Blended Learning Course week 2

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This week Neil Morris encouraged us to reflect on what we have learned and check #FLBLE1 on Twitter. Comparing to last week, I spent more time on reading comments,  responding some, exploring the resources shared in the sessions, and digesting the topic.

The focus in this week is to help us to get ready for blended learning: (1) understanding pedagogy (2) understanding a wide range of technologies (3) gaining digital literacy skills, and (4) knowing context/environment.

Firstly, the key learning for me is the pedagogy for using technology for learning and the impact of technology on pedagogy. Among the highlighted pedagogical approaches: ConstructivismSocial constructivism and Problem-based learning, social constructivism approach definitely is used in my practice, though I do not often talk about pedagogy when support users. It makes a lot of sense when I think why we support tools such as Yammer, discussion forum, Xerte Online Toolkits, Mahara, Panopto, blogs, and so on.

The problem-based learning is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. I thought it is to help students understand a topic through developing students self-directed learning. However, I forgot it is most commonly group-based. The quiz exercise helped me to reinforce my learning of pedagogy. I also found an introduction of problem-based learning from HEA.

Secondly, being able to understand technologies and know what they are designed for is my area. I’ve learned more new applications this week, which I may be review or introduce to my colleagues later:

  • iObserve is a video and audio recording app that allows allows you to record observations, time stamp criteria, give instant feedback and create a signed declaration.
  • DREAMS LMS is a remote e-learning and marking system. I wonder if it is like the FutureLearn platform, but provides more interactive content creation functionalities.
  • NearPod is an interactive classroom tool to create, engage and assess. I wonder what are the differences between this tool and the VLE platform like Blackboard. A video introduction about this tool can be seen in the HCUK resources below.
  • The TAGSExplorer (developed by Martin Hawksey) is a very useful tool for visualising a tweet hashtag and its activities. It’s a good way to see what’s going on with the Blended Learning course tweets through a dynamic map. (below is a screenshot)

Thirdly, the discussion about digital literacy skills is not new for me. Although it is still at an early stage of development in our institution, I have been learning it for a few years now. I have shared our University materials in the discussion. As I think they are so useful, I’d like to share them again:

Fourthly, the big environment of my work context is not easy to change. In the case study when Borders College said that it took them 5 years to implement blended learning, I accepted that. Changing is slow in big universities. It took us two-three years to adopt a new technology university-wide. Still I am struggling how to help people get ready for adopting technologies in their practice. I may not be able to change the environment much, but I can make myself up-to-date of the new approaches and skills. Reading the comments in 2.8, I agree that the common barriers for people to embed blended learning within their environment include: unrobust infrastructure for adopting technology; limited finance, and a lack of visionary leaders to lead the transformation.

In addition, like most time I learned new resources:

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Convert and edit .avi videos quickly

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I used a normal digital camera to take some videos. I had to change those .MOV files to .AVI files before I could edit them all together. I thought using Windows Movie Maker is the easiest way. However, I got error “…*.avi could not be imported. The required codec was not downloaded automatically because the Download codecs automatically check box is not selected in the Options dialog box” when I opened a converted .avi file in Windows Movie Maker.

That’s annoying. Here I tried two ways to make .MOV files to a .avi file. (Of course you can create other types of video files too.)

Approach 1:

  • Downloaded one of the popular video converters. (I tried the free “SweetPacks VideoConverter” and installed the converter.)
  • Used the Video Converter to convert .MOV files to .AVI files.
  • Downloaded “VSDC Free Video Editor” and installed the video editor.
  • Used the Video Editor to edit each .AVI video file and make them into one single video file. Here is an instruction of how to use the editor.

The SweetPacks VideoConverter is easy to use and it converts files quickly.

The VSDC Video Editor is easy to use, but it takes a long time to build/save the final format video file especially when you try to build a video file by linking some multiple big video files. (A fast computer is needed!)

Approach 2:

  • Downloaded the “VideoPad Video Editor” and installed it.
  • Used the Video Editor to edit each video file and convert them into one single .AVI video file.

The VideoPad Video Editor is easy to use and it’s quick to make a final format video file with linking some multiple big video files.   (A fast computer is needed too!)

Vine

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Vine is a mobile service that lets you create and share short looping videos. Videos you post to Vine will appear on your Vine profile and the timelines of your Vine followers. Posts can also be shared to Twitter or Facebook.

Quickly create video/audio presentation

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I want to create a video/audio presentation quickly. Therefore I tried some handy applications in a quick and dirty way.

My needs are:

  • I want to record a presentation and have it as an avi. file or .swf file for replaying later.
  • I want it to support playing presentation file (e.g., PPT) or it is able to capture my PC screen.
  • It supports recording voice from my headset.
  • It allows recording take more than 20 minutes.
  • It creates a presentation with fairly good quality.

At first, I tried Teamviewer, free software for remote support, remote access, remote administration, and online meetings. I installed its free version. In general, it’s a very powerful tool. The problem of this tool is that it saves the recording as a .tvs file by default. It is easy to convert the file to .avi type, but the watermark of “Teamviewer” in the presentation is irremovable.

I tried Anymeeting, a free web conferencing & webinar service. This application provides a variety of useful functions. However, in relation to my particular demands, two things bother me. Firstly, it’s not Ads-free, therefore it cannot provide a clean presentation screen.  Secondly, the recording is hosted on Anymeeting website.  I may need third-party tools to help download the recordings on the Anymeeting website. See this GetFLV video.

I had a quick look at the Screenbird (the free version needs Java plug-in,  recording is stored on the website, and video expires in 6 months) and Debut Video Recording Software (it’s not really free).

Then I tried Webinaria, a free open source screen recording tool. It is easy to use and can produce Flash (AVI to FLV) recordings of desktop content. I can record voice commentary with the created presentation or demo.

I also tried CamStudio to capture on screen video. It is not bad, however it has a problem to record audio from my headset, but it’s fine to record audio from webcam. I managed to solve the problem by following this video.

Well, I don’t have time to test more applications. So far, Webinaria and CamStudio allow me create a quick video/audio presentation and save it for later use.

overstream

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Overstream allows users who want to easily customise and enhance their videos, express their thoughts and ideas about existing videos, or simply engage in novel ways of sharing videos online. It supports video providers: YouTube, Google Video, MySpace Video, Veoh, Blip.tv, Archive.org and Vimeo.com.

Two video streaming tools

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JustSubsPlayer is free software to add subtitle on online streaming video. Unlike other software, it does not require a video file, so it can be used to add subtitles to online movies or TV series, even if they are flash-based videos.

SopCast is a simple, free way to broadcast video and audio or watch the video and listen to radio on the Internet.

More resources:

PS:  If we want to use more real free applications (not pay), we probably need to save some brilliant free applications by (a) keep using them and give feedback to help improve it; (b) spread your own use experience and help increase its recognition.