May 07 2012

Interesting, but not ideal

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In my searches last week for web material, I got lost in the TED lectures, listening to quite a few that interested me.  I also got lost in NPR, This I Believe, and youtube, looking at author interviews.  It was all fascinating to me–yet not exactly what I want for my students.  I think lots of interactive content is great, and I’m certainly not in the mood to reinvent the wheel, yet too much material that is interesting but not targeted to our course objectives won’t really enhance the course.  I’ll keep searching, of course, but I’d really like to keep my content tightly connected to my textbooks and our course objectives, and I fear that introducing too many other ideas/perspectives might not really add to their learning, but rather muddle it.

I do like to use author interviews for essays we’re reading.  Even if the writer is talking about something else, it helps that person become alive to them.  I think I might end up making more of my own narrated videos or presentations that stick more closely to our course content.

4 responses so far

May 07 2012

Video clips and teachers tools

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In searching for available content, I was able to track down a few relevant TED talks and a number of youtube videos relating to Antarctic Science.  I’m hoping the video clips will complement the course lectures and add some visual interest to the course.  I’m writing my lectures as scripted powerpoint slides, so i think the video will be really important to bring in a more dynamic element to the course.

I also came across some video-recorded lectures that I considered linking to for some of the course topics, but unfortunately these were really a bit painful to watch, and often the slides were difficult to make out or were out of sync with the talk if presented as a separate frame.  So I definitely have a better appreciation for the concept of avoiding a videotaped lecture for online course delivery.

I found some scripted powerpoint lectures on the website for the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research that might be useful, but it’s tough to find something that covers exactly the topics/level of detail you’d hoped to cover in a lecture.

I also came across some teachers tools for a geography-based Antarctica curriculum targeted for A-level students in the UK (most of the other teachers’ tools I’ve come across tend to target younger students) that have given me some ideas for student activities.   One of the issues I noticed with this site was that a number of the links to outside content were no longer functional, and that started to worry me about relying on existing content that is available online.  If a site goes down in the middle of the quarter, will it result in panic among your students?

3 responses so far

May 06 2012

Online museums

I have a hard time navigating the internet.  I get lost  easily.

But I have directions: find content that relates to the course learning outcomes.

Museums are a good source of design inspiration and clothing details for pattern making.

There is a Museum of Online Museums so that seemed a good place to start.   I was expecting an online version of traditional museums but I found something that is quite amazing!

Cliff Muskiet’s Stewardess/Flight Attendant Uniform Collection

This is a wonderful resource as the clothing is dated, and there are detailed pictures of the garments.  An assigned pattern  project based on the database would be interesting.  The pattern making project could incorporate ‘period’ details or reproducing the pattern for a specific garment.

I wandered a bit around the museums, and though more appropriate for my other course, I also found

The Vintage Wallpaper Gallery

Like most museums, you need TIME to visit.


3 responses so far

May 05 2012

Online learning tools

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I’m finding myself in a very strange position as I plan this online lit. course.  I am discovering a plethora of tools to use to make the course interactive and interesting, but I’m finding very little in terms of what’s already out there that I might swipe and incorporate into my own course.  I have found a number of online university lit. courses, but I don’t have access to them to see how they’re taught.   I am also feeling quite overwhelmed by the volume of information.  I’m going to have to have my hand held a bit more in designing this course than in my previous one, I think.  There are so many new things, and I haven’t been able to explore them in depth yet.  My goal for this workshop was to get a rough draft of the course planned out, then spend the next few months fine tuning and tweaking.

As for tools and tricks that have worked for me.  I’ve had students create blogs and personal journals.  The blog were great because the students could respond to each other in a creative way, post videos and photos, and post audio responses, and the journals were great for reflective types of assignments that only I saw, and there was no pressure to “look good” in front of the rest of the class.  I also use power point presentations with audio narration and an interactive true/false quiz that presents information in such a way that students can get an idea of what they already know vs what they need to learn.  This is great because I don’t spend a whole lot of time teaching what students already know.

I want to develop more interactive types of activities for the lit. class.  Discussion and interpersonal interaction are paramount to a good lit. class.  It will be interesting to discover just how I will make that happen.

4 responses so far

May 04 2012

Obsolete, or not

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A friend showed me the way to Khan Academy and a familiar feeling shot to my mind.  I am obsolete.  There are so many quality sources of information presented in quality ways, so what is the purpose of a University Instructor?  Motivate, Inspire, Sort the Information, Show How the Information Can be Used, Show Why One Should Care, Challenge the Student, Assessment, Different Styles, Provide an Engagement that is Human . . . . . . . Maybe nothing has changed.  People who want to learn will go after it, and those that do not?

My apologies if this is random, but whenever I see so many resources available or are reminded of how much more advanced research tools are then the one’s I use, I get this feeling of being Obsolete.  But then I think, nothing can replace the human imagination, except maybe the shortsighted nature of evolution.

3 responses so far

May 04 2012

Using Livebinder as a learning tool

I plan to use LiveBinder as an open resource for FW 540, Vertebrate Population Dynamics.  This tool gives me a place to start presenting online resources for students, from helpful Khan Academy video bits to links to tutorials on using Excel.  I can embed my own jing files in this notebook also, demonstrating spreadsheet tricks needed for laboratory exercises.  Students will be encouraged to add their own links and materials, from interesting websites, links to documents that they found helpful, or to upload their own content.  From my preliminary explorations of this tool, I believe that not only can all students access it to add things to it, but the URL can be kept active so it ends up being a resource that they can collectively keep after the course is over.  At least, that’s my understanding of this tool.  Comments, anyone?  Am I right about that??  I am also considering having subgroups of students work together on a notebook in which they will keep their group laboratory assignments, so they can collaborate on creating the models and exploring the questions I give to guide them in exploring model behavior and in its interpretation.  I would like students to just have to become familiar with using ONE tool, so I am hoping LiveBinder will work for both.  Another option is Zoho Notebook, has anyone played with that one much?  I found for myself that LiveBinder was more intuitive, but that may not be true from the students’ perspective…

One response so far

May 03 2012

Video Ideas for my Online Class

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Posted by Kathy Austin at Monday, April 23, 2012 9:56:14 PM PDT – I originally posted this to the Small Group Blog, then eventually figured out that I needed to post this to the Whole Class Blog. So . . . Here is what I came up with!

This was a rather frustrating exercise for me, but I did manage to find something useful. I searched the TED files and and came up empty handed. I hit paydirt in You Tube! And what did I find, but a TED lecture! Go figure. Anyway, I am always looking for better ways to deliver classroom content that is relevant to students. Since I am a teacher of teachers, this is particularly important for my students. They will need to take the methods I teach back to their own classrooms and make them meaningful to middle and high school students. The link I’ve included here is a fabulous way to turn education upside down and deliver learning to students in such a way as to meet them at their highly techno savvy level. This video by Salman Khan explains how educators might video tape a lesson for students to view at home, then have them do their homework in class where the teacher can help them! What a great idea!

Since the thematic unit I want to model involved different types of imprisonment using young adult literature, the link to British escape and elusive maneuvers will fit right in.

8 responses so far

May 01 2012

Searching for Course Content

Teaching a course which focuses on promoting health and wellness I found the search tools very helpful, especially the NPR link. This was a great resource for audio and text materials. One of the topics my course focuses on is the idea of energy balance for weight management. I was able to find a lot of recent NPR stories from a variety of different programs which related to this topic. One thing that was really appealing to this was that the stories covered a variety of populations (young, old, different cultures and ethnicity). One challenge I have had in the past with online course instruction is that there is more diversity in the background of the students enrolled in my course. Although health and wellness impacts us all, often it can be a challenge to provide relevant information all the time to everyone. Using NPR is way that I may be able to increase the relatability of the course content to a broader population. It’s at least worth a try!

2 responses so far

Apr 29 2012

“Found” Learning Objects – Python tutorials on Khan Academy

I confess that Shannon Riggs came across these tutorials first, but I am finally getting a chance to look at them. Yeah!

These are nicely narrated videos about writing computer programs in the Python language. These will be excellent additions to my GEO 599 – GIS Programming with Python course.

These videos are at the Khan Academy website, listed under Computer Science.

If you are curious about how to write a program: see

Thanks Shannon!! I am so excited!!




2 responses so far

Apr 27 2012

WEBQUEST: Sourcing High Quality Images from ARKive

Happy Friday, Folks!

In the process of creating an online version of FW315, Ichthyology, my biggest initial frustration lay in finding high quality images that met the demands of copyright clearance (e.g., public domain, personally produced, or from sites that don’t demand exorbitant reuse fees).  In my particular case, I need images of fishes.  Lots and lots of fishes.  There are over 30,000 species of fishes in the world, and I probably talk about 150 of them in FW315 at one point or another in my lectures.

There’s no shortage of gorgeous fish photographs on the web, but a lot of the best ones are from professional underwater photographers.  Royalty charges for individual professional photos can add up very quickly when one is looking at using dozens or hundreds of images.  On the other hand, many photos in the public domain are pretty lackluster.  For example, searches from government archives associated with NOAA and US Fish and Wildlife, returned most fuzzy shots of dead or dying animals on the decks of trawlers.   It annoyed me to think that I might have to use suboptimal images that didn’t show the anatomical features or simple beauty of the organisms that I was trying to illustrate.

Then I found the ARKive.

ARKive is a repository of professional images of organisms (not just fishes) that aims to solve exactly this problem.  They state that they aim to gather “together the very best films and photographs of the world’s species into one centralised digital library, to create a unique audio-visual record of life on Earth, prioritising those species at most risk of extinction. Preserved and maintained for future generations, ARKive is making this key resource accessible to all, from scientists and conservationists to the general public and school children, via its award-winning website”

This is a goldmine of really high quality images on an astonishing diversity of animals, and nicely helps to balance my desire to use the best photos available with the need to not spend a fortune in royalties to do so.  All of the photographers involved have agreed to make everything on the site free to use for educational purposes.

Here are a few images that I’ve used so far in the course.

Lamprey attached to trout

Queen Triggerfish

Gill Arches of Basking Shark (second largest fish in the world)


Best Fishes,

– Brian


6 responses so far

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