Back in February I posted part 2 of everything you need to teach and learn online. Well, I think its time for part 3. I may as well start afresh though, so you don’t have to go back to past posts to catch up, here should be fine.
If you have something to contribute to this series, please leave a comment, or better still why not jump in on the collaborative writing space for this article
I still think eGroups are the first place to start, and my trial of GoogleGroups shows that it is great. eGroups are a great way to keep those who rely on email still, up to date with what you are doing. I use eGroups to start a session off.
Blogger is still my preferred method of web publishing as it is sooo easy to set up and maintain. I have tried out other blogging tools, but in the end I reckon Blogger is still the best. I use Blogger to post relevant information about the sessions for students to check out, as well as assignments and links. When it is important I always post to the eGroup as well, telling everyone to check out the blog.
All blogs produce an RSS feed, which is a summarisation of the blog for newsreaders. A newsreader such as Bloglines is a great way to manage incoming information from many blogs. I use it to track student blogs and track and source information on various subjects.
Next you will need some tools to create media. I generally only bother creating MP3 and PDF. Sometimes I create movies in Flash and video. For creating MP3s I use a USB MP3 player and recorder. There are many. I spent AU$170 on a Funtwist.
It records straight to MP3 so I don’t have to convert it, and it has a line in for external mics. If I need to edit the MP3, I use the free editor Audacity.
For creating PDFs I still use – the free and open source alternative to Microsoft Office, and a darn good program too. But if you are stuck with Microsoft Office products for a while, then PrimoPDF is a good little free pluggin that will enable you to create PDFs easily from a MS document.
Now, there is loads of stuff on the internet ready for you to use. You have probably heard some of the banter about reusable and sharable learning objects… SCORM… XML and stuff. Ignore that! Focus on your teaching. All you need to know is that if a resource is digital, and accessible to you on the internet, then it is reusable and sharable. The only thing you need to worry about is the copyright. Enter . You can source a whole bunch of stuff from the Creative Commons and the copyright license to all of it is easy to understand. As the name implies, it is for the commons, meaning you and I can use it! You can license your own content to a CC license really easily as well. Its a great thing to do. Check out the “Learn More” section of the Creative Commons website to find out why.
Another way to develop resources is to set up an online collaborative workspace known as a wiki. Wikis are amazing and they’re the flavor of the month for me these days. Wikis are text authoring tools based on the internet, that anyone can see and edit. Sounds crazy? Check out to see how amazing this openness can be. Apart from getting in there and trying it out for yourself, John Udell has created a great screencast video about wikipedia that will give you a pretty good over view of the great thing about wikis. And then there is Catspaw’s amazing blog post about wiki type collaborative note taking in lectures. I think wikis should become central to the creation of learning resources. Teachers and students from around the world could collaborate on the continuous development of learning resources – even translating it into multiple languages as WikiPedia has done. I mean, WikiPedia is basically it already, all we educators need do is fill in any gaps. You can set up your own wiki at very easily…
Next, you need a place to save all your links, content and media. There are a few ways. You know how some people use their favorites or bookmarks in their browser?… well I stopped doing that a while ago. There’s a few reasons why. First is because they just became chaotic and I couldn’t make sense of them. Second is because the times I needed them most was when I was not on my own computer, ie – with a friend, a colleagues desktop, in a lecture etc. What I really needed was my favorites stored on the web. I found Del.icio.us. Del.icio.us is WAY more than just a web based bookmarker though. Watch this screencast video about Del.icio.us by John Udell again to understand why.
Now, you have your eGroup, your blog, your content, your library, your collaborative spaces, and a place to manage it all and keep track… now you need somewhere to store your content so that your users can easily download it. In the past I have used free server space such as Yahoo’s Geocities, and my own Internet Service provider account’s complimentary webspace, but they’re pretty limited…
Its early days yet, but promises to be such a place. It is still fixing bugs and stuff, but soon, with all the big names invested in it, it will be a place for you to store all your MP3s, PDFs, movies and other stuff free or charge. Of course, they encourage you to use a Creative Commons license so others can share it. So watch OurMedia, I think big things are on the horizon there.
There’s quite a bit more worth looking at, but my guess is that if you follow this guide you will inevitably come across all the other great stuff along the way. Flickr for one is developing into the wikipedia/del.icio.us of the digital image world. Check out this good example of Flickr being used to teach a visual arts history lesson. So, it never ends really. The best advice I can give is to stay immersed in it. Learn to love it, and you will gain so much from it all, and your students will point to you as the teacher that really showed them a whole new world.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.