Sunday, December 2, 2012

Educational Mashup Example

Educational mashups can be a creative and fun way to engage students. One of my assignments for EDT 6440, which I'm enrolled in this semester is to create an educational mashup and then create a narrated PowerPoint, podcast, or video explaining the educational mashup. This is a reflection upon that assignment and its outcome.

So, first of all, I think it's important to define  "mashup"; not everyone has heard the term before. I hadn't really heard it much before a couple of years ago when I started to get involved in Educational Technology. The term mashup is the "combining of two or more sources of data to form a new data set." (Freedman, 2010). The term originated within the music industry to describe a combining of two or more soundtracks into a new one. This term has carried over to represent the combining of two or more of Web sources to create something new. Educational mashups just refers to the use of mashups for learning and creativity in education.

One article I read on educational mashups discussed the various levels of mashups where it can be as simple as someone using iGoogle, NetVibes, or Yahoo as their browser home page, which "allows users with no (or minimal) programming knowledge to mix, match, filter, and repurpose data from various resources." (Wiliarty, 2008), or it can be very involved requiring programming by a developer. Obviously, most students and educators would not be at the level of a developer, but they may still want to create something that catches the imagination.

Creating educational mashups is much easier today than it used to be. Many of the Web-based tools such as Google Maps, Flickr, Twitter, RSS feeds and many other api gadgets allow for a combining of data to create something new.

My idea for an educational mashup is a common one of combining Google Maps, photos on Flickr, and videos on YouTube to create a picture map of one of my favorite spots. A teacher could easily use something like this with their students to teach geography, visual arts, mapping, and could also include writing a reflection, such as I'm doing. Additionally, I will be combining a couple of different photos and videos to create a video explaining my educational mashup idea. Doing a project such as this combines the teaching of traditional skills of writing, speaking, and presenting, along with non-traditional, technology skills of using a blog, using a mapping program, embedding photos and videos, along with making a video, podcast, or PowerPoint. These are all important skills for today's students to be learning.

Below you will find the educational mashup I created from using Google Maps, Flickr, and YouTube. Although many times the students may not have their own photos and videos to use with the map they are creating, the videos and photos used in the mashup I created are all photos and videos I've taken and uploaded to Flickr and YouTube respectively. If the students do have photos or videos the have taken that they can use in the mashup, it may spark even more interest in doing the project.

Educational Mashup Example: Plainwell's Riverwalk - Sherwood Park to Hicks Park

View Plainwell's Riverwalk - Sherwood Park to Hicks Park in a larger map

I've also embedded the video I created to explain my educational mashup. Unfortunately, my computer and my headphone/microphone were having issues so the audio track isn't the greatest, so I apologize for the audio quality, along with the audio blast when the video within my Google Map starts playing. I'm not great at creating videos yet, but I'm sure I'll get better with practice.

Educational Mashup Example Video


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Project-Based Learning...

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I will be teaching as a GA this fall. The textbook we are using is the book titled, Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, by Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss.

I have just begun reading it this week. I'm reading a chapter a night so I can get through it prior to semester starting the first week in September. At the end of each chapter, there is a section called, "Your Turn." Authors, Boss and Krauss, suggest that readers may want to "work your way through these chapters, use this book as your own learning project." Along with reading I'm going to try and work through the chapters as suggested. Currently, I'm a couple of chapters behind in working through the questions and end-of-chapter suggestions, but I'm hoping to catch up tonight.

The first "Your Turn" section I want to reflect upon is the Introduction. Questions asked by the authors are:

  1. Where are you starting your journey? Why?
  2. Think about your own experiences with project-based learning. If you have already used the project approach with students, what did you like or dislike?
  3. What would you like to do better in the future?
  4. Do you have regular opportunities to collaborate with colleagues?
  5. Where do you turn first to sound out new ideas for your classroom?
I'm starting my journey into Project-Based Learning or PBL as someone who has experienced PBL as a student, but have never taught before, so this will be my first experience at teaching PBL. I'm very excited to be teaching PBL, as I've always felt the real-world projects make sense and brings about a more effective learning experience.

I don't know that there is anything in particular that I don't like about PBL, but I do know that they take more planning and require more time. In many respects this is a positive, but as a teacher I expect it can be a challenge to find the balance between keeping things manageable and timely while providing engagement-rich experiences for students.

As I begin teaching using PBL, I hope to share the excitement and difference using technology with real-world problems can make in the students' experiences. From my own experiences, learning how to use various technologies, learning to search for information, and applying knowledge gained to solve problems has given me a true sense of achievement and a confidence to try things I would never had tried before. Hopefully, through the PBL activities we will be doing this semester, the students will become as excited as I am about the possibilities PBL offers.

Currently, I don't have opportunities to collaborate with colleagues, but this will definitely be a part of the experience this fall and next spring. The projects are already in place, but I will have the opportunity to talk about what is working and what isn't working, as well as what I need to do to better teach or share the concepts. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with my mentor and other instructors. 

Boss, S., Krauss, J. (2007). Reinventing project-based learning: Your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creating a Digital Story...

This fall, I'll be teaching as a Graduate Assistant (GA) for the first time ever, which is very exciting to me. I've wanted to teach for many years and finally the opportunity has arrived. While working with my mentor to review and prepare for fall, she noted that we needed to replace the digital story examples and she suggested that maybe I should develop the non-fictional example and she would create the fictional example. 

I readily agreed, as I had never created an "official" digital story before and I felt it was important for me to work through developing one prior to trying to teach it during the semester. 

The first thing I did towards creating a digital story was to find educational digital stories already published to better understand the various types of digital stories, what they are about, and how to go about making one. Although the steps are outlined within the class lesson, I felt it was important to have a better understanding of the purpose of digital stories and what I should be trying to accomplish. Additionally, I wondered what are the best practices in developing a digital story?. And finally, I needed some ideas for a topic.

There were several sites which had examples of digital stories, but one site in particular caught my interest. The site is Creative Narrations available at: They have a wonderful collection of digital stories and one of the stories that I viewed really spoke to my heart. I felt that I would want to create mine in a similar style, once I knew the topic.

The next step was to decide on a topic. My mentor had noted that it shouldn't be on any of the current suggested topics, but it could be on a prior one or something totally different. I struggled with this decision for several days. I even prayed about it. The digital story that really spoke to my heart was a girl narrating a story about her grandma and the contaminated water in Tuscon where they lived. She spoke of how the contaminated water had been partly to blame for grandma's cancer and death, and how it was effecting her and her family that are still living. Finally, a few days later, the word, "Phill" came to mind and the words, "As a man thinketh, so is he." I wanted to tell the story of Phill and me, his thoughts and words of not living past the age of 50, and the pain I felt at his death at the age of 49. 

To be honest, I wasn't completely sure what category of "topics" my idea for a digital story fell under, so as I continued my online research for digital stories and best practices, I came across a PDF document with the title, "Digital Storytelling Topics." The author, someone at Modesto City Schools in California, identified categories of digital stories by level of competency: beginning topics, intermediate topics, and advanced. One of the intermediate topics identified was the "Memorial" topic. The author noted, "Honoring and remembering people who have passed is an essential part of the process of grieving.” ("How would you describe this person? Is there an event that best captures their character? What about them did you most enjoy? What lesson did they give you that you feel is important? If you had something to say to them, that they may have never heard you say, what would it be?"). I identified my topic as "Loss" or "Life Choices." (Modesto City Schools, n.d.). 

Along with obtaining a clearer picture of my topic and what category it fit into, one of the other tidbit of information I gleaned from the document, was the "6 Steps to Successful Digital Storytelling." I hadn't heard of the "6 Steps" before and wanted to know more. I Googled "6 steps to successful digital storytelling" and came up with several good hits, including a step-by-step description of a six-step process to digital storytelling in a document developed by David S. Jakes, an Instructional Technology Coordinator at Community High School District 99 in 
Downers Grove, Illinois. (D. S. Jakes, n.d.). It was perfect! Exactly what I was looking for and needed to round-out the instructions from the lesson plan.

The six steps identified by Jakes are: 
Step 1: Write
Step 2: Develop script
Step 3: Storyboard
Step 4: Locate resources
Step 5: Create
Step 6: Share 

And so I began to work my way through the six steps. It was actually harder than I thought it would be. Step 1 was fairly easy, because I just wrote out the story I was trying to tell. Jakes said it usually should be 3-4 pages and   the story I wrote was 4 pages. Step two was a little more difficult, as I had to cut the story back to a script. Jakes noted that a script usually should be no longer than 1 page for a 2-3 minute digital story. I'm kind of a wordy person so writing wasn't a problem, but cutting it down to a manageable script and still tell the story was difficult. I wrestled and wrestled with the script, but finally moved on to the storyboard. I figured if I kept trying to get the script perfect, I would never get the rest of the steps completed. 

After completing the storyboard, I had a clearer picture of what images and music I would need for my story. Locating the images wasn't exactly easy. I didn't have any pictures of Phill's younger years and very few of him in later years. I had a few taken of us here and there during the time we were together, but not very many. Eventually, I was able to locate and scan the old photographs I did have and found a few on various Websites that were free and I could edit or adjust to fit my needs. I knew I wanted Native American Indian flute music and thankfully, while developing a Webquest in a project early in my Masters, I had come across some Native American Indian Websites that offered free images and free music. 

Finally, I began to build my story using MovieMaker. I first added the images in the order of the storyboard. Then I added the flute music. My next step was to record the script or narration. Well, since it was my first time, I found myself having to go back several times and adjusting this or adjusting that; re-recording this or re-recording that. It took me several evenings, back-to-back, to narrate a script that would fit with the images, the music, and the timing, but eventually, I had a narration I could live with. Before finalizing the story, I reviewed the lesson rubric I would be teaching with this fall to make sure I had at least covered most, if not all points required for a decent grade, since my example should at least be a good example.

The final step was to share on YouTube and provide the link to my instructor to post as an example within the scheduled lesson plan, which I did:

This experience was a true learning experience. I used technology tools in ways that I hadn't before to create something I hadn't ever created; I learned that I was still grieving Phill's death and that this project ended up being a therapeutic part of that process; I learned some of the ins and outs of creating a digital story, which will enable me to better teach others how to work through the process of developing their own digital story this fall.

Jakes, D. S. (n.d.). Capturing stories, capturing lives: An introduction to digital storytelling. Retrieved from:

Modesto City Schools. (n.d.). Digital storytelling topics. Retrieved from:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Final Reflection on EDT 5410 - Intro to Educational Technology Course

For some reason when I transferred from Spring Arbor University's Master of Arts in Communications with emphasis in Education and New Media program to Western Michigan University's Master of Educational Technology program, I skipped taking EDT 5410. I guess I felt I had already learned everything the course covered and therefore I should strive to take more difficult courses.

Well, this plan worked for some time, but this past Spring, when I was experiencing feelings of major stress from work and home situations, I fell behind in the course I was taking, EDT 6480 and ended up having to take an incomplete. The incomplete ended up putting me on financial aid probation and I was feeling quite discouraged about my abilities to complete my Masters and graduate as planned.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it, I ended up unemployed for a period of time and was able to finish the incomplete and come off from financial aid probation, as long as I took a course this Fall and completed it on time and with a good GPA score. When I met with my Program Advisor this past spring and discussed my program and talked with her about the problems I had experienced, she suggested that I take a course that would be fairly easy for me, to give me a little bit of a "break," and yet it would still apply towards my program requirements. So, I registered for EDT 5410.

Yes, this course was fairly easy for me, but only because I had already used and been using almost every tool we were asked to use, reflect upon, and discuss in the course. But, surprisingly enough to me, I still learned quite a bit in the course through the readings in a book I previously hadn't read, Instructional Design by Reiser and Dempsey (2007). I also used a few new tools, such as online photo editing tools I hadn't used before, but even though I had used or already was using many of the tools, I found that I really enjoyed exploring them from a "learning" perspective instead of just using them occasionally as possible tools for integration into online course or other such things.

I really enjoyed this course and through this course I was able to further the development of my ePortfolio, which has been a goal of mine for quite sometime, so I'm very excited about that. I still have some work to do on completing the ePortfolio, but I'm thankful I had to opportunity to use it as part of this course and I'm looking forward to continuing to complete, maintain, and update it in the coming year. Although I've shared the link in a previous post, I will share it again here: CHalvorsen ePortfolio

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflection on Web 2.0 Tools Used

This is the last week of our assignments for EDT 5410, Introduction to Educational Technology. Next week our final project is due, but this week, we are to reflect upon the Web 2.0 tools we've used over the semester, discuss two of our favorite ones, why they are our favorites and note how they "exemplify some of the concepts or characteristics detailed in this weeks reading, Chapter 31, Networks, Web 2.0, and the Connected Learner (Reiser and Dempsey, 2007).

Since we used quite a few Google products, there were more than two that I really enjoyed. Additionally, I'm a great fan of TechSmith's Jing and I liked figuring out how to record, convert, and upload a podcast for publishing, so it's a little difficult to only choose two products. But, since I don't have unlimited time, I will stick with discussing two of them in today's post.

I think two of my favorite products would have to be Google Docs/Forms and Google Blogger. I don't really remember when I started to use Google Docs, but it was most likely Fall 2008, when I participated in a group online project and someone within the group suggested we use Google Docs so that we could collaborate and work on the same document at the same time. I already had a Google account, but hadn't really used Google Docs much. There were a few problems as we began collaborating; one time when one of the group members and myself were on at the same time, it bumped me out and wouldn't let me back in until I restarted my computer, but I don't think that is an issue anymore. The other issue we experienced is that the formatting ended up being pretty rough and hard to make consistent. We ended up having to adjust the formatting in Microsoft Word prior to submitting the assignment. Although Google Docs still has it's own "formatting" and it doesn't always work perfectly for me, it's better than it was at that time and being able to work on it together made the project easier for all of us within the group.

Since that first time I used it for a collaborative group project, Google has continued to improve Google Docs and continue to make it easier to use. A year ago or so, I read about the Microsoft Google Cloud connect plug-in, available at:, which allows me to either automatically sync all my Microsoft Office files with Google Docs or manually sync the ones I want to sync, and then tonight I came across the Google Docs Offline plugin, which allows you to use Google Docs off-line. I haven't even had time to explore this one yet, but I installed it and will be testing it out in the upcoming days. I did see where someone was experiencing problems in the forums, but it appears that there have been some updates which may have taken care of their problem. Anyways, I love exploring new software or new ways of using tools I already use, so I'm looking forward to trying it out.

I've been a Google Blogger since April 2007. I currently have seven blogs on Blogger, but I only update two of them at this time, Precious and Honored, my personal spiritual journal, and this blog, Online Technology & Learning. When I first heard of blogs and began reading some, I had an immediate attraction to them. I've been writing a journal/diary since my late teens, early twenties and being able to write a journal online, sharing my thoughts and feelings with others, even people I don't know seemed like an outlet I would enjoy and I have enjoyed it. Blogs can be used as a project or classroom site, but oftentimes they are used for reflective writing, along with being a platform for sharing ideas and thoughts with your personal learning network (PLN). There are blogs for everything now days and pretty much on every subject. Blogging, for me, is a way of life; a way to share, to reflect, and to publish, something I always wanted to do, but probably never would have if it wasn't for blogging.

So, how do these two tools exemplify Web 2.0, as defined by the reading this week? One of the affordances described within the chapter by Reiser and Dempsey (2007), is the networking, collaborative, connectivity provided through Web 2.0 tools. Google Docs exemplifies this collaborative, networked, connected environment. This CommonCraft Video on YouTube does a great job of explaining the collaborative advantages of using Google Docs: over previous, older methods.

Blogger also exemplifies Web 2.0, in that it allows users to collaborate on writing posts or updates, adding comments and sharing with each other through postings and comments. Blogging, used as a collaborative tool or as a means to sharing intellectual property, "potentially opens learning beyond the closed doors of the classroom or walled gardens of registered student, login-only, course sites." (Reiser and Dempsey, 2007). Blogging publicly and commenting on other blogs, provides students with an opportunity to learn from professionals and experienced faculty members on various subjects and become part of the conversation, which is something that wouldn't have been achieved nearly as easy as it is now. I know that I posted this YouTube video before about the Networked Student, but that's exactly the difference Web 2.0 tools affords us as instructors, teachers, instructional designers, and students.

Reiser, R. A. and Dempsey, J. V. (2002, 2007, 2012). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review of Online Office-Style and Image Editing Applications

The technology side of our assignment this week in EDT 5410 Introduction to Educational Technology consists of a review of at least one online application each in two categories: Office Suites (Google Docs, Zoho, or ThinkFree) and Image Editing (Picnik, FotoFlexer, Phixr, Sumo Paint).

Rather than picking out just one of each, I ended up looking at all of them. Of course, a couple of them, Google Docs and Zoho, I have used for several years, so they really aren't new to me at all and I really didn't need to "review" them or get to know them. As far as the Image Editing programs, I hadn't used any of them, although I have read about them and some of my friends and colleagues have used them. So, after reviewing them, here are a few thoughts about them.

Office Suites
Google Docs

  • Great collaborative tool (if shared with a team, each team member can be on the document editing it all at the same time. I consider this one of it's greatest advantages over some other office suites/collaborative tools.
  • Ability to create spreadsheets, documents, and presentations, which can be downloaded as a PDF or as Microsoft Office document, spreadsheet, or presentation.
  • Ability to upload Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, or presentations, PDFs, videos, and images.
  • Ability to create surveys, comment forms, and various other forms, which are accessible from Google Docs. I have found this to be a very useful tool. 
  • I love Google! I use so many of their products and I love that all of the ones I use are FREE!
  • I'm able to link Google Docs in the project management online application I use called Manymoon
  • I'm able to sync my Microsoft documents, spreadsheets, or presentations with Google Docs automatically or manually with the Microsoft-Google Docs plug in downloadable here: Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office.
  • As much as I love Google, I still like some of the offerings that Zoho has, such as discussion boards, wiki, meetings, and projects, along with offering similar products such as Google Docs offers. Although I don't regularly use Zoho, I do keep my account active to be able to share it with others as appropriate. 
  • One of the things I don't care for as much in Zoho, is that there is a cut-off point on some of the tools where they are no longer free, which is different than Google Docs, but on the other hand, it's probably not much different in that Google sales a lot of different tools and products that aren't available through Google Docs. 
  • Zoho offers several business products that could be quite useful, but I think I find them less useful for education.
  • Ability to create spreadsheets, documents, and presentations, which can be downloaded as a PDF or as Microsoft Office document, spreadsheet, or presentation, just as Google Docs and Zoho.
  • Seems to provide collaborative ability just as Google Docs and Zoho, but I didn't actually try the tools in that way.
  • It seems like a fairly easy tool to use and it offers some options within the spreadsheets, etc, than Google Docs or Zoho provides, but it doesn't appear to be as robust, so I don't know that I would ever switch to using ThinkFree over Google Docs, particularly since I use so many Google products.
Microsoft Windows Live Skydrive Online Office Applications and Storage
  • Ability to create actual Microsoft Office Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and OneNote notes, along with being able to store up to 25 MB of files for free. 25 MB of storage is not a lot of storage, but more can be purchased if desired and it's sometimes kind of handy to create the files in the real thing, rather than a converted file; because the formatting doesn't change.
  • Provides the ability to share and collaborate online, just as Google Docs, Zoho, ThinkFree, and others.
  • If you want to try it, you can access it here:

Image Editing
I didn't spend a lot of time of any of the image editing online applications noted: Picnik, FotoFlexer, Phixr, and Sumo Paint, as I have PhotoShop on my School/Professional laptop and Paint on the laptop I use for more personal things, so I don't see where I usually need to use the online apps, although I appreciated some of the effects and card creations available with a couple of them and will use them in the future for those reasons.

Below I've noted a few pros and cons that I saw after trying them out for a few minutes.


  • Easy to use and easy to get started; don't have to register, just click on the "Get Started" button.
  • Allows you to edit photos, make a collage or even a fancy collage, a slide show, and a keepsake, such as a card, etc.
  • Allows you to quickly access your photos on your computer, Google's Picasa Web album, Flickr, and PhotoBucket. 
  • There are premium services available, but you do have to pay for them, although they look like they would be fairly reasonable.
  • Very similar in many ways to Picnick, particularly for being able to quickly and easily start just by uploading a photo.
  • Allows you to access photos from the many different sites where you might have photos stored.
  • Doesn't seem to offer as many options or be as robust as Picnik.
The Christmas Card I Wish I Could Send!
  • Again, just as the others, it's easy to get started and use. 
  • Although it was easy to use and fun because of some of the cards it offered and editing options, it didn't appear to be as robust to me as Picnik and FotoFlexer. 
  • I particularly liked some of their Christmas card designs and even made up a Christmas card with a photo of me and a friend of mine from this past March. Unfortunately, I won't be able to use it for my Christmas card since we aren't seeing each other right now and he might not appreciate my putting us together on a card, but it was fun trying it out and I've included the image to the left of this text as the example. I think I may use this application or Picnik to create a Christmas card from a different photo and then print off and send it to my family and friends. I like the idea of creating my own Christmas Photo card.
Sumo Paint
  • Although I looked up Sumo Paint and tried it for a couple of minutes, I've never liked "Sumo Wrestling," so I detest the "Sumo Wrestler" face looking at me all the time on the site and although it has a lot of similar options as does Paint, the downloadable image editor that is very similar to PhotoShop, I would never use it because of the name and the sumo wrestler face icon it uses on it's website. Also, since I have PhotoShop and Paint, I would probably just use them if I wanted to do that type of editing. I guess if I didn't have any of my computers available, which is extremely rare, since I have two laptops and two netbooks and always take at least one computer with me wherever I go, I might would use Sumo Paint, otherwise NO!
In conclusion, I think it's important to make time for trying out new tools and emerging technology if an Instructional Designer/Educational Technologist wants to stay ahead of the game and wants to truly provide the best learning experiences and outcomes for learners. In my personal network, I follow Instructional Designers, Educational Technologists, Techies, Web Designers, Graphic Designers, Social Media experts, Teachers, and many others related to the various roles I play as an Instructional Designer and I do make some time almost every day, but at least once or twice a week to read up on and try new technologies to see what technologies make the most sense to be part of an effective learning experience for learners.