Creating a YouTube based discussion activity in Moodle

I run a lot of training on effective uses of a VLE (usually Moodle) and one of the easiest activities that I show, is finding a video on YouTube, and then embedding this into a forum activity within the VLE.

The reasons for doing this are:

  1. By embedding the video (rather than simply linking to it) – we remove all the distractions, adverts, etc. that appear on YouTube around the edges.
  2. By adding this as a discussion activity, we ask the students a question – this will focus their attention whilst watching the video, rather than just passively  ‘absorbing’ it.

It doesn’t matter if students don’t actually post their answers to the forum (although useful if they do), as they will still benefit from watching the video with the question in their mind.

The following video goes through the steps of how to embed the video, and the basic settings within a Moodle forum activity.

And if you want to only show a portion of the video you can always identify the exact start and end points that you want to play, by following these instructions:

https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/cropping-a-youtube-video-before-adding-to-moodle/

#FELTAG – buying or not buying resources conclusion

This is the 4th and last post in a series looking at the issue of should we buy off the shelf resources or produce resources in house. The previous posts have been:

  1. #FELTAG – to buy or not buy resources?
  2. #FELTAG – Considerations when buying off the shelf resources
  3. #FELTAG – Considerations if not buying off the shelf resources

My intention in this series is to provide the decision makers in organisations with ideas and considerations to help them make an informed decision in this area of work – a decision that is not easy or straight forward, yet the consequences of making the wrong decision are huge.

Every organisation is different, so there certainly isn’t a one size fits all answer. What is right for one, will be totally inappropriate for another, and when a decision is made it doesn’t have to be a blanket whole organisation decision, It may be that for certain teams it is better to produce resources in house; because they have the skill to do so, and the quality of the commercial options in that area isn’t great. Then other teams, may choose to buy all or some of their resources in.

It also isn’t necessary to buy all resources from the same provider – yes they may give you a huge discount for buying a full suite of resources across all subjects, and yes it would be easily technically and managerially to deal with one set rather than lots of sets – but if the resources for certain subjects within the suite aren’t good enough, then they either won’t be used, or will be used badly.

It may also be necessary to change tactic part way through, e.g. you may choose to produce resources in house for one particular course, but part way through you realise it is just too difficult and isn’t working, and you decide to buy in. Or you may choose to buy resources in – but once you have done so, you realise that you could do a better job in house, so you start to develop your own – which you then phase in as the bought ones become obsolete (e.g. at the end of the year on an annual subscription).

It is also imperative to shop around – don’t just jump straight into the ones that are endorsed by the awarding body – especially as some of the awarding bodies are also publishing companies – their endorsement is not always a sign of their real value and quality.

Whatever decisions are made – many factors have to be balanced as follows:

  • Financial – buying in and producing in house both cost money.
  • Quality – buying off the shelf, on the surface should be higher quality as far as resources go – but doesn’t mean the overall quality of the teaching and learning will be higher (just like buying really expensive glossy books, does not substitute quality teaching).
  • Time – Buying in is certainly the quicker option, but if the resources aren’t appropriate or don’t fit the organisations systems, learning how to use them effectively may take additional time.
  • CPD – producing resources in house, becomes part of the CPD process, so brings an additional benefit that you don’t get from buying in.
  • There is a lot out there for free – there is a huge amount of freely available materials and assets that can be used. So in some areas, buying off the shelf resources is relatively expensive, as you could easily produce something similar in house very cheaply. In other areas where there is less freely available content, buying resources is better value pound for pound.

Whatever choice is made – it mustn’t be rushed, it has to be balanced, and all relevant parties need to be involved in the decision making process. If the right decisions are made, it is possible to provide a really high quality and cost effective learning experience.

Image of a pair of balance scales

Balance

Whereas I welcome comments on my blog posts, please don’t use this blog post as a way to either promote or criticise any particular companies or products. Any such comments I will delete.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/julia_manzerova/4748112382/

Top tips for sharing audio files with learners

I use audio a lot in my work, both for giving learners feedback but also for the creation of learning objects. One way to use audio is for each week or topic of teaching to provide a short audio file to set the scene, to provoke thought or as a form of additional information for those that want to take the topic further (differentiation). Many people will use their VLE to house these audio files – and if we do this there are a few tips that we can apply to make this process easier for ourselves and the learners. The following video will explain some of these ideas, and the details are further explained below.


Using leading zeros when naming files

If we are producing a sequence of audio files (e.g. 1 per week) – if we name  the files:

  • Underwater Origami Week 1
  • Underwater Origami Week 2
  • Underwater Origami Week 3
  • ……
  • Underwater Origami Week 9
  • Underwater Origami Week 10
  • Underwater Origami Week 11

This is OK if you have less than 9 weeks in total, but if you have 10 or more weeks, what can happen is when the files are saved together in a folder either on a computer or an audio playing device (e.g. mp3 player/phone) – the order of them may be displayed alphabetically, and with the above scenario, this would look like:-

  • Underwater Origami Week 1
  • Underwater Origami Week 10
  • Underwater Origami Week 11
  • Underwater Origami Week 2
  • Underwater Origami Week 3
  • ……
  • Underwater Origami Week 9

So to avoid this, it makes sense to save the filename with leading zeros e.g.

  • Underwater Origami Week 01
  • Underwater Origami Week 02
  • Underwater Origami Week 03
  • ……
  • Underwater Origami Week 09
  • Underwater Origami Week 10
  • Underwater Origami Week 11

This way if the files are arranged alphabetically, they will remain in the correct order.


Use CamelCase rather than spaces

If we have spaces in our filenames, when these are displayed as web addresses the space is often replaced with a %20 – which then stops the filename from making sense, so I tend to avoid spaces. What I do instead is use CamelCase – this is where all the words are lowercase, but the first letter of each word is capitalised so that it stands out (and creates a bump – hence the name CamelCase). This makes it easier to read on the eye.

  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek01

Adding meaning into the filename

With the example that I have used so far, this works if we know what is being covered in each week, but if a learner is coming back to this at a later date to revisit a topic that they are struggling with, or need for their assignment – if they don’t know which week each topic was taught in it can be frustrating trying to guess which file they want, so adding a brief description at the end of the filename will help e.g.

  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek01-Introduction
  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek02-TypesOfPaper
  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek03-FoldingTechniques

Makes a lot more sense.


If using dates use yymmdd format

If you want to include a date in a filename – then use the yymmdd format, or reverse format – e.g. todays date is

9th July 2012

This would be recorded as the year first (12) then the month (07) then the date (09) to give a final date of 120709. The reason we use this is if the files are arranged alphabetically – if we have used this format they will also appear in the correct chronological order. e.g.

  • 120608UnderwaterOrigamiWeek01-Introduction
  • 120615UnderwaterOrigamiWeek02-TypesOfPaper
  • 120622UnderwaterOrigamiWeek03-FoldingTechniques

Zipping the audio files for easier downloading

If distributing the files each week via the VLE then that is great if the learners are diligent enough to access the VLE, to select the file and download it onto their audio player or computer. However it is worth considering as well as doing this, also putting all the files into a folder, zipping this up, and uploading this zip file as a file – this way the learners have the option of downloading the whole series in one go, rather than having to visit every link in turn and save etc.

If you are recording the files as you go along with the teaching, then this can be done at the end of each term for example for students to download retrospectively, or if the audio files have been produced in advance, then you have the choice of doing this at the beginning, so they have the files in advance.


Another important feature when using audio files is to use the metadata options – which will be covered in the next post….

Changing attitudes towards learner owned devices

Last week I presented at an ‘Arts and Media’ Conference in Chester organised by Sector Training.

I presented at the same conference last year, running a session on Mobile Learning (amongst other things), and in the session mentioned (in passing) that at some point in the future the norm would be that learners would turn up to lectures with their own devices – a suggestion which caused a bit of a stir amongst the delegates as they identified all sorts of reasons why this wouldn’t happen, and why it would be a bad thing if it did happen, and how I was such a heretic for suggesting something so completely outrageous…..anyway…..

….fast forward 12 months, an at the same conference with a similar set of attendees, I run another session alongside Ian Wilson. Ian was introducing the use of the iPad within this area of work, and the discussion moved onto the logistics of equipping every learner with an iPad, and the attendees completely bought into this idea – amazing the magnitude of the attitude shift in just 12 months.
Meet Junior.

I think embracing learner owned devices is the only viable option for organisations for the future. A large college may spend many hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to update the computers that are more than 3 years old – this is a huge expense just to stand still, and when you look at the stats in terms of usage – you cannot find an empty IT suite on the room booking system for love nor money, yet the computers are used for probably less than 10% of the time – so we have a huge investment in technology that sits idle for most of the day.

Embracing learner owned devices does present some problems, but all of which can be managed. The single biggest issue (and in my opinion where investment should be going) is getting a good, reliable and robust wireless network that students can connect into. A few years ago I was saying that electricity was going to be a big issue as people power up their laptops etc. But if the iPad does prevail, then this has ample battery to get through the day negating this problem.

Using technology to create paper based games

This is the 7th entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

As a lecturer, I quickly identified that traditional ‘chalk and talk’ was not an effective method of teaching especially for someone like me with a monotonic voice and really bad hand writing. It was this that guided me into the area of using technology in my teaching, but I also looked at different ways of creating little activities to do, and over the years I produced dozens of non technological resources out of card, paper, wood and laminated sheets.

Most of these were very bespoke to a particular topic, but 2 of my ideas are transferable to other areas.

The first I have called ‘multi-choice’ patience, The tutor enters 36 multi-choice questions and the answers into an Excel grid, which then converts these into a 36 card activity, where you pick a card out of the pack, answer the question, then choose the card identified by the answer. You keep doing this until you have answered 6 questions, if you have all 6 questions correct, then the 6th card should point back to the first card in that set. You then pick another card and try to complete the next set of 6 cards.

Multi choice patience

Screenshot of the multi-choice patience activity

The difficult part of this is thinking of the 36 questions, but once they are created, very easy to print out the cards, cut them up (and laminate if used more than once).

The template can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/MultipleChoicePatience.xls with the worked example (anatomy and physiology based) being http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/MultipleChoicePatienceEXAMPLE.xls

The second activity that I created is ‘Buzz word bingo’, and was originally for myself and colleagues to use at boring meetings, to make them more interesting, but they can be easily used in a teaching and learning situation.

All you need to do is add a list of buzz words (which could be the answers to questions) into an Excel grid. This will then convert these into different bingo cards of different sizes, which you print out, cut up and give to the learners. Very easy to do especially as an end of topic revision activity, or something to do in that last week before Christmas.

Buzz Word Bingo

Buzz Word Bingo

Buzz Word Bingo can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/BuzzWordBingoGenerator.xls

All of the resources listed here can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_class_management.php which also contains links to resources that can be used to split classes up into random groups, and allocate topics to students.

Using QR codes for explorative learning

This is the 4th entry in a series of ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning

QR codes are like a bar code, but rather than being made up of lines, are constructed of squares. An example QR code being below. A QR code is a graphical representation of a string of text, and they can be created by anyone, using something like http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

qrcode

The above code is for the web address of this blog (https://davefoord.wordpress.com)

Most mobile phones that have the ability to take photos can read Qr codes – some will need to download some software (or an app) onto the device (usually free) – you then take a photo of the code, and it will convert it into the text that it represents. In the case above, because the text is a web address – if the phone is internet enabled, it will then go to that website.

There are many ways that QR codes could be used in education, some examples are:-

  • Land based colleges having QR codes next to plants in the grounds, so a learner can point their phone at the code to get more information about that plant.
  • Providing stretch information following an activity – lets say you have a printed worksheet that the students complete with pen and paper. If you want to give them additional reading materials, or additional optional questions – to put a long URL onto the page is of little use, as hard to type in a long URL accurately – but putting a small QR code in the bottom corner, allows them to just point their phone at it, and away they go.
  • Having a set of questions (which may be used on paper in the classroom) – but having some help information, or feedback information stored on a web address somewhere (this could be on the VLE, a Blog, a wiki etc.) create a QR code pointing to this, and then put this onto the document. This allows the students to attempt the questions first, then go to the additional information later on if they need to.
  • Creating information treasure trails. Setting up a trail, where the learners move around the site, locating a QR code – which contains information to do with the subject, possibly asking them a question that points them to the location of the next QR code. Yes this would take a bit of time to set up, but as allows, there is the option of setting the students the task of creating a QR code trail for their peers. The students would need to think about what questions to ask, where to place the codes, etc. Then create them (quite easy to do) and go and put them in the right places, then have fun following each others trails.

An example of something like this, has been created by an Australian PE teacher ‘Mr Robbo

With further details on his excellent blog – http://thepegeek.com/2009/03/26/using-geocached-qr-codes-for-revision-in-a-pe-classroom/

Using screencasting to explain a concept / revise

This is the 3rd entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

I have become a huge fan of screencasting, especially since I discovered screenr – a free web based tool, that is really easy to use for this purpose. I often use screencasts as a way of producing ‘how to videos’ as part of my work. In a previous post on this blog, I highlighted how this idea could easily be used to create revision aids. Which either the tutor could create for the learners, or the learners could create themselves (and then share with their peers?)

Another slight twist on this would be to challenge the learners to create a concise screencast (which if you use screenr limits you to 5 minutes) that explains a concept succinctly and accurately to other people. Maybe setting a series of criteria against which the screencasts will be judged, and offering a prize for the best one (out comes my trusty air guitar that I keep giving away). Criteria could be things like accuracy of information, artistic merit, communication skills used, etc.

If you had students working in small groups where they had to plan what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, who was going to talk etc. then you have a really good activity, covering lots of Personal Learning and Thinking Skills, as well as some Functional Skills. You may need to think about where the learners actually do their recording, as doesn’t work having lots of people in the same room, but if you have access to another small room nearby which once prepared the learner(s) can sneak into to do their recording then brilliant.

If you don’t want to use screenr, which is web based and therefore needs accounts etc, then the free camstudio, would be an option – this can either be installed onto the computer or run from a USB memory stick (and is part of the eduapps suite). This will allow you to create more than 5 minutes of recording, and keeps the output off the internet (unless you share it later) so some may prefer the extra ‘safety’ of this method, but it is more fickle to set up and get the audio settings right etc. Or you can use screenr, but in a way that you keep the end products private, as shown in this screencast.