What Google Docs can do

February 8th, 2011

I introduced two new people to GoogleDocs as a collaborative platform last week, and I was happy to do so. Instead of sending documents back and forth, we can write, edit and annotate one document in real time.

A colleague used the form function in GoogleDoc, embedded it into an email and had the results fed into a spreadsheet to build our meeting agenda. Fast and streamlined (if only the meeting was that way – grin).

And here is an example of Derek Bruff using Google Spreadsheets to have students collaboratively add items to a timeline. You can read his post for an explanation of why he chose that approach, his objectives, and what happened.

For more about GoogleDocs, there is a Seven Things (links to .pdf) summary from Educause, and please feel free to add a comment with your own readings, experience or questions.

VOST2011: Vision of Students Today

January 27th, 2011

Michael Wesch, who some may remember from the viral video The Machine is Us/ing Us is a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University, but particularly known for his work on digital ethnography, through adding videos to You Tube and a working group at the university.

His most recent idea or work is asking students to submit You Tube videos on their own learning. He’s asked people to tag their classroom and out-of-classroom learning VOST2011. And of course, students have come through, parodying his style, and adding their own narrative to questions of mediation, the classroom, technology and their peers. He posted this call for submissions on January 19th, 2011, and after February 15th he promises to start re-mixing the submitted videos for something new entirely.

Take a look….

Format this document

December 3rd, 2010

In the ProfHacker stream of the Chronicle, was an article on why the instructions: “Your paper must be double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman, with one-inch margins” does our students a disservice.

It goes back to the tension between teaching content and teaching communications. Where do they overlap, and how much responsibility do you take to teach your students verbal, visual and written communications skills.

The article ends with a suggested paragraph that outlines expectations (teaching students that even creativity has it’s objectives), and I’ve got a couple of other. Why not have students format a formal term paper using the guidelines from a disciplinary journal? Format reflective pieces as a personal letter, and then short, narrative assignments as newspaper articles? Reminding students that different formatting shifts the message of the writing, and we (hopefully) create more thoughtful, autonomous writers.

Information Overload

December 1st, 2010

This post continues the theme from the post about George Siemens article. Everything new is….. not?

This article argues that information overload has been with us for a long time. The question that is only begun to be answered in the article is how do we store, sort and analyze materials?


December 1st, 2010

Yesterday in a meeting the topic of inter-disciplinarity came up. What did it mean to the upper administration, to the (large f) Faculty, to the instructors, to students? Was having the option of studying with varied approaches and values enough? Or should a course itself be interdisciplinary and what might that look like?

And of course like all meetings, there was much to cover, and we didn’t get a chance to explore that more.

But here is one comical option: http://xkcd.com/755/

Clickers and attendance

November 16th, 2010

This New York times article suggests that Clickers be used to track attendance. I think that’s an expensive and complicated way to…. measure attendance. It’s got so little to do with learning.

Read instead Derek Bruff’s blog on engaging students and encouraging learning using classroom response systems!

What’s new?

November 10th, 2010

George Siemans writes an article that captures one of my personal pet peeves – the ideas that this generation is “astonishingly unique”. Some time ago my grandmother sent me a copy of the valedictorian address that she wrote in in the 1930s. She spoke of the world that her generation were facing, their responsibilities and how the world was entirely different from her parents world. My father could have written nearly the same speech 25 years later, and so on.

George has taken this idea and written a blog posting on the skills an effective educator needs (regardless of the year, decade or century): http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2010/11/08/its-new-its-new/

A few things that struck me was the need for experimentation. I feel sometimes that I’m asked for the perfect blueprint. It’s not that. It takes reflection on your own process and results. The learners need autonomy: have your learners lost that drive to ask and experiment? What patterns have they learned throughout the years of schooling?

It’s a nice concise look at the de-contextualized skills that are needed.

Backchannel Workshop

July 14th, 2010

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday’s Educational Technology Series session on backchannels and polling in the classroom.

For those who were unable to attend, feel free to check out (and add content to) these resources:

We closed the session with very interesting discussion about how technology in the classroom can distract learners from paying attention to and participating in real-time learning activities. On the one hand, some participants want to limit access to technology to focus attention on what is going on in the here and now.  Others value having technologies in the classroom as a way of fostering engagement and grounding classroom discussions in accurate, real-world information.

I propose that thoughful planning, moderation, and establishing social norms and assigning roles are critical for using backchannels successfully.  We agreed that the issue of access to technology remains a challenge to address and that no one technological tool can solve the challenge of  helping people to learn what we want them to learn.

Have you experimented with a backchannel in your class? Share your story in the comments?

Would you be interested in exploring the issues of attention, multitasking information overload in formal learning contexts?

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What next for our Educational Technologies Series?

June 29th, 2010

Instructors and students use an array of technologies throughout their daily lives. How can we make use of these tools for educational purposes? Which technologies are you and your students using to support teaching and learning?

The Educational Technology Series delivers two sessions a semester that are structured to discuss those questions, raise new questions and make plans to move forward. Past session topics have included:

  • Wikis for SFU Educators
  • Wikipedia and the Post-Secondary Classroom
  • Educational Uses of Second Life
  • Blogs in the Classroom
  • The Backchannel: Twitter, Google Moderator and classroom communications

What kinds of sessions are you interested in seeing? Would you like repeats of some of the sessions we’ve done, or new topics such as:

Please leave a comment on this posting with what you would like to see us focus on. Or, if you know of any educational uses of any new or innovative technologies please leave that in the comments. We’re always looking for new implementations to celebrate!

Upcoming workshop on backchannel and polling

June 22nd, 2010

On July 13,  David Rubeli will be leading a one-hour workshop on backchannels and polling in classes. You can register on the LIDC site.

In preparation for the session, David would like to know what questions SFU students, instructors and staff have about the backchannel. Post your questions here:  Harvard Question Tool

David will be sharing resources for the session on Twitter. Follow #SFUedtechbc or join the workshop HootCourse: