Format of a Digital Content

All media messages have different kinds of contents intended for a particular target audience. Audience plays an important role in shaping the language of the digital message and in constructing the overall form of the digital content. Thus, the language and “…the way a message is constructed, the creative components [and techniques, and the symbols] that are used in putting it together – words, music, color, movement, camera angle and many more” (Centre for Media Literacy, n.d.) defines the format of a digital content.

The format of the message is one of the important aspects of a digital content. In order to understand different meanings of any message, it is important for learners to recognize the techniques used in communicating the message visually. For example, camera close-ups of characters convey emotions and intimacy and scary background music depicts a horror scene. Also, understanding the format of the message – in terms of its grammar, syntax, and visual language – enables the target audience to appreciate and enjoy the digital content and it helps the audience “to be less susceptible to manipulation” (Centre for Media Literacy, n.d.). Therefore, having a solid “constructed” format using appropriate language and creative visual techniques will attract the attention of the audience and impart the correct meaning of the message.

When creating a digital material, a thorough learner analysis will indicate which creative techniques and what level of the language can be used to design the format of a digital content in order to achieve the desired learning outcomes. For instance, when designing a digital material to introduce the concept of fractions to Grade 4 students, the language in the material should be simple and a creative approach like an online game or a story with visuals would make the material more engaging for young children. Therefore, creative language and techniques are recommended when designing the format of any digital material in order to attract the attention of the audience; however, learner analysis should also be considered when designing the format of the digital content.

References:

Center for Media Literacy. (n.d.). Five Key Questions Form Foundation for Media Inquiry. Retrieved from http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/five-key-questions-form-foundation-media-inquiry

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Software Review on HelloSlide

Software and its features

I used HelloSlide to prepare my digital media presentation for Learning Task 2. This software creates a presentation using a previously created presentation – in PowerPoint – and adds audio functionality using a written script provided by the user. It is a free software and provides free web hosting; however, not all functionalities are provided in a free version. For example, creating a presentation with audio in another language is available to paid users (Pro users) only. Also, sharing the presentation privately with other people is available to Pro users only.

HelloSlide is quite easy to use and it requires basic computer typing and internet browsing skills; hence, it is a great software for novices who would like to create a digital presentation on the web. However, it requires skills in creating a Powerpoint presentation and converting that presentation into a PDF file which is used by the software to create a web presentation. Thus, HelloSlide can only work with PDF files. Moreover, since the software relies only on a PDF file to create an online presentation, it does not provide any slide templates to the user. Any template selection is done in the PowerPoint presentation.

The software also has FAQs on its website which answers most of the questions for new users like steps in creating a presentation, maximum file sizes, steps in converting a Powerpoint presentation into a PDF file, etc. There is also a support phone line and email address to ask questions and provide feedback to the creators of HelloSlide.

HelloSlide also provides the flexibility of changing the header and description of the presentation. It does not have a separate application for mobile devices but any mobile device with an internet connection can access this software. When a presentation is created in HelloSlide, it provides user with a URL link to the presentation and an HTML string which can be used to embed the presentation on the website. It also allows the user to tweet the link of the presentation and allows the user to log into Facebook account to post the link. Fortunately, the software does not put any ads or any pop up menu items when it is accessed over the web.

After working with HelloSlide, I think it is a great tool for any learner who can create a PowerPoint presentation and wants to host and share the presentation on the web. Therefore, HelloSlide provides learners with a web hosting platform for a PowerPoint presentation with voice-over audio functionality.

Benefits of HelloSlide

One of the features of HelloSlide which is helpful when building a presentation is its ability to add voice to the presentation and play the presentation with audio. The slide transition with audio is just like a presentation conducted with a live voice of a presenter. Adding audio into the presentation is an easy task; it is done with a click to audio settings and typing few sentences below each slide.

Another benefit of HelloSlide which beats the competition is its ability to run a presentation in 20 different languages. Although this feature is only available to paid users, with a reasonable subscription, this feature is beneficial to non-English speaking learners or learners who are beginning to learn English language.

Drawbacks of HelloSlide

One of the drawbacks of HelloSlide is its incompatibility with other types of files. HelloSlide works with only a PDF file and converts it into a web presentation. Hence, the software is not flexible to support other file formats.

It is also inconvenient for the user to modify a certain slide in the presentation. When a modification is required, it cannot be done directly in HelloSlide. It is done in the PowerPoint presentation and then converted into a PDF file to be used by HelloSlide.

Lastly, I wish there was a way to display any slide for certain amount of time when running the presentation on the web. If a certain slide does not have a written script for voice-over audio, HelloSlide displays it for only 1 second! So the transition of a slide show depends on the script.

Overall Score

I had a wonderful experience preparing my digital media presentation using HelloSlide and never experienced a frustrating moment! After taking into consideration its benefits and drawbacks, I would give an overall grade of A- to HelloSlide. One of the aspects which stood out the most is its easy use. The disappointing aspect is its inability to allow modification within HelloSlide since any modification to the presentation is done at the Powerpoint level. And when the modified presentation is uploaded again into HelloSlide, it is uploaded as a new presentation. So, in order to have your original voice-over script for audio, the user has to copy the script from the previous presentation. I found this to be bit inconvenient.

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Photo Editing – Inquiry into Digital Content

I chose a photo which was taken during my trip to a desert in Dubai, UAE in March of 2010. The photo shows a storage hut with a desert motor vehicle and a resting place for camels (on the left) and two camels (my friend is riding one of the camels) and a guide approaching the hut from behind.

I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 to edit and manipulate the original photograph. Below is the original photograph.

Image1

Original Photo – Dubai Desert

The first manipulation that was done to the original image was flipping it horizontally. Below is the horizontally flipped image.

Image2

Horizontally Flipped Photo

The second manipulation that was done to the original image was cropping it using the Rule of Thirds. I used the cropping with Rule of Thirds tool in Adobe Photoshop and I was able to see intersecting lines that divided the picture – horizontally and vertically – into thirds. I concentrated on the storage hut and I was able to get intersecting lines on the hut. My upper horizontal third in the picture below contains the blue sky while the lower horizontal third contains the desert with brown sand.

Image33

Cropped Image using Rule of Thirds

The third manipulation that was done to the above image was to erase the picture of the two camels, my friend, and the guide approaching the hut from behind. This manipulation produced the image of a storage hut with a desert motor vehicle (see below). It was done using Spot Healing Brush tool. Using this tool was quite challenging and time consuming but with trial and error, I was able to erase the required object and then refine the image by filling the gaps obtained after erasing the object. Therefore, Spot Healing Brush tool was helpful in erasing the required object and refining the image to fill the gaps.

Image4

Image without camels, guide, and my friend!

Lastly, I changed the saturation of the image so that the image now appears black and white (see below). This was quite easy to do in Photoshop with just two mouse clicks: clicking on the saturation tab and then selecting the appropriate amount of saturation from the list.

Image5

1824 A.D. Black & White picture!

I usually use Microsoft Office Picture manager software to edit my pictures; hence, this was my first time using Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. Since I heard positive reviews on Adobe Photoshop from other people, I wanted to experiment this software and explore its features. Photoshop is an interesting software; there are so many things you can do with it when it comes to editing photos and there is also an online user manual for beginners.

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My Overall Experience in EDER 677 Course

Six weeks of summer session went by so fast and now Distributed Learning course is almost over! It was a short term but there was a lot to learn in this course. The selection of readings for this course was phenomenal and the readings were relevant to the topic covered every week. Starting the course by reading NMC Horizon report caught my interest in this course; I think that was a great start! The other reading which I found interesting was a report by Alberta Teachers’ Association on “The impact of digital technologies on teachers working in flexible learning environments”. I found this reading to be quite comprehensive and it is a true reflection of current trends in educational technology.

It was my first time using Elluminate Live software in this course but I was amazed with Elluminate’s ability to create a virtual classroom. I found all three Elluminate sessions to be quite engaging and they certainly created a classroom atmosphere.

I also enjoyed sharing my experience and knowledge I gained from every week’s readings on reflection blogs. These blogs provided me with a medium where I was able to express my past experiences, ideas, and opinions about educational technologies. I was not able to read everybody’s blogs but the ones I read were well presented and they had some thought provoking questions. I enjoyed posting my blogs to an extent that I think it should be a weekly exercise!

Regarding article review learning task – it was a great exercise in analyzing a peer reviewed article. This task was a great learning opportunity to build my knowledge and skills in reviewing an article and the knowledge built from this exercise was helpful in analyzing a big list of literature for a research topic of my final report.

Finally, I would like to mention about the feedback I have got from Dr. MacLachlan regarding my article review, blog posting, and my proposal and I am very grateful for that support. The feedback has always been very encouraging and I have always had my emails promptly replied by Dr. Maclachlan. Also, the feedback I have received on my blog postings and my article review from my colleagues have been very encouraging. So, thank you very much for your support too! Overall, I have enjoyed my experience in this course and I have learned a lot in just six weeks!

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E-Intensive Learning with Online Self and Peer Assessment

Students who are comfortable with traditional classroom can be overwhelmed with distance learning because there are no face-to-face instructions and there is independent studying, yet there is a flexibility to do coursework at anytime. In order to make distance learning more effective and exciting for students and teachers, there are two useful tools that can be utilized online: online Self-assessment and online Peer assessment. So what is online self and peer assessment? And how can learning be effective if it included these assessments?

Online self assessment is an online process of self-testing in order to assess knowledge on any given topic (Ibade & Jauregizar, 2010) while online peer assessment is an online process where students “assess the work of their peers” (Bouzidi & Jaillet, 2009).

Both assessments can be helpful to students in distance learning. Online self assessment provides students with self assessment exercises which they can use to test their knowledge and receive immediate, impartial feedback to their responses (Ibade & Jauregizar, 2010). Peer assessment on the other hand, is a collaborative assessment where students share ideas and provide feedback online; hence, they learn from each other (Bouzidi & Jaillet, 2009). For teachers, both assessments are helpful. Peer assessment reduces teachers’ workload by having fewer assessments to complete but it is still teachers’ responsibility to monitor these online assessments ((Bouzidi & Jaillet, 2009). In self assessment, teachers can access students’ results, monitor their performance, and provide necessary guidance when needed (Ibade & Jauregizar, 2010).

Since peer assessment is a collaborative activity, can it be trusted? How can students avoid personal conflicts when giving online assessment? And how can students ensure more objective assessment and less subjective assessment? These are some of the questions that need to be answered in order to implement online assessments in e-learning process. Some recommendations to enrich the learning environment through peer assessment are ensuring anonymity when assessing any student’s work online, having multiple assessors for each student’s work (Bouzidi & Jaillet (2009) suggested at least 4 assessors), having a teacher to monitor all the online assessments, and having an assessment guide, a marking scheme, or a checklist prepared by the teacher so that students can use it when providing an assessment.

Both online peer and self assessments are beneficial to students and teachers in a distance learning environment. But in order to make these assessments pedagogically effective, careful planning and its future implications need to be considered before implementing them in an e-intensive setting.

References:

Bouzidi, L., & Jaillet, A. (2009). Can Online Peer Assessment be Trusted?. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 257-268.

Ibabe, I., & Jauregizar, J. (2010). Online self-assessment with feedback and metacognitive knowledge. Higher Education, 59(2), 243-258. doi:10.1007/s10734-009-9245-6

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E-focused Organic Chemistry Class

General Organic Chemistry course which I took at the university reminds me of blended learning classroom where I had face-to-face lectures in a science theatre and Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) sessions. A chemical bonding in reality is a three dimensional (3D) bonding and any chemical reaction involving hydrocarbons takes place in 3D style. Hence, the organic structures and reactions were introduced in the lectures in order to learn major scientific theories while the CAL sessions played an important role by showing those structures and reactions on a computer in a 3D scale, just like viewing them in reality.

CAL sessions were accessed from any computer with internet connection; so it provided a flexible learning environment that “enable[d] unlimited connectivity for teachers and students from any part of the world” (M. Hastie et al., 2010). Some of the quizzes in the sessions were required to be completed by certain deadline; however, they were completed outside class at any time.

Viewing organic compounds in 3D scale on a computer also helped in understanding the mechanism of a particular chemical reaction (involving those compounds) covered in the lecture. There was a connection between in-class lectures and CAL sessions because a particular session covered the topics discussed in the lectures for that week. The session also had its own knowledge testing quiz at the end. Based on the performance in the quiz, every learner was given a computer generated feedback which was beneficial in improving areas of concerns throughout the course.

One aspect which should be adopted in these sessions is monitoring of the system where instructors would “have a clear picture of what is happening; they [would]… know who is participating and how” (D.Persico et al., 2010). This kind of approach would give a clear idea about each student’s behavior online: did the student complete the lesson successfully before taking the quiz or did the student just log into the system in order to complete the quiz – which was due in few hours – after getting the answers from other students who completed their online quiz. These questions are fair questions to be determined if the course grade is dependant on the successful completion of online quizzes in CAL sessions.

Based on my experience with CAL sessions, the overall course can be designed online without the need of face-to-face lectures except for the laboratory part of the course where hands-on experience and skills in dealing with organic compounds are recommended. Some online universities – like Athabasca University – have adopted this kind of approach in their Organic Chemistry course. However, blended learning approach is easier than distance learning approach because in distance learning, one has to be more disciplined in order to meet all deadlines, yet there is a flexibility to engage in learning at anytime and from anywhere!

References:

Hastie, M., I.-Chun, H., & Nian-Shing, C. (2010). A blended synchronous learning model for educational international collaboration. Innovations In Education & Teaching International, 47(1), 9-24. doi:10.1080/14703290903525812

Persico, D., Pozzi, F., & Sarti, L. (2010). Monitoring collaborative activities in computer supported collaborative learning. Distance Education, 31(1), 5-22. doi:10.1080/01587911003724603

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E-enhanced Learning through Online Collaborative Activity

For the past 5 years, I have had great opportunity teaching Investment Strategies (IS) program to students in Grades 8 and 9 at different schools.  This program is operated by Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta, a non-profit organization providing different programs to youths in order to build their non-academic skills. IS program utilizes in-class technologies like smart board and PowerPoint presentation and it involves internet-based activities like online stock market simulation where groups of students set their online investment portfolio and engage in trading activities, just like the real stock market.

One aspect of IS program which I find quite interesting is the 6-week long, web-based stock market simulation where groups of students compete with other groups in maximizing their virtual funds. Every year, it is an exciting experience to see students collaborating in this activity and promoting learning through group discussions. Much to my delight is to see how quickly they gain knowledge from online simulation which provides resources like Google finance and different stock exchange websites. For instance, when I started introducing topics like Ticker Symbols and public and private stocks, the students were already familiar with these topics from their simulation. Moreover, most groups knew which stocks were highly recommended for trading in the stock market and when to sell investments in order to make profits. Thus, this online collaborative activity “promot[es] ………. conceptual understanding to the enhancement of motivation and development of group problem-solving abilities” (Persico et al, 2010) in students.

One of the issues I have encountered in this program is the availability of technical support. Often times, I have come across situations where I am not able to play YouTube videos related to investment strategies due to internal firewall blocking access to view videos. Lack of timely technical support and “restricted access to the available technology [are]……..limiting factors to making instruction more flexible in terms of time and space” (The Alberta Teachers’ Association, 2011, p.17)

Finally, this e-enhanced activity in IS program promotes learning among students; however, it would be helpful for a program instructor to be able to use online analytical tools to monitor this collaborative learning. As Persico et al (2013) mentioned “monitoring is a crucial activity for informing practice as well as research”; hence, these tools can provide deep and specific understanding on how students are learning about investment strategies through collaboration. It can also provide quantitative data on the use of resources – frequently used and underused resources – in the online simulation.

References:

Persico, D., Pozzi, F., & Sarti, L. (2010). Monitoring collaborative activities in computer supported collaborative learning. Distance Education, 31(1), 5-22

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (2011). The impact of digital technologies on teachers working in flexible learning environments. Retrieved electronically 15 July 2013 from https://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Research/PD-86-21%20Impact%20of%20Digital%20Technologies.pdf

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3D Printing Technology in Teaching and Learning

As a science instructor at Calgary Science Network (CSN), one of the challenges is to find an appropriate strategy of introducing scientific concepts to very young children in Grades 2 to 5. Most of the time, I introduce a scientific concept using pictures from books or pictures generated from google search. Pictures certainly help in understanding a concept to some extent; however, they raise interesting, curiosity related questions. From my experience, having a prototype or a model that can be used to introduce a subject matter helps answering most questions in class. Hence, 3D printing can be very helpful over here since it can “build a tangible model or prototype from the electronic file……using plastics and other flexible materials” (Johnson et al., 2013).

When I introduced the concept of magnetism to grade 5 students, I showed them physical models of different kinds of magnets and how each kind behaved differently with other magnets and objects around it.  This helped because “it enable[d] more authentic exploration of objects” (Johnson et al., 2013). Moreover, the students played with different models and after careful investigation and collaboration with others in class, they came to know about polarities of different magnets. Thus, using magnets created by 3D printers provided me with an opportunity to establish an inquiry driven learning environment where students explored and investigated independently (Chase et al., 2011). I mostly acted as a supplier of different magnets and an initiator of the learning opportunity. Therefore, this clearly shows “[w]ith access to technology, learning is in the hands of the students. The teacher, then, fills the role of knowledge node rather than fountain of knowledge” (Chase et al., 2011)

Some of the issues I am concerned about 3D printing is the longer time it will take to get adopted into our educational system. Provincial educational funding cuts may not put 3D printing in their list of priorities without realizing its benefits in teaching and learning. Also Johnson, Smith, Levine and Haywood (2013) mentioned “as the technology becomes cheaper and more prevalent in schools and afterschool programs, access will no longer be an obstacle for the widespread adoption of 3D printing”. However, we should ask ourselves: how much would the schools spend in maintenance of 3D printers, printers’ technical support and ongoing training on proper usage of these printers? 3D printers are certainly beneficial to schools but before adopting this technology, the schools should know its future implications through costs versus benefits analysis.

References:

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Levine, A., and Haywood, K. (2013). 2013 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Chase, Z., and Laufenberg, D. (2011). Digital Literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(7), 535-537.

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Welcome to my E-Learning Blog!

Welcome to UCalgaryBlogs.ca.

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