Thursday, February 23, 2006

ITSC conference packed with ideas and hands-on activities

I just returned from the Instructional Technologies Strategies Conference and it was one of the most productive conferences I have attended in quite some time. Although I am using a number of Web 2.0 emerging technologies such as Flickr, blogging, RSS, etc. I learned about how I could extend the features of these products with a little open-source scripting tool called "Greasemonkey" at the Emerging Technologies Workshop. The feature I was most anxious to learn about was the ability to add geotags to my collection of online images up at Flickr. The researchers working on the Nolli Map Project wish to use a number of my images of Rome for a new image layer they will be adding and it will help them immensely if I have all of my images tagged with map coordinates. Installing Greasemonkey was a snap as it is an extension for Firefox and I only had to select it from the list of extensions up at the Firefox website then click Install Now. Then I had to find the GMIF Greasemonkey script and simply click on its link and Greasemonkey popped up a window and asked if I wanted to install it.

Then I logged in to Flickr and selected an image and a new action button appeared to the right of the regular Flickr command buttons named GMap. I click on it and it takes me to Google Map where I can zoom, scroll, and place a stick pin in the location where I took the picture. Then I can right-click on the stick pin and select Add Geotags. The latitude, longitude and geotagged tags are then added to my picture's list of tags.

For countries outside the US, I found I could use Multimap. I also installed a Greasemonkey script for Multimap but it cannot run while the GoogleMap script is enabled. So, I simply used Multimap to locate the coordinates of my picture location then copy and pasted their Latitude, Longitude and geotagged tags that are listed under the map where you have placed your stickpin into the tag field on the photo's Flickr page.

Another easy to use product I saw demonstrated at the conference was Microsoft's Photostory 3. I was particularly interested in it because it could be used to make the video podguides I would like to produce. It's also a free download from Microsoft so the price is certainly right. Photostory has the capability to import still images, arrange their sequence, attach transitions including the panning effect that you see on the History Channel all the time, overlay music, and add voice narration to produce a Windows Media file. Although I will have to use a utility to convert the Windows Media file to a file that can be viewed on a Video iPod, Photostory has all the basic functionality I need to produce a nice presentation. My first project is a non-gambler's Guide to Las Vegas! I've been there four times attending Comdex and have a wealth of images of educational activities to do when you don't like to gamble and end up in Las Vegas for a conference.

The presenters demonstrating Photostory also conduct a Tech Camp for Middle and High School students each summer and it was quite interesting to see some of the projects the kids have produced. They passed around quilts, pillows, lampshades, pamphlets, and framed three-dimensional art produced by printing images four and five times then cutting out sections of the images and layering them on top of the original image with little spacers available at craft stores. The result is a very sophisticated, professional-looking piece of art. I'm going to have to give that one a try myself.

I also attended a presentation about Moodle. I thought Moodle might be related to text-based gaming environments (Moos) but I learned that it is an open-source content management system that was created to provide a free alternative to WebCT and Blackboard. In addition to the usual CMS tools like assignments, discussion forums, basic quizzes, gradebook, and chat, Moodle incorporates

Choices:
Here a teacher asks a question and specifies a choice of multiple responses. This can be useful as a quick poll to stimulate thinking about a topic; to allow the class to vote on a direction for the course; or to gather research consent.
Choice A Choice with anonymous results
Choice A Choice with non-anonymous results
Choice A Choice that allows you to update anytime
Choice A Choice with a limited number of responses allowed

Glossaries

This activity allows participants to create and maintain a list of definitions, like a dictionary.The entries can be searched or browsed in many different formats.
Glossary Teacher-Defined Glossary
Glossary Learner-Defined Glossary
Glossary A glossary of common terms

HotPot

This module allows teachers to create multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill quizzes using Hot Potatoes software.
Hot Potatoes Quiz Newton's 2nd and 3rd Laws Quiz
Hot Potatoes Quiz Crossword Puzzle with Timer

Lessons

A lesson delivers content in an interesting and flexible way. It consists of a number of pages. Each page normally ends with a multiple choice question. Navigation through the lesson can be straight forward or complex.
Lesson How to use the Lesson Module

Surveys

The Survey module provides a number of verified survey instruments that have been found useful in assessing and stimulating learning in online environments.
Survey Critical Incident Survey
Survey Constructivist On-line Learning Environment Survey
Survey Attitudes to Thinking and Learning Survey

Wiki

A wiki is a web page that anyone can add to or edit. It enables documents to be authored collectively and supports collaborative learning. Old versions are not deleted and may be restored if required.

Workshops

A Workshop is a peer assessment activity with a huge array of options. It allows participants to assess each other's projects, as well as exemplar projects, in a number of ways.

Our university is heavily invested in Blackboard already so I doubt that the course management folks here would consider a different product at this late date but Moodle seemed very powerful and flexible.

The best part of the conference was talking with other educators who are as excited as I am about instructional uses of technology!
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