Sunday, December 20, 2009

The world of wikis

I have just come across a very useful article on how 'non-profit' organisations are using wikis.

As many of you will know I have been using wikispaces for many years to assist with online classes and as a communication channel for assessor networks.

It is surprising that even though they have been around for a while there are still a lot of people out there who are not sure how to use them or even see a use for them. This article gives the reader an insight into several different organisations and how they are using Wikis to promote collaboration, comnunication and sharing in their organisations. I encourage you to go and have a look at each site and report back via this blog your comments.

I would also like to start a discussion here to provide some tips to our readers on 'how to use wikis to promote collaboration in the classroom and online classroom'. Another important aspect is 'how can you use a wiki with students where the student generates the majority of the content, not the teacher?'.

Don't be passive, let's get this conversation happening.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

PREZI a newcomer tipped to replace PowerPoint in training

Have you had a chance to play with

This is such a great tool but I have to say it wasn't easy to work out the first time I tried.

To view an example access:

So what makes this product so unique?

First of all it is a simple registration. There is no special software required and there are no slides. Sessions can be created online and then downloaded for use as a flash type movie (downloads as a large zip file) without needing the internet to play.

The downside was it was not easy to work out and beginners can have problems with the screen enlarging with no way to actually get back to a smaller screen (my tip save and close your file and re-open it again). There were no written help instructions that acted as a how to guide but there are a multitude of video files you can watch to learn how to use it.

Another problem is when you click on the screen it changes the view of your document. Most of the time it became quite small and it was difficult to revert back to normal size. My tip here also is to refresh your screen until you become familiar with Prezi.

Another way to resize your text is to click on the Place circle and click on the text you will see a large blue circle with lines going different directions to indicate different parts of the circle. Point to the outer edge of the circle, hold down your left mouse and spin your circle and your text will rotate.

If you point to the next layer of the circle you can enlarge or decrease your text size.

If you point to the inner circle you can move you text around your screen.
To help my teachers use this tool I developed a simple PDF how to guide.

If it is of use I can send it to you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How useful are email games?

I can't really say that I have enjoyed email games in the past. Maybe because they often did not reflect the topic being studied or include tangible activities or clear instruction. Here are some tips to help you design effective email games.

Your email game should engage your participants in a meaningful discussion. For example an opportunity to problem solve or dicuss common issues relating to the topic being explored in their study.

Make sure your game allows the participant to bring their own wealth of knowledge into the game and provides an opportunity to reflect on discussions and findings.

Clearly set out the rules for the game. State when the game will start, how the game should be played, who can play, when can they play, how participants can score points and how the participants will know that the game is over. Define what will happen after the game is over.

Your game can be played using email alone or it could be played in collaboration with other technologies such as discussion forums. It is really important that the relationship is set out clearly in the initial game instructions so the participants know when to use the different technologies.

Another useful technique is to assign each person a role and a topic or challenge for exploration (eg: if your topic was to do with simple strategies to keep the national park tidy you could divide the roles into Park Ranger, Kiosk Manager, Tourist etc). The information can be sent directly to the facilitator for compilation and then later posted on a wiki or discussion forum or you could ask the participant to post their contributions directly during the game.

The design and communication strategies implemented must be appropriate to your group and study requirements. For more techniques and strategies visit It is a great starting point for those of you who are new to e-learning.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Do learner's really enjoy the whole online experience?

There has been so much research into this over the years. If you google similar topics you will come up with a multitude of articles and research.

I am not even going to attempt to answer this question in my post but instead I am going to expand on what I consider is not an enjoyable online learning experience for me.

My life is really busy with demands from work, family and friends. Yet somewhere in that mayhem I still need to find time to learn. As an educator I have committed to a journey of life long learning and my future will always hold some form of study or learning.

So if I was to enrol in your course this is what I would need:

Access to content and resource 24 hours per day.

A guideline of dates for submission of assessments and unit completions that is flexible. I want autonomy.

I get bored in courses where there are useless activities and assessments that have no bearing on my life or future career goels. I really get disheartened in courses where I seem to have to do the same things over and over again.

I find some courses think because the nominal hours for a unit is 50 that I need to spend 50 hours doing readings and activities. Often very little thought has gone into these programs. They don't seem to have even considered that I might know something about the unit or that I might have experience in this area through my life, work experience and that I would like draw on this and maybe submit it as evidence of competence.

I want to quickly determine my current skill level, determine what I need to know and then move towards this.

I don't want to be locked in to mandatory chat sessions or online web conferences unless the content is relevant and will assist me to complete the assessment tasks for the units or will draw on learning material in a way that the online course cannot.

Having said this I don't like feeling like I am in some big dark hole and no one else is there. That presents a challenge. I want a sense of community but I don't want to be locked into meetings and chat sessions that are unproductive or at an unsuitable time.

I am really hands on. I look for tangible information, clear and concise instructions, a few bells and whistles to entertain me (but not many) and the quickest shortest path to completing a unit if I am already certain I know and understand the content.

Where sessions are held in chat rooms and web conferences I would like them recorded and made available so that I can cover anything I have missed or listen to them again to cover important information.

If all of this is in place then I generally enjoy the online learning environment.

Use this post to highlight your learning likes and dislikes. Do you agree with my comments or am I difficult student?

I think if we as educators are all honest about our learning preferences it will help us to better develop courses that will engage our learners and provide them with a pathway to completion that is relevant to their circumstances.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How useful is social media in business?

I am currently listening to a presenter at a free online learning session through

The presenter is talking about how they have used social media in a business context. One of the topics is how business can easily get feedback from consumers using web technologies. Consider Kraft and their quest to name its new vegemite variant. On one day alone they received more than 48000 comments about the new name.

Another question raised in this session was 'Can you build relationships online'?

My response is YES, but it will take the same amount of commitment and effort as it would if you were building a relationship in a traditional sense however your approach will be different. You don't just put yourself out there and expect people to find you.

Use this post to comment on how you have built relationships with your customer base.

Facebook was one of the tools mentioned in this session. Watch this youtube video it will set the scene for how you might go about establishing a relationship in person using the same techniques as facebook. Certainly makes you think.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Socialistation in online teaching and learning

Socialisation and participation seems to have developed a ‘third culture’ - the learning culture of the online teaching and learning experience

An interesting article on this topic can be found at

I hope you enjoy reading it

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Julia Gillard releases information about research conducted into the effects of technology and learning

I have just finished reading a press release by Julia Gillard who is the Minister for Education. The research explored students’ perceptions and expectations of learning with information and communications technologies (ICT).

More than 1000 students from primary and secondary schools, VET and universities were surveyed.

Some of the findings were:

97% of VET students agreed that computers and the internet help them with their studies ‘most’ or ‘all of the time’

63% of VET students agreed that their teachers’/lecturers’ skills with technologies are good?

24% of VET students indicated they had access to and used the internet in classrooms or lecture theatres ‘everyday’

38% responded ‘never’ to using internet in the classroom or lecture theatres

20% responded ‘not often’ to using internet in the classroom or lecture theatres

More information can be found at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some tips to help the individual start their e-learning design

Tips for designing e-learning

First decide if you are designing your e-learning strategy alone or in a team. This post will consider techniques to design e-learning on your own. I am also assuming you have the technical expertise to create your own content.

Start by thinking of the last course you attended:

• Did it hold your attention?

• Was the content of the material appropriate to the level of the course? For example was it too hard, too easy. Did it use plain English?

• How did you progress through the material? Could you fast track if you needed to? Did you have to do everything – even content you already knew? Were there opportunities to practice? Were the practice activities compulsory or did you have a choice? Was choice important to you?

• How relevant was the learning content to what you were doing at the time? Do you still use it? Has it already become outdated?

With your answers to the above question in mind you need to start to think about what your learner’s need.

For simplicity let’s start with a simple unit of competency. What are the performance criteria for this unit? At this stage it is important to take out as much VET speak as possible (you don't want to confuse your learners). Your learners may want a list of the performance criteria at the commencement of the unit but do they need to know about them throughout the course?

Is there a better way to lead them to the attainment of the performance criteria? I think there is. Decide what exactly it is they need to do or know as a result of this learning.

For example, are we looking at teaching them a skill? What is that skill? The Range Statement and Critical Aspects of Evidence listed in the unit guide can help you to determine this. I sometimes find it helpful to use brainstorming activities, mind mapping techniques or flow charts to help me organise my thoughts. There are some great free e-tools on the web that can help you to do this.

Decide on the content and activities that should be included in the course. I will look at appropriate activities and e-tools that might help in a later post.

Remember to build in a certain level of flexibility. Allow user choice and build in opportunities for your learners to draw on their own experience.

Organise your information into a meaningful form so that you can clearly see the layout, navigation etc. Once again there are some great free web products out there to help you.

Next step is to create your content. Once you have done this you will need to go through a trail phase and evaluation phase. These topics will also be covered in a later post.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New focus - not if you use e-learning but how

I attended an excellent online conference today that looked at benchmarking and survey data of more than 700 Australian RTOs, 800 workplace and a large number of students.

The results showed a steady increase in e-learning for RTOS, business and students.

More than a third of Australian organisations use e-learning as part of the structured training they provide to their employees, and a quarter use e-learning as part of unstructured informal training activity.

What did employers say:

49% of all employers said that they expect their organisation’s use of e-learning in
provision of training to employees to increase in the next two years.

81% of employers said that they would encourage their employees to use e-learning if
it was available.

61% of employers said that they would influence their training provider to deliver more flexible training to their employees.

Visit to read more

What did students say:

90% of VET students would like at least ‘a little’ e-learning in their course.
59% of students thought the e-learning in their course and the computer skills they acquired had increased their confidence, and would help them get a better job, a promotion or more responsibility in their job.
47% of students said e-learning was a factor in their choice of course and 42% said it was a factor in their choice of training provider.

What did VET teachers and trainers say:

87% of teachers and trainers said they used ICT, with a significant increase in the use of newer technologies.
Nearly 60% of teachers and trainers said that e-learning has made learning more interesting and engaging for their students, and more than half said that e-learning has improved their teaching.
VET teachers and trainers most commonly used multimedia interactive e-learning resources, either within the classroom (73%) or remotely (58%).

What did RTOs say:

56% of RTOs surveyed delivered some units involving e-learning.
75% of RTOs provide their clients with access to at least some e-business services.
The uptake of e-learning by smaller private and industry-based RTOs is slower than the larger RTOs, with 55% of very small RTOs currently not using e-learning.
45% of RTOs said e-learning was included in their overall organisational or team business strategy.

Visit to read more

The survey found that 39% of enrolments involve e-learning nationally, and 38% in NSW VET.

Two thirds of employers survey said that they think e-learning is a flexible and efficient training method and that all people in the workforce need good computer skills and this is a good way to increase skill and learn at the same time.

Teachers are using e-learning to:

* Get students involved in targeted Internet research
* Online activities
* Communication
* Electronic submission of work
* Collaborative learning with other students

The results certainly make you think!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Have you heard the term Dotmocracy?

Dotmocracy is a good tool for group decision making. it can be used in the classroom or in a meeting. You may also have heard it referred to as Dot Voting or Sticky Voting.

A simple description of the technique is to get your participants to write down their ideas or predictions onto individual sheets and then place them around the wall. Ask the group to then go around the room and vote for the ideas or predictions using dot stickers. This will give a visual of the number of votes for each idea.

This is a really simple but effective technique. It gets the participants involved and of course out of there seats. They feel part of the session and will often be more willing to contribute than they would if they had to speak up in front of the group. Have you used this technique or something like it? If so, why not share your experiences.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jigsaw Learning

I will start my first session with strategies that will work in both the classroom and meeting room.

The technique I will draw on is known as "Jigsaw Learning". This is such a useful and easy technique to use. It is a good way of ensuring all of your participants engage and contribute to your activity.

Start by dividing your class into small groups. Assign each group a topic. Divide the topic into sub-topics and assign the research of this sub-topic to a participant in the group.

Set a timeframe for the research to be done and the date and time that the group will come back together.

When the group returns each will then present their findings to the group.

You can use this activity to provide an opportunity for the class to prepare individual reports based on the information presented by the other students.

If you have used this activity in your classroom please post a comment to explain how you used the technique, what your experiences were and if you would use it again.

Am I really an e-learning champion?

Interesting question, is anyone really an e-learning champion? I won't attempt to answer that but I will say I feel confident writing this blog and covering some key aspects of learning, pedagogy and e-learning. I base my knowledge on my own personal research and experience. I have been an educator for more than 20 years. I hold a degree in VET, Diploma in TAA, a variety of post graduate qualifications and diplomas. So does that make me an expert? Probably not! What it does give me is a pool of personal knowledge to start this discussion and facilitate your ideas into some meaningful form.

Over the years I have tried a wide variety of strategies and techniques in the classroom and in the online environment. My personal belief is that we should explore the technologies and strategies available to us, use what works and discard the things that don't.

I invest a lot of my time exploring new ways to deliver teaching but I never keep my knowledge or success to myself. My aim is to share my knowledge, admit my mistakes, highlight what I have learnt and provide opportunities for myself and others to learn from each other.

That doesn't make me an e-learning champion but it might make me a champion for the cause!

Why this blog?

I work in the VET sector and teach the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and mentor staff in attaining the Diploma in Training and Assessment. I love the world of teaching.

This blog will be devoted to innovative teaching practices to help teachers build skills in traditional teaching and blended learning classrooms.

Technology is a key strategy I use in my classroom but so are games and interactive activities. If you decide to follow this blog you will learn about the techniques and strategies I like and maybe even the ones I don't like. If you want you can also share to make this resource so much richer.

No point, being a lone ranger!