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Archive for December, 2007

InstantShot!


A screen-capture software is a must-have tool for creating instructional tutorials. If you are a Mac user and cannot afford a commercial version of screen-capture software, I recommend InstantShot! for your consideration. InstantShot! is a part of the DigitalWater project and is free for download. It offers basic screenshot functionality for capturing the whole screen, a portion of it or a window and also the option to make timed screenshots or to make delayed captures over time.

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I came across a video “Pay Attention” which was posted on YouTube 6 months ago to motivate teachers to use technology more effectively in their teaching.   I found this video interesting, educational, and thought provoking.  I think the current technology development such as Web 2.0, social networking, and mobile technology will change the way teachers and students interact and learn.

The video talks about digital natives and the use of Web 2.0 tools in education.  The author raises many serious questions.  How do your students learn?  How can you become a better teacher for educating digital learners?  Are you engaging your students?  How do we turn our classrooms into learning engines? Why do so many teachers refuse to enter the digital age with their teaching practices?  Before watching this video, I suggest that you give some thoughts about these questions and then see whether you agree with the author after watching the presentation.

 

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Social Network

Social networking is very popular today and many digital natives have joined large social sites like MySpace and Facebook. Thanks to the recent explosion of Web 2.0 development, it is now possible to create your own social network around specific interests even though you have limited technical knowledge and skills. Ning is one of the free online services where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network. The best part of Ning is that anyone can create their own fully functional and customized social network for a particular topic or need, catering to specific audiences.

Once you sign up a Ning account, you can create your own social network by choosing one of customizable themes and templates from Ning. Then, you decide whether it is for public or private and customize how it looks and add your own network logo. Also, you can customize your site by selecting a combination of features (music, videos, blogs, photos, forums, groups, RSS, etc.) from a list of options. Members who join your network will automatically have a customizable profile page and will be able to message and friend each other.

For the past few months, I have joined several Ning networks such as Classroom 2.0 and Online Teaching. Also, I have created two Ning networks – one is created for my family and another one is designed for my graduate class for instructional purpose. My family network on Ning is doing great and the young members love it by frequently exchanging photos, videos, slideshows, and comments. I will officially launch my graduate class network on Ning in two weeks and cannot wait to see my students’ responses. So far, I am very impressed with Ning. I think it is a terrific Web 2.0 application that allows anyone to create social networks. Ning has excellent functionality and user-friendly interface that allows even the most novice of Web users to create their own highly customized social network in minutes.

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Photo editing is an important task of multimedia and Web development. If you cannot afford to buy a Photoshop or other image editing software, or you are away from your computer and unable to access your photo editing software, online photo-editing service is your answer.

Today, there are dozens of Web-based photo-editing services out there to help you tweak and edit your photos. After testing some of these online photo-editing services, I recommend either Picnik or Pixenate. Both of these photo-editing services are Web-based. All you need is a Web browser with Internet access. These photo-editing services are very easy to use and they provide many editing tools that allow you to fix underexposed photos, remove red-eye, or apply effects to your photos. The best of all, they are free.

Picnik

Picnik has a clean and simple interface. You can upload a photo or import online photos from Flickr, Picasa, and others to Picnik. You can then use Picnik’s real-time online editing tools to crop, sharpen, adjust exposure, color, apply effects, and then share them with your friends. Picnik gives excellent results on the edited images without requiring you to know much at all about editing.

Pixenate

Pixenate is another quick and easy tool that allows you to design and edit your image online. Like Picnik, Pixenate has all basic editing features, Flickr integration and even an option to store images online.

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UC Berkeley

YouTube is a very popular online video community that allows people to discover, watch and share videos.  YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips on its site and across the Internet through Web sites, blogs and e-mail.  I know many teachers and educators have subscribed YouTube.  They have uploaded their instructional videos which make it easier for students to access these materials on YouTube.  However, the announcement of launching YouTube Channel by the University of California, Berkeley on October 3 this year is unprecedented.  UC Berkeley is the first university to have a channel on YouTube and makes entire course lectures and special events available, free of charge, on YouTube.  What a bold move by UC Berkeley, providing a strong leadership on promoting open education movement. Visitors at UC Berkeley at YouTube can view over 300 hours of events and videotaped courses on a variety of subjects, including chemistry, physics, biology, bioengineering, peace and conflict studies, classic literature, as well as search engines with a lecture by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

UC Berkeley has been a leader in the open education movement in higher education.  In fall 2001, UC Berkeley launched webcast.berkeley.edu, a site that delivers Webcasts of UC Berkeley current and archived courses as well as live and on-demand on-campus events.  In April 2006, UC Berkeley launched its audio podcast program, making audio content available as free downloads through webcast.berkeley.edu. It also offers video content through iTunes U on topics such as art, history, computer science and mechanical engineering.

Well, YouTube is no longer just a video-sharing site to watch and share videos.  YouTube can be an important teaching tool for schools and educational institutions.   I am excited about the future of open education movement.  Hopefully, more educational institutions will follow the lead by UC Berkeley, MIT, Yale, and many others to distribute their course lectures in a digital form to the world.

 

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Edutainment


Edutainment is the marriage of “education” and “entertainment” combing the fun aspects of games with the more learning-oriented aspects of education. True edutainment seeks to enhance education by making it entertaining for the learner. Like other instructional media, games have taken some to register on the academic radar screen. Today, researchers from fields as diverse as graphic design, computer science, educational technology, cognitive psychology, film studies, and sociology have contributed to the understanding of the phenomenon of educational games.

Much of the early research and development in edutainment have focused on the primary grades. However, the Games-to-Teach project at MIT demonstrates the pedagogical potentials of games by developing a range of conceptual frameworks that show how games can be deployed to teach math, science, and engineering at an advanced secondary or early undergraduate level. Over the past decade, a great number of research-driven educational games projects were developed by universities and organizations to support learning. Some of these projects are: ThinkerTools (University of California, Berkeley), GenScope (The Concord Consortium), StarLogo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Games-to-Teach Project (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Quest Atlantis (Indiana University), and Learning Villages (Chinese University of Hong Kong), and Mad City (University of Wisconsin-Madison).

According to Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, psychologists have discovered that children learn important cognitive skills by playing video games, such as the ability to maintain attention and to orient things in space. In a research study conducted by Rosas and his colleagues, they studied 1,274 elementary students in Chile and found the students who played video games were more motivated, more likely to pay attention in class, and substantially less likely to be disruptive. Teachers, even those who were initially skeptical about the use video games in the curriculum, recognized significant improvements in the classroom, and asked to be able to continue using the games in all their classrooms.

Another study conducted by Tim Rylands in his class at the Chew Magna Carta School in Bristol, England showed positive results on playing computer games. His students are gaining top SAT scores and are excelling in creating thinking. The appeal of computer gaming is the personal involvement that students have in the task on the screens. Results such as Rylands have encouraged other teachers to incorporate computer gaming into their curricula.

James Gee, in his book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, asserts that video games teach better than our decontextualized, skill-and-drill classrooms. Video games present simulated semiotic domains and give information an embodied and contextualized presence that lends itself better to how we are psychologically structured to learn. Gee states that video games “situate meaning in a multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationships in the modern world.” Video games simulate identities, experiences, contexts, and social relationships in designed spaces. A player learns to think critically about the simulation while at the same time gaining embodied knowledge through interacting with it: taking on new avatarial identities within it, solving problems through trial and error within it, and gaining expertise, or literacy, within it. Gee argues that the best games offer a model learning experience and suggests teachers can learn useful lesson by observing how games draw players in and motivated them to concentrate and tackle complex problems.

Gee further argues that the learning supported by computer gaming could replace traditional teaching models — where teachers speak and students take notes — with arenas in which students are active consumers who are engaged by simulations that literally allow them to interact with and manipulate virtual worlds. By learning a subject like science in a way that encourages problem-solving, lateral thinking and critical analysis, the consequence would be a population confident in their knowledge, and the ability to apply it in everyday life.

I think educational games can enhance the students learning experience in a practical manner. The educational games offers a new possibility for combining motivation, critical thinking, problem solving, hands-on and self-regulated learning within a constructivist framework. Moreover, educational games promote practice with unknown situations, allow repeat experience and exploration of different alternatives, provide the freedom of experimentation and “play” that is typically absent in other pedagogy.

With the average of digital natives spending over 10,000 hours in playing video games before age 21, I think educational games have great potentials in learning. I expect more high quality educational games will be developed and teachers will integrate them into their curricula to support learning. To learn more about the research and development on educational games, I recommend the following resources:

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I came across a YouTube video, iPod in Education, which gives a good overview of iPod and its use in education. The iPod in Education video is divided into two parts. I think both parts are helpful particularly for those who are new to iPods and podcasting. Part 1 covers the basic iPod operations, setting the master volume, Audiobooks, iQuiz maker, exporting quizzes to the iPod. In the Part 2, podcasts, iTunes U, adding your own video, world time, and stopwatch are discussed and demonstrated in the video.

Part 1 – iPod in Education

Part 2 – iPod in Education

 

After watching these videos, I hope you want to learn more about how iPod can be used in teaching and learning. I encourage you to read “iPod in Education: The Potential for Teaching and Learning,” a white paper published by Apple Computer, Inc.

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