Monday, May 24, 2010

Twitter Fun

Twitter Fun

I will blog more regularly.
I will blog more regularly.
I will blog more regularly.

Ok, now that I have written my lines as a reminder to do this more often - let's have some fun!

In this blog I am going to talk about some of the tools I have been having fun with in regards to Twitter.

IS Parade

The snapshot above is of my NBCCSue IS Parade. To get the parade started just put in a username and wait for the fanfare to begin - your twitter followers will join the parade, the drums will roll and you will have a jolly good time. At first I could not think of a way that I could actually use this tool other than for a chuckle. Then I thought that I would be a good way to start or end a PD session on Twitter. Thanks Shelly Terrell @shellterrell for tweeting about this one.

Last week I participated in a 3-hour workshop with Alec Couros @courosa prior to the CNIE 2010 conference. At the Understanding and Using Social Networks & Social Media session I was introduced to so many new tools. For today, I will focus on the Twitter tools that Alec demonstrated.


Enter a search term in Twitterfall and watch a cascade of tweets flow down. Alec mentioned a school that he visited that had the Twitterfall displayed in the front lobby. They had entered the school hashtag in the search so all the tweets were centered around the school. Pretty gutsy!

The Twitter Times

Here is a real-time personalized newsletter generated via your Twitter account. It takes a while to load up the first time but while you are waiting you can click on one of your friend's TwitterTimes pages and catch up on the news and blogs that are coming their way. This could be a timesaver if you have been away from Twitter and you want to catch up quickly.


Readtwit filters your twitter feed to links only, resolves link destinations and publishes the content as an RSS feed. You can then use any feed reading software / service to read twitter posted content along with the rest of your feeds.

This is just a peek at some of the resources that Alec Couros introduced at his workshop. To find out more visit the Wikispace he created for the session.

Later in the week I participated in a Harbourside Hangout concurrent session - Backchannel Boogie. The facilitators, Kyle Mackie @kylemackie & Giulia Forsythe @giuliaforsythe, hosted lively session where I learned about more twitter tools.


Twitterwall can produce a wall of tweets along with the Twitter's profile picture. This creates a wall that is visually appealing.


Enter a keyword in Twitterfountain and you can watch tweets, have images changing in the background from flickr and more. I have not had enough time to play around with it but I think it would be neat to have flickr pics from a conference displaying in the background with tweets about the conference floating through the screen. So many toys - so little time! Next!

Visible Tweets

Visible Tweets offers a few different ways to visualize tweets such as letter-by-letter, rotation or tag cloud.

Giulia and Kyle were great facilitators - lots of bantering back and forth, good fun and a lots of discovery. They knew we would never remember everything discussed so they provided a site for us to check out at our leisure. Thanks to both of you for the wonderful resources!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Podcasts Galore!

Podcasts Galore!

In past blogs I have talked about getting 'visual' by adding images to help learners connect to the content. This time round let's explore another sense - auditory.

I'll start with talking about my online courses and how I have created podcasts with Audacity. OK, it took a bit of time to figure out how to use Audacity, but once I got going it was so easy! A veteran podcaster gave me a couple of helpful tips:
1. Keep it short
2. Speak naturally
3. Avoid reading a script
So, when I make a podcast I do not aim for perfection - if I say "um" a few times I leave it in. I speak from a list of ideas/topics and let it flow.

How can podcasts be used in online learning?
  • To summarize a topic or discussion
  • To present a case study or assignment
  • To make an announcement
  • To introduce a topic
When I started using podcasts the feedback from my students was positive. They appreciated hearing my voice and they liked the change from the written word. They said that it personalized the course and helped them feel connected to me as their instructor. My belief is that the more that we can involve the senses, the better it will be for learners.

Another way to use podcasts is to find them online and share them with students. There are plenty of these available online including the CBC Radio site and at iTunesU. I am a CBC listener and I appreciate listening to podcasts of shows that missed hearing live -
  • White Coat Black Art - Dr. Brian Goldman has a weekly show on what is happening in hospitals and doctors' offices
  • Q - JianGhomeshi hosts a weekday show on arts and culture - available as both a podcast and a video podcast
  • Spark - Nora Young talks about trends in technology
  • Vinyl Cafe - Stuart McLean brings stories from the Vinyl Cafe and music by Canadian musicians
  • Between the Covers - Canadian Literature, stories narrated in weekly installments

I really want to explore iTunesU more in the future and I found a great tutorial to help me out that includes -
  • An intro to iTunesU
  • How to search for podcasts
  • How to subcribe
  • How to download
  • Info for iPod users (though you do not need an iPod to hear podcasts)
  • Useful apps
  • A bit about the controls
In both the CBC and iTunesU podcasts you can find some that are audio and some include video. Have fun exploring!

I found the image that I am using for this posting via Flickr at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ning: Connect, Share, Learn

Ning: Connect, Share, Learn

I've been facilitating adult learners for more than 20 years and I have always valued the relationships I have built with other educators. When I started my career in adult ed I had a wonderful mentor, Jane Mills. Jane was there as my sounding board and resource person. She willingly gave her time and provided support as I was learning the ropes. Through her example, I learned the importance of sharing, listening, responding and seeing things from new perspectives. Over the years I have done my best to follow her example.

I work at building relationships with educators I have met along the way. I am eager to share resources, network and help when I can. The great thing is that the more I give, the more I receive!

Flash forward to 2009-2010: A year ago I joined Twitter and I am amazed with the Personal Learning Network (PLN) that I have developed. I am connected with educators from around the world and what a professional development gift that has been! In the past year I have discovered Ning and have expanded my network even more. A Ning is a place to connect, share, grow, ask questions, discuss, post videos, share events, post photos and so much more. The best news is that all of this is free, free, free!

The Educators' PLN is a Ning created as a "personal learning network for educators". This dynamic space is ripe with discussion on education, full of thought-provoking videos and so much more. I encourage you to check it out.

The Classroom 2.o Ning is a social network for those interested in Web 2.o and social media in education. One of the reasons that I am promoting this Ning is for their offerings of free webinars on a variety of subjects. They also have discussion forums, groups and a range of other activities. My time exploring Classroom 2.o has been time well spent.

You can also build your own Ning. One that I have helped out with is the CNIE 2010 Conference Ning. This conference takes place in Saint John this May and I am working on the planning committee. We set up the Ning for participants to connect before, during and after the conference.

I also created my first Ning for my students, PROG 1093. This group of students are exploring Web 2.0 and the Ning is our meeting place.

If Jane could see me today I know that she would be proud that I am continuing to connect, share and learn with my colleagues via tools like Nings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let's Get Visual!

Let's Get Visual!

I don't know about you but I love images, that is why I enjoy spending time taking photos and trying to tell a story through a picture. In the traditional classroom and in the online world I use images a lot. Why?
  • An image, screenshot or video can save me a lot of time explaining. If students can 'see' what I am talking about they are more likely to understand.
  • A picture or graphic is a nice change of pace from the written word; it can break the monotony.
  • Images are perfect for PowerPoint presentations. One of the unwritten rules (OK it is written somewhere) for PowerPoint is "Do not read your slide to your audience!" A way to avoid this mistake is to use an image and just a word or two to prompt you during your presentation. In this way the audience is not reading ahead of you and the image helps them remember the key point.
  • The Human Development Department at NBCCSJ is known for creating and facilitating online courses. All the people involved in instructional design are asked to put an image, graphic or chart on "each" page of the lessons they are creating. This breaks the fatigue or eye strain from following the written word, adds interest to the content and gives another dimension for the participant to connect to in the learning process.
If an image works for you as a teaching aid, then imagine what a video can do! The students who come to our college are accustomed to seeing videos on YouTube, on TV, in games, and online via Facebook and other media. They can take video and images with their cell phones; video is commonplace.

Let's use that to our advantage. There are so many websites where you can find a video to suit your purpose: YouTube, TED Talks, and Forum Network. As with finding the right image it does take time to find the right video to get the point across. The good news is that you will get better at searching and finding the one you want with practice. As with any skill, you need to do it a few times to gain proficiency.

I have been using more videos this year and I have discovered a few things about their value:
  • Short is good. A 2 to 5 minute video can pack a wallop of information.
  • Videos can break up your lecture and change the pace which is refreshing for the learner.
  • They can be used to do a demonstration (hand washing for example), to start a discussion (show the video and then have some questions ready for small or large group discussions), to introduce a topic (a stimulus for what is to follow), a case study (watch the video and then do an assignment to apply learning), or as way of using humour to provoke thought (you will see an example of this in the video that I am embedding below).
  • Although I said that short is good that does not mean that longer is bad. If the video is high quality, well presented and interesting it can go much longer. Don't use poor quality video - you will lose your audience!
Here's a video that I used for my Presentation Skills class. It is 4 minutes long, comical, warns of all the mistakes that people make with PowerPoint and it was well received by my students.

The owner of Flickr image that I used at the beginning of my blog stated that the photo could be used for noncommercial purposes as long as the attribution was provided. This is one of the choices that people can make when they offer photos for others to use under the Creative Commons license.
Attribution -

Monday, February 22, 2010

Twitter & My Personal Learning Network

Twitter & My Personal Learning Network

I know that it takes quite a learning curve to get used to Twitter and use it effectively. In my case it was time well spent.

Since last spring I have built up my personal learning network on Twitter; I am in touch with more than 600 people. Now that is a network! The majority of people I follow are educators who are willing to share information, answer questions and get involved in discussions like edchats that take place on Tuesday evenings.

Most of the time I use my Tweetdeck as it makes my Twitter experience easier and more enjoyable. Tweetdeck automatically shortens long URL addresses, allows me to retweet and reply with one click, and provides different columns for me to see my Twitter information easily.

Why I value Twitter:

  • In the Friday "tips and sites" email that I send out 99% of the information is found in 7 days on Twitter.
  • When I am looking for an answer to a question, I now have 600 people who might respond to my question.
  • I find out about free webinars all the time and have the opportunity to network with people from around the world.
  • I am in a learning community - my own Personal Learning Network (PLN).
  • I am continuously finding tools for personal use and for teaching/learning. This adds variety for my students and for me!
I'm thinking about doing a lunch 'n learn for our group on Twitter. If I show you a few tricks, you may have a more productive experience with Twitter. Email me to let me know if you are interested and I will find a time when the majority of folks can attend.

Hoping that this is an offer that you won't refuse :-)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mmmmm Delicious!

Mmmmm Delicious!

Bookmarking has become social through tools like Delicious, Toobla, and Diigo.

This week in our NBCC Explorers program we looked at Delicious as a social bookmarking tool. With Delicious I can tag and save websites so that I can find them easily later on. By creating my own tags I can organize sites according to my own descriptors; I can even use multiple tags. For example, if I find a Web 2.0 site, I might use the following tags: Web2.0, online_learning, collaboration. Later on I can search for the site using any of these tags.

One of the great benefits to Delicious is that I can use it as a search tool. I can use "search delicious" by entering a word and Delicious will do the work for me. If I type a word like "image" in the search, then the results will show all of the sites that I tagged with that word ... and I will have the results from "everybody's bookmarks" as well. This is one way that Delicious is social - people sharing bookmarks via public tags. Another way that Delicious is social is that I can share my Delicious book marks by giving people the URL for my Delicious page.

I've been exploring two other social bookmarking sites: Toobla and Diigo. I'll share my bookmarks from both of these with you as well.

Toobla: Toobla allows me to save websites in a visual format. For each site I bookmark I get a snapshot of that site's page. It is almost like having a photo album of websites that you like. You can see some of my sites here on Toobla.

Diigo: Diigo allows me to highlight passages on websites and put sticky notes on them! Great for research and collaboration. I can tag sites, take snapshots of them and I can search both my library and the public library. I think I can also share my bookmarks via a URL, I will try this here.

I'll need a bit more time to decide which of these three social bookmarking tools I like best. Each one has pros/cons.

One last comment regarding social bookmarking and education. Picture this - you are facilitating a course and you show you students how to use Delicious (or another social bookmarking tool). You ask your students to tag websites that are relevant to the course with the course code (PROG1234 for example). When you do a search using this tag, you and your students can find all the websites tagged by the class. Cool way to collaborate and share!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Not So Good With Subscriptions

Not So Good With Subscriptions

I found this cool image for RSS feeds here. If I understand the license agreement, I am free to use it as long as I provide a backlink to where I found it (and as long as I don't try to sell it/make money from it). I'm a visual learner so I am always looking for images for my handouts, online lessons and for some of my emails.

I digress .... this posting is about RSS Feeds. The title of my blog, Not So Good With Subscriptions, is about my dilemma with RSS Feeds. In the past I have subscribed to magazines, thinking that I would have time to enjoy reading them. I also remember signing up for Book Clubs many moons ago thinking that this was a great service. I love to read! The problem is that I don't take (or make) the time to read those magazines, and with the Book Club I kept getting the 'book of the month' because I did not send in my selections in time. I'm ashamed to say that I still have not learned my lesson.

I really like the idea of subscribing to blogs and having them delivered to my Google Reader. No longer do I need to bookmark the sites and keep checking to see if there is a new article! Good old Google Reader will do all the work for me. Sounds good right?

I have subscribed to so many blogs that there are hundreds of articles that I have not read in my RSS feeds. I find it overwhelming (and a bit guilt-producing and I don't need that)! What I need to do is prioritize:
  • I need to limit my subscriptions to 5 or 6
  • I need to delete all those blogs that I have not yet read
  • I need to find a 'reading hour' that I use regularly during the week to check Google Reader
If I go with this less-is-more plan I will get more value out of RSS Feeds. I felt camaraderie with Joy when she wrote in her blog that she started checking her reader and was amazed with how the time flew by! I'm really pleased that Sandy and Rick are enjoying their RSS Feeds and maybe they can give me some more tips on managing this great resource.

I really am not good with subscriptions but I can get better!