The first tool of the year that I wanted to discuss is Present.me which I heard of but didn’t use until this year’s EVO session. This tool was used for introduction by one of the moderators of Moodle for Teachers sessions and was embedded into the course Moodle. It looked really good and, most importantly, it built the online presence of the moderator so nicely. I find this crucial for an online course.
All you need to do to get started is either to create a new account or log in with your Facebook or Google account. Then you can choose the account type you like. See the screenshot below:
In this post I would like to list all the tools that I have used frequently this year. All the tools have been essential for me in teaching and my professional development. I have used some other tools, but a couple of times, so I will give those a miss in this post.
1. Blogger – the best blogosphere for me. I am sure WordPress is also good but Blogger feels closer to me and I don’t feel like switching to WordPress. I have used this tool for reflections and school projects.
2. PBworks – a wiki platform for online collaboration which I have used a lot this year providing my students with a chance to practise writing Tasks 1 and 2 in preparation for their IELTS exam outside the classroom in their free time.
3. Moodle – a Course Management System (CMS) which I have used to run online and blended classes. Moodle is relatively easy to use and offers a lot of possibilities for teachers and their students. A great tool that has made my life a lot easier.
4. Prezi – an online presentation tool that I use a lot to introduce exam sections to my students, to teachers and to give presentations. Works fine online and offline. The best presentation tool for me so far.
5. Voxopop – a voice-based e-learning tool which has proven to be very useful for extra speaking practise for my learners, especially those preparing for exams.
6. Screenr – a web-based screen recorder which is very useful in any blended or online course that I run. Very often students enrolled in online/blended courses don’t understand how to use the platform or what is what there, so I just record a screencast/tutorial for them and embed it in their learning environment to make it easier for them to use the VLE and it helps. When they understand what everything in the platform is, they seem to get more involved in the course.
7. MentorMob – a great tool which allows creation of web-based playlists. I use this tool to aggregate videos and articles around subjects frequently encountered in IELTS. Before I asked my students to listen to video presentations and read articles about environment, ecology, technology, etc but they wouldn’t do it, so MentorMob offered the solution I needed. Now as soon as I see anything related to the topics in IELTS, I add it to a relevant MentorMob playlist. As I have embedded the playlists into the wiki of my IELTS students, all they have to do is to log into their wiki space and watch the videos or read the articles that they can see in the playlist.
8. Podomatic – a free podcasting tool. Sometimes it happens that some of my learners have problems with the listening tasks because they are fast or with unclear pronunciation, so I just record myself reading the script and letting them listen to the podcast first to boost their confidence, and then when they listen to the original recording, they understand it better and feel better about their skills.
9. Google Forms – a tool that helps me a lot in collecting feedback from my learners to improve on online, blended and face-to-face courses I teach. As the feedback is anonymous, they feel more confident about sharing their opinions, which helps me a lot in adding what they feel the course lacks or getting rid of something they feel is unnecessary for them.
10. Dropbox – a free tool that makes sharing easy. If there are tests or some reading tasks that I want my learners to see as soon as they turn their computers on, I add them into the folder in Dropbox. Sometimes it happens that I would like my learners to have a look at something before the class and if I upload the document to their learning environment, there is no guarantee that they will log into it before the lesson, but if it is in dropbox, then as soon as they turn on their computers, the file will upload and indicate that a file has been added to the folder which they can look at without logging into any site. When they have completed the task, I can see that the file has been updated and can check it.
These are the tools that I have been using a lot this year and I am sure will be using next year.
As a parting gift Elvina created a Wallwisher, where we all posted our virtual presents.
After a while the wall started looking really nice and full of presents.
Thinking about the course you are most likely to moderate on, how important is assessment likely to be?
I have learnt a very important lesson today about how to encourage a participant, who hasn’t logged onto the course, which has already been going on for a while.
This course puts you in a slightly unusual position of being a course participant who is training to be a moderator. What factors would influence your opinion about lurking in a course you were moderating? What action, if any, would you take?
We have discussed ‘lurking’ a lot and we agreed that lurking was not the right word to use, that RoP sounded a lot better. I also read a blog post by Steve Wheeler.
I have thought a lot about what reasons some of my peers brought and I assume in many cases the reasons were from their own experience.
Nil: People might lurk because they are lacking confidence especially in writing skills as they know everyone will be reading. So they are afraid of making mistakes. Slow workers are also in danger of lurking because by the time they read and get acquainted with the tasks many of the participants would have completed their tasks.
Marius: People may ‘lurk’ because they feel that they have nothing to add to a discussion, and because they don’t see the point in simply repeating what someone has already said. Although, in fact repetition of a point might give some a sense of support for their views, and give more weight to their side of a discussion.
They might also be lurking because the have a more ‘passive’ learning style, and prefer to reflect on things more privately.
Bev: I think learning style is one of the most important factors why people might lurk. Just as in a class of students, face to face, there are different characters in a group of participants and different approaches to learning. Some participants may need to listen (read) and process information before they can produce (write).
I also think it takes people time to accustomise themselves to the medium, if it is the first time they have experienced an online course.
Another reason for lurking might be that a participant feels in awe of the wealth of experience of colleagues on the course and feels shy to make contributions.
Thuy Hang: I also think that “lurking” takes place when people are sometimes forgetful of their responsibility or they find their tasks not challenging enough.Each lurker has his/her own reasons for their participant inactivity once in a while
Phuong Dung:The only remaining reason for my post now is my personality as ‘it is more embarrassing to make public postings that have no value.’ (Klemm, 1998) As an adult learner, I am performing a very low level of risk-taking spirit and leaning on inactive learning style.
Marie: Related to active participation in e-courses, I have had one idea on my mind: how is it influenced by various learning styles? I find this mode of communication mainly visual – how about auditive and kinaesthetic participants? May the specific character of the environment influence their participation? (Personally, I am mainly visual but need a lot of movement too and often leave the computer without responding when I see too many things I want to respond too – my energy gets so high, that I need to let out physically – and in the end I don’t respond at all…).
I think my opinion would be influenced by how much of the course work the lurker actually does. If the person logs in and I see that s/he does the tasks, then I would try to find out why s/he doesn’t post to forums and try to encourage the person by sending private messages and offering help and tips. I would also congratulate the person if s/he has posted anything.
I think if active participation is part of the course requirements then the person should be aware of this. This might make him start contributing to discussions. However, the person’s privacy should be taken into account too. If the person participates in the study forums but doesn’t want to say much in the social forum, then I think having found this out I wouldn’t try to make the person participate. Everyone has the right to preserve their privacy and not to share much with anybody.
Another problem could be the size of the group. As Wheeler says the bigger the group the less participants contribute. In case of a big group I don’t really think that one moderator will manage to send personal messages to everyone who doesn’t participate.
Another thing that Wheeler says in his post is that the same inactive participation can be observed in a f2f setting but it doesn’t cause negative attitudes: everyone accepts the person’s way of learning. But for some reason the same behaviour offends participants of an online course. Why could this be? Perhaps because in an online course we do not see the lurkers and don’t know what they are doing exactly (not obviously moderators), but in real life when we see the person who just wants to learn by listening, we accept the fact readily.