Issuu with Youblisher

Modern online publication tools are making reading online materials an experience that anyone can enjoy and look forward to. In the past week, I’ve been exploring two of these tools: Issuu and Youblisher.

Issuu is a web-based tool that makes realistic and customizable viewing of online documents and books possible. Materials which can be uploaded to Issuu are PDFs, MS Word documents, or MS Power Point files. The result is a truly stunning super sleek online Flash e-book that one can actually flip through.

Issuu’s Flash media viewer presents the content of any document like a real magazine as the page flips with a click of the mouse. Gone are the days of having to scroll down and up the page. With Issuu, the experience of reading online has become more enjoyable.

Issuu e-books can be made private or public. When public viewing is enabled, one can also decide whether or not the original document is downloadable.

A URL link and an embed code which comes with every Issue e-book make sharing easy on social networking sites such as blogs and Facebook.

Below is an e-book published using Issuu.

Youblisher is similar to Issuu but it has gone one step further into visually reproducing the experience of reading a book in real life.

With Youblisher, not only you can see the corner of the page curls when it is about to flip, but, provided that your speakers are on, you can also hear the page flipping!  Like Issuu, there is no scrolling up or down the page. You, instead hear the page flipping at the click of the mouse. Youblisher makes reading online fun as you look forward to flipping the page again!

To publish in Youblisher, your materials must be PDFs. Uploading of documents is easy and preparing your publication involves only 3 short steps.

Below is the same e-book above published using Youblisher.

Teacher Observation Form

Like Issuu, a Youblisher e-book comes with a URL and an embed code which facilitate sharing.

Both of these tools are FREE.

Guide to web-based tools

In 2010, Michael Zimmer published an elegant and nice-looking e-book entitled Tools for the 21st Century Teacher. This e-book is not just a collection of tools but is also an easy-to-use guide to classroom integration of some of the most useful web-based tools.. It was in this guide that I came across Prezi, Wallwisher, and Wordle.

Early this year, Michael published the second edition. These two e-books are a must-have for educators who want to integrate technology in their classroom.

Screencasting with Screenr

Screenr is a cool and easy to use tool that anyone can use to record what is on his or her computer screen. Narration of one’s screen activity can be also recorded using a microphone. Screenr is actually a screencasting tool for Twitter.

When I first came across this tool in Twitter, I was thinking about the possibility of it being used to record and produce tutorial and lecture videos for my students. In the past year, I was using Camtasia Studio to do this. Camtasia is a good tool but it’s not free. Screenr is FREE!

When I tried Screenr out for the first time, I soon realised another major difference between it and Camtasia – Screenr is quite simple to use! Way much simpler!

Videos are heavy files, and therefore I like the fact that Screenr limits all recordings to only 5 minutes. This will help to ensure that not only playback is smooth but videos are also focused and contain only the most important messages and information.

 As mentioned before, Screenr is actually a screencasting tool for Twitter. Students can sign up for a Twitter account and they can receive these short videos in their iPhones. Alternatively, these videos can be embedded in our Moodle course page (as shown here).

You should try it out. Go to the ScreenrHelp page if you want to know more about this tool.

Twitter mosaic

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Web content curation and teacher education: who is responsible?

I’ve spent a significant amount of time this week wondering about how I could utilize available technology in my teaching. We are already into the first week of the semester and I’m still not sure about how to best do this. By using the word ‘available technology’, I am not talking about the VCR, or TV monitor, or OHP. I’m referring, instead, to the Internet and its wealth of web-based resources and tools.

The Internet and the www have revolutionised humanity. They have influenced and changed everything that we do, from banking and communicating, to education and the way we relate to one another. And regardless of whether we live in New York or Fiji, new media literacy may well be an important precondition to success in the 21st century.

As a teacher educator, I feel that I have a role to play in this regard. I must integrate technology into my teaching and the education of my students. But this has proven to be a difficult undertaking.

There are two reasons why I find it hard to teach my teacher education students about how to use the Internet and web-based tools in their learning and teaching. First, I am not aware of any previous effort to do this in my teacher education institution or any other teacher education institution in the Pacific. This is understandable as most of the new media and web-based (Web 2.0) tools such as Twitter and Facebook, are new inventions. The Internet itself, when compared to the VCR , is also a relatively new technology. There is no existing curriculum to guide classroom practice in this area. My teaching, I guess, would be just based on my own experiences with various new media and tools.

The second reason why I find it hard to begin this adventure is that there is just too much information (web-based resources and tools) available on the internet. The rate at which new blogs, videos, Web 2.0 tools are added to the Internet is just mind-boggling. People are producing new stuff all the time.

Thus, teaching students how to use new tools in their teaching is one thing. Teaching them to be able to sift through thousands of websites and identify content that matters, is another. Using Robin Good‘s words, I need to teach my students so that they are able to “manage this deluge” and “help bring more utility and order to the web”.

I believe that content curation skills and knowledge must be made core parts of all teacher education curricula. Today, the problem with teaching is not the lack of teaching resources; it is the lack of knowledge about how to make sense of the all those resources that are already available.

Personal Knowledge Management: It’s all about sharing

What is Personal Knowledge Management?

After a few evenings of reading articles on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), I’ve finally come to an understanding that it is basically about the promotion of organisational productivity through the use of bottom-up, individual-focused approaches to Knowledge Management. Wikipedia refers to Personal Knowledge Management as:

“a collection of processes that an individual carries out to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his/her daily activities…”

Reading these articles reminds me of my current institution and other educational institutions that I have worked for – my classroom and students, the regular staff meetings, the sign-in book, roll-call, text-books, teacher-guides, course materials, schemes-of-work, lesson plans, policy documents, evaluation visits from senior management, etc, etc. These are just a few examples of elements of traditional Knowledge Management strategies that educational institutions use to monitor productivity (teaching and learning).

Traditional Approach to Knowledge Management

In such a system, although individuals (who are mostly students and teachers) are encouraged to collaborate in order to be productive, there is very little room for autonomy, and creativity. The aim of such top-down Knowledge Management approach is to ensure that practice is aligned with a set of predetermined goals or vision. Unfortunately, however, knowledge belongs to individuals and therefore it cannot be managed at the organisational level. In a KM Magazine article entitled The Interpretation of Information, Lester S. Pierre adds:

“Many organizations fail to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge scattered across their organization because they rely on top-down decision making and centralized knowledge management systems and technologies. While analytics and data are very important, the interpretation of this data—which can only come from a person—can be more valuable to an organization.”

David Gurteen emphasises that in such an ” isolated knowledge management programme looked after by a privileged few is a paradox in itself and will not survive for long.”

Focusing on the Individual

At the individual level, each person has a ‘unique’ way of interpreting data. And this unique process of interpretation is managed only by the individual. In addition, the way an individual applies this interpreted information is also unique. This uniqueness of interpretation and application makes knowledge personal. Thus, rather than trying to manage individual knowledge at the organisational level, successful PKM strategies need to focus on providing conditions conducive to  sharing of personal knowledge. David Gurteen refers to such provision as a Knowledge Sharing Culture.

Does this Knowledge Sharing Culture has to be Digital?
Credit: Maika Tukuafu's artowrkNo! Not necessarily. Technology is essential but it is not the focus of PKM. PKM focuses on the individual. John Blossom and Robin Good have this to say:

“personal knowledge managemen is really about eliminating the IT gibberish that hangs up so many collaborative efforts and getting to the important thing: passionate professionals communicating effectively with peers through flexible, easy-to-use publishing tools”

Although technology is important to productivity and knowledge creation, technology-oriented PKM initiatives are more likely to fail when the needs of individuals are marginalised. Lilia Efimova concludes:

“By focusing on an individual it shows that knowledge work is comprised of more than the specific tasks knowledge workers perform. This integrated perspective facilitates reflection on existing support for knowledge work. It could be useful for a knowledge worker picking and mixing personal productivity techniques and tools, as well as for an organisation integrating different KM projects and systems. For technology developers it can indicate directions for creating tools that allow flexibility and seamless integration of multiple uses (as contrasted with the current generation of tools which are highly specialised, but not well connected…)”

Exploring Wallwisher

It has been a night of adventure for me. I’ve learnt of two cool Web 2.0 tools: Wordle and Wallwisher.

Below is a screen-shot of a wall I created for my students.

You can access it here. . I’m sure my students will appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Wallwisher embed code doesn’t work in Moodle and in WordPress.

A wordle for media literacy:

Media literacy is the key to successful learning in the 21st Century. Since I find this concept very important, I am re-emphasising it here with this word cloud. This word cloud was produced with Wordle. Feel free to use it.

When the school is sidelined: what are we teaching our youth about new media literacy?

A reflection
For the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve immensely enjoyed exploring online teaching through Moodle. Unfortunately, however, at first, this was a challenging change to many of my students. Although they appeared not to like learning online, especially in the Moodle discussion forums, most of them love new forms of media such as digital cameras, the Internet, and mobile phones. Many were skilled users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, and most were inseparable from their mobile phones.

So far, this experience has taught me a diversity of skills on the use of technology and media in an educational environment. Apart from knowing how to use the tools and features that come with Moodle, I’ve also developed news skills in video production and editing, and how to use different forms of media such as video-streaming and screen-casting softwares, and other web-based tools. I teach my students these same skills.

Two months ago I was engaged in an online WikiEducator Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in which I learnt not only about Open Educational Resources (OERs) but also many useful media skills. It was during this experience that I became aware of the pedagogical potentials of Twitter.

Through my exploration of different media, I find myself more aware of my teaching and my students’ learning. Most importantly, I hear more the voice of my students regarding what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and when and where they want to learn. I’m not anymore the sage on the stage. The voice of my students are saying: “We don’t want lectures! We hate lectures! We don’t want a lecture on multiple intelligences, we want to hear Howard Gardner speaking to us about multiple intelligences.” They are right! Who knows more about multiple intelligences than Howard Gardner? My students enjoyed listening to Howard Gardner in a video from Edutopia.

Through my use of new media in online teaching, my students continue to surprise me. They wanted me to activate the Moodle chat forum, and many started posting hyperlinks to their Bebo and Facebook pages. In the wee hours of the night, I find them discussing key issues – in their own time, and on their own! I used to believe that my students can’t reflect or debate, but in the online forums, they are clearly engaging in critical reflection and debating. The usually silent students in face-to-face classes are more visible than ever before.

What was the cause of this transformation?, I often asked myself. Is it the newness of the learning mode? Or is it my absence that is freeing students to learn? And if students are more willing to learn outside and after school, and in my absence, what is my role then as an educator? What is the role of the school?

My students are currently desinging webquests, and just a few days ago one of them approached me for assistance with producing a video for her webquest. With her, she had a few still images and an audio file, and she wanted to know how to make the still images into a video and how to add the audio file as backrgound music. I use Camtasia Studio 6 to produce my lecture videos, and this student wanted to know about how I produce these lecture videos.

Knowing that it would take time to teach this student Camtasia Studio, I quickly showed her how to produce her video using Windows Movie Maker, how to upload her video to You Tube and how to embed it in her webquest. Seeing the smile of appreciation on her face is one of those satisfying moments in any teacher’s career. Upon presenting her webquest in a face-to-face seminar, she was proud of her accomplishments. This student is teaching others her new skills.

Basically, my practice as an educator and the roles of my students as learners, have changed tremendously since I started exploring the use of new media in online teaching. Howard Rheingold, in a lecture (The Pedagogy of Civic Participation) in the NMC Campus of Second Life, points out that new forms of media are not only changing our pedagogical approaches but also our engagement within a democracy.

By showing students how to used web-based tools and channels to inform publics, advocate positions, contest claims and organize action around issues that they care about, participatory media can draw them into early positive experiences of citizenship that could influence their civic behaviour throughout their lives.

The different forms of media I’m reffering to in this blog post are defintely improving my students’ participation, independence, and self-worth. My students are not anymore anxious to learn the course content. They’ve come to the realisation that through creative use of the media they are using to learn, and some degree of positive interdependence, they find the answers to their questions. This is the power of participatory media.

Participatory media has the ability to engender a culture of participation in my students. The McArthur Foundation (2006) defines this participatory culture as one in which there is:

“relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).”

New media literacy: what is it?

I’m indeed very glad that, after a couple of days of indecision of my involvement with the #PLENK2010, I’ve made good progress with some of this week’s materials. In particular, I’m glad that I’ve learnt two new ideas. First, I’m happy that I’ve learnt about the idea of media literacy. Second, I’m also glad to learn about the life history of Robin Good, aka Luigi Canali De Rossi.

To make things clear from the start, the media literacy that I’ve learnt tonight should be more correctly called new media literacy. According to Wikipedia, new media is the:

“amalgamation of traditional media such as film, images, music, spoken and written word, with the interactive power of computer and communications technology, computer-enabled consumer devices and most importantly the Internet.”

The important part that the Internet and modern media technologies play in this amalgamation means that information can be made available to anyone, from anywhere, anytime. As stated in Wikipedia:

“New media holds out a possibility of on-demand access to content any time, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, creative participation and community formation around the media content.”

With such ease of creating and accessing information, as Howard Rheingold explains to his daughter:

“there is no guarantee that what you will find is authoritative, accurate, or even vaguely true….The locus of responsibility for determining the accuracy of texts shifted from the publisher to the reader…”

This new media literacy, according to Wikipedia, refers to:

“a repertoire of competences that enable people to analyze, evaluate and create messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres and forms. Media literacy education provides tools to help people critically analyze messages, offers opportunities for learners to broaden their experience of media, and helps them develop creative skills in making their own media messages..”

Our children are growing up in the new media age. The Internet is and will continue to be an important part of what they do in the home, the school or the community at large. They need to be able to question the reliability and credibility of information that are readily available to them. They need to be media literate.

The media literacy that we are talking about here is not the same as the types of literacy that we are familiar with in the traditional curriculum. The hierarchical nature of the traditional classroom discourse – in which questioning the teacher’s authority is perceived as disrespectful or a rebellious act – is not conducive to the promotion of this new form of literacy.

I believe that our classrooms need what Rheingold envisions as a form of lateral rather than hierachical pedagogy that encourages questioning and collaboration.