First tool: I tried Skitch once before, on my Android phone. I had heard about it at TechFest on campus, and the demo was impressive. Of course, navigating it on a smartphone screen was a little less exciting than what I had seen up on a projector screen. So, I gave up after tinkering with it once or twice. This time, I downloaded it to my Mac instead, assuming some upgrades have been made in the two years since I last tried it. There are a few cool features, like a pixillation layover that makes it easy to obscure names if one wanted to share a Facebook or Twitter post for critique. I’ve included an example where I’ve used that and added an arrow, alert icon and text. The program also integrates with Evernote, which could be huge if you use that to organize your stuff (I don’t). Saving the photo wasn’t smooth for me (I had to screenshot my result to my desktop because the version it allowed me to share to iPhoto wasn’t uploading). I will think of a more teaching-focused example for next week.
Second tool: Several land grants within the Cooperative Extension system, as well as the e-learning arm of eXtension, use Moodle to deliver content to clients. One example is at http://campus.extension.org/. So, I decided to finally check it out myself and download Moodle 2.8 for Mac. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work. The instructions might as well be written in Sanksrit. Seriously, it contains lines like “You can start the new cron service in the Terminal.” WHAT? My ability to “install” something on a Mac is limited to knowing I need to drag an icon into my “Applications” folder and hit “Open.” Except it tries to open Moodle in a web browser and I get messages about a server error. I get that “open source” usually involves more effort (like the difference between R and SPSS), but this is like asking a restaurant reviewer to taste a meal that’s been placed inside a firesafe– with a broken off key. I will have to enlist some help from IT to be able to review this more fully for next week’s post.
Third tool: The home page of Mango Languages features some very cute mango fruits dressed up in various scenarios. The sign-up process includes tests for Java and Flash, which are pretty standard. I had no problem accessing the lessons on my Mac. I have taken Spanish before, so I figured I’d be in better position to judge the utility of Spanish lessons than I would any language completely new to me. I was disappointed when the only available lesson on the free version appears to be “A Language Love Affair” which trots out the tired old youth and hetero centered boy-meets-girl dating scenario where you practice how to invite someone to a party. I wish Mango had stuck to its cute and neutral mango fruit to represent the two sides of the conversation.
Guiding question 1: How many of the proposed tools are contextualized primarily for teacher presentation (passive learning)? I think one could post a lot of passive (sit and read) content on Moodle. It’s really up to the teacher to put in the time it takes to make hyperlinks, videos, quizzes, and other interactive content. Just like Blackboard, it is as static or dynamic as you make it.
Guiding question 2: Which have potential for active learning or afford students opportunity to display a product of their learning? Mango does ask the learner to practice the phrases out loud and offers a chance to record your own voice and play it back, so you can compare your pronunciation to the instructor. It shows you a voice pattern comparison and you can even play both recordings simultaneously. It doesn’t score them though; you must interpret.
Guiding questions 3 & 4: Which of the tools have potential for developing or enhancing the community of learners? Which features most actively support learner engagement in a community? I like the sharability of content made with Skitch. I think it could be integrated into collaborative projects. Just have a chat with students about “fair use” first. Moodle has the most potential simply because it can be used for any content, not just for language learning or photo editing. Since I couldn’t try creating my own, I went to http://moodlecommons.org/ to see what others have done. One example was a literature class that noted “peer evaluation and review is done by an add on software that passes the essays from person to person” so students can interact over their readings of Pride & Prejudice.