Archive for September, 2014

Save time when designing training

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

As someone who has been in the training and professional development field for quite a long time I think this article is gold.

Cathy Moore has a knack for clearly and succinctly explaining the common sense aspects of training that text books often gloss over.

3 ways to save gobs of time when designing training

My favorite is  – Don’t design training

“Does the client just want everyone to be “aware” of the hamster sharing policy? If so, your best bet might be to send everyone a link to the policy with the message, “Read this policy, and share hamsters according to its rules.”

In my experience, a short ‘pictures and arrows’ guide, or screen capture video will do the job for most people.  The rest (the strugglers and more advanced) I work with one on one.  It’s a much better use of my time and much more effective.

The other two ways to save time are, one, drilling down to the actual problem and just targeting that, and two, look for the simplest effective way to do the job, don’t get sucked into the media and technology.

I remember one of my Instructional Design lecturers telling me (in the 90’s) if a pencil can do the job, why wouldn’t you use a pencil.

Anyway go and read it for yourself.

Weekend funny – Desperate efforts to make accounting sound exciting

Saturday, September 27th, 2014


From the May-June 2009 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research.

Weekend Funny – the 2014 IgNoble prize winners

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

What are the IgNobles?  here’s the official description

“The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then makes them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”

Actually Amanda Palmer probably describes it better (this quote is on the IgNobles site)

“It’s like the weirdest f-ing thing that you’ll ever go to… it’s a collection of, like, actual Nobel Prize winners giving away prizes to real scientists for doing f’d-up things… it’s awesome.” Amanda Palmer.

Here’s my 2014 favourite

PHYSICS PRIZE [JAPAN]: Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, for measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor.

As someone who typically goes to bed after 1 a.m. I if find the psychology prize a little concerning.

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE [AUSTRALIA, UK, USA]: Peter K. Jonason, Amy Jones, and Minna Lyons, for amassing evidence that people who habitually stay up late are, on average, more self-admiring, more manipulative, and more psychopathic than people who habitually arise early in the morning.

See them all here –

Shared international classsroom

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

This worth a read (despite the use of the redundant term ‘Blended’)

Co-teaching a Blended class across universities

“Students and professors simultaneously meet in real classrooms at each university and connect as a video conference.  Students collaborate on projects across universities and each professor leads instruction for part of the term and participates in all classes.”

“During class time, most of the interactions are between students and the lead instructor or between students in the same real classroom during an active learning activity. But outside of class time, students interact via discussion on the content management system and collaborate on projects using Skype, Google chat etc.”

Zoomit – draw on your screen with your mouse or pen in any program

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

This is one for the Windows users.  Microsoft has a free utility on their TechNet site called Zoomit


Zoomit is the solution to one of my long term niggles.  I have a touch screen PC but when I was presenting I could only draw on the screen when I was in PowerPoint.  Sometimes I want to annotate the screen when I’m showing a website or document.   Zoomit is a reasonable solution and it also works with your mouse on non-touch screen devices.   I just press ctrl+2 to activate it.  There is one major draw back, there is no automatic way to copy your screen annotations.  You have to use Printscreen and paste the image into a doc.  It does work with Camstudio (although it can be fiddly) and there is a Zoomit plug in for Camtasia.

“ZoomIt is a screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations. ZoomIt runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen, move around while zoomed, and draw on the zoomed image

ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can use pen input for ZoomIt drawing on tablet PCs.”

Open Education Resources – why you should use them

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

If you want to know why you should be considering OER (and you definitely should) have a look at this one page article on the Campus Technology site

6 Arguments for OER (and 1 Against)

Here’s a quick summary

  • its cheaper for students
  • it improves emrollemnts
  • no publisher forced textbook updates
  • ability personalized/customize texts and resources

But – its takes more time.

Weekend funny – Cell Phone users get their own lane?

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

PowToon review

Friday, September 19th, 2014

I’ve been having a look at Powtoon.  It’s a simple way to create old style flash-like animations (without the Flash learning curve).  It’s based on templates and a library of figures and items.

The video on this page gives a pretty good over view.


The  first thing I have to say is, there has been a fair amount of gushiness in the education sector about this product, some of it deserved, but some of it fits into the “ooh look, shiny”, category.  A bit like the reaction when Prezi first became popular.

Some reviews compare it to PowerPoint and Prezi but that’s not really accurate.  They are presentation tools, Powtoon is an more of an animation tool that creates movie files.  You can use it for slide show type presentations but only from the PowToon website.  If you create a movie using the free version you have upload it to YouTube then download it from there.

It’s a fully online application so there is nothing to download.  There are paid and free options.  The free option is fully functional but has a water mark and a ‘Made by PowToon” credit at the end.

I’m a little ambivalent about the ease of use given that most people seem to use it only to animate text and add clipart.  If you’re already familiar with PowerPoint, the learning curve  for this type of simple animation is probably about the same as learning to use a new product.   Having said that, the interface is very simple and the images (although fairly limited) are pretty slick and have a consistent style.

It’s not a great option if you want to include a voice over option.   It is a very fiddly process and a lot of people seem to record their audio separately using other software while watching their animation, then add in the audio file later.  If you want to add audio on a slide by slide basis PowerPoint Mix (free with Office 2013) is a better option.

The images and animations have a particular look which is nice enough for now but I think the novelty might wear off if you use it too much or it becomes more popular.  I remember Prezi being cool before every second conference presenter decided to use it.

If you want to add a splash of something different in your teaching and you’ve got a little free time to play around, PowToon is worth a look, but don’t over use it.

Texts for new teachers

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Everybody in teaching has their favourite textbook.  Mine is Knowles’  The Adult Learner. A neglected species.  It was the right book at the right time for me.  Some people find it useless.

There are resources, sites and texts everywhere and it can be hard to know where to start.  If you are just starting in higher ed, Natascha Chtena, a PhD student at the University of California has put her recommendations on the Grad Hacker blog.

Have a look and see what you think.  The 2 most intriguing are, How to talk about books you haven’t read, and Teaching what you don’t know.

I might ask around at Monash and see what people recommend and post that list up.

Could an over reliance on publisher’s services damage our reputation?

Monday, September 8th, 2014

“Why are universities buying ready-made frozen meals instead of cooking up their own educational fare?”

I have commented on this before but it’s worth repeating.

While this article refers to online courses I see similar things creeping into on campus courses.  When it comes to curriculum design there is a huge risk of the tail wagging the dog.

Actually the question could equally be  asked, is our internal over emphasis on research leading to behaviours that could damage our teaching reputation.

“Virtually everything we offer can be customized,” says Laster. “We don’t think we’re the replacement for the master teacher, but you can rely on us that what we provide has been tested, vetted, and provides outcomes.”

Just how much these courses are customized is difficult to determine. Clearly, many are slotted directly into a curriculum and rolled out to students.  “Just about 99 percent of them do that, take it right out of the box,” says Christine Higgins, a former Pearson account manager.  “I worked with the largest universities in the country, and that’s what they do.  They don’t change them.”

Sometimes the course software is so complete, handling all testing and grading, that students have only passing contact with an instructor or even none at all. “In some classes, I felt the profs got off pretty darn easy because they didn’t even have to grade the assignments,” says Lisa Decker, who is completing her undergraduate degree via online classes at the University of Toledo.