Archive for November, 2014

Weekend Funny – Worst toy of the year – vote now.

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

Voting for the annual TOADDY awards are set to close soon.

“Each year, the Toy Industry Association gathers to present its TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards. In honor of the industry that has led the way in commercializing childhood, CCFC will present its TOADY  (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award for the Worst Toy of the Year.

From thousands of toys that promote precocious sexuality to children and push branded and screen-based entertainment at the expense of children’s play, CCFC has selected five exceptional finalists. Who will win the dreaded TOADY?

I’m leaning toward Girl Scout Barbie

See the other entries here

Free science resources from UNESCO

Friday, November 28th, 2014

World Library of Science

“UNESCO launched the UNESCO World Library of Science (WLoS), a newly created, free online science education resource for a global community of users. Developed through the joint efforts of UNESCO, Nature Education and Roche, the WLoS was created to give students around the world, especially those in disadvantaged regions, access to the latest science information as well as the opportunity to share their experiences and learning through discussion with their peers in a shared learning environment.

“Launched on the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development 2014, the WLoS is a science resource library stocked with over 300 top-quality articles, 25 eBooks, and over 70 videos from the publishers of Nature, the most cited scientific journal in the world. It is also a state-of-the-art digital platform that provides a community hub for learning. Users can join classes, build groups and connect with other learners.”

See the library at

(Shh, no one tell our Prime Minister, he doesn’t like science, it get’s in the way of his policies)

Quick overview of Online Learning design approaches

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Steven Mintz of the University of Texas gives a fairly simple overview of the sorts of design approaches you can take with online learning.  It’s particularly useful if MOOCs are your only, or primary experience.

He sets out 5 broad approaches

  1. Instructional Courseware
  2. Social by Design
  3. Discovery Learning
  4. Education at the scale of the world
  5. Curriculum as a plug and play endevour
  6. Instructional Modules and Just-In-Time learning

My favourite statement in the article is this.

“The most radical forms of online learning, like the most revolutionary forms of in-class and hybrid education, treat the student as a knowledge creator: as a fellow researcher, investigator, and problem-solver.  Education, from this perspective, is not simply training.  It goes beyond instruction or tutelage to give students opportunities to think like a practitioner, to undertake authentic projects rooted in a particular field of study, and to cultivate a professional identity.”

    Read more about the 5 approaches here, and as always, if you are a Monash person and want to know more about learning design give me a call.

    Weekend funny – Dance your PhD 2014 Winner announced

    Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

    I’m a couple of weeks late with this, but this year’s winner is Uma Nagendr

    “Alterations to plant-soil feedbacks after severe tornado disturbance.”

    dance you phd

    See the winner’s video

    See all the videos here

    EDvantage – Fun educational resources to spark student interest

    Monday, November 17th, 2014

    EDvantage is a vetted collection of videos and articles designed to engage students.  You can also suggest resources for the site.


    EDvantage is a project from the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.

    “EDvantage is the curriculum hub for pioneering educators, where you can find and share videos, articles, and so much more to complement the innovative classroom experience.   Educators know the importance of inspirational teaching tools, but navigating the web for these tools can prove dizzying and frustrating. We search the realm of educational resources for high-quality, creative supplements, and organize them on our website so you can spend less time researching tools and more time using them.”

    Weekend funny – How to trap a cat

    Sunday, November 16th, 2014

    Apparently its quite easy.  Make an enclosed circle on the floor.

    Cat trap

    This has become an internet ‘thing’ with lots of people trying it and posting their pictures.  I can’t vouch for the veracity of this method because like all right minded people, I have a dog.


    More pics on the Netorama site

    10 Reasons Professors Should Start Writing BuzzFeed Articles

    Friday, November 14th, 2014

    First, what is Buzzfeed (if you are under 30 stop rolling your eyes).

    “BuzzFeed provides the most shareable breaking news, original reporting, entertainment, and video across the social web to its global audience of more than 150M.”

    While it does have a news section the front page articles are more likely to be  “Introducing The Hot New Trend Among Men: “Lumbersexual” (yes that is an actual article from the home page).  But, if you want to see the hottest YouTube video 2 days before it appears on the 7pm news, go to Buzzfeed.


    Here’s a bit from the Chronicle of Higher education

    Mark Marino wants to shake up academic publishing. To declare his intentions, the associate professor of writing at the University of Southern California chose a format both fitting and provocative: a BuzzFeed listicle.

    Rather than creating his own web page to house BuzzAdemia pieces, Mr. Marino envisions publishing them on existing, popular platforms (like BuzzFeed).

    “My dream for this is that you eventually get locked in a click-bait loop of scholarly arguments, rather than articles about Disney princesses and what to do in your 20s,” he said.

    Once the articles are published, Mr. Marino hopes they will be shared on social media, like the journal’s Facebook page. Scholarly merit will be judged in part on retweets and Facebook likes, he added. After all, as the BuzzAdemia manifesto says, “The RT is the purest form of peer-review.”

    I certainly think there is merit in putting your research out there, but I’m not sure Buzzfeed is the venue for the discussion to take place..

    If you are plugged into your specialist community these opportunities probably already exist.  I have commented on ‘works in progress’ numerous times on list feeds (for those under 30 this is what we used before Twitter, Facebook and blogs…do I need to explain blogs?) .  The problem with the Buzzfeed model is the risk certainty of  fly-by morons and trolls.   I think a moderated community of practice site is a more sensible way to go.  Once you’re done it’s certainly worth buffing your work into a more accessible format and sharing on places like Buzzfeed.

    I found this on Stephen Downes blog

    Desktop video conferencing – Hangouts vs Zoom

    Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

    At Monash all staff and students have access to Google and all it associated bits like Drive, YouTube, G+ and Hangouts.

    I have had a bit of a play with Hangouts to give staff access to meetings and for interviews.  I’m fairly impressed.  I find it more reliable than Skype.

    Recently a few people have started looking at Zoom.

    My first reaction was, why, we already have Hangouts.  But I’m starting to think it might be worth looking at.  Both products appear to be largely the same.  Zoom can handle 25 people to Hangouts 10, but the free Zoom account is limited to 40 minutes.  Hangouts are better if you are actively collaborating and want to share files, but Zoom is better for creating teaching resources as it has a built in recording function.  Zoom also works on IOS and Android devices.

    There’s more info here is another desktop and mobile video conferencing application that is gathering some attention.  It’s browser based so there’s nothing to download.  It handles up to 8 people.  It doesn’t seem to have as many features but is very simple and easy to use.

    Anyway, I’ve downloaded Zoom.  If I find anything dodgy I’ll let you know.

    (It looks like Monash has a Zoom trial site on the AARNET backbone so the quality in Australia should be pretty good)

    Something pedagogical stirring in the bowels of xMOOC platforms

    Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

    OK, not all platforms yet.

    George Siemens, proponent of  cMOOCs (the original, collaborative, pedagogically sound type of MOOC) has put together a MOOC on EDx.  It provides a dual path, one is based on the prevailing, tightly predetermined, linear, lectures online model, the other is based on the cMOOC model and uses a more feral “Social learning path”

    “The Social Learning Path will look less ordered. You will be responsible for forming groups to work on problems. You will be self-guided and expected to connect with other students to form support networks. Your interaction with other students will greatly help you, as will sharing your learning process through social media. Determining your own method to demonstrate what you learned is the guiding principle.”

    “It is similar to workplace group work sessions where you will be given a problem to work on and solve in whatever method you agree upon as a group. This path is less linear with less instructor guidance and more reliance on connections with fellow learners.”

    The MOOC itself is on Data, Analytic and Learning  DALMOOC

    A big part of social learning path is new type of tool called ProSolo.

    “ProSolo is self-directed social learning tool. You will use this tool to set goals, connect with other learners, and submit proof of accomplishing your goals.”

    There’s more info here.

    I haven’t drilled down into this course, but I recommend anyone thinking about designing an xMOOC have a look at this approach and cherry pick a few ideas.

    10 tips for improving your lectures

    Monday, November 10th, 2014

    This is from the Presentation Zen site.  Not all are particularly relevant to our situation but they are all worth considering.

    Here are a few of my favourite bits.

    Don’t waste time at the beginning with formalities or filler talk. Start with a bang. Get their attention and then sustain that interest with variety and unexpectedness, built upon structure that is taking them some place.

    What is your key message? What is it you REALLY want people to remember? What action do you want them to take?

    Put the Audience first. The message or the lesson must be accessible and useful for your particular audience.

    Cutting the superfluous is one of the hardest things to do because when we are close to the topic, as most presenters are, it *all* seems important. It may be true that it’s all important, but when you have only ten minutes or an hour, you have to make hard choices of inclusion and exclusion.

    Go here to read the whole 10 (plus one bonus)