word of the day

originally uploaded by VROG Bristol

flickr photo originally uploaded by VROG

…to describe the countless hours I seem to be spending filling forms and dotting my ‘i’s’ and crossing my ‘t’s’–paperganda (or paperazzi, if you prefer). But instead of whining, I’ll try to turn this into a constructive thought…

My (lack of) patience for paperganda mirrors my escalating impatience with technology that is overly complicated and requires too much of my valuable time fiddling to get to work. Admittedly, I am a bit equipment challenged–cell phones, VCRs, etc–but I’m hardly a technophobe…I like to think I kind of get how computers and software and digital technology in general works. Today I needed to test a headset for an Elluminate session I’m doing next week. Test 1: internal mic and speakers (on a Toshiba laptop). Not good. Why not? Aren’t we there yet? I’m not trying for CBC quality here–it would be nice if I could talk into my laptop and have it be good enough for a synchronous session in a noiseless environment. Test 2: fancy pants headset from AV services. Nada. I didn’t read the manual, but why should I? Shouldn’t we be able to just plug it in and have it work? Test 3: Borrowed USB headset from colleague. Success!

These kinds of experiences (and a recent post over at EdTechPost) remind me of the aggravation that instructors invariably face when they’re trying to use technology for teaching, hence the inspiration for the 2 minute tools workshops that I started doing last year. Obviously we’d like instructors to feel empowered by technology, not intimidated. And while FOI concerns are often being cited as reasons not to use some of the good 2.0 stuff out there that really can be learned in 2 minutes or less, what else do we have, and can we afford not to? Why would institutions really want to keep investing in questionable tools whose threshold is too high and therefore attracts less users or requires more support? I’ve taught workshops to instructors on how to use gliffy, google docs, and zoho wiki in less than 2 minutes (sometimes they’ve timed me) and the reaction is so gratifying–instructors who never dreamed of having even a simple web page are amazed that they can do it in the same amount of time it takes for the barrista to make their latte.

So, a note to developers and institutional IT departments (not that they’re reading this, but anyways…)

Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. This means:

1. I don’t need a tool that can do everything. It just needs to do a few things well and easily, and integrate with other tools that can pick up from there. Eg. Create an image in Gliffy, then bring it into Google docs to finish the job.

2. Clear the clutter! Elluminate! WebCT! Your interfaces don’t make sense anymore.

3. Three is a magic number. Three clicks. 1. Start/Record/Edit. 2. Stop/Save. 3. Upload/View/Publish.

Screencasting for just-in-time teaching and learning

Via OL Daily–and the timing couldn’t have been better–a list of screencasting tools from Mashable.  I’m a big fan of using (short) screencasted clips to help students–but mostly instructors–get oriented to tech tools. I’m reminded of a time (circa 2000 or so) when I was a digital media student at a small college where the instructor’s idea of ‘teaching’ was to print out the online manuals for the software and distribute them to the class, then hide in his office while we ‘learned’ Photoshop, Director, and Premier.  Sure, there’s a lot to be said about learning by doing, but when one of the students came across a site full of screencasted tutorials we felt like we’d hit the jackpot.  Oddly, the instructor resented us using the screencasts, and if I recall correctly he might have even blocked the site at some point.   Anyhow, the experience taught me that some things that need to be learned are very well suited to screencasting.  I’ve dabbled with ScreenRecord on my Mac  and have been quite pleased, but I’m keen to try some of the others on the list.  My thought is follow up f2f demos of tools with some screencasts that instructors can access on their own time, and if I’m lucky, I won’t have to create very many since some good people are quite happy to share them on YouTube and the like.

metablogging

Via the blog of proximal development I came across 21 classes, which is getting parked here because I’ve been looking for something like this for a while, and it will no doubt be handy at some point. It looks like it provides a way for an instructor and student to manage individual blogs via a class blog portal.  I recently tried explaining to some IT people that something like this would be useful, but did a pretty bad job of it, so it’s nice there’s an easier way.

 

Teaching wikis, blogs, RSS, and social bookmarking

I want to pass on a great resource for instructors who need to explain wikis, blogs, RSS, Google Docs, social bookmarking and other such tools to their students. Common Craft have created some of the most effective, to-the-point, and entertaining instructional videos I’ve ever seen; many of the topics they address in their unique, short videos fall squarely under the ed tech category:

All of these tools are easy to use but, admittedly, can be hard to describe. Common Craft completely demystifies them. Have a look: