• Dave Foord
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Putting the fun back into ‘fundamental’ learning

Later this month I will be contributing to an LSIS Learning fair in the East Midlands where I am running a session titled ‘Putting the fun back into fundamental’. The session will focus around changes to the Common Inspection Framework, and the fact that inspectors are now looking at whether the learners are ‘enjoying’ their learning experience. I have worked with a few providers where this is proving problematic. Some teachers quite simply do not have the skill to provide enjoyable learning, and others have the skills but are afraid of the culture change, and afraid that if the learners start to have ‘fun’ whilst learning then the lessons will become rowdy, they will lose control, and the learners will stop respecting them as the pillars of wisdom and knowledge that they as the tutor obviously are.

During the session that I am running on this topic, I will be providing short examples into 9 different examples of how technology can be used to easily bring in an element of fun into the learning environment,  in a way that enhances learning. Theses can be used at the end of a session to reinforce the learning that has taken place, they can be used as additional ‘stretch’ type activities, or in some cases can be used as the main method of teaching and learning of the subject.

I will blog about each different idea over the coming days, and the links below will become live as each post is published. The blog posts on this topic will all be tagged with the word ‘fun’ so all the posts within the series will be located at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/tag/fun/

The ideas that I will cover are:-

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Using Screenr to create learning objects (and keep them private)

Followers of this blog, will recognise that I am a big fan of Screenr, and use it a lot in my work – with most of the videos appearing on this blog being created with Screenr.
One of the things that I like is the ease with which I can share what I have produced as most of the time that is what I want to do, however within education there are times when people don’t want to share.

It is possible though to use Screenr to create resources, that you then keep private. They will be in the public domain for a few minutes during the process, but unlikely to be found during those few minutes.

This screencast will show you how.

Now – I only recommend the keeping private technique for resources that need to be kept private. Tools like screenr have been developed in the spirit of sharing that is web2.0 – so I hope that most screencasts created are left in the public domain for others to potential use, just like people benefit from the screencasts created from others.

Using screen capturing as a revision aid

A really simple technique that requires minimal set up time from a tutor, but has huge educational benefit, is to get learners to use screen capturing software to create educational resources – such as revision aids.

At the moment I am using http://screenr.com/ as this is free, doesn’t require a download, I can download the final product as an Mp4 or publish it to YouTube – and the videos created will play on an iPhone or iPad

Here are a couple of examples of using screenr as a revision aid, the first is the simple method, the second is where I have used some pre-created images which I drag in – this could have easily been textual labels, used to label a diagram for example.

and

If screenr is blocked for any reason by an organisation, then you can use Camstudio which is free software that can be downloaded or run from a memory stick as part of the eduapps suite – this I find is harder than screenr, as you have to fiddle with the sound settings to get it right, and the final output is much bigger.

Should we use Flash in education?

Last week I took part in an e-learning stuff podcast on the future of flash.in which we discussed in light of the fact that the Apple iPhone and Ipad doesn’t do flash, should we stop using it when creating educational content.

So should we stop using Flash when creating content – or do we keep using it, knowing that some people will have devices that won’t be able to access the content?

When I worked at a University; for the ‘e-learning courses’ – (the ones that were delivered entirely online) when a learner inquired and before they enrolled they were given a minimum specification in terms of what they would need on their computers in order to be able to do the course – and this idea I liked – it then made it easy to create content and check it against this specification, and then be safe in the knowledge that everything will work as desired.

So this could be one solution – to state what types of resources will be used, and what specifications are required to use them – then people can make a choice.

Another option would be for an organisation to stop using Flash, so that the iPad users out there, can use their devices, but how far do we go with this. I use Microsoft extensively in my teaching resources – so some of these resources become unusable on certain devices. However when I produce such resources, I do try where possible to create them in a way that they will work in older version of office and in open office. This isn’t always possible as sometimes there is a functionality in the newer versions which prevents this, in which case I have to make a judgment as to what to do, which is similar to accessibility judgments where you way up the benefits for the masses, against the disadvantages to the minority – can you make an adjustment for the minority, and then decide which technique or tool to use, and I think that this approach is valid for the use of Flash, and I follow these steps when making a decision.

  1. What is the learning outcome that I am trying to achieve?
  2. Which learners will be using the resource, and when and how?
  3. Which technologies could be used?
  4. Which one will give me the best desired output?
  5. Which one will give me the best compromise of desired output and increased accessibility?
  6. Which one will be easiest to update in the future by myself or someone else?
  7. I will then weigh up the answers to the above questions to try to make an informed decision.

The problem with this model is that it relies on me having not just a good knowledge of the different options available, but also access to lots of different tools to create them. In many organisations they will have a small number of tools to create content, and the staff will learn how to use 1 or 2, and then proceed with them only.

At some point in the future when HTML 5 is mainstream then these issues may go away, but there is such a vast array of existing materials out there, it will take time for this to happen and time for the existing resources to get converted and updated.

25 Years of PowerPoint (and 25 years of Death by PowerPoint!)

Last week the BBC reported that PowerPoint is now 25 years old.  So I was just 9 years old when PowerPoint first appeared on the scene, yet I didn’t see my first PowerPoint presentation until I was 20 and in my final year at University when 1 lecturer used it, and at the time we didn’t know what it was – but was impressed by the way that slides could merge into one another (rather than the clunk, clunk of the old slide projectors) – Oh how my expectations have changed.

The shame is that 25 years on, we still have too many utterly ineffective presentations (otherwise known as Death By PowerPoint) and what makes it worse is that many people know that their presentations aren’t good yet still keep creating them, and still keep using them (and many of them give keynote presentations at e-learning or teaching related conferences – now that really annoys me!)

Someone asked me once what the secret is to avoiding ‘Death By PowerPoint’ and I replied that early in my teaching career I made a decision that was fundamentally brilliant – I made the decision to never produce a bad presentation again – If I cannot do something well with PowerPoint then I won’t use PowerPoint at all, and although this may sound overly simple, it is the solution to the problem. The trouble is that many lecturers at FE and HE in particular now feel obliged to produce a presentation for every session that they deliver – and for them to deliver without a presentation would be like turning up without any clothes on – the presentation has become a kind of security blanket that draws the audiences eyes away from them and onto the screen.

And to make the problem worse, because learning technologies are advancing so rapidly people aren’t offering PowerPoint training as much now (as it is seen as old hat) – but there is clearly a need for the training, and when I say training I don’t mean instruction in how to add slides, choose designer backgrounds, and how to make text smaller to get more on the screen, I mean training in what makes a good presentation, how to make the presentation complement the skill of the trainer not overtake it, and how to use PowerPoint as a tool that engages the learners not sends them to sleep.

I have tried to help the education community by making some PowerPoint resources available that only require an ability to copy and paste – these can be found on my website at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_powerpoint.php These include a 9 page good practice guide, some countdown timers for timed activities, score ladders for competitive activities and templates for text boxes that can be edited whilst in presentation mode – all good ways of engaging the learners.

My real hope is that institutions  invest time in their staff training, and don’t let PowerPoint slip off the agenda – but recognise the need (and it will be a continuing need) to upskill their staff.

Embedding Google Maps into learning resources

I love maps and always have done. Prior to having kids my main hobby was mountaineering, and I used to spend over 100 days per year involved in this, so maps to me are an everyday part of my life, and I love Google maps – being able to see a map of an area, and then view the satelite image of it, I find very useful and interesting, and something that a lot of people don’t realise is that for any map that you produce, you can get some embed code – so that you can embed it into a learning platform (Moodle, Blackboard, etc) or into a wiki, blog or other editable bit of webspace. Now for certain topics this could be really good – the example below shows the location of car sales places in my home town of Loughborough – which could be used in a geography lesson – all I had to do was

  1. zoom the map into Loughborough
  2. then type ‘car sales’ into the search box which added the pins to the map
  3. Top right of the map is a link icon – click on this
  4. This gives me the embed code, which I can add to my learning resource

This is very quick to do – you can then click on the ‘view larger map’ option to view it in its own window, and zoom, move etc

Very easy to do, and for relevant subjects very useful.