Monday, January 29, 2007

Learning Objects from Wisc-Online

Wisconsin Online Resource Center

I've been exploring this learning object repository for sometime. They have a lot of useful 'stand alone' content. Objects are multimedia based and interactive. This is a database that covers a lot of college level topics (although many of the objects will be useful for high school educators & students as well).

At last count they had 1975 learning objects in their database. Once you join (a free membership) you can link to any of the objects for classroom use. If you're a media author, you can contribute, and possibly be paid for your work.

Many of the newer objects are being developed under grant from the NSF as explained below:

"Many of the new learning objects developed and published this academic year are related to the National Science Foundation's three-year grant to Fox Valley Technical College. These interactive learning objects focus on concepts that cover a broad-based electromechanical program. The majority of these objects have been created for electronics, but during the grant period, which goes until 2008, at least 300 more objects will be built that will focus on topic areas such as hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical design, and process control. For a complete list, visit -- Kay Chitwood, director."

This one's a keeper!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Online Teaching is like juggling... timing is important

Timing E-Learning Delivery

I still get nervous before a class. I keep checking the course tech, clicking links, trying to find the inevitable chinks in the armor. With two classes (almost 40 people) starting at UW-Stout tomorrow (E-Learning for Educators & Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits. Today is the last chance before an intense first week to work. Too often those first weeks feel like an avalanche (for the teacher and the student).

Things do settle down quickly, but only if you help folks feel safe, get oriented, and realize that an online class has people, not a machine, at the heart of it all.
There’s nothing more powerful when it comes to retention than making that personal connection.

I’ve poured my nervous energy into blogging and working with the calendars & timing elements of Desire2Learn and My Moodle site. (I give students full instructor level access to Moodle in the third module.) D2L lets you set release conditions for nearly everything. I wish there was a way to set global default timing calendar for everything, but I always want the software to do more.

If I get the timing right, I can forget about the mechanics of presentation and focus on making personal connections with all of my students.

Module Release Timing: I’ve set the opening dates for all of the modules on two different classes. We run the modules from Monday through Sunday, with each new module opening on Friday. This way the ‘weekend warriors’ can catch up or work ahead. I’ve tried dozens of configurations, but this one works best for me. (Of course, I work weekends on the class so I can monitor transitions fairly closely.)

Can I see my grades? I’ve also set the timing on the gradebook. I only want one new module to show up in the student gradebook each week. If learners see all the assignments waiting in the wings I think they get discouraged… or perhaps intimidated. Better to limit the view to what’s been done and what lies ahead in the coming week. I broadcast through the News menu that I wrap my grades over the weekend, but some still write worried over the points if they don’t see an almost instant update.

Gradebook Comments: I use the gradebook comments a lot. Students don't see the comments until I real ease them for view. I often make notes as I read in the comments area, and then pull it all together at the end of the module. Then I release the grade for the week. That’s where I want to deliver individual feedback. I think it has more impact if the assessment and evaluation comments are in the same personal space. This takes a lot of time. My biggest stressor during online classes is supplying meaningful (specific) feedback. That’s why I like to co-facilitate with Sara. We can share the eval duties and go deeper into discussion facilitation.

News Bulletins: I also time the news sections so critical info pops up at the right time. This is tricky with D2L. I have to set both an opening date and an order of presentation. In some cases I need to set a news item closing date too. This news section is a pain… but it’s better than Blackboard and eCollege. Moodle is more primitive. I can set the weeks of a class and what students see, but it’s all manual. I’ll bet some Moodler has figured out a plug in for timing, but I haven’t had the time to look (nor do I have the skills to install and tweak an open source plugin.

Hmm... what's left to do? I should do an audio overview for the writing class. Home I get it done in time.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Evaluating Credibility: Nuke Attack Insurance?

The Onion

CIA Director Quietly Buys Nuclear-Attack Insurance

BETHESDA, MD—According to sources at the Allstate Insurance Company, CIA Director Michael Hayden purchased nuclear-attack insurance...

I read this story with an "Onion" mindset. It gave me a grim chuckle.

Then I did an unintentionally mean thing.

I read this story out loud to my wife (with a straight face and without mentioning it came from the Onion).

After the fact I realized it was cruel, because the story has a faint ring of plausibility to it and we're all paranoid enough about the world situation. Hearing about the CIA & Nuke insurance over the first cup of coffee just wasn't right.

Jan didn't have the tip off of knowing I was reading from a satire site. Hearing that 35 top administration officials had purchased nuke insurance that had to be in place 'next Monday' tipped it a bit. We laughed nervously afterword, but I think I owe her a direct apology. (She was thinking that can't be true... we would of heard it some place else!)

Still, this piece helped me think about context and information evaluation. As an adult I have a lot of experience... I've lived in many contexts. Kids don't have this experience. They are by nature gullible and passionate once they commit to a belief. (Try to convince a kid he's running with a bad crowd after he's bonded with the bad guys and you'll see what I mean.)

Bottom line: we're all more vulnerable to bad information than we want to believe. I want to remind myself NOT TO ASSUME that folks (students, teachers, friends) will see through the haze and automatically critique information that's pouring in from EVERYWHERE.

So what can we do? One student at a time: teach critical thinking, teach basic evaluation strategy, foster a skeptical mindset.

How? We don't have Time to Teach! For on demand flash games to teach evaluation strategies, try these from the 21cif project: Learning Games

Let's prove Barnum wrong... at least a little bit every day!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Assessment in the Online Classroom: Last Call

EDUC 744 959F Assessment in the Online Classroom 

3 Graduate Units. Course Starts January 29, 2007

Folks we've got room in Dr. Datta Kaur Khalsa's new Assessment Class. This course is applicable to the UW-Stout Online Masters in Education, and is aimed right at those of you seeking to become highly effective online teachers. 

Datta is a great teacher. I've known her for years. She's currently running a K-12 Charter School in Arizona. She has an extensive background in e-learning (we've taught together before at several other universities) as well as international multicultural education, online communities, diversity training and a dozen other fields of expertise. She's terrific!!!

We're holding open registration through this weekend.

Jump in, you won't be sorry!

Dennis O'Connor

Program Coordinator, E-Learning & Online Teaching Program

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Phoenix University Owners going into k-12?

The Apollo Group, Inc. is the owner of the hugely successful Phoenix University virtual and face to face education system. One wonders what they will do with the k-12 model of online ed? ~ Is this a good thing or a bad thing? ~Dennis

PHOENIX--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apollo Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:APOL) announced that it has acquired Insight Schools, an innovator in online high school education.

Insight Schools, based in Portland, Oregon, is led by a management team with significant experience in the area of K-12 online education. The company was founded by Mr. Keith Oelrich, whose prior experience includes positions as President and CEO of KC Distance Learning (KCDL) and Apex Learning. Mr. Oelrich and his team are remaining with the company under the new ownership. Apollo acquired Insight Schools in October of 2006.

The management team at Insight is exceptional and they are similarly attuned to issues of academic quality, retention and service, said Brian Mueller, President of Apollo Group. We view this as an opportunity to extend into a new business by bringing in a seasoned management team, so that we can maintain our focus on our important initiatives at University of Phoenix.

Insight partners with local communities and school districts to build and operate their schools. Insight Schools launched their first school, Insight Schools of Washington, in September 2006, with over 600 full-time students. Insight School of Washington is a statewide, online public alternative high school; as a public school, the program is tuition-free to students resident in Washington. All teachers at Insight Schools are certified teachers, experienced in the subject areas they teach, and mentors are also assigned to work with each student to ensure that they are remaining active and engaged in their schoolwork.

Students in grades 9-12 can attend and are able to select from six academic tracks, such as Advanced Placement (AP), College Prep, Foundations, or English as a Second Language (ESL). Students attend classes via the Internet. Additionally, community-building activitiesboth face-to-face and onlineare organized by the school. Like University of Phoenix, Insight Schools markets directly to families, as opposed to providing content and services to school districts.

Online learning in the K-12 arena is gaining momentum across the country, said Mueller. We think this is an opportunity for us to leverage our existing resources, management expertise, and national presence to tap into an exciting and important new market.

Apollo Group, Inc. has been providing higher education programs to working adults for almost 30 years. Apollo Group, Inc. operates through its subsidiaries: The University of Phoenix, Inc.; Institute for Professional Development; The College for Financial Planning Institutes Corporation; and Western International University, Inc. The consolidated enrollment in its educational programs makes it the largest private institution of higher education in the United States. It offers educational programs and services at 100 campuses and 159 learning centers in 39 states, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, Alberta, British Columbia, Netherlands, and Mexico.

UW-Stout E-Learning Program

Hi folks, I'm pulling out the stops and using my Moodle mailer to contact as many of my online colleagues as possible. (I'm also sending this to UW-Stout Email accounts, my apologies if you get this twice.)

I'd like to fill you in on the new E-Learning and Online Teaching program I am coordinating for the University of Wisconsin Stout.

We've got 3 of our E-Learning Courses starting on January 29, 2007, with the 4th, starting in April 2, 2007! Please help me spread the word about our new program by passing this information along to your network?

January 29, 2007

EDUC 744 947F E-Learning for Educators

EDUC 744 955F Creating Collaborative Communities

EDUC 744 959F Assessment in the Online Classroom

April 2, 2007

EDUC 744 960F Instructional Design for Online Learning

Please consider registering for a class or pass this info on to a friend!

Hope to see you online.

(AKA: Wiredinstructor)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Digital Investigator Training

Free Integrated Curriculum: Language Arts & Information Fluency

Grab it while it lasts....

Digital Investigator Training is a way for middle and high school students to learn valuable digital information fluency skills. Educators interested in the teacher’s guides should contact us at:

In this training course you will learn to:

  • Power Search for Digital Resources
  • Evaluate Digital Materials
  • Use Digital Materials in an Ethical Manner


  • Search more efficiently using a focused strategy.
  • Quickly evaluate the accuracy and authority of web resources.
  • Use digital resources in your research process in an ethical manner

I wrote this last year for the 21st Century Information Project. Let me know what you think?

~ D

RSS Readers & Blogs

I'm chasing an idea... how can I use an RSS reader to keep track of my class blogs? And how can I teach my class to do the same? At first blush it seems simple... add the RSS feed from any blog and bingo I can track the work. Just ask folks to send their blog url one time and it's done...

However I've found that what seems simple to me can confuse (and frustrate) many of my online students. RSS frustrated me at first so I'm concerned that it will bug my students. Luckily the latest versions of I.E. and Firefox make it fairly painless to subscribe to feeds.

Then there are rss readers like bloglines and google reader... there are many, and each has it's own quirks. I've got a bloglines account so, I'll fiddle there a bit, but I'm drawn to the Google tool because I've set up a desktop office using their stuff. I'm hooked on keyword searching my gmail account and have been dumping content from all my addresses into gmail for months. I've got years of Eudora mail I need to upload to gmail as well.. another background task...

At the moment I've gone overboard on rss readers. I've got Flock, I.E. & Firefox reading feeds on two different machines. I've got bloglines and google reader working, but I'm finding I go to Flock just for feed reading. It's the simplest system of them all (IMHO). If Flock were as fast as Firefox... I'd be there. (I know, you can configure FireFox so that it has most of Flocks features, but it's more nerd work than I have time for.)

Like all simple ideas, untangling it all and getting test cases working is step one. I feel I need to know it to teach it. I wonder if I should just toss the idea to the class and let them hack out their own solutions. The concept appeals... sweet constructivism, but the reality is folks are paying big tuition and have a right to a guide... I always try to walk down the center... offer a guided path, and suggest folks forage around on their own too. (My version of differentiated instruction.)

Next, I'll have to answer how I can teach this idea online without hopelessly tangling the newbies or boring the veterans. My inclination is to find the simplest system, do a tutorial, and suggest a path. On the flip side, I'll endorse the idea that anyone can try to get the same task done with any tool that intrigues them.

Any of you that stumble here, please suggest the best tech for the task?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

We'll be at WEMA!

Carl Heine and I will be presenting on March 27, at the Wisconsin Educational Media Association (WEMA) 2007 Spring Conference.

We'll be talking about new developments with the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy's 21st Century Information Fluency Project.

I'll post more info as it solidifies!

~ Dennis@SanMarcos

Web 2.0 Edition: Full Circle Resource Kit

We've just released the latest edition of the Full Circle Resource Kit:

This Kit is dedicated to Web 2.0 and Information Fluency. Featured in this issue is a podcast with Joyce Valenza, as well as her article on evaluating blogs. We also have a piece from Doug Johnson on the merits of Wikipedia.

As always you'll find new flash games designed to teach search and evaluation skills. This time the games focus on tag searching Flickr and evaluating the bias in blogs.

Check out our FREE resources:

~ Den

Monday, January 01, 2007

Technorati: Getting Connected

I'm working on getting connected to the blogosphere. At the moment my goal is to get into the top million blogs. 8-) All that will take is a 33% improvement!

For those not familiar with the Blog search engine Technorati, give it a click! It's a great webtool!

~ Den

My Technorati Profile

Graduate Level: e-Learning & Online Teaching Program: University of Wisconsin-Stout

Want to learn how to teach online? There's a new E-Learning & Online Teaching Program at the University of Wisconsin Stout!

E-Learning is changing when, where, and how we learn. Those of us teaching and learning online are at the vanguard. Technology changes daily and we must too, as we build the flexible habits of mind to adapt and grow in these new virtual environments.

I have been thinking about the kind of experiences and training it takes to be an online instructor. I've talked with experienced online colleagues about what worked best in their training. We all gained a great deal from our formal studies. However it was the hands on experience of actually teaching online that made all the difference.

New Online Training Program

Hands on experience using the tools and practicing facilitation help the theoretical connect with the practical. With this essential idea in mind, I have been working with the instructional staff at UW-Stout to create a graduate level E-Learning and Online Teaching Program.

The courses are designed for both experienced professionals and interested newcomers to online learning.

The courses will appeal to instructors who are interested in designing new online courses, creating hybrid courses, or converting courses from interactive television systems to web-based delivery.

Participants will learn educational and instructional theory as well as practice hands-on application of Internet technology and course management technologies for both hybrid and fully online learning environments.

Want to know more? Drop me an email!

Dennis O'Connor (Program Coordinator)