Archive for the 'educational 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


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.


  • Turning Technologies has physical clickers and smart-phone clickers

    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

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

  • Poll Everywhere

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


  • Socrative
  • Flexible and free. Waiting for other shoe to drop. What Mr. Clare Sr. uses.

Web/Smart-phone based:

  • Mentimeter
    It is new and promises to be free, but I have not used it.
  • mqlicker
    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:


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

Live classroom interaction, polling, chat…

  • Piazza

    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
    Signal – good buzz (possibly for the API) with a free trial

Me and Evernote

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Long ago I promised myself I’d blog about <a href=””>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 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.

Reflections on Teaching with a Tablet

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

During my four weeks of teaching in January I’ve been teaching with a tablet: the Asus Transformer Prime. When I teach I almost always have a digital device (beyond the presentation tool) with me to reference my notes and do all the digital teaching elements like recording marks and interacting with students digitally.

So far I’ve found my laptop to do all I need it to, but laptops have a limited battery, they can be less than portable and have the visual barrier of a vertical screen. My phones, specifically my iPhone, is too small to refer to and interact with while teaching.

Here’s my reflections from teaching with a tablet:

  • I like the form factor – back to when all I’d use was paper notes…. well someone else teaching a class would have.
  • The portability does allow me to be more engaged with my students both with with my location in the classroom and the removal of the laptop/monitor barrier.
  • I can’t take notes as fast, but the notes I do make just sound less jundgemental than the clicity clack of a keyboard

Here’s the strangest reflection:

  • When I refer to my tablet for something I feel like Moses reading a decree from his tablet. I feel as though each fact should be prefaced with “thou shalt..”. Perhaps its the read-only or consumptive not creative nature of the whole tablet form factor that makes my notes read or feel like decrees?

What does Pearson/Google’s OpenClass Look Like?

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Pearson and Google launched their open class platform this week. Its a Learning Management System (LMS) tied to Google Apps domins. Two subjects often covered by this blog.

My short take is that the service looks useful for recreating an isolated web space that respects the need for private on-line areas student privacy and publisher copyright suggest. It’s not as open as I had hoped, but it is more real-world collaborative than any other LMS I’ve used.

My quick assessment, with updates from Tuesday October 18, 2011 4:51 PM:

  • Private – both in web isolation and in student records
  • Private but easy to add others
  • Free to add to an Google Apps domain – good option to those already using Google Apps versus other LMSs
  • Has document collaboration powered by Google Docs
  • Easy to use
  • Simple link to publisher content
  • UI is polished, including maximize option for all content


  • Standard Cloud control concerns
  • Unless your institution is paying for a commercial LMS licence the migration costs will likely outweigh any transition costs
  • Configuration of items is often done through a Moodle style view/modify (edit) metaphor – can’t say I’m a fan – but so many instructors want a “student view”
  • Crude controls of public (rest of the web) versus private, biased to private
  • It’s infrastructure, not an innovation
  • The menu structure and/or list of tools appears to be extensively cached – is this the return of the turn of the millennium Perl based tools and I need to “publish” something somewhere? – kidding
  • There’s no logout button?

Also, you can add other participants via their E-Mail address, but no E-Mails are sent and there otherwise seems to be no way for them to access the OpenClass without being part of the Google Apps domina?