Silvia Tolisano’s recent post “Never was about technology – Time to focus on learning” raises the question of technology’s true contribution to the teaching/learning process. However, it was a quote from Conor Bolton that caught my attention and led me down a specific path of ideas:

Poor teaching + technology = Expensive poor teaching

I would have to agree with Mr. Bolton. Simply adding a specific technology to our instructional strategies does not automatically result in improved student learning outcomes. If anything, I am convinced we need to make improving our teaching skills a high priority. Just as we encourage our students to engage in methodical metacognitive habits, we should be engage in ongoing self-evaluation of our teaching, as well as researching and implementing sound pedagogical praxis. Perhaps the best teachers are also the best learners.

The specific path my thought followed after reading Ms. Tolisano’s post is probably somewhat afield of her intent, but it went something like this:

  • We tend to teach as we were taught
  • Outside schools of education, most academic disciplines do not teach one how to teach
  • Most colleges/universities require only advanced or terminal degrees in a discipline in order to teach. Good pedagogical skills are not.
  • Many faculty are not comfortable admitting they need to improve their teaching skills.
  • Many institutions keep faculty so busy with teaching loads, advising, committees, research, etc. that finding time to improve teaching skills is difficult.

What would happen if an institution adopted a 5 year plan in which all faculty were required to both successfully complete a program of professional development designed to make them master teachers, and implement their master teacher skills in the classroom or online?

Granted, such a 5 year program would need to cover a broad range of issues, and I am not sure what would be covered. But, I think a radical approach that puts the importance of teaching quality on par with being an expert in a given discipline would put feet on institutional claims of excellence.

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Moodle & Google – A promising match


Not that long ago Google announced the availability of a  new service connecting Google apps to specific Moodle courses. This enables faculty to integrate Google apps directly into their Moodle courses, and to require students to use the Google apps to produce course assignments.

The integration of Google apps into a Moodle course if fairly robust. Creating user accounts in Google apps automatically creates a Gmail account for each user. Further, each Google app displays the course  name, reminding users that they are connected to their online course.

Having direct access for my students to Google apps within my online courses is exciting since I love the Google apps for online collaboration. But more than that, I see this new partnership as another indicator the idea of the LMS is being redefined, or re-imagined. What might this mean for Blackboard?

iTunes U Follow-up

What a nice surprise. Three subsequent attempts to upload large video files to an iTunes U course site succeeded without a hitch. More surprising, 2 of the files were >400Mb! Huzzah!

This kind of reliability may enable some faculty to upload their own media files, which would potentially provide workload relief for our staff.

Ironically, after 2 years of Apple telling us the problem was not on their end, it appears their upgrade solved the problem. I guess it was on their end after all.

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iTunes U – An Encouraging Improvement

The Potential & Dissapointment of iTunes U“. My greatest disappointment was the fact we could not reliably upload any file with a size greater than 100Mb. Often it took 2, 3, 4, or more attempts to successfully upload a larger audio or video file. In one case it took us 3 weeks of trying to upload a large video.

Recently, Apple updated the iTunes U backend providing new functionality and flexibility. Yesterday I decided to test the “new & improved” version of iTunes U by uploading the video file that took us 3 weeks to load. Call me jaded. Call me skeptical. But, I did not expect it to work. No one was more surprised than I to find the file actually uploaded successfully on the first try. No “time out” errors, no error of any kind.

So after a year and a half of investing, configuring, tweaking, and a lot of hair pulling, perhaps we have turned a corner. Don’t remind me that Apple iTunes U forum experts assured us there was no problem on their end. Don’t remind me that we invested heavily in an end-to-end Apple solution to get reliable uploads to iTunes U. I will be doing additional tests to see if my first success was a statistical outlier. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Apple’s upgrade of iTunes U has finally addressed a critical reliability issue. I’ll let you know the results of further testing.

Building a Custom Pop Screen for Under $10

If you do more than a small amount of audio recording you will eventually run into the problem of the “popping p’s” and the hissing of sibilent s sounds. A pop screen is the perfect solution, but the expense of a pop screens may be hard to justify in a time of shrinking budgets.

Jake Ludington posted a brilliant little “how-to” article on building a custom pop screen for under $10 USD! It’s amazingly simple, and worth the read.

Audio Recording Basics

Tom Kuhlmann (Rapid eLearning Blog) provides some excellent basic pointers  for recording high quality audio.

It’s not surprising that paying attention to the “basics” of audio recording results in a good recording. However, it is surprising how few people know the “basics” of good audio recording. Fortunately, as Tom shows, they are simple and easy to do.