Archive for June, 2013

Weekend reflection – The Pace of Modern Life (XKCD)

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

'Unfortunately, the notion of marriage which prevails ... at the present time ... regards the institution as simply a convenient arrangement or formal contract ... This disregard of the sanctity of marriage and contempt for its restrictions is one of the most alarming tendencies of the present age.' --John Harvey Kellogg, Ladies' guide in health and disease (1883)

MOOCs in Higher Education – Common sense from Jim Groom

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Jim Groom is the director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.   He’s a well recognised, and well regarded leader in the field.

He recorded an interview in May on the Ohio State University podcast, Writers Talk where he talked about online learning and MOOCs, and what they really mean to teaching in Higher Ed.   If you have any interest in MOOCs in universities I highly recommend you have a listen to it.

YouTube Upload tip “The server has returned an invalid response”

Monday, June 24th, 2013

We (at Monash) can now access YouTube through our Monash Google Plus accounts.

I have been getting the message ‘The server has returned an invalid response’ when I try to upload files.  What I have found is you can’t upload using Google Chrome (which is a little counter intuitive).

Anyway, use Firefox and the problem goes away.

The rise of the info graphic

Monday, June 24th, 2013

I’m a fan of the infographic as a good way to communicate complex data and distill issues into an a more accessible form.

It’s easy to make a complex idea hard to understand, and it’s a cop out for academics to use this as an excuse to not make an effort (because surely this is their job).

Not having the technical skills is no longer an excuse.   There are a number of free applications.  The Infographics  Archive has a list.

Here are a couple of examples that have come  across my virtual desk this week.

This is one of a series of images that distills the independent scientific research into climate change into a series of easily understood graphics.  The rest of the series is on the site.

getup climate

While I believe using images is a good way to go, you still have to think through the message you are trying to deliver.

This one on online resources is a bit more ambitious and suffers from trying to stuff too many things into one resource.  Having said that, it’s a worthwhile site and I recommend you check it out if you are looking for free resources from some top US universities.


So I leave you with 2 quotes to guide your adventures in infographics.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  Leonado da Vinci

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.  Albert Einstein

Weekend Reflection – India to send world’s last telegram

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Once a staple of authoritative communication across the Indian subcontinent, the telegram has lost too much ground to smartphones.

The telegraph lasted 80 years.  I feel a little sad at its final demise but it’s time is over.  It has been well and truely replaced.

  • Twitter (only 7 years old)
  • Facebook (in it’s open format is the same age)
  • SMS (20 if you want to go back to the neolithic days).
  • iPhone (6 years)
  • My son casually chats to people on the other side of the planet while playing online games (Graphical MMORPGs are 17).

There was a time when rapid communication via a telegram either meant something urgently wonderful or urgently frightening.  None of the 30 emails I received today elicited either response.

Extrinsic Motivation via cell phones – fail

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Daily inspiring text messages fail to inspire US students to perform better

A groundbreaking experiment that bombarded US high school students with inspiring text messages was found to be a success on all counts except one: it made no difference to how the students performed in school.

I worry about research like this.  Too many people are casting around for technical solutions or the next disruptive thing, when the basic answer is to provide better teachers and provide some flexibility to let them teach.

I don’t know how this was funded, but it seems (particularly in the U.S) that a lot of EdTech related companies and funds are getting into supporting research that is likely to have a direct benefit to their bottom line and the bottom line of universities,  at the expense of teaching students well.  It’s a bit like the coal mining companys funding climate research.  It always ends up being a bit wobbly when you give it a poke.

I found the Guardian  article via Audrey Watters Hack Education site

International Monetary Fund gets a MOOC

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

This is probably of more interest to our faculty than anyone else.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has partnered with edX in an effort to reach government leaders worldwide and open its training to the public.

Marking the first time the massive open online course (MOOC) platform has been used by an international government organization, the collaboration will kick off with pilots of two courses, “Financial Programming and Policies” and “Debt Sustainability Analysis.” The pilot courses “will be rolled out to small groups of government officials in the coming months, with plans to open access to the general public during 2014,” according to a news release about the collaboration.

Moodle Grade Book navigation tips

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Moodle has it’s strengths, but gradebook view isn’t one of them.

In line with good assessment practice, we have units with multiple formative assessments (usually in the form of quizzes).   Depending on your monitor and screen resolution this usually means you can only see 5 columns, and you have to scroll to the bottom of a very long page to get to the sideways scroll bar (sloppy programming).

So that’s enough whinging, on the to the tips.

  1. If you have 2 monitors hit the re-size button
    adjust screen
    and drag your screen across both monitors.
  2. Only one monitor and your last column is just out of view?
    Maximise the your screen width by docking the Navigation and Setting Blocks.  This will get you another column and a half. dock blocks
  3. For the rest of us, scroll using the sideways arrows.  Click anywhere in the grade area (e.g. in the row of a particular student) and the keyboard arrows will become active
    gradebook navigation
    keyboard arrows
  4. If your eyesight is up to it you can reduce the text size on your screen to fit more in.  Hold down the Ctrl button on your keyboard and press the minus button(-) on the number pad.  Press the + to increase it.
  5. If you want to get bottom of the screen quickly to use the scroll bars, click the End button on your keyboard.

If you have any tips of your own please pass them on.

Weekend Funny – Alternative Disney Movie Posters

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

I remember watching Grease as a kid (it was the girls turn in our group to pick the movie that month*) and even at the tender age of 16 I remember walking out and thinking that movie was really messed up.

Well Christine Gritmon on TheFW thinks the same thing about Disney

“Ah, Disney – an essential component of childhood. However, beneath the saccharine surfaces of these fluffy romances lies some truly disturbing content.”


There are more on the site.

*When it was the boys turn we picked Midnight Express, a whole other kind of messed up.

Powerpoint tip – Turn your PP animation into a video

Friday, June 14th, 2013

I use quite a bit of animation in my presentations.  In a Presentation Skills session I did a while ago, the person behind the camera was focused on me rather than the screen when the animation ran.  I put a fair bit of thought (and a lot of time) into creating something that visually reinforced the point I was making and I wanted it in the video.

Luckily PPT 2010 allows you to convert a slide (or your entire presentation) into a wmv video file.  It will also pick up the audio clips that are associated with the slides.

Go to File, then Save As

PPt to wmv1

Select WMV and click OK

PPT to wmv2

Choose whether to turn just the slide you are on into a video (which is what I did) or the turn the whole thing into a video.

WMV is the only video format, so you might want to convert it into an mp4 if you want to use it as a stand alone video (I use Format Factory and Any video Converter).

I dropped the animation video into Adobe Premiere Elements and edited the two files together.

I’m not sure I’d recommned converting a whole presentation.   You would have to spend a fair bit of time messing around  with the automatic timing of  your slides.  If you are using audio it will probably be faster to do a screen capture recording.