Tag Archives: web2.0

Google Maps for New Student Orientation

After putting student-created videos on Google Maps I’ve been thinking about how a similar process could be used to provide an orientation to the institution and community for new international students.  Some of the teachers at Ohio University are already well on their way to creating such a map.

Videos of some of the popular destinations have been recorded, posted to YouTube, and embedded into the popup balloons on the map.  [Note: Not all of these features will work on the video I have embedded above.  Click on “view larger map” to see the fully-featured version.] Others include other useful information such as websites and phone numbers.  This was all teacher-created, but the opportunity exists to allow student contributions.

This is something we really need to pull together.  Know of a similar example?  Leave a comment.

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Image Size and Resolution

over stretched image

Think this image looks good? Click on it to see it actual size. Yikes!

I made a presentation at Ohio TESOL last week about how to make better PowerPoint presentations.  I’m going to add the audio to my slides by the end of this week (currently, you can only view the original slides sans audio).

Overall, the presentation was very well received.  In fact, I even inspired some people to overcome their fear and give PowerPoint a try.  One such brave soul emailed me the following question about blurry images, which I think is worth sharing here.  It’s a problem that many beginners face when adding images to PowerPoint presentations as well as print documents.  You won’t be an expert until you can fix it.  My response follows.

I loved your presentation last week on PowerPoint.  Being technically challenged, pp has never been at the top of my list to try.  But, after listening to you last Friday, I have put together a small presentation for a listening and speaking one class.  My question is…After I paste and stretch photos from Flicker, they are blurry.  I realize it is probably a simple click, but I cannot find it.  Please help!

I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation and I’m glad you’re diving in  and trying things out in PowerPoint.  I think this is a really good way to learn this technology.

image stretched 900%

Stretching an image to 900% of its original size will result in a blurry or pixelated image.

The issue you’re dealing with is a common one.  It has to do with the size and resolution of the original image you’re trying to add to your presentation.  When you are in PowerPoint, double-click on the image you’re working with to pull up the “Format Picture” menu.  Choose the “Size” tab at the top to see if you’ve stretched your image past it’s original size.  If the height or width under “Scale” is more than 100%, you will probably experience some blurriness or you will start to see all of the pixels that make up the image.  (To really see this, try using a really small image from a website and stretching it to fill your entire slide.  It will get really, really blurry and pixely.)

flickr picture

Click on "all sizes" to find larger versions of images in Flickr.

So, that’s the problem, but what’s the solution?  Well, you need to start with larger original images.  Once you find an image in Flickr, you will see an “ALL SIZES” button right under the title of the picture.  This will take you to the original picture and often give you several different size options.  By choosing the original, you can usually find a version large enough that you will be able to stretch it to fill your slide.  I suggest you double-check after you stretch it though (double-click again to pull up the Format Picture menu) because if it’s more than about 110% of the original size, your picture may look stretched when projected onto a screen even if you don’t notice any problems on your computer.

Something else to consider is the file size of the picture you use.  If you just need a small picture, try to avoid using the largest size.  Using larger pictures increases the size of the file for your final presentation.  While finding room on a hard drive usually isn’t a problem for new computers, on some machines PowerPoint can get bogged down and run slowly if many large photos have to be loaded for every slide.  So, if you only need a little picture in the corner, try using a smaller size image.

I hope that’s pretty clear.  Give it a try and let me know if you’re still having trouble.  Incidentally, I hope to upload an updated version of my presentation complete with audio in the next couple of days.  Watch for it here: http://www.slideshare.net/eslchill

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Highlight the Web

Dont use these on your screen.

Don't use these on the internet.

I’ve recently started using Diigo to manage my bookmarks online.  It’s a lot like Delicious, which I’ve blogged about before, but has more features.  Both sites are cloud-based applications that allow you to manage your bookmarks online instead of in the browser of one computer.  So, instead of bookmarking something at the office and then not having it at home, or vice versa, bookmarks are saved to one central location.  And when I add bookmarks to Diigo, they are automatically added to Delicious, which means neither list becomes out of date.

The way I discovered Diigo was because of one of the features I like: highlighting.  Using Diigo, you can highlight sections of a web document and then forward a link to that page with the highlights (and even comments!) included.  For example, I could share this blog post.  This can be particularly useful with ESL students.  A long article may be intimidating, but a couple of paragraphs might be more manageable.

A simpler approach is a site called citebite.com.  You don’t sign up for an account, but instead copy and paste a URL and the section of text you want highlighted.  The site then gives you a URL for the result.  I could highlight this paragraph in this blog post, for example.  Comments are not available, and only one passage can be highlighted, but Citebite is a good, simple solution.

Awesomehighlighter.com falls somewhere in the middle of the other two applications.  When you enter a URL, you see the page and can then click on text you want highlighted.  Comments, in the form of sticky notes are also available.  Awesome Highlighter then provides a URL to your result page.  So, for example, I could add notes and highlighted passages to this blog post.  Unfortunately, Awurl.com, which Awesome Highlighter uses to provide URLs to the results pages, is blocked on the Ohio State network because it is a proxy / anonymizer.  Even though this is a localized problem, you might want to check that it won’t be blocked where you are before using this tool extensively.

The comment feature in applications like Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, or other document editors has been used to facilitate collaboration between multiple authors and editors for a while now.  As we move closer and closer to the promises made by cloud computing, more and more of these tools are migrating to web-based applications that are becoming easier and easier to use.

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Crowdsourcing Meta-Resources

A Google Spreadsheet of TED Talks.

A Google Spreadsheet of TED Talks.

I came across a blog post on The History Teacher’s Attic which organized TED Talks by educational discipline and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  The interesting part is that the post is based on a Google Docs Spreadsheet containing information on every TED Talk through July 29, 2009.  The thing I like most about this post is the potential in this spreadsheet.

Johnny Lee's TED Talk introduces his $50 interactive whiteboard.

Johnny Lee's TED Talk.

First, most TED Talks are fascinating (Johnny Lee’s talk introduced the world to the Wii-based $50 interactive whiteboard) and authentic audio resources for advanced ESL students.  Having one central resource with overviews of all talks, is very useful for an ESL teacher.

Second, Google Docs can be very useful tools for collaboration.  Because they are cloud-based, anyone can access and edit documents via a web browser.  By opening up the document for anyone to edit, the work of compiling all of the information can be distributed to many people.  For example, this list of educators on Twitter spreadsheet was crowdsourced, meaning many people did a little bit of work to build what is a pretty extensive list.

The US Presidents mashup.

A mashup of US Presidents.

And once the spreadsheet has enough information, it can be mashed up in useful new ways.  For example, this mashup, created using MIT’s Exhibit, makes the information in the TED Talks Google Docs spreadsheet sortable and searchable.  Other examples include Flags of the World, which combines flag images from Wikipedia and a Google Map, and US presidents, which includes a timeline, map, images, and facts about each president such as religion and political party.

So, at this point, I’m ready to begin the new project of collecting and compiling some of my favorite resources into larger, crowdsourced, mashable meta-resources.  I’m going to start with a wide-open Google Docs spreadsheet, and then try my hand at different mashups.  But, before I begin, here are some questions I’m trying to answer.  (Feel free to supply your answers by commenting on this post.)

This American Life has great audio.

This American Life has great audio.

First, what resource(s) should be compiled?  TED Talks seem to be relatively well covered, but how about a similar resource for This American Life episodes, stories from The Moth live storytelling events, YouTube videos (EDU or otherwise), or other resources?  Should the meta-resource be targeted to ESL / EFL teachers or all educators?  And finally, what information should be included?  A link to the resource, the title, duration and a synopsis are obvious details, but what else?  Maybe keywords or tags as a way to organize them, the goegraphic location of where the story takes place, a warning system for language or content not appropriate for the classroom, and links to related resources in case students want to explore particular topics further.

So, consider this a call to action.  I’m going to solicit lots of feedback and then begin.  Once underway, I’m going to solicit more help.  With a little crowdsourcing, we can grow some really interesting and useful resources.


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Teach Like a Dandelion Not a Mammal

(cc) http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/434872938/

Teach like this.

I was still thinking about Connectivism when I read “Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It’s Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity,” Chris Anderson’s article in Wired magazine. The article is an excellent interpretation of how the increasing ubiquitousness of technology has changed our relationship to it. The central metaphor here is how two very different organisms, dandelions and mammals, reproduce.

Dandelions reproduce by scattering as many seeds as possible, a tiny fraction of which will take root and grow. Fish, and many other kinds of animals, reproduce this way too. By contrast, mammals in general, and humans in particular, typically produce far fewer offspring and work much harder to ensure each one survives. Technology has become so cheap that it, too, can be scattered everywhere. This has the potential to change everything from business to education.

One example from Anderson’s article is the medium of video. Broadcast television, the traditional way video is viewed, operates like a mammal. Each television show is research, cast, scripted, piloted and refined before it airs because media companies need to be certain their shows will be watched millions of viewers in order to attract advertisers. But YouTube, which is free, behaves like a dandelion. Countless videos are posted, the best of which are viewed millions of times, while others may never be viewed at all.

Anderson inludes lots of other examples, but I really got to thinking about how to teach like a dandelion. This brought me back to Connectivism. One issue that I think Connectivism addresses nicely is that students can make connections to knowledge that are appropriate for their own individual learning style. For example, listening to two people talking on a YouTube video may be very useful for auditory learners, while visual learners might prefer to see a chart outlining a topic or idea.

I often use a course management system (CMS) with my classes and post links to a variety of resources for my students. For example, when teaching grammar, I often post copies of my presentation materials, notes I make in class, practice quizzes, YouTube videos, and other resources. But what if I posted more? And what if I encouraged my students to post more? Maybe we could break out of the CMS by devising a common tag based on the course number, and we could all tag resources using a social bookmarking tool like Delicious.

Another important aspect of Connectivism is that the teacher should teach students how to evaluate resources. In a dandelion-like world, where countless resources come floating at you on the wind, this will prove to be an essential skill. The technology that will enable this shift in teaching already exists. But will teachers and students, most of whom are mammals, be ready for it?


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Summer Inspiration: Connectivism

I came across this video a couple of months ago and haven’t stopped thinking about it or recommending it to people.  It makes a very compelling case for using Web 2.0 technologies to allow students to construct their own knowledge.  This would change the role of the teacher from keeper of knowledge to facillitator of learning.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how these ideas could apply to my grammar classes.  I often teach advanced grammar to ESL students with a wide range of abilities (our students are placed into levels based on aggregate scores, not into each class).  In general, I present new material and then vary their homework activities based on their ability.  But what if there were a better way?

The materials I typically present in class could be put online (with my voiceover explanations, animations to illustrate key points, etc.) and students could watch the presentations at home.  The could then come to class prepared, ask whatever questions they had, and then we could do the “howework activities” in class.  Wouldn’t I, as a teacher, be more helpful to them while they were trying to use what they had learned?

My presentation could become a part of what they used to study a particular grammatical structure.  They could supplement this with other online resources they find (and are probably already using) and share them with the class via online courseware.  So, some students could learn from  stories that include highly contextualized examples of the structure while others could examine charts and tables if that was their preference.  It’s easy to see how this process would enable students to learn in ways that matched their learning styles.

Will it work?  I’ve tried elements of this approach and one of the biggest hurdles seems to be the reaction from students that the teacher isn’t “teaching.”  If we can get past this issue, we might really be able to run with it.


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How is technology changing learning?

I’m starting a short research project and looking for as many interesting responses to this question as possible:

How is technology changing learning?

It’s pretty general, and very open-ended, but that’s by design.  If you’ve perused much of my blog, you know that I’ve posted several of my own answers to this question.  But, this project isn’t about what I think; It’s about what you think.

Please leave comment(s) below.  And, if you know someone who might have an interesting answer, please invite him or her to comment as well.  Although you’ll be able to post your comments here until WordPress shuts its doors, I can only include them in my project if they’re posted by May 15, 2009.  Comments may be used for research, but don’t let that scare you off.  Once the project is complete, I’ll share some of the results here.



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