.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Drexel CoAS E-Learning Subscribe with Bloglines Drexel CoAS E-Learning Podcast

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My interview in Reactive Reports

David Bradley (no relation) just posted an interview he did with me in Reactive Reports

It was a good opportunity for me to explain a bit more about my long term vision of UsefulChem and why I felt it was time to move my chemistry research in the direction of open content.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Drexel College of Business Ed Tech symposium

This should be of interest to Ed Tech people in the Philly area:

Innovative Uses of Technology to Enhance Learning
Date and Time: Monday, January 30 at 11:15 AM until 01:15 PM
Location: Pearlstein Business Learning Center, Drexel University
N. 33rd Street & Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Room: 405
Event Type: Center For Teaching Excellence

Register here

Monday, January 23, 2006

password protected podcast and vodcast

Although I previously reported on password protected podcasting, this is the first time that I find it necessary to implement it for my courses. Unfortunately I still have too much copyright sensitive material in the visuals for one of my courses so I have no choice but to control access until I rework the lectures.

I was not going to vodcast this term but student demand pushed me over the edge. (They want to play with their new toys.) Also, with iTunes 6.02, it is possible to generate fairly small m4v video files (50 meg/hour). Thus one of my major objections to vodcasting (massive files) has been overcome. I have to thank my friend Mark Ott for instructions using Camtasia and iTunes:

1) Convert the avi to quicktime (mov file) using Camtasia. Use the smallest screensize and lowest frame rate (8 FPS) to minimize the size of the mov file. Even with these precautions some of the mov files end up very bloated (400-600 Meg/hour).

2) In iTunes, highlight 'library' on the left list. File-Add file to library

3) Browse and select the film. Once that's done, highlight (click once) on 'videos' in the left list (left 1" of itunes normally).

4) On the right you should see all the videos in your library. Find the one you care about (what you just inserted). RIGHT click on it and select 'convert selection for iPod'

5) You will have do a little searching to see where it drops the m4v file, but it is there somewhere. Mine gets dumped into C:/mydocuments/mymusic/iTunes/unknownartist/unknownalbum/

If this is a normal vodcast just create links to the m4v files in Blogger then process with Feedburner to generate the podcast feed, as described in detail previously for mp3 files.

But if this is a password protected vodcast, it gets much trickier because Feedburner needs to verify the file properties. If the files are sitting in a password protected folder on the server, Feedburner will not be able to reach the files and will not include them as enclosures in the RSS feed.

I tried temporarily removing the password protection while Feedburner constructed the podcast feed but that was really awkward and dangerous. If in the future Feedburner rechecks while the password protection is on, it will remove all the enclosures without warning.

The hack I found around this is to copy the XML generated by Feedburner for the unprotected audio podcast and replace links to the mp3 files to the corresponding m4v files. Since the length of the audio and video is the same for all files, the length metadata will show up correctly in iTunes. You must also change the filetype from "audio/mpeg" to "video/x-m4v". Then just host the XML file on a server.

Drag the vodcast icon (top right) into the iTunes podcast section to see the password protection prompt when it tries to download the video files.

I still have doubts about being able to see molecules clearly enough on the video ipod but lets see how it goes. The full screen Flash screencasts and AVI files are still available just in case.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

RSS ideas for teachers

Quentin D'Souza has a nice extensive review of what teachers can do with RSS feeds.

Thanks to Mark Wagner for the post.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Searching inside podcasts

Podcasting is bringing attention to the problem of speech-to-text. I have had experience lately with both manual and automated solutions.

1) Podscope and Podzinger are two free services that enable people to find podcasts by the spoken word. My organic chemistry class CHEM 241 was indexed by Podzinger recently and I have had a chance to evaluate its usefulness. That is actually a little difficult because it is not possible to obtain transcripts of the entire podcast through these services. That is understandable because, from the snippet of text displayed in searches, the transcript would be unreadable. I currently view this type of automated speech-to-text as a marginally useful addition to the promotion of any podcast. I have only gotten one hit through Podzinger so far.

2) One of the lectures of my CHEM 243 class was recently transcribed manually by CastingWords. As I mentioned previously, they have chemists on their team and I was impressed with the accuracy. It was not perfect but it only took a few minutes to clean it up so that I could post it on a blog. That way it will be indexed by Google and people will be taken to the podcast from a link in each transcript post. CastingWords charges about $25/hour but I am discussing an advertising model with them also. Hopefully we can work something out to get the rest of my lectures transcribed.

Speech-to-text automation has a long way to go. With the rise of podcasting I see a lot of potential for manual transcription companies in the near future.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sloan Semester Ends

Back in September, I mentioned that I was organizing Drexel's effort in the Sloan Semester, a program to provide free online courses for students displaced by hurricane Katrina. We ended up offering 5 courses - Kevin Owen's Mass Spectrometry, Scott Warnock's English Composition and my 3 Organic Chemistry courses.

This was challenging on many levels, requiring the cooperation of many people at Drexel and at the Sloan Consortium. It was also very difficult for the students, who often had limited access to the internet and were dealing with all of the other problems related to losing their homes. Many made use of public library computers. In the end about 30% who registered completed their course.

Even though it was not easy, many students were helped by this program across the country. This is a great example of the unexpected benefits of having courses in an online format.

Berkeley orgo webcast

It looks like Berkeley will be webcasting their Organic Chemistry class this term, starting January 17, 2006. This is a great opportunity to compare my screencast lectures with another teacher's approach.

This is an example of how open courseware can benefit everybody. The students get another learning resource and the teachers get to refine their teaching methods by getting feedback from students about the effectiveness of their teaching style in comparison with other approaches.

For teachers who don't feel comfortable with that, they really don't have much choice. Students are actively searching for and using open courseware. I have been getting emails from students taking organic chemistry at other institutions and using my recorded lectures as a supplement to try to learn certain concepts in a different way.

The landscape of higher education is changing and everyone, including those who choose not to participate, will be affected.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

WebCT conference at Drexel

The deadline for the Call for Proposals for the March 30th Spring '06 Northeast WebCT
Users' Conference is January 31, 2006.

The proposal registration website is here

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

PodcasterCon2006 report

I spent the last part of the xmas holiday at UNC in Chapel Hill, NC at PodcasterCon.

Dave Warlick promised an "un-conference" and that is exactly what he delivered during his afternoon session on podcasting in education.

He first briefly demonstrated a few examples of educational podcasts. Then he asked who had audio recording capability and divided up the "audience" into 6 groups that each recorded their conversation. Each group was tasked to generate 3 answers to questions relating to educational podcasting. My group talked about the issues related to ownership of content.

Dave then asked someone to take notes into a wiki as he and Steve Dembo got every group's ideas over a microphone. The rest of the 2 hour session was spent collecting additional information from anyone on any part of the topic.

Here is the resulting wiki page.

There was just the right mix of experience in the group to make this work really well and it was a much more efficient use of time compared to the traditional one-way speaker-to-audience format.

I also got to meet John Blake and learn about his blog and class podcast. He has a student interested in educational games so we are exploring a collaboration with Unreal Tournament on EduFrag.

Left to Right: John Blake, David Warlick, Steve Dembo, Jean-Claude Bradley

RSS club meetings

The winter 05-06 term has started at Drexel.
The RSS club meetings will resume on Fridays at noon in 4020 MacAlister.
Students, faculty, administrators and local educational technology enthusiasts are welcome to attend. Just let me know you are coming (bradlejc AT drexel DOT edu)

Screencasts of previous meetings are archived here.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I'll be heading out to PodcasterCon this Saturday January 7, 2006 in Chapel Hill, NC. Dave Warlick is heading up a session on podcasting in education. It should be a great opportunity to compare notes.

Locations of visitors to this page Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 License