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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Drop.io a New Kind of Dropbox

I just posted a quick commentary on Drop.io on my podcasting blog. The post, Drop.io as a Podcasting Tool? explores how one could possibly use it in that manner. Over here on The Maricopa Experience I want to explore a different way to use Drop.io.

First, here's a snippet from my first post explaining what it is:

Drop.io advertises itself as a simple private exchange.

Drop.io enables you to create simple private exchange points called “drops.” The service has no email signup and no “accounts.” Each drop is private, and only as accessible as you choose to deliberately make it. Create multiple drops, add any type of media, and share or subscribe as you want.

And I would have to agree. The site is very clean and simple, so much in fact, that I didn’t really understand how I could use the site until I actually played with it. Drop.io allows for you to make drops.

A drop is a ‘discrete’ chunk of space you can use to store and share anything (pictures, video, audio, docs, etc) privately, without accounts, personal registration, or email addresses.

The first thing that caught my attention was the “no personal registration, or email addresses.” I’m not so concerned about myself signing up for yet another Web 2.0 site on the web, but more so that if I had my students use it they wouldn’t have to sign up or register for anything.

My students are currently working on research projects, and as usual common groups start to form. I'm thinking of using a drop for each of the common groups so students can share resources and collaborate with each other while they are working in their groups. Drop.io makes it easy to so by giving you a widget that can be placed on a course network or blog or even in Blackboard. The widget allows for students to quickly and easily make a drop to the shared space. Here's an example of the widget below:

drop.io: simple private sharing


Once files are added to the drop, anyone given the address can access them, and if you want for it to be private, you can password protect the site. Here's an example of my practice drop:

The above view is the media view, but in blog view the files are listed in order of the time they were uploaded - newest items on top like a mini blog.
Blog View: http://www.drop.io/soul4real/blog

Students can add files and links to their shared site via email, on the drop.io website or via the widget. It's too easy for them not to want to use it. They don't even have to sign up. And drop.io makes it easy for anyone to subscribe to the drop via RSS or email subscription. I really like this idea for a quick and easy collaborative tool. Have a look for yourself.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Player for ENG101 Podcast

I've been experimenting with flash players for my weekly podcasts in my freshman composition courses. I this one from MyFlashFetish.com was pretty cool. I'll paste the code into the course blog and see how students like it.

music player
I made this music player at MyFlashFetish.com.

Created My First Quiz in Sakai

Okay, I admit it. I waited until the last minute to do this, and I really panicked. In my continued efforts to test out the power of Sakai, it was time to try quiz making. I had originally planned to re-create my quizzes in Sakai instead going the route of importing them from Blackboard. A fellow colleague was already experiencing that joy, and I wanted no part of it. Well, you can probably guess what happened. Yes, I forgot that I still needed to do that- re-create and left myself with about an hour to do it.

Sakai is not very intuitive at all, and can be downright frustrating. To begin, I clicked on Tests & Quizzes from the main menu. That was easy enough. I like that you don't have to go into a Control Panel to create a quiz. The picture below is what I was presented with.

The word optional is what caused all the confusion. To me, optional means I can create a quiz without "Choosing Existing Assessment Type." Turns out you can't. I typed in a title and hit Quick Create because I was in a hurry. Then things got confusing. My only options for creating quiz questions were:
General Instructions
Multiple Choice
Multiple Correct Answer
Fill in the Blank
Short Essay
True/False

My first two questions I needed to add were fill in multiple blanks and the next two were matching. Neither of which I was able to create in this set-up. Yes, I was cursing Sakai, and myself for not doing this sooner. After fiddling around with it for a bit, I discovered that if I had indeed choosen an existing assessment type - Quiz, I would have been given more options for quiz questions. So I did that.

In actuality, Sakai ended up being easier to create a quiz. For instance, when creating matching questions, you get to put the the option and the answer in the same field. Sakai will then take your options and answers and mix them up for you. I hated that in Blackboard because it was always time consuming to have to match up your own question. You have to be careful not to follow the same pattern: A, C, B, or in my case, I gave a quiz and every answer for a matching question was C, A, B. The ordering was up to me, and unknowingly I created this same pattern.

Creating a fill in multiple blanks questions was easy enough. In Sakai you write the question with the answers in it, but you enclose the word that will appear as a blank in { }. In Blackboard you enclose a number in [ ]. Then you have to later add the answers. The Sakai way is faster.

I could find an option for giving the quiz a password. Still looking. I was able to set a time limit for the quiz, and I'm experimenting with releasing the feedback for the quiz after a set date. In this case, on Monday, after everyone has had a chance to take the quiz, students will be able to see the questions and the correct answers.

Students had two complaints about the quiz. The first was that they wanted to be able to skip a question and then be able to come back to it later. You can actually set up the quiz that way in Sakai, but I had not chosen that option. I will next time. And the second complaint was that on some questions, you couldn't read the whole question unless you could scroll sideways, and the only way to scroll sideways was to type in the box enough text that it forced the window over to the far right. That was strange.

Overall, creating a quiz in Sakai turned out to be a pretty good experience. It will be close to awesome if it had password protection. I still need to figure out how to grade the quizzes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Created a Slidecast of my Podcasting Presentation

I presented the first of four podcasting presentation today at GateWay Community College. Today's presentation was an informational session/discussion about the theory and practice of podcasting in education. I shared the information I have presented on the wiki and lead a brief discussion. Hopefully, participants left with a better understanding of what podcasting is, how it can be and is used in education, and what are the implications for teaching and learning. If you would like to view a shortened version of the presentation, click the play button below.



This Slidecast was created on Slideshare.net, and it was made by mashing up my podcast with my Keynote slides. I had to export from Keynote to pdf in order to upload the slides to Slideshare. I tried using a PowerPoint file at first, but the export messed up the slides, so I went with pdf. I'm happy with the results.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sakai is Not Playing Nice with Others - My Bad!

One thing I love about Web 2.0 is how RSS allows for us to share content, move content, do with the content what ever we please. Well, Sakai is not playing fair. I'm using both a course social network (Ning) and Sakai with my ENG101 students. I do the same with my ENG102 students, but they are using Blackboard instead of Sakai. In both classes I post announcements on the course network, and I do two things with those announcements:
  1. Burn the feed in FeedBurner and set up an email subscription form for students to use to subscribe to the announcements
  2. Then I use BuzzBoost in FeedBurner to republish my burned feed's content as go-anywhere HTML. I post this in a static announcement in both Sakai and Blackboard.
Okay, it works like a charm in Blackboard. All the pictures and text show up, and any media displayed in the post will display properly. For instance, I posted a podcast player from the network in an announcement. It's a flash player. It displays fine in Blackboard and plays the podcast, but in Sakai, the player doesn't display and therefore doesn't play the podcast. That was a bummer.

It works a little different in Sakai though. For instance, instead of using the BuzzBoost republish html, I set up the announcement page using Sakai's RSS Feed option. That might be why the flash player didn't display.

On the plus side, Sakai gives you a link at the top of the announcements to subscribe to the announcements in a feed reader. But I don't understand why it's called: (Graphic Version) - Feb 4, 2008. I'm sure my students understand that Graphic Version means subscribe in a feed reader, right? Blackboard does the same, but it give a title of the feed to click: Freshman Comp II Network Announcements. Either way I've got some explaining to do if I want students to use the RSS feed.

What I Learned Today: I actually learned why the flash player didn't work just by writing this post. If I set up the feed using the html code in the regular announcement area in Sakai, it will more than likely work.

Podcasting in Sakai & Some Annoyances

I've changed my mind about podcasting in Sakai. Mostly because Shelley got them to increase the limit from 10mb to 20mb. That was the same limitation with Wimba Podcaster in Blackboard and why I never used it. So with the increased size limit, I will be able to upload most of my podcasts. What's nice about having a podcasting tool built into your CMS is that it's all right there for students. They don't have to go anywhere, i.e. iTunes, to listen. That's not saying that I don't like iTunes U; I do. But for instructors who want to keep it simple, that's what you'll get. So I posted a podcast, and this is what students see:

Podcasts

Subscribe now by copying this RSS feed address and pasting it into your favorite podcatcher:
http://sakai.mc.maricopa.edu/podcasts/site/6276b28b-2fbd-44d8-80ad-4f1b3f7aa12f

Tuesday, 15 January 2008 05:13 PM MST
ENG101_ Module I-Week 1.mp3
This podcast is the Module I, Week 1 information podcast. I will cover the activities for Week 1.
Download (2.7MB MP3)

Posted by Alisa Cooper at 05:13 PM MST on 01/15/2008
I can create a link to this podcast in the Lessons area, but the link only allows for students to download the mp3 to their computer. I really want for the file to open up and play right in the browser. I'm not sure it will do that. I really like Odeo for this reason. They give you the option of several players that you can embed into blogs, webpages or your CMS that will play the podcast right there when you click the play button. Unfortunately Odeo Studio is not working properly right now. So for an alternative I'm using the Internet Archive because they have a pop up player that doesn't force students to download the file to their computers.

So that's my first impression of the podcasting tool in Sakai. I have a few other annoyances to discuss. For one, if you don't "finish" a process on a page and you leave the area, your old business pops up when you return to that area. I don't know why that is annoying to me, but it is. I could see how others might like that. For instance, if they left on accident, you would love for your previous work to still be there because you didn't get a chance to save. I'm in too much of a hurry for that. If I leave, I'm leaving for a reason. And when I go back, I want to start fresh. So I get lost often trying to figure out how to get out of places.

Not having access to stats is driving me crazy, and having to ask an administrator for not only that, but also to reset passwords is a pain. I'm just feeling like I don't have enough control. Maybe I'm a control freak and I want to be Sakai God like Shelley. Who knows. I just like doing stuff myself I guess.

What I learned today: Each student has his/her own blog in the My Workspace area, but it is not public and I can't see it as an instructor. That would be nice if I could.