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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Screencasting article

Betsy Weber has collected tips from several screencasters and summarized them here. My contribution is also in there.

Keep in mind that, because screencasting is a general tool (like the telephone), how to use it effectively depends on the application. Recorded lectures are different from entertainment segments targeting a general audience.

Friday, April 21, 2006

ConfChem online conference

It looks like I'll be presenting my work on teaching organic chemistry using blogs, wikis and games for ConfChem, an American Chemical Society run online conference. My presentation is during the June 23-29, 2006 week. The conference starts May 5, 2006.

Thanks very much to Bob Belford for accomodating me at the last minute!

Thanks for Egon Willighagen for the post!

Here is my abstract:

Expanding the role of the organic chemistry teacher through podcasting, screencasting, blogs, wikis and games, Jean-Claude Bradley (Drexel University)

Technology is enabling new ways to channel the relationship between teacher and student. The ability to provide an archive of recorded lectures in rich and convenient formats like screencasts, podcasts and vodcasts enable an instructor to explore additional means to integrate class material through activities such as games, blogs and conversation. This presentation will describe the implementation of such technologies in a university level organic chemistry class.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Update on games and vodcast for orgo class

The first two weeks of the Spring quarter are now over. Here is an update of my organic chemistry CHEM 241 class.

1) We had the first Unreal Tournament (free version/no weapons) race of the term on Friday. Out of 110 students, 13 showed up. This is about triple the average from last term. Most students brought their laptop. A few others who either had Macs (no educational UT version as far as I know) or did not have laptops and notified me in time borrowed a tablet PC. We had some problems with the wireless, but by passing around a memory stick, everyone was set up within 30 minutes. It helped that experienced students gave a hand to the novices. Next time it should only take 5 minutes for these students to set up with a new map since the software will already be installed. The race was won within 4 minutes but most of the students still tried to finish. The competition and prize are really just a non-coercive device to get more students to use the mazes to practice the class material. Like last term, the winner draws a prize at random. There is an equal chance of winning a video ipod, molecular model set, book or consolation prize.

2) I have had a few students help me with the vodcast for the class. Right now the theoretical part is finished and available publicly (click on iTunes icon at the top of the class blog). The pdf files, mp3 podcast and m4v vodcast are available from inside of iTunes. Flash screencasts are also still available from the blog but many students with dial-up or other access problems can't use them conveniently. I have also noticed that sometimes the streaming Flash stalls in the download, even on Drexel campus. I also learned from talking with students about their experience (another great benefit of running workshops instead of lectures) that some have hacked a way of downloading the Flash files from the browser cache. All of these factors are pushing me to advocate the vodcast through iTunes as the best way to access the lectures, even if the video quality is slightly worse than the Flash screencasts. We'll see how it goes over the term.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Google calendar

Google calendar is finally here. I switched from Outlook to Yahoo Calendar/Gmail a while back and proceeded to continue working with zen like peacefulness a month later when my main computer crashed.

I have been finding lately that the email appointment alerts from Yahoo Calendar are coming too late. It should be seamless now.

Thanks to EDITingInTheDark for the link.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blogger Atom Feed Limit

I just found out the hard way that the Atom feed in Blogger only shows the last 100 posts. This is usually not a problem because people don't normally use the Atom feed to get very old posts. They would probably just go directly to the blog itself, that you can set to show 999 posts, or to a URL going directly to the desired post, no matter how old.

However, if you are podcasting your lectures with Blogger/Feedburner this is something to watch out for because Feedburner uses Blogger's Atom feed. I have been adding m4v files to my lecture archive so that students can view the vodcast from iTunes or their video ipods. But this is on top of the mp3 and pdf files. With about 30 lectures and 3 formats it starts to reach the 100 mark.

Remember that you can't have more than one enclosure per post so to truly podcast all those files so that they show up as separate entries in iTunes, they have to be in separate blog posts. If you were to link to all 3 files from a single blog entry, only one of the files would show up in the RSS feed. It is not always clear which file will end up in the enclosure and you may have to play around with the order if you do want those other links in the post anyway.

I had more than 100 posts there so I had to delete all the obsolete posts from other terms to make room. It is probably better this way anyway. The blog is now a lot clearer to the students in the current term. In addition, I have moved most class information to the wiki so I don't need the blog as much.

Just click on the iTunes button at the top of the blog to see the multicast.
the videos have the tv icon
the PDFs have the book icon
the mp3's have no icons

Monday, April 10, 2006

Educational Gaming Results from the WebCT conference

I finally got the vodcast/podcast uploaded from the talk I gave at the NorthEastern Regional WebCT Users meeting on March 30, 2006. Things piled up a bit with the start of the Drexel Spring Quarter last week at the same time as the teaching track of HigherEdBlogCon, which I was chairing. I really need to thank the conference organizer Dan Karleen for doing a lot of the heavy lifting in managing and posting the files, especially when he was short a few people.

Also, I met a few people that have been keeping me busy this past week. After my talk, Beth Ritter-Guth from Lehigh Carbon Community College got really serious about implementing these tools. She created a nice blog for her class, another for her thoughts and even created an Unreal Tournament (free version, no weapons) maze to teach grammar. She is now feverishly learning how to vodcast and I am sure her work will serve as a wonderful example of what can be done with technology in the humanities.

I consider that to be the most productive outcome of a conference: actual implementation. By focusing on technology configurations that are almost completely free and hosted, there is not much hindering educators who want to contribute to the evolution of our educational system from the bottom up.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Higher Ed Blog Con 2006 started

HigherEdBlogCon has started this week with the teaching track that I am chairing.

So far we have several hundred subscribers and downloads. I have tried to get most of the presenters to do screencasts and I think that has been working pretty well for a purely online conference. The audio component provides a more personal connection with the audience.

If you are interested in online educational technology take a look and ask the presenter questions by posting a comment.

Thanks to Dan Karleen for all the help, this past week especially.

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