Archive for the 'Technology' Category

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.

Structured Schedule and Course Calendar Data for Brock University

Monday, August 20th, 2012

As my last post about a Brock University Important Dates iCal Feed indicated, I often find myself needing Brock University information in a structured, digital format. As I’m not one to improve public information and make it private, here’s the how I made this information more fun to play with.

As we in the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (formerly CTLET) at Brock University to update places like Contact North’s studyonline.ca and other reporting work, we often need this type of information, and to make it easier for a number of purpose to make use of the information as a web services.

To that end I created cpi.brocku.ca/services

cpi.brocku.ca/services is a collection of RESTful APIs that return Brock University course calendar information in a number of formats: xml, html, csv and txt. The request URLs are created in a way that respects microformats.org’s guidelines for URLs.

Along with a the course calendar information is a handy “function” I created called brock_year. brock_year returns the current course calendar year by default, or the year that corresponds with a queried UNIX time value. This is useful because the course calendar issuing year does not always match the Gregorian calendar year. For example, duration 3 of Brock University calendar year 2012 occurs in January of Gregorian year 2013! I’ve cut and pasted the PHP for that code a few times for me and others, now it’s a web services for all.

Things will be updated as time permits and need arises. Also I should note that the Brock University Registrar’s information is considered definitive, and is the most accurate and well maintained source for this information www.brocku.ca/registrar/guides-and-timetable .

Hope this helps someone, or inspires someone else to expose data in a number of structured formats.