I had no idea how much free education there was on the internet. It’s amazing. This week I originally thought I would try out a course on the Open University UK site, and found a cool lesson on desert ecology. While I appreciated the in-depth information and the subject matter, I realized I wanted to look at something more interactive, perhaps with video and sound elements (even though I will keep the Open University site as a reference).

Instead, I cruised through some of what is offered in iTunes U. In previewing many different podcasts and vodcasts, I noticed that a lot of what is offered in iTunes U are either audio or video recordings of university lectures. While this can definitely be valuable, that’s not totally the direction I wanted to take with my e-Learning site. I want to do something more with motion graphics, video, and audio.  That’s why I was pleased to find a course by a PBS station in Boston…

lessonThe course I checked out can be found on iTunes if you search for “WGBH Earth,” and select the course titled,”WGBH Earth and Space Science.” In this series there were 12 short courses ranging from the solar system, to solar eclipses and infrared light.  Even though the subject matter is not completely related to what I want to cover in my site, I thought it was valuable for me to see how the information was presented. I thought the videos and animations that PBS put together were in interesting and informative. Below are some of the things I took away from watching.

1. Simple illustrations/ animation can be effective

Even though some of the illustration and animation was simple (and at times admittedly slightly cheesy) it was really effective for the purposes of learning.  Watching these lessons made me realize that when it comes to e-learning, it’s more important to present the information clearly than to have a mind-blowing design. solareclipse

For example, while this illustration is very simple, it was effective in teaching about how a solar eclipse works.  The artist did a good job distinguishing between the different elements and showing how they moved. This means to me that while I definitely care about making the design look good, it is far more important to actually get the lesson across to the user.

2. Present the information at a steady pace

The lessons that are worthwhile in this series keep the information going at a reasonably fast pace. I noticed during some of the slower lessons that I was getting a little sidetracked. However, with information that came a little faster, I wasn’t bored, and could always rewind if I missed something.

3. It’s important to include audio

Also, there were a couple of lessons that just used type and visual elements to convey the message. It made me realize how important sound really is in conveying a message. I found myself wanting a lot more from the lessons that did not use audio and I didn’t gain much from them. Again, I’m more of a visual learner, but I can tell having audio and narrator definitely helps in learning.

Overall, I appreciated the lessons I went through on iTunes U and will carry over what I learned into my final site.

On a final note, I loved the lamp of a guy in one of the videos I watched, see if you like it…

lamp

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So, I just realized I haven’t posted my ideas for my site for Server Side yet.  In this class we are supposed to design a site that has a shopping cart feature, and also have some other features that will bring a unique user experience. I decided to do a website that sells and rents independent movies. I wanted users to be able to search and find the exact movie they want through a set of criteria that they choose; like genre, era of the movie, whether it won any awards, etc. I think it would be cool to help people find the movie they want, because I have spent too many hours in the video store staring at the aisles of movies, not being able to pick one. I would also like to build in some ability for the user to flag movies they want to rent in the future and also make recommendations to other users.

I went back and forth with the name of the company I wanted to select. I ultimately went with the name “Eight Reels” after doing some research on early independent film making. Independent films of course are those that are not produced by a major movie studio. As film making progressed and became more expensive, it became harder for those not producing with a major studio to create a film. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The original terms called for Pickford, Fairbanks, Griffith and Chaplin to independently produce five pictures each year, but by the time the company got under way in 1920-1921, feature films were becoming more expensive and more polished, and running times had settled at around ninety minutes (or eight reels). It was believed that no one, no matter how popular, could produce and star in five quality feature films a year.

I sort of liked the way “eight reels” sounded, and thought it was appropriate for an independent film website.  Here are some of my logo sketches.

logo11

logo3

logo22

There are a lot of tools that can be used when creating an e-learning environment. I’m going to check out three this week that I am not as familiar with.

Podcasting podcasting

I have said before, I am definitely more of a visual learner, but I am starting to be converted into being a fan of podcasting. In building this e-learning site, I would like to accommodate different types of learning styles. My brother has a podcasting website called The Teacher’s Life that chronicles (as you guessed it) his life as a teacher, and I definitely have gotten a lot out of listening to that. There is a ton of potential when it comes to auditory learning and it is definitely worth it to me to look into.

I found what I think is a pretty useful article on how to put together an educational podcast called Teaching & Learning with Podcasting.  Here are some great points the author got across:

  • Not every topic is right for the podcasting format. As the article points out, “most students listen to podcasts as they perform other tasks (i.e., riding a bus, driving, exercising, walking to class, etc.).” For this reason it is important to choose a subject matter that is not overly complex for a podcast. Make it succinct and highlight the main points you want to get across.
  • Have a clear goal for the podcast before you create it.  Do you want it to be entertaining and fun or do you want to elaborate on a complex subject? Your goal will shape the final output of your podcast.
  • Be creative with your content. I think it might be hard if you have a series of podcasts to give them continuity, but also spice up each one. I think you’d have to do a lot of planning before creating a podcast in order to make a quality experience for the user.
  • Don’t just read a script. The article gave what I think is great advice: be yourself and sound natural, but also be enthusiastic.

photosharing

Photosharing

When I think of photosharing, I usually don’t immediately think of e-learning applications, but I am starting to see how this type of activity could be applied. It seems like using a site like Flickr for educational purposes is fairly new, because I found it a little difficult to find very official articles on the subject. However, I did find some interesting tidbits along the way that show the potential in how photosharing can be used in e-learning.

  • Photostreams One application for e-learning that Flickr has is the ability to create sets of photos or photostreams. This way, learners can quickly and easily navigate through a series of related photos, and read descriptions appropriate to each. I found this article called Using the Online Photo Community Flickr for Science Education that described how educators in California were using Flickr as a way for students to see groups of related science images, which also allowed the students to ask questions and make comments. This seems like a fun, interactive way to learn science. Here is an example of an educational set of photos on Flickr.
  • Annotation One of the really cool things about sites like Flickr is that you can add notes to particular parts of an image in order to focus on specific objects. One example I have this used for educational purposes is this art history example. The annotations allow students to hone in on certain parts of the painting, and discuss the artist’s technique and meaning behind the subject matter. This seems to work especially well with a complex image.
  • Geo-tagging I could see geo-tagging being another great feature in Flickr for e-learning. Clearly, for a geography assignment, it could be really effective to use the geo-tagging feature to help students identify various historical locations on a map. One video blog by a K-12 teacher that I stumbled upon shows users how to use features like geo-tagging in Flickr for education, which I think is really useful.

Social Networking  social-networking

Finally, I wanted to see what kind of e-learning applications social networking has, specifically through the site Ning- which is an online platform for people to create their own social networks. Again, this must be a pretty new development in the e-learning realm because I had some trouble finding formal articles about the subject, but I was able to find some related resources.

I found this support page on Ning that was created specifically for educators. I think this is cool because it gives a forum to teachers who are trying to implement this technology in their classrooms. Also, some of the Ning experts write blogs about how to better use Ning. One thing I like about Ning is that it gives you the ability to request ad removal for an educational site.  This way you wouldn’t have to expose kids to unwanted advertising.

I think people are now familiar with the process of social networking, so it wouldn’t seem that difficult for a user to create a profile for an e-learning site. I just wonder if people are too accustomed to using social networking sites purely for fun, that it would be difficult to steer them in a more educational direction. I could see a social networking feature being useful, especially in a professional, corporate learning setting where users can share ideas within their respective teams, and have certain learning objectives they need to meet.

Ok, here is my rollover assignment. I wanted it to look like the pufferfish is getting scared by the sting ray, but I’m not sure if that worked out… good times though.

fish

I am always on the look out for new things to learn, so I was kind of excited about this assignment to research a variety of e-learning opportunities on the web.

1. Watercolor and ink drawing- Video tutorial

Over the break this past week I wanted to have some fun with more fine art type of stuff, and I got the idea that I want to try my hand at doing a watercolor and ink drawing. But I quickly remembered that I haven’t done anything with watercolor before and I’ve heard it can be kind of a challenging medium.  So, I wanted to look into doing some tutorials first. It was actually a little hard to find good tutorials on this topic, but I finally found this one by Mark Crilley that I think is excellent.

watercolor Crilley videotaped himself painting and drawing, a la Bob Ross, and broke down how to do each part. Before watching this tutorial I was wondering if you would put down the watercolor first or the ink first. I think Crilley makes a good argument for putting down the watercolor first.

I really enjoy watching good video tutorials because I can pause and rewind and go over things that I need more review on. I want to integrate either some type of video or screen cast in my e-learning site because I think it is really valuable for the user.

2. Stanford University- iTunes Podcast

I think it’s really cool that universities are now starting to put their courses online and allowing some portions of these courses free to the general public.  I wanted to see what Stanford University had to offer for free on iTunes, so I checked out some of the libary of podcasts that are available.  I decided to choose a completely random subject, so I chose a title that caught my eye. The podcast I listened to was called, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky. [Here’s an article I found about Sapolsky]

I think a key component to a good podcast is having a great speaking voice. Maybe this is all too obvious of a point, but I have found it hard to get into podcasting because I’m much more of a visual learner, rather than an auditory learner. I have tried to check out podcasts before, but haven’t really gotten into it… until now. In this podcast, Sapolsky completely sucked me and engaged me into a subject matter that I don’t have any experience with and really haven’t given much thought to before. Sapolsky is a fantastic storyteller and is actually really funny, but also is clearly very knowledgeable about the subject matter. In listening to this podcast, I picked up some interesting ideas about how to manage stress and why stress can lead to bigger problems.

If I do any kind of podcast in my e-learning site, I want to do my best to make my voice animated and engaging, and to set the scene for the listener. I have a lot of respect for people that can tell a good story, which might not be my forte, but maybe I’ll give it the old college try.

3. Lynda.com – Screencast

Most of you probably know that Lynda.com has really great tutorials on a million different types of software. I currently don’t have a subscription, unfortunately, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Lynda has free video podcasts on iTunes.  Almost all of the tutorials on Lynda are done by screencast, which I think is an awesome way of teaching people how to use software. Compared to trying to learn software from a book, I think this is a much more effective way of learning.

I chose a podcast on iTunes that was involving Actionscript 3.0, which is something I’ll be learning about this quarter in the second Flash class. Specifically, the screencast dealt with using particles in AS3, which looks really cool by the way, and I want to learn more about.  Screencasts enable the user to easily see how to accomplish what the instructor is doing. This particular screencast was a little hard to follow if you didn’t have the source file with the AS3 code, but it was still worth watching.

Again, if I do a screencast, I’ll want to make sure I organize a script ahead of time and speak with energy. I have done some tutorials on Lynda where the speaker’s voice was a little lackluster and it made the experience less enjoyable. Also, I think it’s important to break up tutorials into smaller, more easily digestible segments for the user.

4.  Crisis of Credit – Motion Graphics

crisis

I’m not sure if it totally fits with the curriculum of this class, but I think motion graphics are an awesome way to facilitate e-Learning. I found out about this video late last quarter and I thought it was a really effective way of breaking down a complex problem. The designer, Jonathan Jarvis, does a great job in creating entertaining and unique graphics for a subject matter that usually isn’t shown in that kind of light. The narrator in the video, John Levoff, who kind of reminds me of Kevin Spacey, is able to make the subject matter come to life. I feel like after watching this video I have a much clearer understanding of how the credit crisis came about.

I would love to create something like this for an e-learning application. I haven’t quite thought of a complex problem to break down, so if anyone has any ideas let me know :).

5.  The LouvreFlash e-Learning

louvre

The Louvre has this awesome way to learn more about its paintings with this interactive Flash presentation.  Specifically, I checked out, “A closer look at The Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin.” As the narrator speaks about a specific part of the painting, the animation zooms in and follows what they’re speaking about. This seems like a really interesting way to learn about art history.  I love that there are many different ways to learn within this application. You can watch and pause the video, as well as read the accompanying text, you can click on specific parts of the painting to zoom in, and you can look at a timeline and bibliography related to the painting.

I would love to create something like this because I think it’s a powerful learning tool. My Flash skills might not quite be there yet, but I might be able to create something similar.

I’m creating my site for a local video store in Dallas and I want to be able to let users find the exact movie they want.

Here is the preliminary sitemap I have been working on…

Here is my awesome intro 😉

http://outsidethenormdesigns.com/nest/intro/intro2.swf

Here is the start of my intro

I have to add animations and my music, and draw some more of my elements.

Here is my little car pre-loader…

http://outsidethenormdesigns.com/nest/car2.html

Ok here is my next attempt at my Flash banner….

What do you guys think?