Friday, January 27, 2012

Word Press for Museums? A “Killer App” of Academia? Check out Omeka!

Previously we have discussed the resource Zotero which provides great options for Faculty and Students to organize their work. Another resource that enables students to engage with information in a critical and intellectual manner is Omeka.

Omeka is a free, open-source Web publishing platform that allows one to store and share collections of documents, images and videos.

Proponents of Omeka call it “WordPress for museums” and are particularly excited about the way this resource can give students experience navigating and interpreting archival materials.

Historians have found Omeka to be particularly useful with their learners. Jeffrey McClurken, a historian at the University of Mary Washington, notes on The Chronicle's ProfHacker blog, that “students can create some impressive projects using [Omeka] and learn a wide variety of skills (digitization, organization, presentation, exhibition, metadata creation) along the way.” He further explains that Omeka is ideally suited for “projects that involve a sizable digital (or at least digitizeable) collection.”

An example would a project like featuring the writings of President James Monroe that involves the creation of a digital archive with numerous images and text. To see such an example, look here.  

In another great example, we can see where a Yale University archivist created an Omeka site to showcase materials from their digital collection. Notable in this creation is that as a result of creating the Omeka site, the archivist “…lectured less and actively engaged more of [her] class. And best of all, having a website allowed [her] to give students a tangible reference tool they could access after the session was over.” So in essence, tools like Omeka can support the objective of assisting learners with developing strong, well balanced research and evaluative skills. Another professor created a very elaborate and detailed tour of Sagamore Hill – the historical country residence of President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.

Interested educators can go see a brief introduction to Omeka  or visit the Omeka Showcase to learn more about different types of projects that can be created with this resource.

To learn more general information about Omeka, please go to:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Apple and the iBook

Last week Apple released new software that would enable professors or anyone for that matter the ability to create e-books for the iPad. The application is free and follows Apple’s visionary and proprietary business model. At the same time, Apple also updated its iTunesU. iTunesU (established 2006) is a 6-year old repository for syllabi, lecture videos and audio recordings allows students access through a college-branded portal. The reaction on campuses and in the tech industry to the e-books news was mixed. Like any of the Apple products, this application is likely to evolve over time and has its critics as well as those who love all-things Apple.




Jed Macosko, associate professor of physics at Wake Forest University says: “Providing constant content updates through the Cloud is key.” “Educators will be able to create more quickly and for free, which lowers costs and improves accessibility for students. Some people might worry that content will become unreliable, but what we’ve seen with Wikipedia is that the cream of the crop typically rises to the top.”

David Parry, assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, Tweeted: “this isn’t about ‘changing everything’ for education, is about reconfiguring the business models of textbooks ie who profits.”

Audrey Watters (Hack Education blog) writes: “What a lost opportunity,” “If this is a revolutionary announcement about reshaping textbooks and educational content, we must ask revolutionary for whom?”

Chris Wolverton, biology professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, writes on his blog: that he could quickly publish his notes and slides with Apple’s new software. “Having the freedom and flexibility to put together a little book to accompany a specialty course is an attractive idea to me, one that I plan to experiment with.”

Kyle D. Bowen, director of informatics at Purdue University said: “The most important outcome of [this] announcement was to bring mainstream attention to textbooks and the issue of e-textbooks.” Note – Purdue already developed its own e-text publications.

Mike Richwalsky, director of marketing services at John Carroll University projects that “Apple just made it redonkulously easy to put your alumni magazine on the iPad—and, best of all, they did it for free.”

Some of the concerns raised stem around the proprietary format that limits consumption of content to Apple-only devices as well as intellectual property. The proprietary argument (while not new) stresses that Apple locks the market using its closed system, rather than open standards is not likely to go away. As a business perspective, it is understandable that the iBooks can only be produced, sold, distributed and consumed on Apple products. From an educational perspective iBooks is limiting, controlling, and divisive – especially when one considers the entire realm of consumers and producers of knowledge who may have a variety of disabilities and the social stratification of societies. Moreover, how does the iBook product impact intellectual property, publication jobs, and the big three textbook players?

At the end of the day, it may be more about money – selling Apple products and tapping into the lucrative digital world of higher education. Will students see any savings as it relates to the ever rising costs of text books?


Macosko, J.

Owens, T.

Richwalsky, M.

Watters, A.

Young, J.R. Section: Information Technology Volume 52, Issue 22, Page A36

Monday, January 23, 2012

Online Teaching Tips: Sweat the Small Stuff

By: Errol Craig Sull in Online Education

When we teach online courses there are many fundamental issues that concern us: knowledge of our subjects, teaching strategies, engagement of students, school policies, deadlines, grading and returning of assignments, posting announcements, and responding to students—the list goes on.

There also are some “not-so-major items” that are important but don’t seem quite as crucial. However, when one of these is overlooked, it can become the ugliest wart on your class, resulting in negative student attitudes and a diminishing of your stature as instructor.

The following list contains a few of these “small things” that often are overlooked in online courses.

Look over your course before it begins. Because a course is usually preset by the school, many online faculty assume that everything is ready to go. But often this is not the case. Be sure to check for broken links, duplication of or missing assignments, and typos. Confirm that all course material is visible to the students and that grading/points have been assigned to each project, homework, and test; and that final exam dates (if applicable) and all related information are posted.

Check your spelling and grammar. Students will not appreciate emails, announcements, and other postings with spelling errors, typos, or punctuation/grammar errors. Sure, it takes a bit more time to check for these—but it’s your reputation and the school’s reputation at stake. While no one is perfect, students expect their instructors to be—and all it takes is one typo from you for a student to feel that you are not prepared to teach.

Be sure that page numbers in assignments match the text(s). Sometimes the assigned pages do not match the pages in the text(s) students have. This happens most often when an instructor is teaching a course again and again and forgets to check for a new edition of the text(s) being used, page numbers are entered incorrectly, or the text(s) you assigned does/do not match the one(s) ordered by the bookstore. Be sure all assigned readings are in sync with the text(s) used—your course will proceed much more smoothly if they are.

Make a checklist of all school policies applicable to your course. It is so easy to overlook or forget one or two school policies or procedures, especially if you are new to the school. Make a checklist so you won’t overlook any. If you are unsure of a policy, ask a supervisor.

Always be positive in your feedback and postings. You will be teaching many students, so you will be typing many thousands of words during one course; this can make it easy to overlook your tone or word choice now and then. Don’t let it happen. A negative tone, use of all caps, and no positives in assignment feedback, emails, or other postings can be devastating to a student. So check all before you send, and always end each missive with an upbeat, optimistic tone.

Be substantive in your announcements, feedback, postings, etc. Students can’t see you (except in rare webinars) or shake hands with you; all they have are your words, so it is crucial that they are, for the most part, many. The “Great paragraph, Tom!” or “Good point, Cathy!” postings are fine, but they should never be representative of your writings to students. Be substantive (and do so often, not occasionally) in these so they know that you are invested in the class, care about the class, and are interested in the class.

Keep track of the errors and oversights you discover for future courses. We all make mistakes in each course we teach. But as long as we use these errors as lessons to improve ourselves, they are not for naught. Make a list of these errors and keep them handy so that when you next teach a course the same problems will not occur. Your class will run more smoothly, the students will have a more positive learning experience, and you’ll feel more relaxed.

Errol Craig Sull has been teaching online courses for more than 14 years and has a national reputation in the subject, both writing and conducting workshops on it.

Excerpted from Teaching Online With Errol: In Teaching Online Never Overlook the Small Things, March 2009, Online Classroom.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Collaborize Classroom: A Great Tool for Structured Class Discussions and Social Networking

Blackboard, the UDC learning management system (LMS), provides a supportive discussion generation option that integrates properly with well-developed, online or hybrid courses. However, there are other discussion generation resources available that also compliment a variety of face-to-face, hybrid or online learning environments. Collaborize Classroom is one such resource.


Jan 20 Blog1


Collaborize Classroom is a free, online stage for teachers and students to create structured discussions in a private online community. Collaborize classroom is different from the discussion feature in Blackboard because it allows the teacher to create different question types and/or display them in interesting ways.

One great example is the “Vote or Suggest” style question in which a teacher may ask students to comment on a particular topic. Other learners then have the option of voting for the answers they think are the most relevant and/or posting their own separate responses. This participation option is important because it gives students more control over their learning process and makes them accountable for determining what constitutes valid knowledge.


Jan 20 Blog2


Collaborize also provides a topic library with over 900 topics in the category “Higher Education” along with useful suggestions for discussion organization and facilitation.

Once a class discussion is completed, faculty can publish the results of the discussion to a results page. On the results page, the outcomes of student participation are published in an easy to read graphical format. There teachers can also add concluding remarks about the result of the discussion. Those results can then be fed back into other class activities that are face-to-face or online.


Jan 20 Blog3


Collaborize classroom is not intended to replace Blackboard, but rather complement its functionality. The tool is free, private and secure. To learn more about Collaborize Classroom, go to:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Emergence of MOOC

In online education there seems to be a considerable trend moving us toward online learning in a collaborative open space arrangement. Propelling this forward, MOOCs have advanced this trend by created an enormous collaborative space where colleagues in ay discipline may work together to facilitate a course. You may ask... What is a MOOC? Well great question!!




  • M = Massive: needs tons of participants (this is why my own History MOOC failed)
  • O = Open: all resources must be available on the open web to anyone who wants to join
  • O = Online: no on-site attendance required, everything is online
  • C = Course: has a course structure, with set facilitator(s), topics and timeline


These MOOC courses seem to work where the participants or users are distributed and course materials are dispersed across the web. The departure from the days of learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard or Moodle is the next wave in sharing freely the ideas and resources and learning processes that can happen in an online course. There have been all types of MOOCs that have been created and I want to bring your attention to just a few!

Examples of MOOC:

     Education and Technology MOOC

This course will introduce participants to the major contributions being made to the field of instructional technology by researchers today. Each week, a new professor or researcher will introduce his or her central contribution to the field.

Creativity and Multicultural Communication MOOC

Creativity and Multicultural Communication (CMC11) is a thirteen week MOOC and a 15 week Empire State College credit course that utilizes the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explores their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning through discussions of creativity and communication.


Feel free to check out this short Youtube video that explains this trend in more detail. Maybe you and some colleagues can create your very own MOOC!


Mooc in Visual detail


Video URL:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mind Maps: A Powerful Tool for Collaboration and Learning

Happy New Year everyone! Now is the time when many people go about making great resolutions for things they want to accomplish during the year. We sit down, write out our plans and then sometimes, forget about our resolutions a few months later. Mind maps can help us to stick with our resolutions by creating a visual depiction of our goals that we can interpret and change as the need arises.

What is a mind map? A mind map is a schematic depiction of a main idea and related subtopics. An example looks like this:





It may also be conceived of as a visual organizing resource for one’s ideas. Here is an example of a mind map about the topic “living things”:





Whereas a written outline may depict a linear progression of ideas and topics, a mind map allows one to be a bit more creative and fluid with the organization and representation of his or her thoughts. Here for example is a mind map related to the topic “time management”:




Using a mind map can sometimes be better than making a traditional written outline because it enables one to literally see the “big picture.” This is particularly important for those who prefer to visually see images to make sense of them but may also be helpful for anyone who wants to simply organize potentially complex ideas in a more fluid and creative way.

Faculty can use mind maps in classes to promote collaboration and active learning with students. Both faculty and students can use mind maps to brainstorm on important topics.

So, where can you go to find out how to create and use a mind map? Well, again, life hacker recently reviewed five of the best mind mapping applications. They include

· Mind Meister

· Mindjet Mind Manager

· Xmind

· FreeMind

· iMindMap

Each of these applications will allow you to play around with creating simple and complex mind maps. Some like iMindmap and Mindjet charge a fee but all of the others are free. Another great free mind mapping resource is Edraw which may be found here.