Goodbye from me

Cutting the cordHi everyone,
Moving from an ‘old’ year to a new year is a time to take stock, check one’s priorities and possibly make changes.  And so….

I’ve decided to move from semi-retired to….well….completely retired. 🙂 This means there won’t be any more newsletters.  I’ll leave the old ones up though, so you can still access the archives and search functions of both this e-Update as well as the old SA E-learning Newsletter.

I feel I have built a relationship with many of you over the years so this hasn’t been an easy decision, but I”m sure e-learning will continue to evolve and grow and newcomers to it will find their niche.

So now I’m debating whether to finish off with “So long and thanks for all the fish” or “Marlene has left the building” but it all seems a bit clichéd [grin] …so perhaps I’ll just say…

Goodbye and good luck to you all.  It’s been fun.

Marlene Manto


What day is it again?

Hi everyone,2014-10-28 17.08.15

Did you watch the TV show Catalyst last week…the segment about open plan offices?  Brought back memories of trying to concentrate on writing a report to the strains of ‘Happy birthday to yooo…” being sung in the next cubicle. [chuckles]  Quite honestly, I’m not missing working in those kinds of environments and the article Need a productivity boost?  Stay at home seems to confirm that open-plan office environments actually lower productivity.  If you’re an employer, it might be worth giving the concept of tele-working a trial run….just to see what happens.  And if you’re an employee thinking…”Yeah….right….I wish…” then perhaps How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home might provide some strategies.  I used to work from home just one day a week, and I found it made a big difference.  Now, of course, I’m home every day so I’m very relaxed [grin]. Only thing is, I have to get a newspaper every now and again to remind myself what day it is!  Heh, heh…


These questions are answered every year when the Top 100 Tools for Learning comes out…and the 2014 list has just been released. Here are some highlights…..

What I find quite useful though is the Best of Breed section.  Say…you’re wanting to know the most popular tools for content authoring….or blogging….or video conferencing.  This will give you an idea as the scores come from votes from the global education sector.  Click on the individual tools and you get comments, past scoring rates and cost.  Useful, hey? 🙂


BYODBYOD = Bring Your Own Device, and basically it means allowing students and/or employees to use their own laptop/tablet etc rather than one provided.  Huge advantages for all….but what about security…technical issues…equity etc?  Technology Innovations Research has just released BYOD Guidelines for VET (project no. 4) and for anyone heading down this path (or considering it), it will be the answer to your prayers!  Not only a set of Guidelines, but a Readiness Self-Audit tool , sample policy documents, sample checklist for the technical brief plus case studies!  Pretty much a mapped out road for you to follow!  [grin] For those involved in the corporate learning environment, the above will still be very useful but also have a read of Mitigating the Risks of BYOD in corporate learning and perhaps How To Balance BYOD’s Convenience With Security.  It’s the way of the future! 🙂


Now why would you ever want a tool that makes fake text messages? 🙂  Oh, I can think of all sorts of funny images you could make to put into your online course and resources! [giggles] I don’t think I have to tell anyone that using images is much more engaging than plain text.  And Tombstoneusing funny images is even better!  I made my fake text image with SMS Generator and the tombstone with TombstoneBuilder.  Heh heh Learning is better when you’re laughing.  Get some ideas from Using Internet Memes to Connect with Your Class.


Birthday cakeSpeaking of humour, I had a giggle at You Might Be A Moodler.  Only another Moodler would understand.  😀 Did you know that Moodle is now 12 years old? It’s come a long way and has recently been named (again) as the most popular LMS…and the new tweaks and improvements are still happening.  Discussion going on in the E-learning Conversations LinkedIn Group is about the upcoming feature that will allow response to forums via email.  Cool!  Another feature….”Did you know that you can do your grading offline (at the beach, at the cabin, on the back of a horse)?”  Screen showing gameAnd what about a plug-in that turns boring quizzes into a Galaga-type game…it’s called Quizventure. Looking for actual course content to download?  Maybe you just want to turn your Moodle into something that looks more like a website ie with tabs along the top? Or you might want to read Three Tips For Moodle Users…which aren”t exactly tips….more about pointing out specific features.  🙂


Not nearly as scary as it sounds!  🙂 “One of the most common misconceptions about Augmented Reality is that it belongs in the future, when in fact it is all around us – right here, right now. It is also incredibly user-friendly whilst utilising cutting edge technology, making it ideal for incorporating into learning environments.”  This quote comes from How to get AR into the Classroom….you’ll also find some ideas for how to incorporate it into your teaching at How to Use Augmented Reality in the Classroom.Aurasma logo One of the best tools to use for the creation of AR is Aurasma, and there have been a number of Video Tutorials for Teachers that will help you get started. Trust me, you don’t need to be a techie-geek.  If you’ve got a coffee break coming up, take 8 minutes to watch this video and be prepared to say “Wow” a few times! [grin] 


Downloading future, please waitSometimes things sound futuristic (like AR) but then so do driverless cars and 3D printing….and these things have been around for a while now! Put your hand up if you remember Netscape Navigator. [looks around and counts hands].  Hmmmm…lots of people (like me) who’ve been around since the beginning of web browsing, as Netscape arrived 20 years ago!  The article Amazing 1960s Predictions About Satellites, Email, and the Internet is quite fascinating…this was predicted in a 1962 newspaper before the world wide web was even conceived!Comic Strip from 1962Looking forward now, check out the predictions in What Will Learning Look Like in the Year 2024?  Speaking of turning 20, the Gartner Hype Cycle turns 20 and the chart shown is a very interesting insight into what technologies have reached the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ and what is still at the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectation’.  Anybody bought a toaster connected to the internet lately? [sound of choked laughter]


Post it notesAfter 20 years as an e-learning project manager, I know for sure that it pays to be organised!  And sure..there are some good project management tools around but oh…why do they have to be so complex! I prefer the KISS principle, so I was interested when I heard about Trello (thx Carole McCulloch).  Trello logoAs the developers explain, “Drop the lengthy email threads, out-of-date spreadsheets, no-longer-so-sticky notes, and clunky software for managing your projects and get Trello, the easy, free, and visual way to organize your important stuff.”  Take the tour to find out more.  I like the fact that it comes as an app for most devices, and it all synchs automatically.  Gee…I wish I had this back in the 90’s when I first started managing e-learning projects!


Students working togetherGood projects require failure. Great projects can teach a student grit, but you have to model it yourself first. Processing failure with your students turns a moment of fear into an opportunity for learning in a safe place.” This comes from Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens and I think it’s the perfect reason why you should be incorporating technology into your teaching. You can learn together with your students, so failure is not something to fear.   You might also be interested to read Dos and Don’ts for Project Based Learning and/or Personalizing Project-Based Learning for Your Classroom. bullet pointsWhen the project is finished you can get your learners to present the outcome.  You might like to pass on 8 Tips for Making Beautiful Presentations or at the very least, People Don’t Kill Engagement – Power Point Bullets Do! [laughs]


AppsSometimes you don’t find what you’re looking for, because you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Ever had that experience?  Yeah, me too [nods]. There is a surprising amount of decision-making to be done before you even begin searching for that ‘just right’ app to use in your teaching, and a brand new tool has recently been released by the E-standards Group to help with that part of the process….it’s called the App Decision Tool, and it’s free for you to use. It won’t give you a list of apps as you need to know what you want first (and everyone’s needs are different), but after you’ve gone through the process you’ll be ready to go on the search. By the way, there’s an interesting discussion happening on the E-learning Conversations group called Do Teachers Need iPad Training?…what do you think?


crowded stationOK, I’ve run out of energy now so I think I’ll call it a day. [yawns and stretches] I don’t have to commute anymore [smug look] but I do remember those twice-daily stress level testers with not-so-fond memories so I thought you might like 14 Ways to Achieve Zen on Your Morning Subway Commute.  Helpful, aren’t I.  ROFL

Obviously I’ve lost the motivation to be serious and use my brain to think about e-learning….so I think it’s time to get a glass of something cold and alcoholic! [cheeky grin]  Don’t forget, if you’d like to buy me a glass of wine you can always do so by donating to my ‘keeping motivated’ fund.
Cheers!  🙂

I’m ba..aack! Did you miss me? :-)

Laptop by the poolHi everyone,

It was touch and go there for a while. The monumental effort involved in moving interstate. Then finally the chance to relax and slow down…. with an addictive background of blue skies, swaying palms and splashing water. I nearly didn’t make it back for another e-Update! But here I am, and I’ve come up with a personal compromise – I’ll put in the same amount of diligence and effort as I’ve always tried to do with these e-Updates, BUT researching and writing by the pool is allowed. Fair enough? [grin] So….despite having to do some serious catching up with my research, here’s what I’ve found for you…..


Comuter problemHow many times have you looked around the office and said “This website seems to be down….or is it just me?”  Somebody else jumps on and can tell you straight away whether or not they can access it.  This is a quick and easy way to work out if a website is actually down or not…but…what if you don’t have anyone else around to check for you?  Then try IsItJustMe….simply paste your URL into the box and this neat little tool will tell you immediately if the site is down.  If it’s your own website (eg online course), best to know for sure before you bother your hard-working IT support people.  🙂


NVELS ReportIn the recent report An Australian guide to the risk management of VET online e‑assessment, the major finding was that “...the quality of VET online e‑assessment outcomes cannot be treated as discrete ‘e‑assessment’ issues. What is required is a holistic approach grounded in an understanding of the assessment lifecycle.”  In other words, let’s get assessment right before we start debating the perceived issues of e-assessment.  Assessment has hit mainstream news recently with the question being asked What is the point of assessment in higher education anyway?  Provocative statements are being made such as “If a teacher is relying on a multiple-choice exam at the end of semester to give some inkling about what their students are thinking and who they are becoming, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the entire subject/unit is designed.” Come over to E-learning Conversations and let’s talk about it.


Why does an interview with an industry specialist have to be a boring video of him/her talking? Video can be a pain anyway (need a camera, set-up, file sizes etc) so grabbing audio can be easier.  But then what?  Came across this cool interview which will hopefully give you ideas….

Interview silhouettesThis example was made with GoAnimate which unfortunately is no longer free, however you could create a simple version with tools such as XtraNormal or Plotagon. If it all seems too hard, why not try a simple comic-strip maker such as StoryboardThat.  In The Benefits of Using Animation in eLearning the author says “Just because your trainees are all grown up doesn’t mean they have to stop enjoying the power of animation.”  If you’re struggling to engage your learners, perhaps try animation?


Screen of a courseHave you ever taken a course because you had to…not because you wanted to?  How much of it do you recall now? [chuckles]  In 5 Ways to Make Your Compliance Elearning Go Beyond the Screen, they ask (and attempt to answer) the question “How can compliance courses engage employees with material that will enable them to practice and use what they have learned outside e-learning?” There are some interesting trends happening with compliance training, and these are listed in 9 trends in compliance learning, training and assessment….although I notice that they don’t include gamification which is moving forward quickly i.e. Gamification Of Compliance Training Through A Serious Game Concept. One good way of ‘bringing your training to life is by Using the ‘wrap-around’ principle in compliance training.


Hand holding phoneHave you ever been confused by text acronyms?  I’m sure new ones are invented every day but this Google Doc lists many of the most common ones so it could come in handy.  If you’ve been sent a message with an acronym that isn’t on this list, try The Largest List of Chat Acronyms.…and if you still can’t find the meaning, try Googling it (or maybe ask a teenager). While we’re on the topic of inventing new ways of using language, have you ever heard of Silver Surfers…or showrooming…or landlined? You’ll find the definitions at 7 Trending Words of 2014.   For somebody who feels strongly about correct grammar and spelling, I’m finding all this somewhat stressful!  [takes slow deep breaths]


Woman on soapboxWarning…I’m about to get up onto my soapbox again. [cheeky grin]  One of my biggest concerns is that the teaching of digital literacy and online safety is often left to chance.  Parents think kids are learning it at school…young people think they don’t need it…teachers think it’s a parent’s responsibility…trainers think it’s not part of a Training Package so nothing to do with them….community workers aren’t adequately prepared…etc etc.  Personally, I think it’s everyone’s responsibility and we should be looking after our own online ‘persona’ as well as helping all those with whom we come into contact…including family, students, parents, employees, colleagues etc.  Computer nerdDid you know that Google has developed a Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum with heaps of useful resources? This is probably a nice list of the topics that you could cover in a class. Google also have many tools in their Safety Centre, for example did you know you can be alerted if your name appears on the web?  It’s also very useful for everyone to know How To Actually Delete your Digital Footprint.  OK…lecture over.  [grin]


Posters are great…you can digitally create them for your online course, or you can have printed ones up in your classroom.  These might be handy if you use the de Bono technique for class discussions – Two Great Classroom Posters on The Six Thinking Hats.  Sometimes it’s not easy to find what you’re looking for though, so how about making your own!  Canva is an online tool which is great for creating your own posters…you do need to register but it’s free. Here is a video which explains how to use Canva:

Here are 15 Inspiring Quotes for Students to get you started…or….if you’re wanting to inspire your employees or colleagues with e-learning, try 23 Inspirational eLearning Quotes For eLearning Professionals.  Have fun! 🙂


Logos of MOOC partnersThere has been a lot of hype about MOOCs but how are they going in the real world? Quite well apparently!  I read in the Financial Review that the Australian revenue forecast will hit $6.5b in the coming year, with the Adelaide University recently announcing that they will be coming on board with “…four free courses on the internet next year.”  Open2Study is an Aussie MOOC platform for TAFEs and Universities, and it’s been in operation for 18 months now, with apparently quite promising results:  “The overall completion rate for Open2Study subjects have been above 22 per cent, almost three times higher than the industry average.” If you’re looking for some hard data about how MOOCs are panning out, I can recommend the latest Cover of reportOpen2Study Research Report where you’ll find complete transparency about the reality of how it is all travelling.  There is still cautionary finger-wagging going on though, although it has been tempered of late because it seems that MOOCs will definitely not be going away in the near future.  According to a recent article Belling the tertiary education cat, “While MOOCs will not replace traditional education models in the near term, they will have an important place in the future of tertiary education.” So…if you’re ready to have a go, check out what’s on offer at Open2Study or maybe one of the 12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free. 🙂


Clock and moneyTime = money.  That’s an undisputed fact when it comes to business and whether we like it or not, education is business too.  You might find some helpful hints and tips to save some time (and therefore $) in 3 ways to save gobs of time when designing training.  It’s good to save time but it might be worth skimming through these 5 e-Learning Mistakes That Damage Your Credibility…just to make sure you’re on the right track.  Some people feel that it is more time efficient to just get an ‘off the shelf’ course rather than create their own…but is it?  Pros & Cons of Off the Shelf vs. Custom Content for Building Courses provides some food for thought, but to add my 2c worth, I’ve seen it end up costing more in the long run so tread very carefully with this (apparent) time saver.


ScreenHunter_52 Sep. 26 15.23Let’s finish with a simple little tool.  It’s called Audio Extractor, and it does just that!  There are all sorts of complicated ways to pull audio out of a video, however this is about as easy as it gets….trust me, I tried it out and it works a treat. The application supports most major video formats and you can save your output audio to many formats including MP3.  Easy as. 🙂

My family have all told me that my new backyard looks like a resort (that’s a real pic at the top), but I’ve discovered the downside…there are no waiting staff to bring me a drink. [grin] Oh well…[heaves herself up]…I’m off to make myself a mango smoothie!  See you next time.

E-learning moves onward….and so do I

Hi everyone,Sitting under a palm tree

I’ve got exciting news!  Well…it’s probably only exciting for me but I’m telling you because a) I have a tendency to overshare [grin], and b) because it will affect this e-Update….temporarily at least.  And the exciting news is…[drumroll]….I’m moving interstate!  Queensland.  Airlie Beach, to be precise.  If you need to ask why, you haven’t been experiencing Adelaide winters of late. 😀  Things are getting incredibly hectic as I’ve discovered that it’s not an easy thing to uproot one’s entire life and possessions and move them 2,532km!!  Hence, I’ve made an executive decision that I will need to skip the next edition of this e-Update in order to keep at least a level of sanity intact.  Don’t worry….I’ll be back and writing the next edition under a blue sky and palm trees.  [huge grin]  Now, on with the show!


View of TackkHanding up final assignments to the teacher is so old school.  Not only does it seem a waste of time for the student (only one person gets to see what they’ve slaved over) but it prevents valuable peer discussion.  Why not suggest to them (maybe as an option) that they can present their work online instead. Tackk is a free tool which makes this easy. It is essentially just a template but allows the student to write text, upload images and video, choose themes etc. Here’s a story from one teacher who integrated Tackk into her organisation’s Learning Management System (LMS). 20 Ways to Use Tackk in the Classroom actually uses a Tackk. 🙂 If you would like a step-by-step tutorial on how to get started, try the video below. Oh, and if you would like to look at a couple of other options so you can compare and decide, check out Page-o-Rama and Populr.


QR codeWell, not in this instance anyway.  [chuckles]  People are discussing QR codes over at E-learning Conversations. If you are are not sure what QR codes are all about, the video What’s a QR Code will bring you up to speed in just a couple of minutes.  🙂 Anyway, there seemed to be a big flurry a few years ago with everyone integrating QR codes into their courses and resources, however the current debate is about whether or not they have gone out of favour.  What do you think?  I’ve come across examples in some strange places (like IKEA’s use of them for dog adoption), but many great education examples have also been shared in the discussion eg the Emerging Tech Trials (thx Bronwyn), Tracie’s examples of use in teaching, and also community examples eg labels for a food garden (thx Jane). Creating a QR code is dead easy…try QRStuff QR Stuff logoor QRDroid. How would you like Add Your Own Voice to a QR Code…and what about the QR Code Treasure Hunt Maker for a fun activity! I had a go and made the one above…which, theoretically, should lead you to photos of the place where I’m moving…just to make you jealous [wicked grin].  (If you’re not sure what to do, go to How to Scan a QR code.) If you’re an old hand at QR codes, why not make yours more beautiful?


Vocaroo LogoLet me tell you a bit about Vocaroo because I’m quite impressed with it.  It’s simple, free, requires no logins or passwords and…well…it just works.  Here is my little test message to you.  To be honest I did try to actually embed the Vocaroo file right here but it didn’t work…however this is the fault of WordPress (which is this platform) as it doesn’t like many embed codes. I tried it in a number of other places though (including Moodle) and it worked really well…you can even send them as an ordinary email.  It even creates a QR code if you want one! Below is a little video showing how to use it.  Wouldn’t it be nicer just to talk instead of writing more screeds of text?  [grin]


Sign - digitally savvy teachers wantedCame across the 7 characteristics of a Digitally Savvy Teacher….check to see if you can put a tick to all of them.  🙂 I agree with all the points, but particularly the first one…”You can integrate digital skills into everyday life“. I have occasionally spoken to trainers who want to (or need to) teach online, yet when I ask how they are using tech elsewhere in their lives, it is met with the response “Oh, I like to keep my personal life separate…I don’t use technology for anything else but work.”  I think that’s making it harder for themselves as it is the everyday use of tech which provides the experience and confidence.  Anyway, all to their own. 🙂  The article How Teaching Is Changing points to many ways the skill of teaching has altered, including “…taking all of the mechanical and gadget-borne stuff … and making it “whole” for the person standing in front of you. This is not new, but the complexity of making this possible on a daily basis is.”  You might want to check out 24 Hours in the life of a virtual facilitator …whew!  That’s enough to put anyone off!  [laughs] If you’re keen to learn more about teaching online, the UNSW course Learning to Teach Online might be a good start.


o's and 1's over a faceI don’t think I’ve talked about Big Data before but I probably need to because it is phrase which is bubbling up everywhere.  Let’s start with the Wikipedia definition and the mind-blowing stats in This is what happens every single minute online ie that Google receives over 4 million search queries…..every 60 seconds!!!  In this one single example, consider the fact that this data is recorded somewhere, and then you’ll start to realise just how BIG Big Data can be.  If you’re a business, you might want to read 5 Things All Small Businesses Must Know About Big Data ….together with the warnings in Small business and big data defines the digital divideCartoon boy with numbersBut what has Big Data got to do with e-learning?  According to When E-Learning Technologies Embrace Big Data, “Big Data is set to revolutionize the way E-Learning is designed, developed, and delivered. Introducing this technological innovation into E-Learning has opened the door to vast possibilities in making learning more effective; it could help design and deliver more personalized and adaptive learning programs for our learners.” I think the roller-coaster of technological change will still forge forward, but some are trying to put the brakes on with cautionary advice such as Stop tracking your learners. Care for them instead.  I guess it’s a case of…watch this space!


Words - BLOGThe idea of sharing an article is second nature to most educators today. Three words have transformed the world of collaboration: copy, paste, and send.” That’s a quote from Do Educators Really Need Blog Posts? and it points to a long known fact that to stay relevant in the teaching world, we educators must collaborate, share and help each other to keep up to date.  If you would like to start a blog, you could use something like this platform (WordPress) but to be quite honest, unless you really need all the bells and whistles I’d suggest something that just lets you write.  WordpressYou might find the perfect tool at 16 Blogging Platforms That Won’t Distract From Your Writing.  Perhaps time is your biggest issue?  Then 9 Tricks to Write a Blog Post in Less Than 30 Minutes might help. Or maybe it’s ideas that you’re short of…then try the Blog Topic Generator.  Finally, blogging is a wonderful teaching tool that you can use with students, and A wonderful blogging rubric for teachers and students might be a helpful assessment tool.


Woman laptopI mention this topic fairly frequently but it’s a popular one so I’ll keep letting you know when I come across any new places or tools. [grin]  You might just want to bookmark The Ultimate Directory Of Free Image Sources as a good place to begin (but my favourite is still Pixabay). If you’re looking for something specifically in the bio-medical field, try Wellcome Images.  Keep in mind that ‘free’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you can just take them willy-nilly though, as most are licensed Creative Commons which generally means that you will need to attribute themSilhouettesBut apart from that….no cost!  Anyway, it’s all very well to be able to download free images but how do you use them?  The article How to Choose the Best Images for Your e-Learning may give some ideas.  Next issue can be that they aren’t exactly what you need (too big, needs cropping etc)….then 12 Great Web-based Image Editing Tools That Do Not Require Registration might be just the thing.  Finally….admit it….you really want some of those super-professional stock photos but your budget won’t run to the big dollars they can cost.  Well why not Be a Stock Photography Model! and make your own!  No cost and you don’t even have to attribute them if you own them.  [nods sagely]


LogoSolveBoard came to my attention recently, as a simple and visual organisational tool.  If you’re not into complex charting… and project management tools just seem way too complicated, then this little tool might help you to achieve the same thing with a lot less headaches.  They have some examples to give you the idea…click on them to make them bigger.


You know what it’s like…you’re suddenly down with the flu and you need to communicate quickly with all your students.  A text message is the quickest way…but how do you send only one and have it go to everyone?  I’ve been watching a little tool called Remind and I’m pleased to announce that they have just gone international….so teachers and trainers here in Australia can use it. They have some strict privacy policies eg phone numbers are kept private and messages are one-way only (students can’t message you back) because it’s actually designed for schools, but I’m sure it would also be of use in VET and Higher Ed. Some great ‘getting organised’ features too such as the ability to set a message to be sent at a future time.  I even did a search and found you a tutorial to get started as there wasn’t one on the site….or, if you prefer, watch this short video:


Nothing worse than somebody trying to be funny when they really don’t have what it takes…definitely groan-worthy! [chuckles]  Education is a lot more fun when you can smile a bit though…as they say in Using Humor in the Classroom Let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way. It’s time for us educators to take humor more seriously.”   Something like this picture?

Ladder on back of truck

Nothing like some giggles to lighten up OH&S…you’ll find more at 21 People Who Shouldn’t Be Trusted With a Tool Belt.  [rolls around laughing] Or maybe you’re feeling down and could use something a little lighthearted for yourself – try You’reGetting Old.  Not ridiculous enough?  I’m sure you’ll find something to tickle your fancy at 50 Websites to Waste Your Time On.  Just don’t browse through them at work.  [cheeky grin]

Well I’m glad I’ve left you smiling, but now I have to dash…sooooo much packing to do! I might be moving in geographical location but I’ll still be around the same places online and I’m very easy to contact.  I’ll be back soon with some photos of my new locale plus the latest from the e-learning world.  Be good while I’m gone! [grin]


From the 1970’s to the Future

Class of 1970 photoHi everyone,

A few years ago I was invited to my high school reunion and preceding the event, organisers set up social media sites where everyone could share their photos from ‘days gone by’.  Eeek!  The most embarrassing photos of me appeared! (I was a gawky teenager with none of the style I possess today [choked laughter].  I was relatively unconcerned though because it was all part of the fun and everyone was joining in to share their worst pics…..but recently I came across one of these old photos of me, just floating around the internet.  Double eeeek!!  Which brings me to my first topic for this e-Update…….


My photo being erasedThought I’d let you know about a storm cloud brewing…it’s happening in Europe but I predict it won’t be long before it hits our shores so I’ll give you a short synopsis.  Basically, the European Court of Justice has ruled that people have a ‘right to be forgotten’…or actually, erased.  In other words, the EU court has ruled that companies such as Google must delete search results on request, when the information is outdated, inaccurate or simply not relevant anymore.  OK, so Google received 12,000 requests on the very first day!  Your first reaction might be to say “Yay…this is a good thing“…but is it? According to The right to be forgotten or rewriting history? …”One of the facets of modern life many people view as beneficial – anonymity and the opportunity to reinvent one’s self – has a very obvious flipside; when nobody knows your name, you can avoid accountability for your words and actions.” shady characterAnother point in What you need to remember about the ‘right to be forgotten’ is “This ruling is great for people wanting to separate themselves from their shady past, or remove something that isn’t true, but it also poses some serious censorship issues.”  The twist (irony, quirk, loophole…whatever) is that Google has only deleted them from European search databases (where it is law), so the info is actually still ‘out there’. What are your thoughts?  Come over to E-learning Conversations and let’s talk.


Demonstration picNo..this has nothing to do with erasing a shady past…I’ve found a cool new tool! [does a little dance] Can I first say that I have spent ages trying to teach myself to use GIMP (a free program similar to PhotoShop).  I wanted to be able to create clean, professional images for resources and websites….which often means removing a background so the subject ‘pops out’.  Finally mastered it….and then found Background Burner which does the same thing with no effort. Here’s my practice go…at left is a photo I took of a vase of flowers on my kitchen bench…and at right is the same photo with the background removed.  You can even add alternative backgrounds.  Go have some fun!  🙂


DIY GuideLet’s get down to basics.  If you’re just starting out in this field, I know you’re keen to jump in to putting ‘stuff’ online but best to acquaint yourself with some simple frameworks…perhaps first scan through A Quick, No-Nonsense Guide to Basic Instructional Design Theory.  You might want to use an authoring tool too.  You don’t necessarily need one however many e-learning designers use them – try 11 Tips to Choose the Best eLearning Authoring Tool. Getting down to the nuts’n’bolts of actual content creation now, you’ll find some useful guidelines at The DIY Guide to Converting Existing Content into an eLearning Course.  And finally, make sure you’re familiar with common E-learning Blunders….and try to avoid them.  From my own experience, I think the biggest blunder new content creators make is to confuse e-learning with e-resources.  Good e-learning incorporates the ‘scaffolding’ which helps a learner use the resources to learn. The resources don’t do that by themselves…no matter how whizz-bang they are.  😉


Sign - risk of poor Moodle design'…countless courses include quizzes with recall questions. Why? Because they are so easy to develop. No learning design required. A few ready-made resources, a few recall questions, and a discussion forum ‘just in case’ – done. And the learners? Well, they have undergone this many times before so they endure.”  This is a quote from Do you recognise the 4 early warning signs of poor Moodle course design? and I think it backs up what I was on my soapbox about in the last paragraph.  [cheeky grin]  On other Moodle topics though, here is some information about how to ‘gamify’ your Moodle course (more about gamifying below).  I’ve come across a great plug-in which is a ‘Plagiarism Checker‘ requiring students to agree to a statement about their honesty….if you’re worried about cheating, ask your Moodle host to add it to your plug-in directory.  And finally, future stuff here but there’s a Moodle facial recognition authentication in the works.  Cool…no students forgetting passwords or getting their ‘friend’ to log on and do their homework.


Front of course siteI’ve brought up the topic, so let’s roll with it. 🙂  I noticed a BBC article that said “Cheating by students is being investigated in a university course dedicated to understanding the hidden world of academic deception.”  So I tracked it down and you can enrol in it here:  Understanding Cheating in Online Courses. It is a MOOC so fees are waived. If you don’t want to devote this much time however, can I suggest watching some of the recordings of the Plagiarism Education Week – the actual event is over but there are heaps of valuable resources to check out (by request…they’ll be emailed to you).  If you’re looking for tools to help you to check for plagiarism, you may find what you’re looking for at Three Powerful Tools to Check for Plagiarism in Students Works.


Did you know that you can create ‘voice-overs’ for your PowerPoint slides?  Here’s a very simple, 3 minute video demonstration:

If that’s a bit basic for you and you want to get your teeth stuck into something with a tad more pizzaz….how about using plain old Powerpoint to create a cool Photo Animation Video?  Better still, get your students to use this to present their work. But what if you don’t have Powerpoint (or don’t want to use it)?  Slidebean logoEasy….why not try something like Slidebean.  According to the article Slidebean Launches To Give Prezi A Run For Its Money,  “Slidebean is different in that it’s one of the only presentation builders that separates the content from the format.”  Here’s a brief explanatory video which explains how it works.


Chess boardWell, actually…no.  Game-based learning is the use of games for learning, so for example, if you taught Engineering you could use the TryEngineering games to stimulate your student’s interest.  On the other hand, ‘gamification’ doesn’t require the student to play games…it’s more about using game-mechanicsThe Difference Between Gamification And Game-Based Learning describes it like this: “…gamification is the process of adding game-like mechanics to non-game entities. Another way to think of gamification is “encouragement mechanics.” A system of carrot sticks to promote desired behavior.” Where I’m seeing a real move forward is with corporate training…which is great!  One of the articles I’ve seen lately is Gamification Is Afoot in the New Workplace (thx Joe Garreffa) which has a good explanation of many of the elements of this model.  Front of course siteHowever Is Gamification right for your organization has some cautionary advice before leaping in blindly. Keen to learn more?  There’s a free 4 week course starting on 7th July called Concepts in Game Development – why not enrol? Or if you’re looking for something a bit different, browse through 15 Free Online Courses On Game Development.


LogoWith lots of educators using a Flipped Teaching model these days, video is becoming a mainstay of educational tools.  With this in mind, I thought you might be interested in Zaption…this is a nice little tool which allows you to take video (YouTube, Vimeo, your own etc) and drop in little quizzes, links, discussion starters etc throughout the video.  There are some examples available so you can see what it ‘looks like’, and here is a video which explains how it works:

PS:  There’s even a ready-made video for your students.


Distracted studentWhat was that?  Oh, sorry…I was checking Facebook.” 😀  It can be challenging to engage and motivate students at times, so let’s gather together a few ideas to help.  We’ll start with how the course is presented…5 quick ways to pull learners into a course will provide some suggestions for engaging course design. According to How To Capture And Hold The Attention of Easily Distracted Students, “Students’ attention levels vary widely based on factors like motivation, emotion, enjoyment, and time of day….we do our best to keep students interested and alert. But could we be doing better?” One idea is to Put Students in the Drivers Seat – this article is aimed at teachers of younger students but the basic idea is even more valid for adult learners.  A similar idea is to assign the most easily distracted students to be Google Jockeys – it is their job to look up any term, topic or definition and then share what they’ve found on Google with the rest of the class.  Finally, what about 20 Video Project Ideas to Engage Students….some terrific ideas there!


Samsung Gear SmartwatchHave you heard about wearable technology?  If not, you will very soon because there are a raft of products about to hit shelves and TV ads any moment now.  First of all there was Google Glass, but now a stack of Smart watches are imminent. Those teachers who ban mobile phones from classrooms should be very scared right about now!  [cheeky grin] So what does this mean for those of us in education? According to Wearable Learning : the next big thing!, “...the future use of wearables will not be about trying to shrink content to fit onto these devices – as we have seen happen with mLearning, but  to think differently about how we can support learning and performance support through these devices.” Sooooo…you might want to get prepared and take a look at How Google Glass Can Be Used In Education and The Teacher’s Guide To Wearable Tech In The Classroom. The future will be here before you know it…are you ready?  🙂

Well, we started back in the 70’s and ended in the future….that’s quite a long enough journey for this e-Update. [grin]  This wintry weather is not something I enjoy so I’m off to make a hot chocolate.  I hope you are staying warm.  Until next time…


Winning the Wooden Spoon Award

Hi everyone,

Wooden Spoon WinnerI was chatting recently with a woman who specialises in social media marketing, and I mentioned my e-Update.  She was appalled!  “But, but...[she stammered]...why are you not charging a subscription for it!”  I explained that I was merely curating information that was already published on the web.  “Yes of course...[she spluttered]...but you are providing a service! And isn’t your time worth anything?!” Hmmmm….she had a way of making me feel like I’d won the wooden spoon at the Business Person of the Year ceremonies. [wry grin] Anyway, after kindly rejecting her suggestion (plus one about plopping ads all over the place), I have added a ‘Donate‘ button in the right hand column because she’s right…I do have to pay the bills and having at least some payment will ePiggy Bankncourage me to continue this service.  So…if you can afford $10…or $5…or $2 to support the continuation of this e-Update, then it would be very much appreciated.  And if you can’t, then that’s OK too….perhaps you can provide support by forwarding the e-Update on to colleagues or tweeting it.  End of advertisement! [chuckles]


Namez logoDo you know how to correctly pronounce all the names of the Brazilian team in the World Cup?  I do [puffs her chest out proudly].  I cheated though, as I used a site called Namez which has an audio list of the pronunciations.  It’s quite a useful website!  Let’s say….you have a list of new students, and many of them have names which you aren’t sure how to pronounce.  Look them up and hear the correct pronunciation – what a wonderful ‘welcome to our class’!  Or maybe it is you who has a name which is often mispronounced.  Record the correct pronunciation and then embed the link in your email signature.  No more cringing when you hear it mangled. 😉


I haven’t touched on this topic since last year, so it’s time for an update.  When I first mentioned it it was one of those ‘weird, out there’ kinda topics, but now you even see it come up on mainstream News shows.  If you’re struggling to see how this innovation might provide any benefit for education though, have a quick squiz at 3D Printing Explained for Teachers or 11 Reasons Why Schools Need 3D Printers (by the way, I agree with their statement “Any class where the printer is rigged up to print in chocolate will always have huge attendance.”  [smirks]  If you would like a 2 minute explanation of what 3D printing is and how it’s being used, check out this video:

On the other hand, if 3D printing is nothing new to you, did you know about the World’s Smallest 3D Printing Pen that lets you doodle (and create)…. in thin air?


Whiteboard with UnWhiteboard logoYou know how you write all over the whiteboard during a planning session…and then take a photo of it so you have a record? I remember doing that but the photo was always dark and a bit dodgy.  I’ve just come across UnWhiteboard, which is a service that transforms your dodgy photo into a clean, white document.  I don’t have access to a whiteboard to check it out, so I’d love it if somebody could give it a go and let us know (via the comments) your experience.


Man listening to computer speakThere have been a slew of tools come up recently which basically turn text into speech.  A couple of them are Select and Speak (for Chrome) and Text to Voice (for Firefox).  Both of these add a little icon in your browser…when you click it, it reads out the text that is selected. (IE has a built in tool called Narrator).  I’m thinking these might be useful for students who are still learning English, for example.  If you have learners with special needs, you might be interested in Some Notable Tools and Apps for Special Needs Students which lists interesting tools to help with conditions such as Asperger’s and Autism – the article includes other curated lists. It’s especially crucial to have your website accessible…for everyone (and that doesn’t just mean those with disabilities).   For an explanation of what web accessibility is all about, this video from the Department of Social Services is pretty good.


Upside down personStudents in a flipped classroom are rebelling because they want you to lecture to them and tell how to do everything so that they can earn a top grade in the class.”  This statement comes from the article Flipped Learning Skepticism.  Do you agree? Would you cringe and run if your students rebelled because you tried this new teaching strategy?  The author advises not to back down!  “…your students, if they are acting like this, are exactly where you want them. They are primed to learn something about learning, and about the value of learning versus the value of grades. Conflict stinks, but this is a pretty exciting moment if you’re an educator.” Now there’s a brave teacher! 🙂 According to the infographic Growth in Flipped Learning, “...96% of teachers who have flipped a lesson or unit would recommend that method to other teachers” and “71% of teachers stated improved grades since using flipped classroom.” The Flipped Classroom is one of Four Important Models of Blended Learning that Teachers Should Know About, and is being adopted by many educators…although Toward a Common Definition of “Flipped Learning” seems to indicate that as a model, it’s still a little ‘fluffy’.  🙂


Table of foodRemember the bad old days when the only PD (professional development) you got was what your employer chose to offer?  Well, that’s all in the past  because now you have an absolute smorgasbord on offer!  So…what could we learn about in June?  How about Education in a Changing World or 5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers or Becoming a Confident Trainer or Principles of Project Management….all short courses starting on the 2nd. Or you might be interested in Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required starting on the 23rd or Assessment and Teaching of 21st-Century Skills starting on the 30th? For something a little different, you might enjoy a MOOC on Corporate MOOCs which “introduces learning professionals to the power of a MOOC in order to meet a company’s learning needs“…starting on the 9th.  You could sign up for a free course in how to use Google Apps (these can be started anytime)…or, for something completely different, try 20 Ideas to Learn Something New for Free (Cooking? Piano? Chess? Ummm…how to read Tarot cards? [grin])


Embedly logoWhen it comes to adding external content to your online course (or wiki…website…blog etc), there are advantages for embedding the content, rather than just adding a link.  For example, I embed YouTube videos into this e-Update so that you don’t have to wander off to YouTube to watch them….which is risky because you might never come back!  [grin]  The problem is that you depend on the website (eg YouTube) to provide you with ’embed code’ so that you can copy/paste it in…and herein lies the problem.  Until now!  I’ve discovered Embedly, and I love it as it gives you embed code for any website!  I was a bit cynical so I tried it out…here is a link to my ‘play area‘…and as you can see, it works a treat!


Palm tree with money bagsI would love to live in a world without budgets. In this world, I’d work remotely from some amazing island in the Pacific [and] drive my red Ferrari to the local market each day to pick up fresh fish for my dinner….”  Oh yeah.  [dreamy look]  This is the intro for How to Reduce Costs in E-Learning and Corporate Training, and it got my attention!  The reality is that being asked to reduce costs is a fact of modern business, and it has become important to be able to trot out figures that prove good return on your e-learning investment.  But is it so simple? Assessing Return on Investment (ROI) of eLearning brings one perspective, but I quite like The Traditional Concept of eLearning ROI is Gone! because it looks at ROI from the perspective of different stakeholders and decision makers. I think this is important as, although one needs to justify expenditure on e-learning from a budgetary point of view, perhaps an increase in student satisfaction might provide benefits too?  Just sayin’.


Running from tsunamiDo you ever feel like you’re drowning in a tsunami of information (I can hear the cross mutterings..”does a one-legged duck swim in circles?” [grin])  A lot has been written about this feeling and as everyone experiences it to some degree or other, I thought I’d pull together a few of the latest articles. Yes, I know I’m just adding to your reading list, but hey….one of them might provide a ‘penny-dropping moment’! We’ll start with something ultimately practical, like 8 Ways Not to Manage Your Email (and 5 and a Half Tactics that Work)…I use some of these tactics myself.  Something else which others have said helps a lot is to Approach your Laptop Mindfully to Avoid Digital Overload.  A friendly word of warning though…  “There is only an information overload if we permit it…” advises the author of Taming Information Overload Without Being ReactionaryNewsletter But you know what?  I like to think I’m helping you with information overload.  To write this e-Update I’ve drowned myself in more information than you can imagine…on a daily basis.  Then I pull it all together and send you a synopsis… the author of Information overload and why e-mail newsletters made a comeback explains “...there’s a kind of intimacy between writer and reader, what feels like a one-to-one connection between an author and your inbox...”. (Hint, hint…remember that Donate button….[cheeky grin])

While I’ve been putting this e-Update together, the avalanche of information has continued to flow so I must get back to it, ready for the next edition.  If all this info just leaves you wanting to communicate with real people though, please join us over at E-learning Conversations…we talk about all sorts of interesting things.  🙂

About Chickens and Elephants

Girl textingHi everyone,

Yesterday I received a text message from one of my kids….”Hey Mum, do you know anything about this HeartBleed thing?  What should I do?”  [chuckles]  I had to laugh because I think most mums of grown-up kids get asked for advice about boyfriends…or how to make ‘those yummy biscuits you used to put in my lunchbox’…or whether you will ‘help’ them buy a car i.e. give them money.  🙂 But it was a good question as news of the HeartBleed bug has flooded the internet and I’m glad she asked for advice.  Just in case somebody asks you, read on….


Heartbleed logos and chickensThe sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”  Ummm….it’s not quite a Chicken-Little style end of the world but the Heartbleed Bug definitely isn’t harmless and you do need to take notice and perhaps provide some sensible advice for your students (and your family!)  I won’t bore you with the technical stuff as…sheesh….I don’t understand it myself, but basically there’s been an ongoing crack in the security walls of scores of websites (including some financial institutions) and you probably need to change your passwords.  Start with The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now ….and there will likely be advice on the webpage of your own bank or financial institution.  You can also use the Heartbleed Checker to see if a site is vulnerable (your online course site?)  If you’re interested in an easy-to-read perspective on the whole schimozzle, check out Heartbleed Patched but Security Time Bomb is Still Ticking…it’s got a link to a simple, comic-based explanation.  Oh, and I giggled at the final paragraph! Heh heh


LastPass logoAs I was writing the previous paragraph, I could just imagine the resounding chorus of “Aaaargh!!!  I can’t remember the passwords I’ve got…and you want me to change them???!!!” Why don’t you try LastPass – it’s a secure password manager, and it’s free. You can imagine how many passwords I’ve set up over the years, but I only have to actually remember one.  Not only that, but you can get the site to generate those passwords you know you should use but you’d never remember (you know, like Xc2$34eRt%JuUii0).  LastPass will keep it in the ‘vault’ and pop it in when you need it.  Oh, and it has an app as well so you can access it from your phone or tablet.  Here’s an explanation of how it works…or just watch this video:


Brain with party hatEnough about security…let’s talk about designing e-learning.  Much more fun.  [grin]  “When the brain finds something new, interesting, or exciting—but especially something unexpected– our brains sit up and take notice.  Neurons become active, synapses fire…In short, the brain does a happy dance.”  This is an excerpt from Is Your E-learning Designed Backward? and it explains how to use the element of surprise to engage your learners..nothing like a happy dance to make learning interesting! 🙂  The article Using Brain Research to Design Better eLearning Courses: 7 Tips for Success has a similar approach, using the way our brain works for better learning design.  I also liked Using the ‘wrap-around’ principle in compliance training…it’s short and simple but if everyone who designs compliance training courses took the advice…well, those compulsory courses wouldn’t be so boring! [cheeky grin]  Finally, I’ll leave you with Text in E-learning: The Unsung Hero.  Not sure what I think.  I agree with the points but the article was so…ummm….texty.  [screws up her face in contemplation]


Online Convert logoWe’ve all had that experience… try to upload an image only to discover that the program only accepts JPEG files, and yours is a PNG. Or vice versa.  Who invented all these file formats anyway!!  So frustrating for us average punters.  But I’ve found a fabulous one-stop-shop that pretty much converts everything to everything, and once this is in your Bookmarks you’ll always have the ‘right kind’ of file.  It’s called Online-Convert…yeah…original name but easy to remember. [chuckles]  Best of all, you don’t need to register or even hand over an email address.  Useful, hey?


computer with padlockAn LMS…a Learning Management System.  For some reason, these have become synonymous with e-learning….like, you can’t have e-learning without one.  Rubbish! In fact the use of an LMS has been declining in popularity recently, as they are seen as ‘walled gardens’ which have a focus on content and assessment and are not necessarily ideal for student interaction and engagement.  The article LMS – from red giant to white dwarf? takes this view, however over at 5 Things to Remember When Selecting A LMS they say “An effective and thoughtful LMS implementation is a significant aid to knowledge and performance.”  The Quest to Create An “Institution-Free” LMS is trying to solve the issues which can occur when your e-learning is ‘stuck’ inside one of these walled gardens, and The Rise of the Learning Record Store asks “What percentage of all that you’ve learned in your life has come from an LMS?“…and discusses some technical solutions for how the learning from external sources can be recognised.  But maybe a blended solution is the ideal….use an LMS (or similar) to hold the content and records…..and use social media to ‘connect’ with your students.  Best of both worlds?


Credit cardEver been told “You should sell your courses online”?  There are literally thousands of courses online these days and as so many are free, it might be challenging to get people to pay for them.  But if you have something unique…or it is a different kind of learning experience…then go for it!  Have a look at the points at How To Create Courses That Sell Online and then have a browse through 15 Platforms to Publish and Sell Online Courses (and Counting).


Flickr logoYou probably know about Flickr.  It’s been around for ages and is a fabulous place to both find great photos as well as to store your own….a whole terabyte (that’s lots) for free!!!! (Comes as an app too). I use Flickr a lot to find images for presentations as I can usually locate just the right one.  Many people are concerned about using them though, because they are not sure how to properly attribute the great photos they find….and whether they can use them at all (ie are they Creative Commons).  There’s a new little tool (actually, revamped) called Flickr CC Attribution Helper whch works a charm.  You just drag the little blue bar onto your Bookmarks and it will appear in your list.  When you are on Flickr and looking at an image, click on this and it will tell you a) if you can use it, and b) it gives you either embed code or the correct text to paste.  I found it quite easy to use but Richard Byrne from Free Tech for Teachers has a visual explanation.  I used to use ImageCodr which is flashier, but it only creates the embed code…and sometimes you just need the right bit of text to slap onto your Powerpoint to keep you out of trouble.  [grin]


Elephant on phoneThere’s an old saying…”How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  It’s the same for learning as everything is easier when it is bite-sized….or ‘chunked’.  The Age of Bite-sized Learning: What is It and Why It Works calls it ‘snackable content’ and says “Bite-sized learning, unlike the traditional approach, focuses on meeting the needs of modern learners.” In Micro-Learning: Making Learning Part of Everyday Tasks they’re on the same wave-length and provide examples of how it might be used in corporate training.  I’m currently trying to learn a foreign language (yes…having another go [rolls her eyes]) but this time I haven’t enrolled in a ‘course’.  I have an app which chucks questions at me….but for only 2 minutes at a time.  I’m finding that I don’t mind doing this a couple of times a day or more as it fills ‘dead time’ (like TV commercials) yet I’m actually learning.  I’m not suggesting this is the whole solution, but why not try this strategy with your own students?  Are you already Micro-Lecturing? has some good tips for getting started.


imoot logoThe problem with conferences is that they are expensive…and usually not local.  But this is why the Moodle iMoot is great because it’s inexpensive (only $90) and it’s online…which means you can ‘attend’ without having to pack, squeeze into plane seats or deal with grumpy taxi-drivers.  A bit of promo from the site:  “It is aimed at educators, moodlers, developers and managers, in education establishments, businesses and government agencies. Presentation sessions are accessible to those just starting out with e-learning, to those who help to build the software.”  It’s on between 15th – 24th May and the program runs through 24 hours to deal with global time-zones.  If you’re not sure, check out some of the outcomes of the 2013 conference.


Tackk logoJust something temporary…you want to put up details of an assignment, or let your students know about an Info session.  Came across Tackk which is all about ‘throwing something up online’ as quickly and simply as possible….you don’t even need to register if you don’t care that your new website will disappear in a week’s time (although you can keep it if you want).  Or….why not hand this tool over to your students so they can put their project or report online and have some fun with the colours and templates…much more engaging than an A4 sheet of paper.  🙂  There’s even an educational section.  You can upload images and video, and best of all, it’s free. Have a play!

That’s it, I’m done! 🙂 That’s a few items which I’ve gleaned from my e-travels over the last month….I hope you’ve found something of interest.  I’m trying to find the time to get my own website happening …but in the meantime, feel free to email or give me a ring.  I’m very approachable. [grin]