Here you will find postings I have made about different professional and schedule development activities I have been involved in over my recent time as a college math instructor at Camosun College. You will also find posts at my Google Plus account. See below for a link to that.
I have been an instructor at Camosun College since 1987. In that time I have been an active participant in and evaluator of the use of educational technology to help faculty, staff and students gain digital literacy skills.
In 1995 as an outcome of my master’s degree, I began Learning Webs, a project to develop and deliver online instructional materials for adult upgrading students. These are currently being delivered both online and in a blended mode in partnership with local community learning centres.
In my spare time, I like to read fiction and biographies as well as restore vehicles. I recently built a shop to facilitate that passion. You can read about the summer 2011 project at http://www.carbucks.ca/?p=11. Next up is an 83 Honda Magna V65. At the time it was claimed to be the world’s fastest production motorcycle. While I still have a need for speed, that bike is now up for sale, as I has been sold so I can focus on more practical machines. In that vein, I also have two Triumph TR8s, an ’80 that needs a new water pump and paint job and an ’82 that is in ‘collector plate’ condition.
I love my iPad, but one of the frustrating things is not being able to access all my content in my online classroom at http://mathxl.com — at least until now. Steve Jobs decided early on that Apple iPhone, iTouch (iPod) and iPad products would not support Adobe’s Flash. This was despite the fact that many websites, including MathXL, use Flash as an integral part of their site. You can read Jobs’ rationale here. Steve is having the last laugh, from the grave, as Adobe will no longer release new versions for upcoming mobile devices, browser and operating systems.
So until Pearson updates MathXL to work with HTML 5, we are stuck with Flash. Fortunately there is a work around. iSwifter lets you browse flash content right on your iPad. There is a cost to the product. Last time I checked it was $4.99. After spending some time with it, I found it a bit awkward to use on the iPad. The multi-touch did not work as it does in other browsers. The big omission, however, is that it only works with a Wi-Fi connection and NOT 3G or 4G. Next I tested Skyfire for iPad. Skyfire won’t run at all with MathXL. It seems to be more games oriented. So back to iSwifter, that will at least let you into the MathXL classroom.
Some interesting developments in online education platforms. Pearson Publishing who provides the MathXL platform I use for teaching online is introducing OpenClass. It is a new kind of learning management system that is offered through the ‘Cloud‘ via Google Apps for Education.
OpenClass will be offered free of charge. A beta version is supposed to be available October 18th. Pearson’s model is to provide and charge for curriculum content. However, other content providers will also be able to make use of the platform.
The Gates Foundation is providing funding to them to develop developmental math materials specifically for disadvantaged students. NROC has received $5 million from Gates and $1 million from William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to develop online and hybrid materials. The goal is to increase number of financially disadvantaged students that pass developmental math. The target group are is those between 18 and 80 (average age 28) who who have failed math at least once. The project approach is to develop new educational interventions for national distribution and sustainability.
According to their website,
NROC content is distributed free-of-charge to students and teachers at public websites including HippoCampus. Institutions wishing to use NROC content are invited to join a fee-based membership organization, the NROC Network. Organizations serving disadvantaged students can become members of the NROC Network at no cost. http://www.montereyinstitute.org/nroc/nroc.html
Colleges wanting to use the materials in their LMS would need to join the NROC Network. However, we were told the materials will be freely available as standalone modules throught the hippocampus.org website.
The materials I saw demoed were in a Moodle environment, but their plan is support a number of platforms. The materials were presented in multimedia and text formats. The videos were in Flash format and plans are to include closed captioning. The latter has now been mandated for all educational videos available in the state of California and likely soon in the rest of the USA. They have also partnered with the KahnAcademy.org which has tens of thousands of video lessons available in YouTube format. The materials ranging from basic arithmetic through statistics will be released later this year and the next.
I came away favourably impressed. However, the missing piece is linkage to an assessment tool in a pre, post and unit test format that helps create ‘learnable’ moments for students. I like the way Pearson’s MathXL can make resources available to learners for each question and each concept. I don’t find the materials Pearson provides particularly helpful. The best of both worlds would be to link these kind of OER materials to an assessment tool like MathXL.