Archive for the 'Technology' Category

An App Store for Web-Based Instruction

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

LTI Connections from LMS to other nodes
Do what you do best, and link to the rest. A lesson of the web learnt quickly by those who’s success depends on being creative online.

The latest released version of Sakai, version 2.9.3, improves on the existing features that allows for the connection of Sakai courses to external tools. The forthcoming version of Sakai, Sakai 10, takes this provision even further.

The biggest improvement is institutionalizing the configuration process to allow approved external tools to appear as peers to Sakai’s own tools when instructors choose what they would like to add to their course site, especially in Sakai 10.

The Sakai tool and the specification that supports the connection is the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification.

Presently, in the Brock University context, instructors need to know that the Brock University service, web-based tool or Publisher they are interested in integrating into their course: exists, supports LTI specification and that Isaak/Sakai can be connected through LTI. The instructor then must contact administrators to have the connection added to his/her course. The connection is only made once the proposed integration has met Brock University’s technical and privacy standards. This new model of pre-approved tools and their listing alongside other Sakai tools now only requires the instructors interest – prompted from any source, including students previous experience.

This ability to add tools alongside Sakai’s current listing of possible tools also provides an opportunity for university services to tightly integrate with courses in addition to making instructors aware that they exist.

The following posting discusses (in too much depth at times) the current status, the Sakai tool and LTI specification, examples of tools that could be integrated and a framework for the selection of tools to be added to this “App Store for Instructors”.

Notes on Clickers

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Clickers

Some notes on physical and virtual classroom “clickers” that I’ve maintained in Evernote over the years and shared a few times. Seemed like a good thing to blog about.

Phone-based:

  • Turning Technologies has physical clickers and smart-phone clickers

    www.turningtechnologies.ca/

    If you are using a textbook from Nelson or Pearson there might be a chance that you could get the software and base for free from them — but the students would have to pay. ITS’ AV Services also have around 50 of these for sign-out.

  • Top Hat Monocle

    www.tophatmonocle.com/

    Uses phones, laptops, etc. and they are always keen to do a demo.

  • Poll Everywhere

    www.polleverywhere.com

    Is free for under 40 people but gets expensive as numbers are added.

iOS-based:

  • Socrative http://www.socrative.com/
  • Flexible and free. Waiting for other shoe to drop. What Mr. Clare Sr. uses.

Web/Smart-phone based:

  • Mentimeter https://www.mentimeter.com/
    It is new and promises to be free, but I have not used it.
  • mqlicker www.mqlicker.com/
    is new and promises to be free, but I have not used it.
    A Brock University Economics prof really liked this option
  • Not free at all is:

Also:

Then the Chronicle of Higher Ed. has some quick idea for low-tech clickers:

chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/low-tech-alternatives-to-clickers/34184

Live classroom interaction, polling, chat…

  • Piazza https://piazza.com/

    Piazza allows for large groups to ask questions and vote up the important ones. It is a very interesting way to get feedback in a large class. It is free and has an LTI integration that the CPI can add to any Isaak/Sakai site.  It surprises me how often instructors interested in “simple” polling like the realtime feedback Piazza gives.

  • More survey & marketing style http://www.signalhq.com/
    Signal – good buzz (possibly for the API) with a free trial

Chair of Sakai Accessibility Working Group

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Sakai Accessibility Working Group

I recently accepted the lead of the Sakai Accessibility Working Group.  It’s an honour and a challenge and I’m going to make the most of it.

At Brock University we use Isaak as our learning management system, which is based on the Sakai CLE.  In Ontario Canada we’re operating under the increasingly more stringent Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which wisely cites the various levels of the WCAG 2 as its own standards.  Because of this and because its the responsible and technologically ideal way to proceed: web accessibility is important to me.

I’m a big believer that there’s a lot that can be done to improve web accessibility if more people just had a little more knowledge about the issue and the solutions and were able to apply that knowledge at the correct time.

To that end I’m coordinating conference calls about Sakai accessibility every other Thursday at 2:00 eastern (all are welcome – Add the next meeting directly to your calendar.).  What we do as an accessibility working group is review general issues and trends in the Sakai CLE (sometimes there’s an OAS), set goals, offer advice, and slog through the JIRA tickets (bugs in the bug tracker) and offer to add a solution, advice or other wisdom as needed.  We’re also trying to spread critical web accessibility information in the Sakai community and beyond.

Projects in the Sakai community include ongoing information sharing and canvasing (even, blogging) about the need to get more people involved, and reaching out to other upstream projects, like CKEditor and JQuery UI to both pass feedback to them and to apply their latest and greatest solutions to Sakai.

I don’t claim to be an accessibility expert, but I do understand the standards and I’ve been writing HTML so long I the two platforms I originally had to test on were a 486 Compaq and an Amiga A2000HD. More importantly, I care.

My Productive Practices

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

productive matrix

At this time of year the interwebs get very productive creating blog postings about productivity, and this blog is all about me adding  information to an existing saturation, so here goes:

These two recent articles have some good ideas for a more productive 2013:

Geeks are always keen to approach organizing their lives as an engineering problem.  Hence the obsession with David Allen’s Getting Things Done is a time-management methodology  and the steady flow of ideas that come out of lifehacker.com

Here’s what I consider my top five most productive practices:

  1. The OHIO principle for E-Mail: Only Handle It Once.  
    Don’t keep re-reading waiting until you’re ready for a response, choose to handle then or not respond at all (with an exception for the “can’t read this here” problem with mobile devices – but mark it as unread).  I’m not a dogmatic process-to-zero inbox person, but I do work sequentially. I’ll only mark as read when the messages is “no longer my responsibility” and some times that means responding asking for clarity to buy a little time and share the responsibility of transmitting a clear message.
  2. Tasks are important and ubiquitous.
    I think I’m one of the few people who values Microsoft Outlook’s Tasks feature, and there’s all kinds of other task Apps.  The trick for me is having those task synced across all my devices, so that when I have the moment of inspiration or recollection I record it easily.  Tasks (or your calendar) is often an important next step after E-Mail comes in that allows you to “deal” with it at an initial level and mark the message as read.  It’s also worth noting that a project is not a task.

Me and Evernote

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Long ago I promised myself I’d blog about <a href=”http://evernote.com”>Evernote</a> when I made more than 1000 notes. I broke that record on Friday November 9, 2012 so here’s a quick summary of what Evernote is and what I use it for.

Evernote is intended to help people remember everything. While I haven’t achieved that, I’m a lot closer.

Evernote is a desktop, phone/tablet, browser plugins and a web application that allows you to capture information from anywhere. The application also indexes all entries so that the content can be quickly searched, including any text in pictures – for example: whiteboards.

All these collected notes are synced to client/applications on almost any device that connects to the internet – as a lowest common denominator, there is evernote.com.

Evernote has a provision for tagging notes, but more importantly it lets you start new notebooks and sub-notebooks. I use this to collect notes about the kids, projects at work, my favourite beers and wines, and other notebooks – including some I’ve shared with others.

There’s lots of information on Evernote’s site, so instead I’ll share what I use to for:

At home and around the town:

  • Lists of things to pack, buy, collect and almost anything else.
  • Pictures of the various medicines and other records my kids have taken – both kids have their own notebook.
  • Planing and document projects around the house – including the summer’s minor fence project and last summer’s major patio project and year before that’s nursery project. The notes are important, but the pictures are handy to travel back and forth from Home Deport with.
  • Records and information about the cars and appliances.
  • I transferred my wife’s recipes etc. from an old laptop to all her new devices – I also have access to the this shared notebook and…. don’t use them.