Category Archives: Issues

Says who?

Man next to wheel of faces

Say what? by Mario Inoportuno CC by nc nd

There is a really sloppy habit creeping into rhetoric used by so-called authorities that is not only sloppy but manipulative.  It is going unchallenged and it needs to BE challenged by the public where possible and journalists whenever it comes up in interviews or stories.

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Give your brain a break!

Overflow by Paul Quinn Photography

This weekend an online learner wrote to me saying she was feeling a bit overwhelmed with a unit of study.  She’d set aside a day to complete one unit and came away feeling stressed. I know she isn’t alone in trying to do this – catch up with a week’s work in one day. I know I have tried this in the past. I’d like to share what I wrote to her (which she said helped) and then some research that I found today that backed up my suggestions:

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me.  Learning online can take some time to adjust to, and I hope you find the following to be useful to you: 

First of all, feeling overwhelmed is a universal experience for online learners. Part of it stems from the fact that in traditional learning settings, work is gradually assigned and spaced out whereas online, all the work is exposed . Our brains are goal-oriented, so when they see a whole pile of work, they want to tackle it all in one session and we end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

When I started learning online I experienced this too, but talked to friends who shared the following advice: to keep from feeling overwhelmed (which I certainly did at times during the first online course I took), develop a strategy of skimming through the unit for the week and look at the readings and assignments, then break up the work into smaller chunks and create mini-assignments spaced throughout the week. As well, doing this at the start of the week helped me to identify any questions I needed to ask the course facilitator or to ensure I had time to learn any new tools I needed to use. 

For instance – for me, Mondays were scoping day, Tuesdays and Thursdays major reading days, Wednesdays were my night to cook, Fridays were social nights, Saturdays I did minor assignments and outlined the major assignment between housework chores and Sundays I’d tackle the major assignment for the week in the morning or afternoon and the other half of the day was free. That way I’d spread 9 hours or so hours of work over multiple days and give my brain a chance to absorb and reflect between sessions. (I’d like to add here that this also worked for courses taking 20 hours per week. I just had less free days…) 

Some weeks were easier than others due to my schedule and the nature of the work, but the “scoping” exercise at the start of each new week helped me feel more in control than when I would try to do an entire unit in a day.

The research I found this morning is Australian I’m happy to report.  Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Joel Pearson (UNSW) has published research findings saying that learners who give their brains a break during the course of learning allow for “wakeful consolidation”. While there are many studies that look at learning consolidation while sleeping, this study found that once you’ve done a certain amount of study, your brain goes into consolidation mode – so trying to push it to do more is not helpful. One hour seemed to be enough.

The study is available for download from the Royal Society of Biological Sciences web site in PDF form or you can download it here: When more equals less -overtraining

Photo “Overflow by Paul Quinn Photography CC (by)

Mark Smithers on why lecture capturing is a woeful use of technology

I wish I could add something pithy to this – but when someone makes the point so very, very well – all you can do is point others to it. Being me and unable to NOT state an opinion, I will preface this link as follows: As an online student who had to sit through hours of crappy video of somebody lecturing in front of a white board I can’t see clearly – lemme tell you something: watching video lectures is BORING AS HELL. It added little to the learning experience – especially considering there was no assignment following it that allowed me to apply the knowledge. NOTE TO SELF AND OTHER PRESENTERS: Unless you can juggle or do magic tricks like Jonathan Finkelstein, or you create instructive works of art as you talk like Nancy White – YOU JUST AREN’T THAT EXCITING TO WATCH Thanks to Kerrie Smith, writer of You are Never Alone http://smik.posterous.com/ for bringing Mark Smithers’ post to my attention via her daily Twitter roundup! http://www.masmithers.com/2011/03/11/is-lecture-capture-the-worst-educational-technology/

Dear Teachers: it’s not about making it easy for YOU

Dear Teachers

GWhiz Mobile Learning Assessment, Wesley Fryer, CC (by) (nc)

When you are putting together an online course, and you sayW3C accessibility guidelines are too hard to follow, what you’re really saying is it isn’t about your students, it’s about YOU. W3C accessibility guidelines are not just about making the web accessible for people with screen readers: they are also about ensuring the web will be available on as many different devices as possible: http://www.w3.org/Mobile/
  • You cannot justify using fixed width tables for layout at a time where it is becoming evident learners are more likely to be accessing the web via a device other than a desktop.
  • You cannot justify using one huge image because it looks cool on a page even though it might be impossible to see the detail in it on small devices.
  • You cannot justify using flash with no alternatives for devices that cannot render it.
When you as a tech innovator say you are after what is easiest for teachers, you are taking students out of the spotlight.
  • It’s a mindset that results in online courses that consist of PDFs and quizzes – cuz THAT is EASY for teachers.
  • It’s a mindset that results in images being pirated and used incorrectly without proper attributions or permissions.
  • It’s a mindset that results in educators publicly asking for software to rip YouTube videos and getting help from others to do so.
Being an effective e-learning designer isn’t easy. But it can be streamlined. Your first course could be one that teaches how to create interoperable, cross-platform, mobile, accessible courses that could be easily shared. Now THAT would be empowering for your colleagues AND your students.    

Creating ringtones for iPhone from a PC

iPhone RingtonesI have a new iPhone 4- a different OS from my previous mobile phone. I’ve loaded on new content and apps and now want some custom ringtones. Rather than purchase ringtones derived from my favourite songs, I decided to make my own. I decided I was going to share the process here on my blog in case, like me, you were an iPhone user with a PC and thus didn’t have Garage Band (which apparently does this easily for you). But then I became concerned as to whether or not creating ringtones from legally purchased music was illegal. I’m not going to sell or share the resulting ringtone. I’m using it solely for my own use.

Legal or not?

I could not find any Australian sites with information on this, so I sought out information relating to the precedent-setting Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). While being vague about it, the RIAA is quoted (according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation web site) as saying that burning a copy of copyrighted music “won’t usually raise concerns so long as the copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own and the copy is just for your personal use.” This would seem to suggest what I’ve done is okay. However, by grabbing just a portion of the song to use as the ring tone, I’ve made a derivative work. True, it’s a derivative work made from legally purchased music and the derivative is solely for my own use — but is it legal? According to a 2007 engadget article written by copyright attorney Nilay Patel, thanks to the RIAA seeking a decision from the copyright office, ring tones are NOT considered derivative works. Therefore, I am merely transferring legally purchased music from one device to another, which the RIAA says ‘won’t usually raise concerns’. So, taking this into consideration, I feel comfortable in sharing how to create a derivative from a legally purchased file. It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable in doing so. If you find anything that says it is illegal, please leave a comment. I’ve also read that music you purchase from the iTunes store has DRM info that prevents you from creating your own ringtones. I used the below steps with a legally purchased CD.

How to create ringtones for iPhone from a PC

  1. rip your CD
  2. download the very latest BETA version of Audacity (at this writing, 1.3.13) from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
  3. download  the ffmpeg for Audacity file from the Audacity manual wiki web site (note, full ffmpeg from ffmpeg.org did NOT work)
  4. install both Audacity and ffmpeg
  5. open Audacity, go to libraries, browse computer to where you have ffmpeg for Audacity, find the .dll file you need (described on Audacity wiki)
  6. load in your song and edit it
  7. export file as a .m4a AAC file
  8. right click and change file extension to .m4r
  9. import file into iTunes library
  10. connect iPhone, drag file to ringtones folder of iPhone
Save as M4A