Friday, 20 February 2009

Charles Dickens for eLearning!

Type the name Charles Dickens into a search engine and you will be met with millions of results. One of the best sites and given the thumbs up on a Google search is David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page. It is a treasure trove of information not limited to the man and his work. Historical context is provided to show how the author was informed and inspired. The site includes contemporary maps and images of settings related to locations in Dickens work.

I found David Perdue's page a few years ago when Bleak House was the current dramatisation on BBC1 and thus inspired me to use the internet to find out more about the author. The wonder of the words of a Charles Dickens tale is a fond memory of an earlier age.

My stern and rather scary headmaster read 'A Christmas Carol' to the whole of the junior school over a number of weeks. I never looked forward to assembly so much and never were so many children so quiet for so long in an assembly hall as during those few weeks leading up to Christmas that year. That marked the beginning for me. Since then I've watched TV and film adaptations and read the actual novels too. When searching the net in between episodes of Bleak House on the BBC that winter I found sites that offered full texts of his work like Charles Dickens Online. David Perdue's page is however one I do return to every now and again when I want to read some interesting information surrounding various favourite characters.

Like Sairey Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewitt. This is said not to be one of his best by people who are said to know better but I enjoy the story and the various characters. For Mrs. Gamp there is a brief but informtive description and the option to see a picture as illustrated in the original publication. This follows for all of Dickens characters, though not all with image option.

I recently introduced this site to my manager as one of my favourite sites but possibly one we could consider as an elearning resource to direct students towards. It was a positive experience because he was immediately intrigued with what was offered. A link could be added to our Virtual Learning Environment for our own learners. It is regularly updated so it is a site you can visit again and again and not feel as if you've seen everything. I would recommend this site as a good resource for students of Dickens and for anyone who loves Charles Dickens and just wants to know more.

Has anyone got any better elearning sites for Charles Dickens? I would be very interested especially if you reckon your choice is better than David Perdue's Charles Dickens Page.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A Tasty Sprout. Get it Free - while you can!

Today I found a sprout I like and I think you might like it too. Forgive me if you already know about this. I just discovered this today and it is one of my aims to share and post possible elearning tools on this blog (see my very first post). Sprout is not specifically aimed at elearning but it has possibilities as you will see and I include it for this reason.

Sprout is a builder of web content that is easy for teachers, students and anyone who wants to create a widget for their website. Content can also be put on a wide variety of social media and networking sites including Blogger, Facebook and MySpace. It's free and you need no coding experience. What more could an educator or anyone else want?

Watch this video to see and hear more: has more information including video presentations of what you can build.

'Build, Publish, Manage' is Sprout's 1,2,3 of how easy create rich web content. It is in what it creates that makes Sprout an attractive tool for anyone wishing to make stimulating and motivating content for visitors to their sites or for students or for any audience.
Sprout lets you create your own:
- widgets
- mini-sites
- banners
- mashups

Sprout's been around for about a year, gathered from browsing news and reviews. Current news is not pleasing though - it is that Sprout will soon start offering service on a fee basis only so one attraction for cash strapped educators will be lost. Maybe in the current climate Sprout will wait awhile before demanding fees. In the meantime you should get using Sprout while you can. I know I will.

A couple of hours later...
I made my first sprout choosing one of my hobbies as the focus. It was very easy to use. Images, backgrounds and templates are available but you can also upload your own images and store them as assets.

I published my sprout to my Facebook profile. Once published any changes are automatically updated so you only have to embed the code once. It can be shared and embedded on other sites. Now working on another with education as elearning as the focus. Have a go yourself!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Help! I need to learn how to use the VLE!

When the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) was installed on your educational institution's network, did you receive a day or even two, of training including a workshop where it all seemed to make sense? Off you went with good intentions of making your teaching and learning materials available online. This is the future you thought. This is elearning.
Then you returned to your daily schedule and somehow you just never got back to the VLE until your manager makes it one of the tasks for the week that you make sure your resources are uploaded to the VLE.
You login to your learning platform and you get out and browse through your notes from the special training session (or two). You're trying to recall the actions that brought you success in the camaraderie of the training room. You may be fortunate and remember or find your notes actually help you to achieve your goal and you succeed with self satisfaction. What if you are not so lucky?

Uploading Office files is the usual starting point and though relatively simple demands assistance and support and a little bit of that camaraderie. Colleagues who are more advanced in their understanding and use of the learning platform installed in your institution and have admin rights to create courses are in a good position to provide support for their colleagues. Really good teachers are in need of support when facing the demands of elearning and their role in it. Elearning need not be a stumbling block if the technology fit help the struggling team members through the barrier.

Teaching staff can learn from each other and collaborate to gain a firmer grasp of the elearning tool they have at their disposal. I have used Digitalbrain in the past but I am currently working at a college that uses the open source application Moodle. Other platforms include Blackboard and WebCT but I have no experience of these as yet.

I found this presentation while looking for learning tools to teach myself Moodle. It gives a good overview of what is possible on this learning platform.

It is obviously our role to teach and support the learning of learners but it is also good practice to assist and sometimes teach colleagues how to achieve their goals in elearning.
Staff are sometimes worried about revealing that they do not know how to, for instance, successfully upload a file to the VLE especially to their managers who expect that having had the training they can do the task.
By the way the problem with uploading files is one I dealt with recently. It turned out to be a simple case of ensuring the files were uploaded from the network drive and not from a USB flash drive.

As I am myself learning through practice about creating courses and adding resources. I am developing my skills and knowledge by trial and experience. I have also searched the internet for online resources to teach myself how to use Moodle and get the best out of it and hopefully as a result provide very good elearning resources for our learners. You may find the following links useful for your own elearning and information about Moodle and VLEs in education.


Moodle: Teacher Documentation

Virtual Learning Environments

Moodle Guide for Beginners

Moodle Girl's Blog

Training the Web Worker Way - Moodle

VLE's Slow to Take Off