VCC 2017 Educational Technology Showcase – May 29, 2017

On May 29, 2017, Vancouver Community College was pleased to present our third Educational Technology showcase, called “The Flipped School”.

Held at the VCC Broadway campus, it gave our Faculty a way to showcase educational technologies, best practises, and to learn from the experience of their VCC colleagues.

The Showcase was located in and around Room 1228, Bldg B of the Broadway campus, and encompassed over eleven presentations over six hours. You can see this year’s event schedule at the VCC EdTech Showcase registration site and check out Twitter activity at the hashtag #vccedtech

Here’s a little video welcome (and a look at how far we’ve come!)

Here are descriptions, videos and resources from the day’s presentations:


Keynote Speaker: Rajiv Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Dr. Jhangiani gave an impassioned presentation in defence of open educational resources and open textbooks, particularly commenting on the impacts of rising textbook costs on student success.


(Dr. Jhangiani’s full lecture notes are available online.)

Related Resources:

About the Presenter:

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani is the University Teaching Fellow in Open Studies and a Psychology Professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver, BC, where he conducts research in open education and the scholarship of teaching and learning. A recipient of the Robert E. Knox Master Teacher Award from the University of British Columbia and the Dean of Arts Teaching Excellence award at KPU, Dr. Jhangiani serves as the Senior Open Education Advocacy and Research Fellow with BCcampus, an Associate Editor of Psychology Learning and Teaching, and a faculty workshop facilitator with the Open Textbook Network. Dr. Jhangiani has revised two open textbooks—for Research Methods and Social Psychology—and advocates for the adoption of open educational and science practices. His books include A Compendium of Scales for Use in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (2015) and Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science (2017, Ubiquity Press).


Workshop: Moodle / BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Presenter: Robin Popow, VCC Auto Collision Program

Auto Collision Instructor Robin Popow demonstrated how he and his students maximize the power of their mobile devices to enable a truly flipped learning environment.

Robin showed how his Students use their own mobile devices to participate in on-the-fly polls using Socrative.com

…and he also showed the advantages of using Moodle and the student’s mobile devices to run on-the-spot assessments from the shop floor, and to manage attendance in real-time using Moodle’s Attendance module.

About the Presenter:

Robin Popow is a third generation Collision Repair technician and Paint technician with a Red Seal designation in both. Robin has held a variety of different roles relating to the auto industry including a small family collision repair shop, a major dealership, and two stints at ICBC.

Robin began his career at VCC in 2001, gained a teaching diploma, then a Master’s degree in Education from Simon Fraser University. He served as an Instructional Associate at VCC for 7 years followed by a position as Standards Manager with the Industry Training Authority of BC before returning to his true love – teaching trades skills at VCC. Robin’s speciality is the development and delivery of flexible learning programs and currently instructs his department’s distant learning high school program to students all over BC.


Health Sciences Simulated Learning Experience (SLE) Lab Demonstration

Faculty and Technicians from the Health Sciences Program led two group demonstrations of their high-fidelity patient simulation system. Their robotic “patients” can be programmed for a wide variety of conditions and responses, in order to provide realistic Student challenges.

The Simulated Learning Experiences (SLE) lab is designed to help learners practice skills and interventions in a simulated hospital environment. These opportunities recreate realistic scenarios that reflect the complexities of patient care. The goal is for nurses to practice patient care and to experience the positive and negative impacts of on-the-job decision-making, in a safe environment.


Workshop: Skype for Business

Presenter: Julieta Herrera, VCC IT Dept.

Julieta demonstrated how to use Skype for Business to schedule and set-up video conferences between people at VCC and/or at external institutions, and also showed how to use the presentation recording feature.

About the Presenter:

Julieta Herrera has worked with Educational Technology in the IT department at VCC for the last five years. While evaluating practices and technologies on an ongoing basis, she collaborates with faculty and students on using technology to support educational experiences. Julieta have worked in other universities in Mexico and Canada and she holds degrees from a university in Mexico. She enjoys working with the faculty at VCC to better understand the Educational Technologies that will assist them in their teaching.


Panel Discussion: Culinary Arts Curriculum Project

This panel discussion reviewed a large curriculum redevelopment project undertaken by the VCC Culinary Arts program. The panel will discuss the new Culinary programs and the lessons learned from the development of a blended delivery model using Moodle.

 

View the slides from the Culinary Arts project panel

Panel Presenters:

  • VCC’s VP of Academic and Research, Dr. Kathryn McNaughton
  • Shirley Lew, VCC Dean of Library and Teaching & Learning Services
  • Ysabel Sukic, Asst. Department Head, Culinary Arts
  • Garth Manning, Instructional Associate, Centre for Instructional Development
  • John Love, Moodle Media Developer, Centre for Instructional Development

Lightning Talk Presentations

Inspired by the rapid-fire format of Pecha Kucha, presenters were given a chance to describe their topic in about three minutes.


Workshop: ePortfolios at VCC

Presenter: Andy Sellwood, Centre for Instructional Development

This presentation takes a look at what ePortfolios are and how they can be used in different educational programs. The Exabis ePortfolio system is being piloted at VCC, and was briefly demonstrated to show one possibility of implementing ePortfolios into programs.

View the slideshow from the ePortfolios session

About the Presenter:

Andy Sellwood is an Instructional Associate in the Centre for Instructional Development (CID) at VCC. Prior to joining CID, Andy was a physics instructor as well as being the department head of Science at VCC between 2010 and 2015. Andy’s interests lie in student motivation, program design and program implementation.


Innovations in Educational Technology – May 26, 2015

On May 26, 2015, VCC was pleased to present the first-ever “Innovations in Educational Technology” showcase. Held at the VCC Broadway campus, this was an opportunity for our faculty to showcase a wide variety of education technologies and to learn from their colleagues.

Here are descriptions, videos and resources from some of the presentations:


“Aboriginal Gateways”

Allison Schubert, Aboriginal Education and Community Engagement

Allison demonstrated “Aboriginal Gateways”, an online course designed by VCC’s Department of Aboriginal Education and Community Engagement. It is currently being piloted with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners at Ray Cam Community Centre and Pinnacle Alternate High School Program in Vancouver.

“Aboriginal Gateways to Careers is a flexible Moodle-based program that was developed to assist Learners with exploring careers and making decisions about both school and work.  The program takes learners through a unique learning experience as they gather information about their skills, knowledge, values and interests and how that relates to career choice.”

Allison’s Aboriginal Gateways demonstration video:

Allison Schubert is the Learning Facilitator for Aboriginal Gateways to Careers in Aboriginal Education and Community Engagement as well as the Department Coordinator for the Access to Careers and Education Department. Allison always looks for creative ways to serve non-traditional learners and support their transition to post-secondary education and employment. She has been involved in the development of Gateways for over two years and has served as the content expert on the project.


 

“3D Printing”

Graham Huckin, Drafting Department

“In the Drafting program, we use our 3D printer to make solid models of some of the exercises that our Basic Drafting students are learning to draw. It is important that the students develop a spatial ability, an ability to visualise in 3D what they are looking at in 2D. Having the physically-printed models of some of the objects they are drawing in AutoCAD helps them to develop that spatial ability. I don’t plan to demonstrate the 3D printer “live” at the showcase, but I have made a short 5-minute video to show how 3D printing is done, and will bring along some physical examples of the printed objects.”

Graham’s 3D printing introduction video:

Drafting’s 3D printer in operation:

A closer look at sample 3D printed objects:


“Using the iPad & Apple TV in Group English Editing Lessons”

Jane Parker, College and Career Access

Working in small groups, Adult Basic Ed. intermediate students can edit errors in sentences they’ve generated, and can see the results in real-time on the classroom’s big screen. Jane demonstrated this interactive lesson, using faculty and staff as simulated students.

“Word-processed sentences are photographed with the iPad and imported into the “Educreations” whiteboard app. Student groups then each take turns using the iPad to annotate sentences by drawing over the image with a different colour. Sentence annotations are projected up on the room’s big screen via Apple TV. Final corrections are annotated by the Instructor and tweeted out to be displayed in the class’s Moodle course. The result is that Students are more engaged in editing because they enjoy using the iPad and watching their peers make edits in real-time. They like the fact that the lesson becomes a kind of competitive game.”


“Educational Technology in the EAL Pathways Program”

Joann Chernen, EAL – Pathways Program

“Pathways course delivery and participation depends on a significant amount of educational technology, involving: the online learning platform Moodle; a reliance on authentic materials sourced and researched through the internet; extensive video recording via mobile devices and tablets; and software applications such as Excel; PowerPoint; and Prezi. Students recognize and appreciate the integration of educational technology for the currency it brings to the Pathways learning experience, and for the opportunity it provides them to improve their educational technology skills.”

Pathways Curriculum Developing Ss Tech Skills and Awareness
(Adobe PDF format)


“Using Camtasia Studio 8 to record screen-capture video presentations”

Graham Huckin, Drafting Department

Graham gave a video demonstration of the features of Camtasia Studio 8, plus a couple of videos he created for his Steel Detailing students. Graham’s goal was to stimulate the attendees’ imagination regarding how the techniques demonstrated may be adapted to their own program areas.

Graham’s Camtasia Studio 8 demonstration video:


“Demonstrating the Morpholio Board”

Ken Izumi, Dental Technology

“The Morpholio Board iPad app allows for a layout of images, concepts and ideas all on one “slide”. The app enables you to present multiple images seamlessly, and create annotations to enhance these concepts and ideas. The app can be used in presentations, quizzes and interactive learning exercises. I use the app on my IPad and stream it to a TV screen using Apple TV. Dental Technology students, for the most part, are visual learners. The Morpholio Board App allows me to present information in a format that hopefully optimizes their learning experience.”

Ken’s Morpholio Board demonstration video:


“Introducing Hydraulic Trainers”

Rick Cyr, Heavy Mechanical Trades

Rick demonstrates “How to bring Heavy Equipment Hydraulics into the classroom (without making a large hole in the wall)”. Participants had an opportunity to try out the Hydraulics Trainer and build active hydraulic circuits safely.

Rick’s Hydraulic Trainer demonstration video:

Rick Cyr is the Department Leader for the new Joint VCC/BCIT Annacis Island Campus- Motive Power Centre of Excellence. He is certified in heavy duty and commercial transportation.


 

Results of the Gradebook Survey (part II) and the Gradebook Workshop

The Gradebook Workshop was held in Long Beach, CA, USA a few weeks ago.

Moodle user and web developer Bob Puffer has posted his notes on the Gradebook Workshop to Moodle.org along with some handy resources to start making sense of what may come of the gradebook in Moodle.

One of the most major changes will be a UCLA modeled grader report with fixed columns and row headers which should greatly improve the usability of a large gradebook (similar to the LAE grader).

Two major changes specified from his survey results:

  • Grader report fashioned similar to LAE Grader where item headers and student info columns never leave the screen from UCLA (better than LAE Grader)
  • Natural weights allowing aggregation methods to be removed from the Setup (Cats and items) screen, display of natural weights allowing adjustment by teacher.

If you want to read the full notes that Mr. Puffer shared (and all of the great links he provided) check out his post at Moodle.org:
https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=263318

Accessibility in Online Learning Environments: Betty Noble and Karon Lee

On Sept. 24, 2013, the Centre for Instructional Development proudly presented the Learn @ Lunch Workshop “Accessibility in Online Learning”.

VCC Instructor (and former head of the Visually Impaired Program) Betty Noble, and SFU Distance Learning Consultant Karon Lee presented their experiences with accessibility issues in developing online courses.

Some of the key topics covered in this hour-long presentation were:

  • Accessibility support in different Learning Management Systems (WebCT, Canvas, and Moodle).
  • How Universal Design for Learning (UDL) supports accessibility.
  • Compatibility issues of web browsers and the JAWS screen reader.
  • Key points to remember when striving for accessibility.

CID Activity Reports: 2012 to 2013

CID-Logo-Blue

Each year, the Centre for Instructional Development posts its annual CID Activity Report, which documents the consultation, development and support activities delivered to the VCC community.

The 2012-2013 Activity Report is now available on the CID website.
It covers a wide array of topics:

  • Program Renewal
  • Curriculum Development
  • Instructional Development
  • Distributed Learning
  • Study of Teaching and Learning
  • Policy Review Groups and Committee Work
  • IRA Support
  • Faculty Postings: Selection, Election and Area Hiring Recommendations

Learn more about the CID, its mission, and previous Activity Reports on our “About Us” page.

“Blow up the Learning Management System!”

By Robin Popow (Instructional Associate, Centre for Instructional Development)

DavidP_color

David Porter, BCcampus Executive Director

This though-provoking statement made by BCcampus Director, David Porter sparked an interesting debate at the 2013 Canada MoodleMoot in Vancouver.

Porter made the statement during a panel discussion suggesting that educators have more freedom using the rapidly growing community of cloud based applications versus affordances offered by the learning management system (LMS). In a followup interview Porter added,

“The LMS is about the “management” of learning, something I oppose in higher education. Don’t mind scaffolding, but dislike management. LMS are managed for instructors and students. I want instructors and students co-manage the learning environment. It’s a new literacy for instructors. It needs to be under their control. Most LMS are just labour-intensive, confining electro-gradebook environments. Instructors need to wean themselves from the electro-pablum of the LMS.”

As you might expect, Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas disagreed with this and presented a good case in support of the LMS but I thought I’d offer my opinion from a Vancouver Community College perspective – I think they’re both right!

I loved Porters analogy of the LMS (Moodle in our case) as a “Swiss army knife” of educational technology. In a very practical way, Moodle does offer a tool to accommodate every popular e-learning strategy to some degree as well as enabling consistent standards of development, delivery and e-learning process College-wide. Porter was keen to follow up on this as well adding,knife

“Swiss Army Knife (SWK): A SWK is a general purpose tool that confines its users to a limited range of very general activities. I’d rather pick the tactical blade to do the job I need. Cloud-based apps give us a whole range of choices for more targeted application and open-ended learning experiences. An LMS is an artificial learning environment, and Moodle represents Martin’s particular worldview, that I do not accept as an autonomous professional.”

To some extent I agree that some Moodle tools tend to provide only rudimentary solutions but I do feel that it generally provides a great platform from which to begin. By that I mean, both from the perspective of an instructor just beginning to use e-learning strategies as well as an instructor who establishes Moodle as a base and sends students off to cloud-based apps that provide more flexibility, advanced features, etc than those in Moodle (Porter’s point I believe). For example and as the later suggests, an activity that focuses on student collaboration to develop a webpage or document would likely be better served using an app dedicated to the purpose of being a wiki such as MediaWiki. Likewise, an activity focused on student folios may be better served using an app such as WordPress.

moodle-platformDuring the MoodleMoot I had a chance to further discuss this with Dougiamas who agreed that the “walls” that once boxed us into Moodle have been effectively removed with the additions of external repositories such as YouTube, MediWiki, Google Docs, etc.

So, I guess my point is that the LMS provides a practical, cost effective and convenient way to manage e-learning. That said, Porter really has a point and we should always encourage those innovators to venture into the clouds. Their explorations blaze new (safe) trails for all of us.

Moodle Moot Canada 2013: Day 3

MoodleMoot2013From February 13-15, 2013, members of the Centre for Instructional Development (CID) attended the  Moodle Moot Canada 2013 conference in Vancouver.

The CID and the DL Support team attended a variety of educational and technical sessions at this stimulating two and a half day conference. (Many attendees tweeted out URLs, notes and quotes using the hashtag #mootca13.)

Session: Moodle Development Best Practices – Justin Filip

Justin Filip is the Manager of Software Development for Remote Learner Canada (http://www.remote-learner.ca), an official Moodle Partner. Remote Learner builds custom solutions for Moodle clients, and in particular, integrates Moodle with other systems or products.

In this session, Justin covered:

  • Overview of Moodle plugin systems and available APIs
  • Working with the Moodle Tracker; Peer review process
  • Maintaining a custom plugin using GitHub
    (Templates for Activity modules are available there.)
  • Submitting core patches and bug fixes to Moodle HQ
  • Accessing Moodle Developer Docs at moodledocs.org
  • Discussed using Selenium to do automated browser testing

http://www.slideshare.net/justinfilip/moodle-development-best-pracitces

Plenary: The Business of Social Learning – Bradley Shende

Bradley Shende is the Founder and CEO of M2O Digital Agency, as well as Global TV’s resident Technology Commentator. At Moodle Moot Canada 2013, he spread his passion for technology’s influence on our daily lives. In addition to inspiring international audiences as a keynote speaker, his infectious content stimulates his audiences to embrace a future where technology is understood, accessible and fun.

He touched on our multicultural society and the related diversity in information and education by relating them to his own diversity: His Father was from Trinidad, and studied Medicine in Winnipeg. His Mother, a native Winnipegger,  spotted him at a social event, and the rest is history. Bradley feels that his parents were early adopters of globalism the importance of shared connections.

Bradley’s number one technology tip:  “Just click things.” Don’t be afraid to click things and play with gadgets.

His analogy for crowd-sourcing in Twitter: “It’s  like having a group of people together in one room. Write a question on piece of paper and pass it around. When the paper came back, you’ll have some great answers to your initial question.”

Bradley proceeded to rouse his crowd to action, getting everyone on their feet to take part in a meme from YouTube:

Moodle Moot Canada 2013 Does “The Harlem Shake”:

What has changed for our generation, or our children’s generation? Touchscreens have radically changed our expectations of what media can do and how we expect to access it. Bradley told a story of how when surfing the Sesame Street website on his laptop, how his 2-yr-old son (who was more familiar with using his Dad’s iPad) wondered why Elmo was “broken” because there was no touch-screen response on the laptop’s screen.

We (as a culture) have changed the input method – no longer strictly text-based papers or essays – and we’ve changed the way information is sourced. Wikipedia has grown larger in a few years than Encyclopedia Britannica did over hundreds of years.

The “Shift has Happened” video:

This video challenges us all to imagine the future. and as educators ask ourselves the question “Am I preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist, or for jobs that will no longer exist by the time they’re trained?”

Other Observations from Bradley Shende:

  • Increasing user-generated content leads to increased-self publishing and self-curation.
  • “Gamification”: Kids are bored, and often seek novelty. It’s important to challenge yourself, think creatively, and to network.
  • Social Media can transform students from individual silos of knowledge into connected nodes.

Bradley closed with some inspiring suggestions:

Reconnect the soul of education to the world.
See through the eyes of a child. That’s knowledge.
We all need to become Learners, together.

Moodle Moot Canada 2013: Day 2

MoodleMoot2013From February 13-15, 2013, members of the Centre for Instructional Development (CID) attended the  Moodle Moot Canada 2013 conference in Vancouver.

The CID and the DL Support team attended a variety of educational and technical sessions at this stimulating two and a half day conference. (Many attendees tweeted out URLs, notes and quotes using the hashtag #mootca13.)

Keynote: Tony Bates – “Quality in eLearning”

The keynote speaker on Day 2 was Dr. Tony Bates, President and CEO of Tony Bates Associates Ltd, a private company specializing in consultancy and training in the planning and management of e-learning and distance education. He is a recognized expert in distance learning theory and practice, has authored eleven books, and has worked as a consultant in over 40 countries. Clients include the World Bank, OECD, UNESCO, national ministries of education, and several U.S. state higher education commissions as well as many universities and colleges.

Tony commented on the current “MOOC hysteria” happening in higher education: “What is disappointing is the continual lack of recognition of the research, design and best practices that have come from earlier work on online learning. Frankly, this shows a lack of scholarship that would not be tolerated in other disciplines – and it is coming from those very institutions that place most emphasis on scholarship. They should be incorporating best online practices into MOOCs – as far as the format allows – before throwing them at learners. But that would mean acknowledging that MOOCs are an evolution of online teaching, and not something new invented by Ivy League universities.”

When he described his concerns over “quality” in elearning courses in general, he made reference to his previous research into elearning quality standards. “Coursera MOOCs”, he said, “don’t seem to follow rules of rules of elearning quality.”

Other comments and observations from this session:

  • The roles of students, instructor are changing with the affordances of web2.0.
  • Students are gaining more control over their learning, but credentialing is still an issue.
  • Learning as Development: The student moves along a continuum progressing from dependent learning to independent learning.
  • Don’t think of just how to move classroom instruction online. Think of how Web2.0 gives you new ways to teach.
  • Look for research that shows which activities are the most beneficial in classroom or groups.
  • Student diversity in purpose and prior knowledge-determine student requirements
  • Determine subject requirements – which can be done online and which needs to be on location – more and more remote capability is available
  • When considering teaching students HOW to learn online, consider the whole program, and not just one course.
  •  eLearning requires a team approach and mastery of the tech. Instructors need to be trained, and need to know “how can I do this in the LMS.”
  • Some skills are best suited to online – especially 21st century tech use
  • Design activities students can actually do considering their environment
  • Instructor presence and communication are critical to online learner success.
  • Follow quality steps, but do not fail to innovate and keep up to new possibilities. Then evaluate and disseminate.
  • Quality standards tend to follow innovation. Then, instructors need strategies for capturing innovation so it doesn’t remain isolated. Once innovative practice is identified and understood, it can be evaluated for quality.

Session: Mobile Learning – Paul Hibbitts

Paul Hibbitts teaches User Experience in the Computer Science program at SFU. He established Hibbitts Design in 1998 to provide personalized user-centered design, interaction design, and training services. He provides hands-on design and coaching to improve user experiences for desktop applications, mobile devices, and the web.

Mobile is the new reality in the world of online learning. With a focus on user experience (UX), Paul shared his design insights and techniques on how to leverage Moodle to better support anytime, anywhere learning on an ever-expanding range of mobile devices.

Drawing from his experiences in creating and designing mobile blended learning materials on a variety of platforms, Paul presented his preferred mobile design approaches and field-tested techniques. Topics included the fundamentals of mobile learning UX, the ongoing evolution of the “mobile first” design viewpoint, and the increased importance of design for emotion. Paul also presented how open-source responsive HTML frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap can help to make Moodle more mobile friendly.

Issues: Trends and Influence of Mobile Web Platforms

By 2014, mobile web use will overtake desktop use. Soon, a student’s first or only web access will be via a mobile device.

Paul recommended the book, Mobile First, which proposes that user interface designers should begin their design considerations and requirements from a mobile platform perspective first, and then build on that design to accommodate the needs of desktop platforms afterwards.

This “mobile first” philosophy is the reverse of how design has traditionally approached mobile, designing for the desktop first, and then removing or reducing the GUI to accommodate mobile users.

Paul suggested that interface designers and online course designers need to focus on the mobility of the learner, whether they use a tablet, smartphone, or something in-between (“phablet). Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the best answer for multi-device user experience design (HTML5, javascript, viewports).

It’s now a multi-screen, multi-context world. Ask yourself “How is my content going to follow me around?”

Implementation: Twitter Bootstrap – framework for RWD.

Moodle Bootstrap is a mobile theme that takes advantage of the Titter Bootstrap framework to provide a responsive, multi-platform user interface that adapts to desktop or mobile displays.

You probably have more of an emotional attachment to your mobile device than to your desktop computer. (Emotion aids engagement.)

Slides from this presentation are online here:
http://www.paulhibbitts.com/mobilelearningux/moodle/index.html

Here is a MindMap of the topics Paul covered in his presentation:
http://www.mindmeister.com/233818108/moodlemoot-2013-canada-mobile-learning-ux

Integrating a Moodle Course into Facebook

Rafael Scapin, the Coordinator of Education Technology at Dawson College in Montreal, presented on a survey project he did with 3rd year Presentation Illustration students.

The goal of this project was to leverage Facebook’s popularity amongst their students to provide a communication and collection space  – a Facebook page – where the Moodle-based instructors and students could chat as a group, and where instructor could post information about course news and content updates. Being the most popular social media service in the world (with 1 Billion users in 2012), Facebook is already in use by most if not all the student population. It can provide them a useful space in which to stay in touch with students “out of class”, or to reconnect with students who haven’t logged into Moodle recently.

His slideshow presentation is online at http://www.slideshare.net/rscapin?nomobile=true

Moodle Moot Canada 2013: Day 1

MoodleMoot2013From February 13-15, 2013, members of the Centre for Instructional Development (CID) attended the  Moodle Moot Canada 2013 conference in Vancouver.

Vancouver Community College has made a strong commitment to using the Moodle LMS platform for delivering online courses. Moodle Moot is a major annual event that brings educators, technologists and industry reps together to share ideas, show off projects, and discuss issues in online learning, educational practice and the implications of digital technology.

The CID and the DL Support team attended a variety of educational and technical sessions at this stimulating two and a half day conference. (Many attendees tweeted out URLs, notes and quotes using the hashtag #mootca13.)

Martin Dougiamas: “Why are we in education?”

The keynote speaker on Day 1 was Moodle’s creator, Martin Dougiamas.

Although he’s known primarily as a software engineer, Martin has an educational background. This is evident from his Moodle design philosophy, which  is based on Social Constructivism – the idea that learning happens through the knowledge that we grow by actively working and constructing with others. (Wikipedia: “Groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings.”)

This open, collaborative philosophy also parallels the goals of the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement in general. Openness in its many forms (free and open code, open course content, and open collaboration) is the underlying quality that sets Moodle apart from all the commercial LMS competitors (which are neither free nor open).

Features coming to Moodle in versions 2.5 and 2.6

Martin said that Moodle HQ has spent a lot of time over the past few releases improving Moodle’s architecture and performance.

Here are the features Martin said we can expect in the Moodle core, in versions 2.5 or 2.6:

  • The Open Badges open standard will be supported in 2.5 and 2.6
  • An HTML5 app for smartphones is in development (PhoneGap). This will provide a better user experience for Moodle users on their mobile phones. (A beta version may be available this week.)
  • Offline marking of assignments was a much-requested feature, and the new mobile app may accommodate this.
  • An LTI interface will provide much easier integration of plug-ins (mostly of use to plugin developers)
  • More instructional videos are on the way to the Moodle.org site!
  • The TinyMCE editor in Moodle will have an “auto-save to browser” capability in version 2.5 or 2.6.

Efficiency has been the major focus of Moodle’s engineering efforts, but Martin also admitted that while advancing the technology is crucial, he personally wants to go “back to the classroom” and revisit his earlier research. So, he looked to the audience and asked them the question that he was, in effect, asking himself: “Why are we in education?” Audience members responded with brief, personal statements which sometimes were quite blunt and essential: “to make the world a better place”, “to help others have a better life”, or “because it’s fun”.

After seeing how he connected with the room in that brief exchange, I could not see Martin Dougiamas as just a techie or an engineer. He was saying that he’s continuing to reinterpret and redefine his role against the dual backgrounds of technology and education – something that I suspect many of the people in his audience had likely been doing as well.

Martin said “the tools we use change us” and affect our behaviour. I’d find that theme coming up again in later sessions, particularly where social media in education is concerned.

Session: Teaching with Moodle – Beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy

This small breakout session was led by Jason Maitland and Kristina Thomson – two high-school teachers from Rundle Academy, who aimed to show how they’d extended their learning practice “beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy” by integrating Moodle with other online services. (Their Prezi slide deck is available online.)

They described how they applied differentiated learning, using various types of content for their adolescent learners. In one example resource for teaching literature (in this case, Shakespeare), text was displayed in simplified English, and accompanied by audio and video clips, all embedded on the same page. This multi-modal approach (promoted as a UDL standard), allows learners with different learning styles to absorb information in more than one mode using multiple forms of media. It was neat to see the principle applied so enthusiastically by young teachers in the first few years of their careers.

Key Topics Raised

How will Moodle fit into the 21 Century Competencies?

  • Creativity and innovation
    Critical thinking and problem solving (metacognition)
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy  – moving beyond this to metacognition (a blending of all of the learning steps – understanding, evaluation, creation, etc)
  • Differentiation – make content accessible to all students in different ways
    • Teacher needs to understand content
    • Needs to understand the interests and learning profile of students

Other observations from this session:

“Moodle is a frame to consolidate different apps or plugins. Moodle is the house students can always use to access their content.”
I thought this was a particularly strong message, and a practical approach to organizing the presentation of features from other services into a common learning environment.

Use Twitter as your back channel. Use it to compile issues as in an exit survey.
Put embed code in HTML block (some templates don’t like Twitter embed code).

Other Example Uses of 3rd-party web services

  • Students may be asked to Tweet current events or other content as part of their homework. The teachers found that it was easiest for their students to all use a common communal Twitter account for this.
  • Collaborative Doc Sharing (Google Docs or PiratePad, embedded in Moodle.
  • Use issuu.com to publish a “class book”
  • Geogebra.org for embedding math simulations.

These teachers have discovered that they can embed outside services or rich media into Moodle resources or activities by using the IFrame HTML tag. Technically speaking, it’s a simple technique, but logistically it’s a good approach, giving the student a common context (Moodle) while taking easy advantage of 3rd-party features which Moodle doesn’t have. Embedded outside services of media into Moodle resources or activities also gives them the ability to grade activity in Moodle’s Grader report, and to use the activity logs to see if an embedded resource has been visited recently.

For these Teachers, Moodle became the picture frame through which other services and media could be seen and used. Moodle became the context or framework within which a variety of web technologies could be used (especially ones with which their students were already familiar).

Program for the Visually Impaired and Moodle

The Program for the Visually Impaired at VCC officially began its existence in September of 1981.  The VI program currently features primarily self-paced studies with 26 FTE’s. The goal of the program is to give students the skills to enter employment or to enroll in mainstream programs with a primary focus on adaptive technologies. The program offers Braille, keyboarding, and CCA English and Math courses at the intermediate level.  The VI Programs have a long history with teaching word processing and presently teaches Microsoft programs exclusively.  In 2004, two certificates were introduced: Office Administration and Applied Technology.  These programs involve a work experience and are at the Post Secondary level.

  Making Moodle more Accessible

One never knows what someone else sees or hears until they put themselves into the other person’s shoes.

The Visually Impaired has a few courses in Moodle and they use them to teach their students how to use Windows and Office products. Those courses are popular, and provide students with a flexible way to keep up with their learning.

Betty Nobel, the Department Head for the Visually Impaired program is continuously looking for ways to serve the needs of her students. Moodle is only one tool they use.

Moodle as a Learning Management System is very versatile, but unlike Mac products, it does not come with accessibility functions. Therefore, the Visually impaired faculty and students have had to navigate a system that was made for people who have sight.  On a couple of occasions during the spring term Betty, approached the CID and wanted to know if we could do something.  Not really understanding the criteria of what the program needed, in the summer when things got a little bit quieter, we decided to give the VI a visit.

As we sat in Betty Nobel’s office and started talking, she tried to explain to us what some of the problems were. We took some notes, but not really grasping the profoundness… we asked her to demonstrate. She logged into Moodle, and with the screen reading software ‘Jaws‘ on,  it took us only a mere 2 minutes to realize how inaccessible the layout of the VI courses were. To test our understanding of the problems, we asked Betty to let us do some changes on the course right there, and within a few minutes and with a couple of clicks we made the course more accessible.

So we pondered: if in so little time we could make such a difference, what would happen if we took a more detailed look at it.

The project was assigned to Kar- On, the new DLSupport person at the CID. She took this task very seriously: with a pair of earphones and working through the material like a Visually Impaired person, she worked on the course for one month.  She consulted with the department every step of the way.

She then:

•    Removed blocks that were unnecessary or inaccessible
•    Consolidated information across weeks
•    Changed links and labels so everything starts with a number to  correspond to the week
•    Removed formatting in the content to read more smoothly in a screen   reader
•    Organized content to view in pop-up windows so it is easier for navigation by the visually impaired.

She also considered some best practices:

•    Simplicity
•    Screen reading capability when designing text and content

Currently the course is a good model and template for other accessible courses and future development. We know that if we develop Moodle courses with these guidelines in mind, they will be accessible and won’t need a complete overhaul in the future.