Google+/- (Thoughts on Google+ in Education)

As an educator, I’m intrigued by the potential of Google+, specifically the use of circles and individual streams.  I like the ability to assign people to a specific circle with a specific purpose; I especially like that ability to post specific items and information to specific circles – by choosing which circle that information gets posted to (unlike FaceBook in which you specify what is seen by whom, I like G+ in which you define who sees what).

I already have a circle that is specific to my RRU cohort, and in my mind will be used by to post all information and whatnot related to technology and education.  But therein lies a problem – I know what MY circle is to be used for, but the people from my cohort may not.  It may be a fellow student is in my “RRU” circle with a specific purpose, but I may be in their “Friends” circle and subject to all their random posts about movies, food and other non-relevant topics regarding my circle.  I suppose I could edit my description of the circle, and hope those that I ask to join read and respect the purpose of the circle.  One solution (although it may be more complex than it seems at the moment) would be for Google to offer users the ability to form a group circle or individual circle.  Example:

I ask Joe Public to join my RRU circle, clearly stating in the definition that it is for the posting and discussion of issues relevant to technology, learning and education.  I choose to make my circle a group circle – that is when Joe Public joins my circle – he gains a circle called “RRU” in which both he and I are members.  Much like FaceBook groups, I could then authorize him as an “admin” or simple “member” – with “admin” having the rights to extend invitation to people and moderate postings.  Further, Google could make the circle open or closed (still public though, keeping in line with the intention of Google+) where people can either join at will, or make a request of the admins to become a member.

It will be interesting to see where Google goes with circles; to me they seem far more versatile, useful, and have more potential than anything FaceBook has.  That viewpoint is probably due to the simplicity of circles at the moment compared to the complexity involved in FaceBook groups, although the latter is more powerful at the moment… Is it possible to create something that has the effect of groups yet the ease of use of circles – grouples anyone?

July 12, 2011 at 6:35 am Leave a comment

Potential Biology Lesson

I beginning teaching Biology 11, as my own course, for the first time this fall and hopefully again the following semester.  Usually, in Biology 11, a plant collection of sorts is completed, usually to various levels of success (some students take it very seriously, others literally print the image of the plant from the Internet the night before, past it in their book and submit it).  Talking with some teachers, an alternative to conducting a plant collection project seems to be a tree identification assignment.

My proposed project involves modifying the project slightly, with the use of geotagging and Google Earth.  Here is the proposed (very basic) outline for the project.  Before I continue, I know I am doing this backwards, the project should be based off of the the objectives determined beforehand, so needless to say this is more to get the idea down than to say that this is the definitive final version.  I will outline my objectives for the term, and then if this assignment seems a good fit I will tweak it to fit the objectives and goals.

The plan:

Students will find various plant and tree samples around the Boundary region, and either submit a physical specimen (in the tradition of a plant collection) or a high-resolution digital image of the plant and identifying features.  Students will be required to blog about their collections and explain the identification process (using a dichotomous key).  The student will also be required to note the geographical region the organism was found and then post that location on Google Earth (as close to location as possible)

Using Google Earth, a class project will be to identify the range of common plants collected or noted by the students – segueing nicely into a potential unit on ecology and competition?


  • Student access to digital technology may be limited, such as a high resolution digital camera, GPS unit for position location, or a camera/cell-phone enabled with GPS geotagging capabilities – may have to teach students how to geotag the old fashioned way (using a map and compass).  Maybe there is a potential to work with the Geography 12 class to solve this problem?  Some cross curricular studies…
  • Not all students will be familiar with using Google Earth (this will have to be taught), nor with the concept of blogging / maintaining a forum – these are lessons that will have to be taught early in the course as I plan on making use of these techniques throughout the program.  I don’t want students struggling to identify plants whilst at the same time struggling to use the technologies that are to “aide” them in their assignments

More to come…

July 7, 2010 at 4:09 am Leave a comment

Experiencing ISD

Although the Master of Art program I’m currently enrolled in at RRU deals with Instructional Design and online / distance education, it hasn’t really allowed me a practical application of what I’ve learned.  When the position of Moodle administrator came up within my school district, I enrolled in an online Moodle administrator certification course through in the hope of increasing my chances of getting the job!  I was rather excited with this prospect, for two reasons: firstly, I a get to experience an online situation, from the point of a learner in a commercial/corporate program – a different environment from the online public education sites I’ve used recently; and secondly, I can apply the knowledge I’ve formed through my MA in the form of a critique of an actual “real” commercial program.

The course is a 4-week asynchronous course, with some synchronous bits tossed in, via Elluminate Live!  As I am on the other side of the proverbial classroom, I’m going to use this blog as a reflection / critique of my experience as an online learner, in a different context than that of RRU.

It has been roughly a week since I began the program, at a total program cost of around $400.00.  The site is relatively well designed although I have run into three concerns:

1. After I signed up and paid (June 21) for the program that started on June 23, I was informed via email that the instructor would get in touch with me and provide log-in and site information prior to, or at the latest, on the 23rd.  Late on the 23rd I had to email the “help desk”, concerned that I had not yet received any of the needed information – it arrived early on the 24th.  Unfortunately, I had already missed the synchronous “get to know you and your instructor” Elluminate Live! session.

2. Our instructor emailed a rather nice and informative greeting and provided instructions for a introductory / get to know you assignment, no doubt attempting to build a sense of community and foster some online interaction.  That was three days ago, and he has not been on since.  Thus while we have been providing feedback on our introduction, our instructor has not – nor has he responded to any of the questions or concerns that have been posted on the site, some of which are rather urgent.

3. We are required to view two videos, produced with Camtasia.  I have run into some issues, mostly compatibility issues between the latest version of Flash and Camtasia formatted videos – the easiest solution I’ve discovered, is not to save Camtasia videos in native Camtasia format (as has been done), but rather to save them in .avi, .wmv. or .flv format – all of which allow for almost universal playback.  While one of the native Camtasia videos will play, the other does not – insisting that the latest version of Flash (10.1) that I have installed is not new enough to view the video.  I have contacted the instructor, as have several others – however, since he hasn’t been online in three days this concern has not been addressed.  Further compounding the stress of the situation, is that the video explains how we are to use the Sandbox portion of our online course, a rather critical testing ground for those of us new to Moodle.

Overall, I’m not impressed with the quality of the program to date.  I feel that there is a disconnect developing between the learners and the instructor, and that this disconnect increases transactional distance, and is counterproductive to the construction of a interactive and workable online community.  Essentially, one week of potential community building time has been wasted due to the inattention and inaction of the instructor.

We’ll see how this pans out over the next four weeks.

June 27, 2010 at 6:54 pm Leave a comment

The Learning Olympics

How can a well planned lesson using the Internet go wrong? How about when “web savvy” students aren’t so “web savvy”…

Continue Reading February 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm Leave a comment

Tips to survive grad school

You’ve just been accepted to the grad program of your dreams (at least, professionally/financially speaking), and you’re ready to go and rock the world of academia, but wait… what do you need to survive?

Saying, and just saying, that the program is technology based – don’t assume for a single minute that this means no paper, it means A LOT of paper… and associated products to go along with the aforementioned reams of paper that you are about to use, and forests of trees you are about to extinguish.

1. A printer – preferably laser; colour is optional.

2. A stapler – not a dinky little $5.00 Extra Foods stapler, we’re talking high-school grade mega stapler of Dhoom!

3. A hole punch – again, not a dinky $5.00 Extra Foods hole punch – this thing should be able to punch holes in sheets of aluminum without breaking a sweat.

4. An eReader – not to be a yuppy, but seriously – on the SkyTrain, would you rather shuffle through 50 printed out papers, or simply glance along on your eReader; PDF support is mandatory – think Sony not Kindle.

5. An iPod – music and downloadable episodes of Family Guy keep you from going insane when reading about various cognitive expletive theories of learning in the library.

6. A netbook – you don’t need a $1000 or pricier laptop.  Heck, a typewriter with erasable ink would work; nah, seriously – netbooks can type, they go online, they last 10 – 12 hours on a single charge, plus after all the money you spent on the stapler and hole punch (I really mean eReader and iPod) you can only afford a $400 machine. 

7. A flask – do I really need to explain?!  But seriously, it’s only used for water, study sessions make you dehydrated.

January 24, 2010 at 2:53 am Leave a comment

Teaching Tablo

This past weekend I managed to escape to Vancouver for some much needed R & R, and a tech. conference.  The conference was great, even though I *didn’t* win an Acer NetBook, nor a wine gift certificate, nor a $2,000.00 SMARTBoard.  Next year.

I did purchase a Tablo (by Siso) – which transforms the average everyday NetBook (or Laptop) into a touchscreen device.  It’s interesting – I’ve been using it for two days now (first with Math 8 and now with Physics 11) and the response of the students has been enthusiastic.

I’ve found that using MS OneNote seems to work best (right now, am exploring other free software options), but it allows me to basically layout my lesson in tabs, and then I can move through them.  I’ve found the my lessons are now more organized and thought out – I’m not having to refer to my notes, or sketches, because… well… they’re right there in front of me (and in front of the class).  I didn’t give my Math 8 students notes, per se, but a worksheet of notes that we worked through – dealing with percents and tax.  Physics 11 was a bit more… trial and error like, especially when dealing with Vectors and having to draw numerous lines (moving them was a hassle, so a vector software program would be nice).  Also, the Tablo seems to work well near the sensor (and along the top half of my screen) – but gets a little less accurate and precise towards the bottom half of my screen; I have to recalibrate daily as well – not really THAT annoying, but still…

I guess I can’t complain too much – it works, and it’s “neat” and “novel”, and the “cost” was reasonable ($100.00).  It’s “ease of use” is comparable to a mouse and other native touch screen devices I’ve used.  We’ll wait on the feedback for “Students”, “Teaching and Learning”, and “Interactivity”…  That’s putting Bates & Poole to use.

It is much more work, however.  As noted in the numerous papers I’ve read for my program, I find that it takes considerably more time and effort to plan a lesson than it did using overheads and the chalkboard.  BUT, the flip side is that I think it has and will improve my teaching, and seems to have the kids more involved.

There’s a week left in my current assignment, then I have a cou

ple months off to prep the Russian program and review how using the Tablo will benefit myself and the students.  Will keep you updated.

October 28, 2009 at 1:20 am 1 comment

Wrapping Up…

A few things… Firstly, I can’t believe how much I miss Victoria and the idea of classes – the community building, the connections, the friendships, and the ability to discuss on the spur of the moment, any idea or random thought was, well… desirable.  It’s tough getting used to an online environment again.

Secondly, as I was considering revisions to my paper I began to wonder if those who teach and work primarily with adults have greater insight into their own learning as adults.  Working with teenagers and children, I tend to focus on their learning and relate, wrongly, my learning to their learning.  From reading MacKeracher (I still can’t pronounce her name correctly), I understand that there are fundamental differences in the way adults gather, process and apply knowledge – when compared to kids, but it’s tough to be reflective of my own learning as an adult, when so much of my own education has focused on the learning abilities of children.

Thirdly, I bought a printer.  I bought a gorgeous, colour laser printer.  (For a good price).  Every time I print of a sheet I think of Spencer’s article.  I also think of the trees in the forest.  I’m using it for papers at the moment – no class notes yet, but we’ll see – the cost of toner and paper is a bit of a deterrent to printing off.  I wonder if that could be posed as a research question “what role does price of printer toner and ink jet cartridges play in the preference of adult learner to printing off online material or reading them on a screen?” hmmm…

Fourthly, I know there was a fourth point – but it’s now lost in the vastness between my ears – a vastness that is now considerably more vast than it was just three weeks ago; thus more room for thoughts to get lost in.  Thank god I have that printer to print them out.

August 14, 2009 at 4:40 am 5 comments

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