Friday, September 21, 2012


As part of a project at UB called Tools of Engagement, I am exploring some features of Flickr and other online sites. I haven't taken the time to clear up "red eye" in some of the photos I used for today's creations, but my purpose was simply  to try out  features of different tools and the photos worked for that.

 Here's a  Flickr slide show of Naps.  I uses a "set" of pix in Flickr to create this.  I could also use the set to create the Animoto version.  It would have been easier, however, if I could have used "tags" to find photos for uploading but I didn't see that option.

Here is the Animoto version .

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

 And here is the Flixtime version with some of the same photos.

 Although the Flixtime version photos seemed fuzzier, there are also some features in that program that might be worth exploring like voice over.  However, I had to download the Flickr photos to my hard drive in order to upload them to Flixtime.

I wanted to use the site Stupeflix which I had used before but there doesn't seem to be a free version any longer.  Too bad.  I liked the site.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Perpetual Beta


As I begin teaching my online course called Technologies in Second Language Classrooms this semester, I want to take a moment to look back at how the course has changed over the years.  There  have been changes in both the content and the activities I ask the participants to do. However, I find that three guiding principles seem to be the basis for how I created the course and the changes that I have made.  The three general features which I felt were important then and still feel are  critical now are  learning by doing, staying connected, thinking globally.

The original 2004 course was called Computer Technology in L2 Learning.  In that first  f2f  course which I taught in a computer lab, the readings were a combination of a 1999 text on computer-assisted language learning, and many online articles about webquests and intercultural communication.  The students were required to create a website using MS Front Page, create a webquest lesson plan and teach a computer skill to the class from a list that included MS Publisher, tracking changes with MS Word, Yahoo groups, Tapped In, Inspiration, and Schmooze University. 

Let's jump ahead to 2008 to Using the Internet in the L2 Classroom.  The course is now online and we are using Will Richardson's text Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms but we are using the first (2006) edition.   Thankfully, students no longer need to learn how to create a website from scratch but they create their own blogs, Googledocs documents and podcasts.  They reflect on George Siemens' connectivist theory of learning and get connected through Nings, Delicious, and Twitter.  The Googledocs assignment is a group project with each student reviewing two tools (one synchronous and one asynchronous) from a suggested list of Internet tools.  To think globally, the students choose from a list of sites which allow for global collaboration and review one of them.

What changes have 4 more years brought?  Richardson's text, now in its 3rd edition, is still the basic reading material.   Students learn utilize blogs and VoiceThread for sharing their ideas and creations.  They practice story-telling by using tools such as Bookr, Bubblr and comic strip generators.   They explore gamification by exploring language games.  They complete a group project using Googledocs presentations in which they compare several Internet tools of their own choosing.

They stay connected with Nings or Yahoo groups, DIIGO and Twitter.  They explore ePals in depth to reflect on how to connect their own classrooms with the world.
I think the guiding principles of learning by doing, staying connected and thinking globally remain relevant in 2012.  What changes over time is the tools used to accomplish these ends.  For that reason, the course will remain in "perpetual beta."

Monday, September 03, 2012

How Do You Spell Frustration? Wiki!


In 2006 I created a wiki called SUNYAB in Wikispaces.  I planned to use it to store my syllabus for use and for further revision.  I was also hoping to include a mod in my online course in which the students would create wikis for their own use.

However, I became frustrated with trying to figure out how things worked.  Thinking that perhaps the problem was the software, I then tried PBWorks, only to suffer the same frustration.

Now since I am following an online workshop called Tools of Engagement, I thought I would try again.  However, I've run into the same problems. Such simple things as centering text or switching to an HTML view are some of the functions that have me baffled.  In an article on wikis that I found through the Tools of Engagement, Teaching History with Technology, the author compares wikis with Google Sites.

An increasingly popular alternative to a wiki is Google Sites. Formerly known as Google Pages, Google Sites is a free website creation tool that has incorporated features commonly associated with wikis. For instance, Google Sites includes a "revision history" of edits and provides the ability to insert comments. A significant Google Sites advantage is that multiple people can edit a web page at exactly the same time. Multiple people can edit a wiki page, but not at the exact same time. Google Sites is also intuitive and arguably less "clunky" than a wiki. That said, Google Sites is not a true wiki editor and lacks some of wiki features and flexibility.

 I have not yet tried Google Sites, but if it is as easy to use as Googledocs, I would probably prefer it to Wikispaces.  I realize that it takes a certain amount of time to learn any new online tool, but I've now invested several hours without any real success.  So, for now, it's no wikis for me!