I’ve been busy over at, pulling a bunch of stuff together for a workshop on creating successful online learning environments. The problem with this topic is that so much good stuff has been said on the topic already, and I feel like I’m adding very little to the noise. My hope is that the participants will guide the workshop, since I’m quite prepared to go off in any direction that is needed.

Of course, in preparation for the workshop I found a couple of good new tools to add to the mix: PollDaddy  for quick student polls and Tangler , a non-US hosted discussion board.

Easy multimedia

A quick trip over at one of my favourite sites, Interactive Narratives, lead me to VuVox, a Web 2.0 multimedia authoring tool that stole my attention for about a half an hour.  There could be lots of useful applications of  tools like this in higher ed, in particular where multimedia development resources might be stretched, or where there is a desire for students to tell a story, explain, show understanding, or even synthesize in a multi-layered, dynamic way.  Robin Good provides a nice overview/how to on the tool

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.

the not quite new year

After a 1 year hiatus from blogging (I left my UBC job last February, and with it left Connections and E-learning in the Faculty of Dentistry) it’s time to resume. I imagine it will be more of the same–finding and testing (web 2.0) tools that could be useful for busy instructors and students. This is the fourth higher ed institution that been employed by, and the one thing that never changes is that instructors need educational technologies that:

1. take less than 2 minutes to set up an account and learn

2. require minimal to no support from IT staff

3. are free

4. don’t require a lot of orientation for students to get up and running

I’ve wrapped these principles in a workshop introducing instructors to the wonders of Google docs and Gliffy which I’ll capture and post the next time it’s delivered.