Category Archives: Tools

When Educators Become Curators – keynote slides from #moothr12

Educators need to become digital curators
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being the virtual keynote speaker at the Croation MoodleMoot. Thanks to Sandra Kucina and Jasmin Klindžić for inviting me, and making everything happen so smoothly.

We agreed that, in line with my PhD topic, I would focus not on Moodle, but on the new digital curation skills being required of all teachers. So it began as an introduction to digital curation and then looked at how educators can curate inside or outside of an LMS. Thanks to those Croatian Moodlers in the Twitter stream for engaging with me afterwards. More feedback is welcome. I look forward to developing my ideas further…

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Basic Functions of a Social Media Tool

Most education technologists will argue that our work is not about the tools, but about what the tools will allow educators and learners to do. Social media tools in particular, are so versatile they can be used for almost any purpose, from sharing your PhD experiences to learning about Maths or hearing a Nobel Peace prize winner speak.

However, very often it is the tool that becomes the obstacle. Yet another account to set up. Yet more functions to figure out. And there’s always more tools after that…It can be discouraging.

But there’s a cheat. You don’t always have to start from scratch. Most social media tools have some basic functions in common, that you are already familiar with and can always look for. Knowing those basic functions, and identifying them quickly, can speed up your ability to assess a social media tool for your practice. Once you’ve isolated the basic functions of a new tool, you can focus on exploring its special functions.

Providing cheat sheets is an essential part of  my work with academic staff (see the Moodle Tool Guide evidence) ;-). I like to make learning easier, for educators and learners. I created a diagram a few years ago on those basic functions, to aid me and  I’ve updated it now with examples from Facebook and Twitter, and posted it on Flickr. I hope you find it useful too.

Basic Functions of a Social Media Tool

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The 5 P’s of Path

This weekend one of my friends asked me: “So what do we think about Path?”. What DO we think about Path?

I installed it about 8 weeks ago. In fact Path tells me two months and 285 moments ago. I can’t remember who originally suggested it to me. It was at the beginning of a month’s travel around Europe and I had intermittent internet access. This meant I was mainly in capture & broadcast mode (journaling my travels) rather than access & curate mode (monitoring and sharing from information streams). And Path is great for capture & broadcast.

I fell in love with  it, even though I did have to move it to the front page of my iPhone first, so I wouldn’t forget to use it, and go to one of my other services instead. Here’s 5 reasons I do so like Path.

It’s personal

I think the key reason I like Path is that it is intensely personal. Path only lets you post your personal updates. It has various artifacts you can create: a check-in, an update, a picture, a music-update, but all of those are originally created by you, based on an experience you are having. You can’t “re-Path” someone else artifacts either, so only your artifacts live in your Path.

Friends can take several different actions in response to your artifacts, Continue reading

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Twitterwalls: the writing’s on the wall

Last Friday the Hawke’s Bay Tweetup (#hbtweetup) was kindly hosted by The Crossing restaurant. The lovely drinks and positively gorgeous food were enjoyed by all the Hawke’s Bay tweeps. But The Crossing offered us another benefit, a data projector, discovered a week before during my reccie. The wonderfully hospitable Richard gave us a code for the wireless and after hooking up a laptop, we had our first #hbtweetup twitterwall.

It was a little distracting at times. In fact at the start of the evening conversation was a little slower than usual as we were mesmerized by the stream, like budgies by a mirror. However, as people became used to it, it became a natural part of the evening’s interactions. Jokes were made via the wall, apologies received, contact with the outside world established with tweets coming from the rest of the Bay, other tweetups in Rotorua and Hamilton, and even from Canada and Australia (we love you too @courosa and @marksmithers).

Why have a Twitterwall at your tweetup?

Most people who attend tweetups bring their own Smartphone which will let them access Twitter via their Twitter apps. Continue reading

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Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers

A few weeks ago, a Social Media Cheat Sheet was doing the round. A nice visualization of the pro’s & cons of each social media channel, but with a business/marketing focus. I thought I should do one for social media use in education. However for most of the teachers I work with, our Moodle (EIT Online) is still their primary online teaching environment. So instead I set out to create this poster size guide for teachers, allowing them to compare the functionality and pedagogical advantages of some standard Moodle tools, adding a column to indicate how tricky the tool is to set up.

Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers (icon)

Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers

Hope you find it useful. Would appreciate your feedback.

Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers (PDF)

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Reply: Google Wave in a Sentence

I’ve been on Google Wave for less than 48 hours and a longer blog post is brewing. However I did just want to respond to a post by Mark Smithers today in which he described Google Wave in a Sentence as:

Google Wave is a tool that allows asynchronous communication (similar to email or discussion boards), semi-synchronous communications (similar to Twitter or FriendFeed) and synchronous communications (similar to instant messaging) all wrapped up with wiki-like capabilities for collaboration.

After only 48 hrs experience, really only abt 4 hours of actually poking about,  I am tempted to agree with his assessment that students and teachers could use Waves as collaboration spaces. However, I’d like to see the file sharing capabilities first. This is switched off at the moment.

I’m less impressed with some of the mass waves with 300+ participants – they feel very chaotic. Mark calls them standing waves – I wonder if tsunamis is more apt? The Educators Directory Wave is a prime example. Everyone is talking (literally over each other as this is possible in a Wave), threads are difficult to discern, it’s hard to recognise individual contributions and the whole thing is liberally sprinkled with polls and maps. I wasn’t surprised when at about 4pm Google Wave warned me that this wave was about to explode.

So, after the initial 48 hours, here is my Google Wave description in a sentence:

Google Wave is like a wiki done by amateurs, a text chat with 120 participants and a discussion forum without a facilitator, all rolled into one.

I’m sure this will improve as we get the hang of making waves…

If you want to get in touch and improve with me, I’m nz.catspyjamas [at]

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Citing & Archiving #opened09 Tweets

The leading thinkers on Open Education gathered in Vancouver last week for the OpenEd09 conference.  It was a sight & sound to behold – an open storm. Ustreams, Flickr pics and a Twitter avalanche, meant many of us around the world felt part of the event, as virtual attendees. (I got up at 4am in New Zealand on Saturday, to watch the Friday keynote at 9am Vancouver time.)

Social media are such an extension of conferences and events. Pre-social media we used to hear from the 15-20 selected speakers at a conference. And probably about the bunions of the man you were unfortunate enough to sit down next to at lunch and were unable to ditch. Now we can hear from everyone at the conference, and select those we want to hear more from. For 6 days, the #opened09 column in my Tweetdeck dispensed precious ideas & information. I began following new people, feverishly bookmarking urls and favouriting tweets for follow-up.

my #opened09 fav tweets in Tweetdeck

my #opened09 fav tweets in Tweetdeck

And that’s where I hit a snag – the tweets.

1. My favourite tweets don’t make much sense without the context of the other tweets. And unfortunately, the Twitter search is ephemeral and will not let you retrieve those later. It’ll let you set extensive date parameters, but these don’t give you the desired results.  This was a harsh lesson from  the EDUCAUSE Australasia conference in Perth this year, which was one of the first well-tweeted events I attended. We lost a lot of witty and valuable tweets…

2. And a more academic problem –  some #opened09 tweets are such gems, I’ll likely want to quote and re-quote them. How do I give credit where credit is due and correctly reference a tweet?

But then I came across Gunther Eysenbach How to cite twitter, how to cite tweets, how to archive tweets which solves both problems. In it he gives a detailed how-to of the WebCite service which not only gives you the correct reference for a website, but perhaps more importantly, also creates a permanent archive for that site. And it works for tweets too.

So I can reference and archive Scott Leslie’s individual tweet like this:

A favourite opened09 tweet by Scott Leslie

A favourite opened09 tweet by Scott Leslie

Leslie, Scott. Twitter / Scott Leslie: are you supposed to get ch… . 2009-08-18. URL: Accessed: 2009-08-18. (Archived by WebCite® at

or the entire Twitter stream for the #opened09 hashtag like this:

[Multiple Authors]. #opened09 – Twitter Search. . 2009-08-18. URL: Accessed: 2009-08-18. (Archived by WebCite® at

These archived tweets are now static at WebCite so they can be referred to and retrieved. Of course, that was 2 hours ago. The #opened09-ers go on. Even as I’ve been writing this post, the Twitter search tab is showing 7 new results ‘since you started searching’…

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Gateway Tools for Teachers

This is a post about teaching teachers tools. I know, I know, of course the adoption of educational technology should be driven by possible enhancements in teaching & learning, not by the ‘shininess’ of new tools. But in my experience, there is a group of teachers for who certain tools can work like a gateway drug:  e-learning gateway tools.

If you are a technology integrator, e-learning trainer, ed tech staff developer, pay attention:  introducing these gateway tools can give you some ‘easy wins’ – even better, these teachers can become your most ardent e-learning champions.

Not everyone’s a geek

For those of us who consider ourselves ‘connected’, trialling a new tool or technology comes as natural as breathing. Here are just 2 likely scenarios:

  1. We know the learning activity we want to create. We find one or several tools that will facilitate that activity. These are tools we already know, or discover through our PLN. We test them and pick the one best suited to achieve our learning need.
  2. We encounter a tool, again probably through our PLN, and consider how it can be used in a learning activity. We then either create the activity or store it for future reference.

This week several colleagues and Kim Cofino’s Tips for Technology Integrators post reminded me off the realism of our workplace. Newsflash: not everyone’s a geek like us.

About 65% of of my role as e-learning advisor is e-learning staff development (including pedagogy, Moodle training, instructional design, really everything but the kitchen sink).  Very rarely do I get to work with the innovators & early adopters – those who will play, experiment, tinker, and make tools do cartwheels to see how they can be used for teaching & learning . I chat to them over morning coffee (and via Twitter, Facebook and their blogs), but they don’t need my support. I tend to work with academic staff, managers and allied staff,  in the early & late majority.

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

A graph of Everett Rogers Technology Adoption Lifecycle model. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

The Understandably Cynical

In my experience, there is a subset of teachers in that early/late majority category, that we can call the Understandably Cynical.

  1. They are committed to their students’ learning experience,
  2. They are satisfied with their current teaching approach but do experiment with new techniques,
  3. Their computer & digital literacy is low to medium,
  4. The addition of technology in their daily work mix , eg email, has not made their work easier or faster,
  5. Their time is precious, split between teaching, research and a life,
  6. They perceive time spent online establishing social networks or  ‘playing’ with new tools, as wasted,
  7. They don’t want to burden students with new tools unnecessarily,
  8. They appreciate their privacy.

In short, they are great teachers, whatever they are doing is already working, they’re open to new ideas, they’re busy and past experiences with technology have been a hindrance, not a benefit to them.  They are Understandably Cynical.

For this group of teachers, I’ve found that providing them with gateway tools can start them adding the use of technology to their teaching arsenal.

What are gateway tools?

Gateway tools are like gateway drugs – they open the door to the serious stuff.

Characteristics of an e-learning gateway tool:

  1. Solves a problem (eg size or access)
  2. Builds on existing collections
  3. Saves time
  4. Is easy to use
  5. Is immediately useful in the classroom
  6. Has passive social functionality
  7. Can be the start of a teacher’s PLN – although the previous characteristics may fire a teacher’s engine, this is the turbo boost.

Examples of gateway tools

Here are two examples of gateway tools, Slideshare & Delicious.


1. Solves a problem – makes PowerPoint files smaller and easily accessible from anywhere, freeing a teacher from the localised shared drive.

2. Builds on existing collections – you can use PowerPoints files you already have.

3. Saves time – a search on Slideshare can provide you with inspiration for your own lecture or lesson, or even provide you with a complete lesson structure.

4. Is easy to use – to make use of Slideshare resources, takes no more than simple search skills. Uploading your own resources is akin to attaching a file to an email.

5. Is immediately useful in the classroom – once a presentation is uploaded, it can be accessed in the classroom during the lesson and remains available for access & download for students later.

6. Has passive social functionality – unlike some other Web2.0/social media tools, Slideshare does not require you to be socially active,  invest in building a network or give out too much personal information, for it to be useful.

7. Can be the start of a teacher’s PLN – although Slideshare does not require social activity, it will expose teachers to other teachers/experts who share their interest. Those friend requests can be hard to deny…


1. Solves a problem (eg size or access) – many people still save their bookmarks in the browser on their computer. This means when you leave your desk to go teach in a classroom, you don’t have access to those bookmarks. Storing bookmarks online lets you use them wherever you have internet access.

2. Builds on existing collections – it’s easy to import your existing bookmarks into delicious.
3. Saves time – using delicious & it’s useful tags & description function, can really speed up how fast you can refind ‘that one’ site. No more roaming through endless folders. Install the delicious buttons and bookmark new sites with one click.

4. Is easy to use – as stated, the delicious buttons turn it into a 1-click system. And to make use of other people’s bookmarks, takes no more than simple search skills.

5. Is immediately useful in the classroom – you now have all your bookmarks in not just one classroom, but in every room you teach in. And that makes you a lot more flexible. A student asks a question? Mmm, I’m sure I bookmarked a site that had an interesting take on that…

6. Has passive social functionality – like Slideshare, Delicious does not require you to be socially active, invest in building a network or give out too much personal information, for it to be useful. You can’t even upload a profile picture.

7. Can be the start of a teacher’s PLN – again, although Delicious does not require social activity, you can’t help but run into useful resources shared by its many users. And once you find a user who shares links about your interests, you may want to find out what else they are sharing, on their blog, on Twitter, or elsewhere…

I’ve had moderate success introducing teachers to the tools above. If you have had success introducing teachers or colleagues to other e-learning gateway tools, I’d love to hear about it.

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Moodle Wishlist (4)

Some of the lecturers I work with have started using wikis in their courses this semester. Students and staff have reacted largely positively. They appreciate the collaborative work they can now do but don’t enjoy the usability. After doing some wiki introduction sessions, seeing the Moodle wiki in action over the semester and also supporting staff in their use of other wikis (Wetpaint, PBWiki), I have a few additions to my Moodle Wishlist, to do with the Moodle Wikis. Here’s what I wish for:

  • On Edit automatically open the enlarged version of the editor. Very rarely is a wiki page short enough to be comfortably edited in the small editor version. And it is the nature of wiki pages to grow so why not open straight into the larger editor?
  • Threads or comments function associated with a page. The current workaround is to set up a discussion forum to go alongside the wiki. But this leads to posts like: “if you go to the second page in the Tools category you can see the work I’ve done…”
  • Improve the internal linking. Add a drop down menu or button (Insert Wiki Link) with list of pages to choose from. The current  process has too many steps:
  1. Find the exact page name,
  2. Then copy its name
  3. Then find page you want to put the link on
  4. Go to Edit mode
  5. And paste the name between square brackets.
  • Improve the picture upload. The Binary File option is clunky and using it is unlike any other action students take in Moodle.
  • Allow creation of Userpage. Having your own wiki space can be motivating and a way of creating buy-in. (Could this perhaps also show overview of user’s actions in the wiki?)
  • Allow creation of template pages. Being able to set up templates would allow staff to guide students better in what is expected of them.
  • Add an Add page button. Creating a page by giving it a name in square brackets is a simple action but an unfamiliar concept that is difficult to explain.
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Wordle Fun

Friday evening, Project Runway on tv, lappie on the couch. Time to play.

Had some fun with Wordle. After playing with TweetStats yesterday, wanted to get those tags and use them in Wordle. Unfortunately they weren’t weighted. So result is a bit bland but still fun.

Wordle is set up to link with and because it does weight those tags, the result is much more impressive!

Embedding in a blog post requires a little editing of embed code – need to take out all the spaces.

Could be used to introduce a topic in class? As result of a discussion thread?

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