Got a Technology Question? Ask a Librarian

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

When is the last time you went to the library? When is the last time you went to check out a book?

Maybe your library offers e-books you can check out on your Kindle or iPad, so you don’t even really need to go. If you haven’t been in a while, you may be in for a surprise.

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Since the advent of personal computers and the growth of the Internet, library services have changed and continue to evolve. If you have been in a library recently, you probably noticed that the day of the spinsterish librarian shushing everyone has pretty much disappeared. Modern libraries have quiet corners for those who want to read or study.  Continue reading

Smartphones, Tablets & Subtitles for Language Learning

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NY program uses phone calls, text messages to teach English by Deepti Hajela, Associated Press, 30 Nov. 2015.

Using basic phone technology, New York state has created lessons for English language learners that are flexible and free.

Tablet use can benefit bilingual preschoolers by Elin Bäckström at Phys.org, 10 Nov. 2015.

The author reports on the result of a study done in Sweden that shows the value of tablets as teaching tools for preschoolers whose first language is not Swedish.

Spain considers ban on dubbing in bid to boost English language skills in The Local, 4 Dec. 2015.

Spain’s Popular Party wants to eliminate dubbing of TV shows and movies and retain original sound-tracks with subtitles in an effort to boost English language learning.

Alert: Watch Out for a Password Hijacking Virus

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Updated 12/18/15

To log in to my Netflix account, I normally don’t need to key in more than the first letter of my email address since I’ve authorized my browser to remember my username and password.

However, about an hour ago, when I tried to log in to Netflix via Internet Explorer, a slightly different pop-up appeared. It asked for my username and password as usual, but when I began to type, it didn’t remember my full name/password. Also, it continued to reject the ones I typed in as errors. After several attempts, I realized that this was not the usual Netflix sign-in page.

It was similar yet oddly different. Suspecting that this might have been a password hijacking virus, I immediately logged out and logged back in to Netflix via Firefox, making sure that I used the correct sign-in page. Once in, I changed my Netflix password.

My browser of choice is Firefox, but I had decided to use IE because of some script-handling problems in Firefox. I don’t recall an experience exactly like this in Firefox.  Continue reading

TCC 2016: Extended Deadline for Proposals (23 Dec)

Bert Kimura

Bert Kimura

Season’s Greetings.

We continue to accept your proposals for presentations at TCC 2016 (April 1921, 2016) and have extended the deadline until 23 December 2015.

Registration details to be announced in January. Stay tuned!

Full details are posted here.
Submit your proposal here.
Keep informed about TCC 2016 here or join our mailing list.

Happy holidays from the TCC conference team!

Review of ‘Towards a European Perspective on Massive Open Online Courses’

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

I was drawn to some of the articles in this special issue1 and found insights that I feel are worth mentioning. One that stands out is in Schuwer et al.’s article,2 in a summary attributed to Fairclough3: “MOOCs are perhaps best understood as ‘imaginary’… a prefiguring of possible and desired realities rather than a unified and coherent domain around which clear boundaries exist.”

Fairclough’s observation takes us a step closer to unravelling the MOOC conundrum. The expanding list of acronyms for different MOOC constructs should tip us to the fact that MOOCs are reifications, figments of our imagination or, more accurately, a specific set of ideas bundled in different ways. In short, MOOCs don’t exist.

By “don’t exist,” I mean they’re not a separate or unique specie. They’re simply a class in the genus online course. Add openness to a traditional online course, and you end up with a MOOC. By “openness,” I mean removing most of the formal trappings that we associate with college courses: capacity limits, traditional registration and pre-requisite requirements, tuition and fees, semester or quarter time frames, required textbooks, and grades and credits.

In other words, MOOCs are projected variations of standard online courses. As such, they represent the outer limits of what online courses could be. The point is that the issue isn’t MOOCs themselves but the innovative features that they present for possible incorporation in online courses.

In this context, Schuwer et al.’s warning that, “in the long run, a threat to MOOCs may manifest, if they are not well-integrated in broader university strategies and do not establish their own role within the university offerings” is only half correct. That is, for the open features of MOOCs to evolve, they must be integrated into existing online course policies and procedures. However, establishing “their own role within the university offerings” may not only be redundant but a costly failure in terms of the growth of 21st century practices.  Continue reading

‘Towards a European Perspective on Massive Open Online Courses’

Bert Kimura By Bert Kimura

The following is a brief description of “Special Issue: Towards a European Perspective on Massive Open Online Courses” (International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 16.6, 2015):

We are pleased to bring you this special issue of IRRODL, edited by guest editors Markus Deimann and Sebastian Vogt. Deimann and Vogt have chosen a timely topic for scrutiny, that of a European perspective of the past, present, and future state of MOOCs. (Dianne Conrad, IRRODL co-editor)

IRRODL was started by Terry Anderson at Athabasca University (“Canada’s Open University”) and, in my opinion, is one of the better (or best) academic OER publications. Dr. Anderson is a leading researcher in distance learning and has been at it for about 30 years.

Here’s a peek at the table of contents:

Editorial
Editorial – Volume 16, Issue Number 6
Markus Deimann, Sebastian Vogt
Research Articles
Matthias Rohs, Mario Ganz
Robert Schuwer, Ines Gil Jaurena, Cengiz Hakan Aydin, Eamon Costello, Christian Dalsgaard, Mark Brown, Darco Jansen, Antonio Teixeira
Abram Anders
Marco Kalz, Karel Kreijns, Jaap Walhout, Jonatan Castaño-Munoz, Anna Espasa, Edmundo Tovar
Christian Dalsgaard, Klaus Thestrup
Mark Brown, Eamon Costello, Enda Donlon, Mairead Nic Giolla-Mhichil
Darco Jansen, Robert Schuwer, Antonio Teixeira, Cengiz Hakan Aydin
Anders Norberg, Åsa Händel, Per Ödling
Vitor Rocio, José Coelho, Sandra Caeiro, Paula Nicolau, António Teixeira
Marta Ruiz Costa-jussà, Lluis Formiga, Oriol Torrillas, Jordi Petit, José Adrián Rodríguez Fonollosa

 

Respondus and Sakai: The Answer to Online Quizzes

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

You’ve been using a course management system (CMS) for your courses, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re completely online, completely onground, or somewhere in between. The CMS has some advantages, and you’re making use of them. If you’re like me, then you’ve also toyed with the idea of putting quizzes online.

It makes sense. It frees you from the drudgery and loss of class time associated with paper ‘n’ pencil tests. Students can take the quizzes on their own time, 24/7, as long as they complete them by a specified date. You can set it up for mastery learning so they can take it as many time as they need to before the deadline, with only the highest score being recorded.

And the scoring is done automatically, instantly, and the scores are recorded in the gradebook automatically, too. Students can log in to check their scores. You can log in, too, to look at their scores. Sounds great – until you actually tried to set up a simple quiz and found the klutziest interface in the world. So you remained with paper ‘n’ pencil or did away with quizzes altogether and replaced them with discussion forums geared to readings.

But the problem of students refusing to complete required readings unless there’s a quiz attached to them persists. The top third of the class will do the readings, but the rest will wing it. It hurts their performance, but they can’t or won’t make the connection. For these students, reading is a means to avoid the pain of flunked tests, not a means to learn, to improve performance.

So I returned to the testing function built into our Sakai CMS. It’d been a few years since I last tried it. Maybe it’d gotten better. But after a few minutes of poking around in it, I found it was just as klunky as ever. After rooting around for a bit in our university’s IT help files looking for a miracle, I found something called Respondus.

Respondus is an app. Our university system provides it free to all faculty. Yours probably does, too. The IT help page provides a click-here trail that leads to the site, followed by a download and set up on your computer’s desktop. Click the new icon, and, voilà, your test and quiz creation woes are over.

Respondus is a relatively simple to use test development app. It allowed me to create a ten-question multiple-choice quiz quickly and, dare I say it, naturally. This is done outside the CMS — which at once explains the ease of use and highlights the shortcomings of CMS environments.

After you’re done, the next step is to get the test into the CMS so your students can take it. The process is logical. You need to convert the quiz into a format (QTI) that Sakai can understand. Respondus does this for you when you click on the button to “Preview & Publish.” It walks you through a few steps and creates a folder where you want it. I chose the desktop. In the folder is the quiz file in the required QTI format.  Continue reading

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