USP Open Day 2011 on Wiffiti

Wiffiti is an application which is used for real-time display of text messages and tweets on big-screens for view by the public. It is very commonly used in sports stadiums, concerts, gallery openings, and corporate conferences. In fact I came across Wiffiti in one of the corporate booths at the Moodle Moot Conference, July 2011, at the Sydney Convention Centre , Sydney, Australia.

Click this link to go to the Wiffiti1!

Click this link to go to Wiffiti 2!

Once you’ve signed up for a Wiffiti account, you are able to customize your own screen, and once your screen is published, you will be provided with a code which people could use to send SMS messages or tweets to your screen. And people send these messages from anywhere in the world. Shown above are 2 screens that I made for my institutions Open Day.

A blend of Moodle and Web 2.0 technologies

Learning is complex

Learning is a complex process, and to manage this complexity we’ve invented systems such as classrooms, timetables, rules, and detention. Even in online learning environments, Learning Management Systems (LMS) are put in place to ensure that learning is happening according to plan. Moodle is one LMS that many educational institutions have adopted.

From Moodle to Networks

In the past 2 -3 months, besides using our course Moodle page, my students and I also experimented with a diversity of Web 2.0 tools. Many of us signed up for an account in social network sites, and it didn’t take long for some of the students and I to meet in Facebook and in Twitter. Immediately friend requests were sent and we were following each other.

Within weeks, what started 3 months earlier as a formal class discussion forum within the closed environment of Moodle has now evolved into a complex network of enthusiastic and independent participants. We are now sharing not just Moodle forum posts but also blogposts in WordPress or Blogger, videos in YouTube and Vodpod, Tweets, Boxnet files, Flickr photos and videos, shortened URLS, and bookmarks in Diigo libraries.

Breaking the formality

The formality that we are familiar with in Moodle has become less stringent. Frequent sharing of jokes and the use of acronymns such as LOL, OMG, and LMHO has enlivened up the faceless nature of the dialogues in Facebook and Twitter.

The increase in the number of web-based tools that students are using is also accompanied by a significant improvement in the way they search for, present and organize information online. In their own initiative, some of the students are sharing their experiences with Tweet deck, HootSuite, and Symbaloo. This shows that their experiences with the internet has made them aware of the real need to learn how to manage the deluge of web information.

From novice to experts

This blend of Moodle and Web 2.0 tools is enabling students to take charge of their learning. Students display an increased sense of responsibility. For example, they put up their own Facebook “Teacher-student-mentor” page into which they meet and discuss issues related to their school work and their profession (teaching).

With the absence of the teacher’s control, the students are now seeing the need for them to assume the roles of experts, to offer advice and to lead discussions.  And they are further encouraged to improve this independence and leadership by the fact that their efforts are being acknowledged and appreciated by the members of the network. This approach is taking learning using Moodle to a new level.

Tech savvy… still need guidance!

Though young people of today are naturally tech savvy, they still need adult guidance. The teacher’s online presence makes a lot of difference to the learning environment, from the type of photos which are shared and the issues which are discussed to the number of students who actauuly participate in the discussion. It’s utterly irresponsible, especially in online learning environments, to assume that students will learn quality content and skills entirely on their own.

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.