Free Mindmapping tools 

There are dozens of free mindmapping tools out there, here are three to start with.


Free web-based mind mapping tool that can be added to Google Drive. For best results, log into Google Drive, click on New and then More and select Mindmup. It will ask to be installed to your Google Drive. Can download work as PNG image, PDF, Freemind file format and more.


Device-based software program that requires download and installation.


A web-based presentation tool that can be used to create a mindmap. Students can send links to their work or can download the end product and present it on a computer.  Students and educators can have free accounts where they can control privacy/access to their work.

Image editing software

For Mobile Operating Systems, check your App store for the highest rated Apps.

GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program)

A downloadable software program for Windows and Mac OS that allows multi-layered image editing and the creation of animated GIFs.

MS Paint

Free image editing software that comes with MS Windows. Click the Start menu and type in the word Paint.

MS PowerPoint

Start with a blank slide, add images, graphics and text, then export the slide as an image. PowerPoint includes cropping tools and an easy drag and drop interface. You can change the slide size and orientation to anything you like – so could use it to layout posters or to create layered images.

All UniSA students have access to PowerPoint at no charge.

Multimedia creation/editing software

For Mobile Operating Systems, check your App store for the highest rated, free Apps in video and audio recording and editing.

MS Movie Maker – Windows OS

Microsoft Movie Maker is a free download from Microsoft and should be installed on all UniSA computer pools that run MS Windows. It does basic edits, allows for text overlay, music and voice-overs. It can create a video from still images imported into it as well as edit video. Tutorials are available here:

YouTube Creator Studio

Accessible by logging into YouTube.

For a video created from still images, click on Upload and select Create under PhotoSlide Show. YouTube can access photos and videos from Google image accounts or you can upload new photos.

For a video, click on Edit under Video Editor and select an existing YouTube video or upload a new one.  YouTube Creator studio features allow users to add YouTube music and create text overlays. At this writing (January 2016) voice overs/narrations are not supported.

MS PowerPoint

Yes, you read that correctly. Newer versions of PowerPoint allow you to save presentations as one of two video formats – MP4 or WMV.  (When in doubt, choose MP4). You can add voice over to slides and, if you embed video from your computer and set the video to play automatically, you can embed video and trim it. YouTube links won’t work.  See this video for a quick tutorial:

All UniSA students have access to PowerPoint at no charge.

Audacity audio editing software

This free, open source software download for desktops and laptops allows for multi-track audio production and post production. It works on Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems.

09. March 2015 · Comments Off on The game of tapping into a passion for learning · Categories: e-learning design, educationaldesign

winners_on_podium_400_clr_7603Gamers are great learners, I’ve been one and I have nephews who are gamers.  When I was really into it I would spend hours researching my character, watching videos about fighting techniques, bookmarking and consulting sites about crafting and levelling up, adding in plugins to make my game play more efficient and would benchmark myself. Games stop being fun when you have no more levels and achieves to get.

Gamification of courses is, as far as I’ve seen, not doing a good job of hooking into the passion of getting more proficient.

For people who have only been alive for 10 years, getting into a good university in 8 years is so far away. Where is the immediate reward?  So techniques to make learning engaging can reward short and medium term wins have to balance  with not making kids who aren’t as quick to learn feel stupid. Wow – what a challenge.

Here’s another one: for learners who are in university and overwhelmed – a P is a degree and as long as they get that achieve, what more are they after? What good does a HD do?

So we have to get people in the habit of loving learning, of being passionate about the topics they study and seeing connection and context to their lives and ability to achieve what they want to achieve throughout their learning lives. How do we do it? Not with animations, badges and trumpet sounds is all I know. The learning goes on…

 lightwithplantAs I adjust to having changed sectors (from Vocational Education and Training to the University sector) I’ve been keeping my one mouth shut and my two ears open as much as possible.

I’ve been lurking in new forums, paying attention to new headlines and stories and some old ideas are being pulled up to make way for new ones. It’s tiring, exciting and I can almost smell the ozone as the new synapses form!

A question is starting to break soil for me. For adult learners – what is the balance between ensuring cognitive overload doesn’t discourage learning and offering too much in the way of support so incidental learning doesn’t happen?

In the Vocational Education sector, job readiness is the goal. Some educators there argue that there is so much in a qualification that there is no room for “extras”. The qualifications have been designed by industry and learning experts and that’s enough.  Keep it simple, help them get through and master the competencies they are paying to master.

In the Higher Education sector assessments and course outlines go through a rigorous process and then theory and practice blend to scaffold learners to master increasingly more complex skills in interacting with knowledge as well as master practice.

Great care is taken in online learning spaces to reduce cognitive load. In the first few months of an undergraduate program, young adults studying partly or fully online are transitioning from teacher-led, classroom-based instruction to online, largely learner-led instruction – so this makes sense to me. But what about after those first fraught semesters?

Lewis Carroll Alice original drawing

“…’what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’ “

Complex topics presented in journals and books aimed at adult professionals are typically not laid out with large, colourful fonts or arrows or signposting. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the technology itself that makes it possible for people with an interest in a particular topic to dive into a thick, weighty tome without pictures or conversations while others would rather jump down a rabbit hole?

However readers needed to learn how to read, hold a book and turn pages (or fire up their Kindle and download books) in order to obtain and interact with its knowledge. Using the internet effectively takes more learning than that. So shouldn’t we be teaching learners how to obtain and interact with (find, evaluate, curate, retrieve, apply, build upon, create) the online space?

What does that learning involve?

Information literacy I’ve already alluded to – the ability to find, evaluate, curate, retrieve, apply, build upon and create information artefacts. 

Within a course – shouldn’t some of the work involve more than writing or talking about what they’ve read with an eye to prepping for the big assessments? Shouldn’t they be learning about credibility and building their discernment skills rather than being handed a textbook and a list of readings? Shouldn’t they be trialling online tools that would help them to learn outside the Learning Management System? Shouldn’t they be taught to BROWSE again and in doing so learn about information architectures so when a website changes and a link breaks they’re not left stranded?

Maybe in Higher Education it’s a bit tougher. There are just a few major summative assessments as opposed to lots of smaller ones. Educators who are wonderful face to face see online as a poor cousin or dehumanising so they want it to be simple.  Or they don’t understand the online space so instead of considering what new things it could offer, they scratch the surface and reap complaints from learners.

So, am I suggesting that online spaces should be more challenging for learners? Absolutely. I am also suggesting that the RELEVANT use of technology should be incorporated into learning tasks and we should stop making things so readily able to find.

toomanyhatsI have had many jobs in my life.  I’ve sold shoes to strippers in Alaska. I’ve tended bar, waited tables, organised international film and video shoots, written copy for termite eradication advertising campaigns, organised conferences for facilities management professionals, researched and written about septic tanks and graveyards, temped in some huge cities armed with a paper map and sheer determination and have been involved in various roles in educational design and research.

When I had problems to solve, never did someone hand me a nicely formatted and summarised list of readings and resources with indexed instructions and a choice of options. I had to figure out where to find the information, whether it was valid and relevant, how to apply it and what to do if my initial assumptions didn’t work. Sometimes within a very short space of time with very limited resources. THAT is the world of work. THAT is problem solving and information literacy. Some of it I did on computers. Some involved a library or phone calls or finding out who to ask and when.

I realise foundation knowledge needs to be provided. But at what point (AQF and Blooms aside) do we prepare learners for the messy, complicated world they’re going to find and how can we build that into course design in such a way that we don’t discourage them?

The little sprout continues to grow. Feel free to water it with your comments… 

09. September 2013 · Comments Off on #dlda Reflections on George Siemen’s Adelaide Masterclass · Categories: e-learning design, Events
Melanie, Me, Alli and George Siements

Melanie Worrall of Klevar, Me, Allison Miller of Vanguard Visions and George Siemens (Klevar is co-directed by Melanie and my husband Paul Johnson)

George Siemens is one of those names in education that just keep popping up for me. I first heard of him in 2006, at’s Global Summit on Education in Sydney and came away thinking what a thoughtful, humorous, passionate man he was and I’ve followed his work with interest.

When MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) came about in 2008, I was too involved with other things to take part but followed their progress with interest as I very much subscribe to the notion that knowledge should be free – curation, assessment and feedback is the value-add that institutions can and should provide.

Last week I got to attend a Master Class from George, who together with other Canadian educators I follow (they punch above their weight in that cold country of theirs) pioneered the use and study of MOOCs.

He talked Complexity in Education and Participatory Pedagogy.

First up – complexity.

He stressed it was important to understand complexity and networks as underpinning attributes of society, science and education and used charts graphing the history of philosophy and the nodes/influencers and connections. He showed another with the connections between different branches of research and study. All to stress the fact that complexity is about interconnectedness and variables. If one variable changes – everything is affected. A system with multiple interactive systems and nodes will influence each other and the system as a whole.

Complicated systems are about every piece having a place and there being one right way to put things together.

Along the way he threw it out there that making things simple for students to understand was a lousy goal in educational design and facilitation. The goal should be to help learners see complexity and relationships between ideas, systems, people.

He later mentioned that experts work in patterns whereas novices think sequentially – which for me ties into this a bit, but more on that later…

He then discussed that higher education has historically responded to the technology of an era. He mentioned the book “Reinventing Knowledge” that explores how key learning institutions from monasteries to libraries to universities to laboratories have shaped and channelled knowledge for Western societies.

He gave an example: apparently Plato disliked reading and writing because he felt that the lack of dialogic interaction would lead to a lack of understanding of the knowledge being imparted.

The structure of information today gives us insight to structure of knowledge institutions going forward – because of the impact of tech on knowledge institutions.

An interesting point was about trends being reflections of what is happening. For instance, Facebook is a reflection of change- not a trend or change in and of itself. MOOCs are another example of this. George stressed that we need to look at the substantive stuff underneath – not the reflection or outcome. Don’t chase the pretty shiny outcropping!

MOOCs can have tens of thousands of students in them – Coursera has 260 thousand students who have registered. George has overseen a class with 3,500 students. But of course he doesn’t teach and mark them all and Dunbars law is that groups tend to break down into subgroupings until you get about 150 people in each subgroup.

He then shared a great quote from the Australia-New Zealand 2010 Horizon Report: “In today’s networked world, learners are placing greater value on knowing where to find information than on knowing the information themselves.”

As you learn, you develop a digital identity and gravitate to the tools you like

Learners, because of the fact they’ve been taught to learn Pavlovian style, will have few issues you want to pay attention to when designing online spaces:

  • Be aware of wayfinding activities when log into course. Students are visually disrupted when students log into course. Students don’t have physical, visual clues online. Students don’t have a set way when engaging with digital spaces. Design of the entry space is very important and should be simple and uncluttered. Use language that makes sense.

However, then you have two types of learners to design for if you want to build digital literacy and online learning skills:

  • Self-regulated learners (competent/skilled) – learn more when there are loose structures. 
  • Unconfident learners – learn less with unsettled/disoriented structure.

One possible solution in Moodle came from the very clever Natalie Denmeade who explains she uses conditional activities (you must do something before you can see something else) in Moodle to solve this. She has set up a course so that by default there are few instructions and tutorials – so as to keep it uncluttered and allow more advanced students to have a reasonable challenge. She then invites those who may be less confident to click in a tick box – which then reveals instructions and links to tutorials.

You need to consider the balance between structure and control when trying to build digital literacy skills. If you present a highly structured environment with little student control, students will not build digital literacy skills to the same extent as if you give them control.

He suggests that just as with LLN, you defined the digital literacy skills you wish to build in learners and break it down into competencies, then introduce them gradually to scaffold ala Vygotsky, Zone of Proximal Development, etc.

The idea occurs to me that pre and post course benchmarking of knowledge and skills would be useful and that I should take some of the questions from the pre-course survey and put them in the post-course survey.

He then moved on to networked learning and getting students to create artefacts. Rather than give them information and then an assignment where they create something – give them something to create first. If you create a course and provide resources and assessments – you are in charge. When students are asked to create and share artefacts – they are in charge and in the process of becoming a “transparent learner” they become teachers.

In order to develop competence, learners need to think in patterns. Experts think in patterns, novices think sequentially. That is why sometimes novices who have just mastered something are better at teaching other novices.

It is also why games and simulations are more powerful for learning than the pattern of knowledge transfer-assignment, read this-assignment, watch this-assignment. Games and simulations teach people to think in patterns. Getting students to create artefacts also helps them to think in patterns.

Immersive, complex learning environments form broader connections in our thinking. Most courses are not designed to facilitate the sharing of sense-making artefacts with others.

What do you build into your courses for students to share their understanding and teach each other?

We had a great conversation around our table on this and about the importance of not focusing on the product, but on the process. Content is a by-product of learning.

Can you get more insight from how well students are learning from what they create than from tests or surveys at the end?

Competorial creativity – about developing your skills as a student to combine ideas and skills in new ways.

Technology is an aid to greater proficiency, however you have to destabilise their worlds. Tell them to follow a tag, follow a group in Diigo – teach them how to find and curate information. They need to see the patterns, learn how to find knowledge and how concepts connect and relate.

You cannot just play to student comfort levels.

Top 10 lists and “best practice” go against the theory of complexity. There are multiple ways of thinking to bring to bear on complex challenges.

We want learners to think, be creative, generate new ideas and information – not jump through hoops. In the video “The Private Universe”, Annenberg media interviews Harvard graduates and asks them “Why do we have seasons?” Hardly any of these bright people got it right. Why?

Consider that our teaching methods surface things that aren’t necessarily valued or made relevant.

Current generation learning tools mirror a priori content. The Next generation tools will mirror the info, power relationships and fluid social structure of networks.

Reeds Law – utility of a network scales exponentially with the overall size of a network. If you have a larger group, can form more sub networks and individual-controlled formations.

When MOOCS are done well – students teach each other. One teacher doesn’t teach the 100k students, you change the format.

What are the principles that influence education in open settings and social networks?

  • · Learner autonomy
  • · Self-organization
  • · Transparent learning= teaching
  • · Participatory pedagogy
  • · Sense-making artefacts
  • · Shareable learning paths

What are students doing in their heads?

It’s about context and intended impact – lectures aren’t evil!

Profiles of Mooc learners? 30 plus, educated. MOOCs are not a competitive, shadow system. It’s where people go to learn things they can’t other places – for instance social network analysis. MOOCs respond to demand more quickly and represent the de-centralisation of knowledge that has been occurring for years.

George then challenged us to consider this:

You’re hearing lots of buzz about big data and analytics in education. How do you learn about it?

How would you do so in 1995?  How would you do it today?

While some of us would research on our own and tap into our existing networks, more and more people are turning to MOOCs.

Students pay for the curation of resources that are vetted regarding a specific domain of information.

Is it more efficient to take a MOOC and get curated resources and feedback versus searching yourself? Curatorial teaching and learning. Bundling what the internet has unbundled.

What about people sharing what they studied to learn a specific skill or to master a particular body of knowledge? Sharing of learning paths will give you curated resources. George’s learning management system platform is based on this.

George’s employer Athabasca University – has an ELGG site called Welcome to the Landing.

This allows them to basically creates a walled garden version of FB as not everyone wants to or has the confidence to interact with social media and social networks. It gives learners control over managing and filtering information.

If structure doesn’t exist a priori, learners need tools to create and share structure.

Question for you: How do you create virtual equivalent of student café online?


  • · Importance of learners creating artefacts that reflect how they view a concept/discipline
  • · Assisting learners to think in networks – relationships between concepts
  • · Teaching and learning in networks
  • · Opening up the classroom- global learner
  • · Exporting not only importing education – where do we find out what is happening in our country?

And for me, these were also big themes:

  • The big emphasis – lens of thought that is more consequential than anything else. If learning treated as opening a door to a corridor, then learners can search for themselves.
  • MOOCS – students validating and challenging ideas, creating learning artefacts, networked teaching models.
04. June 2013 · Comments Off on Sky Drive Live + PowerPoint Web App = learning object? · Categories: e-learning design, educationaldesign
I’ve been looking at ways of taking myself out of the production cycle when it comes to creating online resources and turning more of that work over to our facilitators. As well, we’re introducing more and more facilitators to the flipped classroom model of having students prepare and interrogate learning materials in advance of face to face sessions, so I’m exploring easy ways of transforming classroom resources into online learning tools.

PowerPoint is a tool that many facilitators use every day, yet from my conversations with them and in looking at what they have created, I found that there was a lot of potential for improvement.

My first step has been  to talk with my colleagues about how they use PowerPoint and to introduce some base concepts as to what makes for more engaging presentations. Most of them have excellent skills in group facilitation gleaned from group work in counselling and community services, so there was a great information exchange happening. Some are saddled with presentations created by others and due to contractual obligations have very little wiggle room at present. However, most were open to learning and one in particular was excited at the prospect of eliminating text and injecting visuals into her slides.

So I put together a PowerPoint Content Basics presentation and presented it at our monthly staff meeting (click More to see it):

More »