Monday, May 11, 2009

Wordle For Creating Word Clouds

Take a look at the following:

You have an instant recognition of what it is: common terminology associated with the concepts of blended learning.

How did I do it? Easy. Visit Wordle and click on Create. Just begin to enter the words you want to display, repeating words you want to display in a larger type.

From the Wordle website:

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.

The FAQ section explains it all. It is very easy to use... Give it a try!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a word picture must be worth a million.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Podcast vs. Lecture

The April 2009 issue of eSchool News (page 20) reports on a study conducted by the State University of New York Fredonia. The study, “iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?” asked some students to watch a recorded lecture, via podcast, and others to attend the classroom lecture. From the article:

Students who watched the lecture podcast—available from the iTunes U online video library—scored an average of 71 percent. Students who sat through the 30-minute classroom lecture scored an average of 62 percent, according to the study. ... test scores were most dramatically affected by note taking. Students who watched the video lecture and took notes ... scored an average of 15 points higher than their peers in the lecture hall. ... They listened to [the podcast] over and over,” ... Examining the notes taken by students who participated in the study, ... it was clear many students took advantage of the pause and rewind buttons. ... People stop the podcast as they go along ... [some] professors often go too quickly through lecture slides, giving students little time to jot down notes.

The study also noted the following observations:

  • Just as inattentive students in a classroom will not be properly prepared, students viewing podcasts without taking notes and paying attention will also be unprepared.
  • Podcasts are a tool, and must be used properly; students still need to do the work.
  • Only 20% watched the podcasts on a mobile device; 80% watched the podcasts on their computers.
For instructors who think the use of podcasts will keep students out of the classroom:
More than 90 percent of students said they preferred “traditional lectures with computer-based learning as a supplement for revising” their notes.

Subscribers to eSchool News can access the current issue online by going to:

Friday, March 20, 2009

PDF Writer: Primo PDF

I regularly use Adobe's Acrobat Professional to create my PDF files. If you do not have this software, however, I have found a useful, free PDF writer: Primo PDF.

You can download it at

Using it is quite simple, similar to Acrobat. Once installed on your computer:
  1. To change a document to a PDF file, Click Print. Instead of selecting a printer, choose Primo PDF.
  2. Click OK.
  3. Choose Print.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Wait for a few seconds for the PDF document to display.
  6. Save it to your desktop or drive.
For most basic Word documents, it has worked well for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Learning Communities

Looking for some new ideas? A fresh perspective? Sometimes it helps to connect with other learning professionals, and see what they have been doing.

Explore these online learning communities. They offer you the opportunity to engage with other learning professionals from around the world. This is a great opportunity to network, interact, and share knowledge and ideas.

Here are two learning communities you may want to check out:

Tapped In (The online workplace of an international community of education professionals.)
Learning Town (A Village for Learning Professionals)

What other online learning communities have you discovered? Comment on them here, so they can be shared with everyone.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Abraham Lincoln on Education

Today we observe Abraham Lincoln's birthday. He is a source of inspiration for many, including our new president. I greatly admire President Lincoln as well. Here are some of his thoughts regarding education.

A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones.

Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.

Happy 200th, Mr. President.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Academic Earth

Technology is making learning more accessible to more people. Now, the organization, Academic Earth, has the goal of "giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education."

From its website:

"As more and more high quality educational content becomes available online for free, we ask ourselves, what are the real barriers to achieving a world class education? At Academic Earth, we are working to identify these barriers and find innovative ways to use technology to increase the ease of learning.

We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give Internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars. Our goal is to bring the best content together in one place and create an environment that in which that content is remarkably easy to use and in which user contributions make existing content increasingly valuable.

We invite those who share our passion to explore our website, participate in our online community, and help us continue to find new ways to make learning easier for everyone."

Participating universities include Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale.

You can learn more at: Academic Earth.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Points for Successful Teaching Online

What makes an online instructor successful? Certainly, the same qualities that make the traditional classroom instructor successful apply to the online instructor. When online, however, those qualities (and any shortcomings) can be magnified.

Teaching online, however, requires the instructor to play a greater role in facilitation, guidance, and management. The instructor needs to make that extra effort to been seen as approachable and accessible to the student.

In eSchool News (January 2009), Managing Editor Dennis Pierce listed the "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" (Chickering & Gamson, 1987):
  • Encouraging student-faculty contact,
  • Encouraging cooperation among students,
  • Encouraging active learning,
  • Giving prompt feedback,
  • Emphasizing time on task,
  • Setting high expectations, and
  • Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.
Pierce interviewed Bill Phillips of the University of Central Florida. Phillips recommends that the instructor must demonstrate authority and gain students' trust right from the start. He suggests that the instructor can establish trust right away by sending a note to students individually before the course begins, introducing themselves and setting clear goals and expectations.

In a conversation with some Faculty at Drexel, I learned that this simple note of welcome provides big returns. The students feel that they are important as individuals, and that they are recognized not only as another enrolled student. At the end of the course that these students attended, their feedback indicated, again, the good impression that first note of welcome made on them. It impacted their view of the instructor, the course, and their individual responsibility for the success of the course.

Phillips also noted that some measure of redundancy of course information is important: posting directions and reminders in many places throughout the online course environment, so that students can easily find course requirements and other important material, is important to the student's success and comfort level.

When teaching online, the message is clear: good, open, frequent communication is the key. Clearly identifying objectives and expectations provides the focus the students are looking for, and a road map that points to the successful completion of the course.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome 2009!

What do you know? What don't you know? What do you wonder about?

What would you like to learn this year? Make 2009 your year to discover something new.

Learn a new skill. Learn a new language. Learn some new software.

Seek out the new, the unknown. Go beyond the territory you know. Expand your vision.

Make 2009 the year you become more.

Happy New Year: Peace, prosperity, and learning.