system and can be used for data collection, tracking and documentation. Moreover, adopting constantly changing Web 2.0 tools requires tech skills that the students and faculty may not have; thus, LMSs are more sustainable.
Currently, my way of teaching corresponds largely with Bates view. Though I use Web 2.0 tools extensively and I don’t like the closed nature of the Moodle platform, I still find the LMS indispensible for delivering quizzes, receiving assignments, and assigning grades. What’s more, when other teachers in the system use the same platform, it’s easier for the learners as well.
However, I think that LMSs in the future will need to change substantially to accommodate open source content and larger learning networks. Also, the teacher’s control over the information source will be diminished given that the networks composed of experts, novices and computer algorithms are perhaps more efficient filters of information than a single teacher. Perhaps, the learning management system will simply be an empty, open platform, which has an amalgamation of interoperable tools, i.e., Google calendar, grade books, learning analytic software, online quizzing and grading tools, YouTube lessons, WordPress blogs, Smart phone Apps. The teacher or the educational institute will place certain privacy control on some of the tools (i.e., Grade books) while leaving a lot of the content open, free, recyclable and reusable. The LMSs then will only slightly resemble what we have today.
In terms of pedagogies, keeping with the theme that technology is not neutral, given the increased use of decentralized social platforms, learning theories, such as constructivism (according to which learners form knowledge through social negotiation) or connectivism (which emphasizes on learners’ abilities to learn through recognizing and identifying distributed knowledge networks) will come to dominate. Teachers will become experts and facilitators in certain domains, modeling and assisting learners in participating in learning networks and evaluating their performance using various metrics for the purpose of credentialing.
Contact North. (2012) Is there a future of learning management system. Retrieved from:http://www.contactnorth.ca/resources/there-a-future-learning-management-systems
Siemens, G., & Tittenberger, P. (2009). Handbook of emerging technologies for learning, pp. 3-8. Learning Technologies Centre, University of Manitoba.
February 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The discussion forum continues to be my favorite Moodle tool for supporting my EAP (English for Academic Purposes) course because it’s great for promoting
- collaborative, student-centered learning
- fluency in writing
- reflective writing and critical thinking
Also, its course management features make evaluating students a lot easier.
1. Post listening and reading questions
- Embed lectures or insert links to readings for students; have them answer reading or listening questions. (note: check the copyright policies if your Moodle course is hosted in a university.
- This helps to promote greater transparency when students can see one another’s answers and evaluate their own against others. Note that the discussion forum can be set up so that students can only view others’ answers after they post their own. (see “course management features” below)
- On Moodle 2.0, it’s easy for students to share video or other files. The students can add a video and post discussion questions for other students. This allows the students to take more control over their learning.
- Given the asynchronous nature of the forum, students are often more capable of providing more reflective and in-depth comments.
- Have students to post their assignments on the forum
- Assign them in pairs or small groups; and have them evaluate each other’s assignments based on a rubric.
- Have students to post their questions on the forum, so that the teacher doesn’t have to answer the same question many times on email
- Some students socialize and provide supportive comments to one another online. This facilitates cohesion as well as language use.
- Some students have a different persona online and it’s quite interesting.
- Also, as in classroom discussion, if conducted properly, teachers can participate with students on a more equal footing.
Course Management Features
- There are different types of forums. If you want to set up the discussion in a way that students can’t see other students’ answers before they post their answers, use the Q&A forum. If it doesn’t matter whether the students see others’ postings before they post, then use the General Forum.
- Depending on what you want to do, sometimes using the general forum shows that you have more trust in the students; it gives more support for the students as weaker students can see other postings before they post. However, if the stakes are high, i.e., a huge percentage of students’ marks depend on it, it may be better to use the Q&A forum.
2. Assigning Grades
- You can assign grades (qualitative or quantitative) for individual postings. The grades are recorded directly onto the Gradebook. This makes it easier to evaluate students’ participation at the end.
Should students be required to participate?
There are different views on this. Some believe that required participation (especially for an online course) takes away learner’s autonomy and may not be appropriate for learners who like to learn independently.
But as far as using the forum to support an EAP class, my view is that the discussion forum should be the front and center of the course, and participation (both in quality and quantity) should be graded. Some learners are not familiar with the technology; and they will not use it unless they are required to. In my experience, many students enjoy using the forum and find that it helps them to improve their writing.
How can I correct students’ grammar on a discussion forum?