Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interview with Breanne Hull, Educlone. Innovators in E-Learning Series

Finding new ways to engage students and create engaging e-learning experiences is a continual challenge. Welcome to an interview with Breanne Hull, Educlone. The Educlone learning platform features an interface designed for rapid development of distance learning (elearning /mlearning) which uses a drag-and-drop approach.

1. What is your name and relationship to elearning?
My name is Breanne Hull and I've worked as a public school teacher, an instructional designer in educational software, and as a training and eLearning consultant. I am currently the co-founder and CEO of Educlone.

2. What is Educlone?
Educlone is the eLearning platform that I wished I had as a teacher. Individual accounts for public school teachers are free, and it's a place where they can create their own online learning just by clicking and dragging boxes around. It's so simple that it's almost hard to explain. Our goal is to make is simple for teachers to create their own engaging, dynamic online learning.







3. How is Educlone different?
We thrive on simplicity. While some teachers are comfortable with the current eLearning interfaces that are out there, some are not. Unfortunately, this prevents many teachers from giving eLearning a try. Our interface doesn't look like it was built by a room full of engineers and computer programmers. It looks like it was built by teachers, for teachers, because, well, it was!

It's eLearning, made easy. We also avoid content development and just focus on making our platform easy and intuitive to use. So many educational software companies spend huge sums of money on content development. They make sure to meet every objective tied to every standard for every state and territory. A teacher ends up with this district-mandated pricey software that contains tons of superfluous content and, ultimately, wastes time instead of saving it. Educlone leaves the teaching in the hands of the teachers. They develop their own content with their own special flair, tied to their specific state and local objectives. Once the lesson is created and recorded in Educlone, students go through the lessons at their own computers, at their own pace. This leaves the teacher free to use class time to actually help the students who need it, with one-on-one attention, without having to stay after school or hold the other students back.

4. Where will Educlone be in five years? In 20 years? (E-Learning Queen realizes these seem to be rather crazy questions, but "the Queen" thinks we've problematized ourselves by thinking in short-term and medium-term solutions, and that we are stuck in this year's technology -- rather than thinking in broad-brush principles…)

Educlone will be wherever teachers and trainers want it to be. What we have created is an organic, living, breathing ecosystem that responds to the needs of its users. If a feature is requested, then we add it. Otherwise, we leave things just as they are and avoid over-complication. I want teachers to feel like this is their technology. No more having things handed down from administration that they are forced to use. If they want it to be complex with more features, than it will be. If they want to share lessons with other teachers across the miles, then it will be done. If they want students to create lessons and learning experiences for each other, then we'll throw that in. Otherwise, we'll leave it as it is - clean and simple. I want Educlone to feel like a comfy living room that educators can really spend some time in, creating valuable learning experiences.






strong>5. How are you transcending the tendency of today's LMS's to create an education garden rather than a factory?

I'm not sure who it was, but someone at some point decided that putting a book on screen is online learning. I've taken online courses, recently, that were like, "Read this paragraph. Ok, now read this paragraph and see the attached stock photo. Now click the 'next page' button to read the next paragraph." Seriously???

Technically, since reading a book is a form of learning, then putting some form of that book online could be considered "online learning." But come on, people. If I can tap one button on my little phone and see, oh, I don't know… an immediate live feed of Times Square, then surely we can leverage technology in education to do more than throw text up onto a screen! In that same vein, software that helps teachers to automate tasks related to school and classroom management are great - but is that really managing learning? I'm not even sure that Educlone should be considered an LMS. We're not trying to create an online school, and we're not aiming to automate administrative tasks like taking attendance. Like a garden, Educlone offers itself up as an open space to create and grow ideas. We focus on allowing teachers (and their students!) to create really interactive and engaging learning experiences. We also focus on giving teachers really clear and immediate feedback on how students are doing throughout the lesson.

6. List your top 5 books …

That's a tough question! I'll just list the three that I'm currently most interested in. Those are Drive by Daniel Pink, The Habit of Thought by Michael Strong, Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tune-Up Time? Updating Your Elearning / Mlearning Programs / Courses

Accreditation visits, self-studies, competition, and the changing world (and technology) make it necessary to update your online courses every 2 or 3 years, at the very minimum. In some cases, you’ll need to tune them up every year, depending on the kinds of changes in the course content, the academic field, your accrediting bodies, or the legal environment.

When do you update? How extreme does the updating have to be? Do you have to start over, completely rebuild from ground zero, or are there ways to update efficiently, economically, and relatively painlessly.

Updating your courses, and doing a tune-up can be fun, especially if you have a bit of guidance. Not only will you enjoy the process, you’ll be delighted when you find you can do it quickly and cost-effectively.

We’ll look at how to know when, where, and why to update. Later, we’ll go into details about how to economically update your courses and programs.

Instructional Materials // Content Changes: When did you last update the course? Was it 2 or 3 years ago? Chances are, many things have changed. Articles have become obsolete, science has advanced, and political changes have altered the landscape. Even if your content is impervious to change, it’s possible that the links you’ve incorporated have changed. Even if you’ve subscribed to a service (rather than linking to websites), they have a way of updating and reorganizing their repositories.
Changing Course Objectives: It is possible that the course itself has changed. The objectives may have changed, and its role in the degree or certificate plan may have changed. While the changes may seem subtle and relatively minor, if you don’t update the course, there will be a big disconnect between your course and the real-life needs and objectives.

Institutional Changes: Has your institution obtained new accreditation? Have structural changes occurred? Are you experiencing a transition? It’s hard to find an institution of higher learning – profit or not-for-profit // private or public – that has not gone through amazing sea-changes, especially in the last few years, when there has been significant pressure to demonstrate that the educational program that students invest in (and become indebted through),

Technology Changes: Are your courses smartphone and tablet-friendly? Are they downloadable and portable for people who do not have 100% cloud connectivity? We made assumptions about access, bandwidth, and browsers / plugins / systems when we originally developed the courses, and sometimes those assumptions turned out to be massively wrong. What now? What do we do to turn things around when we have no budget for it? There are ways.. don’t despair. Unfortunately, this is not the article that discusses the shoestring solutions. But, it is the article that lets you know that shoestring solutions exist. They are there. Just reach out and ask for guidance. It will be there.

Student Base Changes: You may find that your student base has changed, and you’re in a situation where your courses seem a bit out of alignment. For example, you may have designed courses for students deployed to Iraq. Now, however, most of your students working at hospitals and clinics in the U.S. As a result, some of the course content seems strangely out of synch. What should you do? Obviously, you have no choice. You need to update the course.

Legal and Regulatory Environment Changes: Many courses exist because they help working professionals stay up-to-date with regulatory changes. This is an ever-shifting target, and the content is in flux. You have to bite the bullet and update whenever there are substantive changes, even if it’s twice a year. Bite the bullet. If you do so, you’ll gain market share because your program will be head and shoulders above the laggard competition.

Financial Condition Changes: Has the financial condition of your educational institution changed? Are you suddenly in financial dire straits? This may mean that it’s time to update your courses so that they cost less to run. Is that possible? Yes. Spend money to save money. It’s counter-intuitive, but it works.

There are a number of reasons why it is a good idea to continually update your online courses. Doing the updating on a regular basis will allow you to avoid catastrophic delays and expenses.

If you’d like assistance, E-Learning Queen has assembled a knowledgeable, experienced team, The Queen Team. Please inquire for more details. Email: susan@elearningqueen.com


Friday, December 02, 2011

Interactive Grammar Exercises: Better and More Useful than Ever

Some think that grammar reviews are only useful when taking a developmental writing, or the required set of first-year composition courses. In reality, grammar and syntax reviews are valuable across the board, and all college and university students can benefit from ongoing writing reinforcement. So,whether you are writing a term paper about hospice care, or an analysis of the current economic situation, the proper care of dogs, or any other topic, understanding the basics of grammar will help you.

I highly recommend supplementing peer reviews and personal guidance with interactive exercises. Many interactive grammar reviews are available online without registering, and they are free of charge. You can practice grammar using your laptop, tablet, and handheld.




Further, many of the grammar reviews have downloadable apps so they display nicely and work smoothly with your smartphone or tablet. If you are currently enrolled in a course, chances are your textbook will come bundled with an e-lab (MyCompLab or My Writing Lab, just to name a few). These are also excellent guides.

If English is your second language, you may wish to pay special attention to sections such as "countable and non-countable nouns" and "easily confused words."

Here are a few good, easy-to-access, easy-to-use interactive grammar exercises:
Grammar Bytes -- http://www.chompchomp.com (by Robin L. Simmons)


Interactive Quizzes (Capital Community College Foundation)

Business English Grammar Exercises (actually applicable to all occasions)

Enjoy!
(E-Learning Queen http://www.elearningqueen.com // Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.)

Visit E-Learning Queen's Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/elearningqueen

More elearning videos at http://www.youtube.com/beyondutopia

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reality Television-Inspired M-Learning: “Life Is Our Laboratory” Approach

Effective design for mobile learning courses requires a major shift in how one thinks of the learner's relationship to the content. Interactivity takes on a whole new dimension, as students create content to share and critique in close to real time. The key is to avoid sending students down a path where they will be more or less duplicating what the others have done. They need to be able to apply their knowledge and skills and to process them so that they make sense in real-life applications or simulations / scenarios.

One must keep in mind, too, that the new iPad, Kindle Fire, and other e-readers mean that students are likely to be able to read texts on the fly and develop more robust, course-related content more easily and conveniently than in the past.

Where does the student create content to upload and share "in the wild" with their mobile device (tablet, smartphone, handheld)? What are the best methods of sharing?

Protected social networking

Discussion prompts

Research repository (a thread in a discussion board area, or a location within social networking sites)

Shared photos / media

Portfolios / Final Projects / Lab Reports - (portfolio sites -- can use Faceb00k-type social networking for sharing collaborations)

Interviews / Observation: can be a combination of audio, video, graphics, and text files which can be uploaded within an LMS or in a dedicated social network site

Presentations (PowerPoints / KeyNote slides, potentially animated using captivate)

Implications for Instruction

Student-developed content is exciting, dynamic, and encourages interaction; it also encourages creative development of content.

  • Originality is paramount. Avoid plagiarism.
  • All students must be mindful of the fact that fellow students' work may or may not be accurate; just because it's on the web (posted in a site) does not make it credible; nor are all the links and resources necessarily reliable. It's a great opportunity to practice critical thinking skills.
  • Students will need clear guidelines re: size of files and where to upload.
  • Content guidelines – be sure to let students know what’s not okay.
  • Privacy issues when gathering information and sharing information
  • Social Construction of Reality – what is real? Who decides?
  • Simulacra okay? Use faux persona, etc. when dealing with actual persons / places / products could be too sensitive.

Reality TV-inspired Mobile Learning

Psychology / Sociology

Example: Real Housewives of (fill-in-the-blank)

Your own: Social Relation Drama

Humanities

Example: History Channel programs

Your Own: “History Needs a ReDo!”

Go to historical sites and ask tough questions / debunk and challenge current beliefs. Find out what most people think.

Biology / Animal Behavior

Example: Fatal Attractions (When pets become predators/ exotic pets turn on their owners)

Your own show: "Biting the Hand... Can You Trust Your Companion Animal?" (Chronicle the life of your own pet … is there any reason to start fearing your own Siamese cat, Chihuahua, Laborador retriever, pit bull?)

Earth Science / Environmental Science

Example: Swamp People on the History Channel (history.com)

Your own show: Meet the Frackers – show different sides of the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing in shale gas wells

Criminal Justice

Example: Steven Seagal - Lawman

Your own show: Quirky Laws! (Research laws that are on the books and which reflect the life and times of communities in transition. Do they apply today? Why? Why not?)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Identity in Social Media: Constructions or Meltdowns

We've all read the cautionary tale about the pre-teen who is "friended" by someone who also seems to be a similarly angst-y pre-teen or "tweener" - whose middle school pressures are almost as bad as the new-found distrust of and distaste for one's parents. The "friend" turns out to be a much older predator, and the outcome is tragic.


Some may have read about or watched the film, Catfish (dir. Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, 2010), which had to do with a young NYC filmmaker, Nev Schulman, who (along with his filmmaker buddies) decided to film himself falling in love with the older sister of an 8-year-old artistic prodigy whose paintings, while definitely in the "outsider art" realm and "realist primitivism," started to have a following on Facebook. To make a long story short, the cast of characters - the mother, the 8-year-old, the older sister -- that the filmmaker interacted with were completely fictive. The NYC filmmaker, who said he wanted to meet his new-found love on her horse farm in the upper peninsula of Michigan, claimed to be devastated (and he filmed himself finding out the truth).


Not surprisingly, the film was met with a surge of skepticism -- the filmmaker was accused of orchestrating the entire thing, and the woman, whose schizoid inventions populated the web, was viewed as a rather pathetic attention-seeker and reality avoider.

The bigger picture is this: What do you do when almost everything in the virtual world is just that -- virtual, and a construction -- and yet the feelings that are lived by the people behind the avatars are real?

This applies to online learning as well. Although you go by your own name in the online classroom, you are, in essence, creating an avatar, or an alternative proxy self by which you interact. You also go through progressive collective socialization, which may, in the end, either help you or hinder you as you make your way through the discussion boards, collaborative activities, and interactions with your instructor.

****************************

In the virtual world, individuals often craft identities in isolation and they project them into cyberspace. They are not constrained by the reality checks of a circle of friends, family, or co-workers, and their socialization process is utterly different than in a regular community or cohort group. This is potentially liberating, but also potentially isolating.

Each person, as he or she learns to interact with people, develops identity-construction techniques as a part of the socialization process. What are these identity-construction techniques? Where are they used? Many times, the identity construction techniques are used to cope in a world that is often critical and absolute in its insistence upon conformity.

For the average person in a group environment where there is social interaction, the identity-construction process occurs via clothing, gestures, vocabulary, activities, humor, narrative and story-telling. In short, it is a living theater, and the participants and successful group members become skillful actors.

For the unfortunate ones who are not necessarily adept at acting or at picking up cues, or who lack the resources (physical, financial, or emotional) to participate in this kind of socialization, there are consequences to pay for social ineptitude. They are often ostracized or marginalized. For others who are chronically "a beat behind" when it comes to assessing the strategies used by others to modify behavior in order to conform to the dominant ethos, the ability to create a virtual identity in cyberspace becomes very appealing.

Needless to say, cyber identity-creation can become an addiction, particularly as the new "cyber-persona" meets with positive reception to others who believe and respond to the alter ego / virtual identity as though it were real. The positive reinforcement found in this activity exerts a strong pull on a naturally introverted person, and when it is coupled with the cognitive/kinaesthetic "rewards" found in the Internet via sensory stimulation, there is no doubt that the individual will be tempted to retreat even further from the "real" world.

For that reason, in ideal conditions, a student in an online course should have group interactions with people where socialization processes are occurring. In the so-called "real world," the interactions can occur either via workplace interactions or in community activities. It can be very interesting to integrate online activities with in-person activities, in order to close the separation between what can become a fantasy persona and one's real self.

With social networks, it's important to be mindful of socialization processes, and to be aware of what you need to do in order to stay in touch with your group.

It is important to realize that often the person who is "one beat behind" in being able to assess the steps necessary to mold himself or herself into the dominant ethos may be a person who has struggled with social isolation. In other words, their social rejection has not occurred without some degree of psychic pain. If the individual has been punished or subjected to verbal or physical abuse, there could be a latent desire for avenging oneself. And, if the rejection or social ostracization has occurred due to physical appearances, it is quite likely that the individual will create a cyber-persona that possesses the attributes that he or she wishes to have. As a strategy for personal empowerment, building a cyber-persona can be ultimately futile, and the identity is complex and contradictory when one desires to operate as an all-powerful, all-knowing presence who is simultaneously "cool" and indifferent to "cool," who possesses both an omnipresent in-your-face visual presence and an ability to be absolutely invisible.

The proliferation of individuals displaying these psychological characteristics (to varying degrees) is a natural outgrowth of the availability of the Internet, and the ease by which one creates a persona and is able to act out unacknowledged desires. Needless to say, the identity-construction elements, and the virtual-travel abilities (including invading the spaces of others), are most appealing to those who do not flourish in traditional social settings. Ironically, those who are most talented in the cyber-world are the least likely to be comfortable with a guide or mentor. But, they are the ones who need them most. It is imperative that society find ways to provide them with a trusted personal mentor and guide because the damage that misguided identity construction and cyber-travel (hacking, etc.) can do can be quite extensive, with far-reaching consequences.

The trusted mentor-guide presence is more important than ever given the times and current socio-economic situation of global interconnectedness. On a personal level, individuals are likely to have dysfunctional attitudes toward their identity-creation activities in our current setting of fragmenting family structures, eroding communities, disappearing support systems, and increasing isolation.

The mentor-guide in an Internet-based course is a grounding presence, and any person who decides to assume this role will have to be aware that the safety and seeming anonymity of the Internet may give rise to more trust and dependence than the mentor has been prepared for. The learner may project his/her own problems onto the mentor, become dependent, confess personal issues, and become emotionally cathected. Ironically, this can occur without either having any idea of the real appearance of the other. Usually they have never met each other in person and never will.

However frightening this prospect is, it is necessary to look at it as an indication of the positive effects that Internet-based courses can have, if they establish a strong mentor-learner relationship in a safe, guiding environment. The mentor and learner can come to experience the Internet as critical elements in an increasingly inter-dependent (rather than independent) world, which teaches, models, and reinforces mutual caring, compassion, and respect.

The fostering of a positive environment for identity-creation and guided socialization (via the Internet) is very important for successful navigation in a world increasingly focused on appearances and first impressions, where long-term commitments have been supplanted by short-term relationships based on performance and/or convenience, and where human frailty is made invisible or is consumed / cannibalized so that the strong survive.

The online learner exists in a world that mediates itself between the "real" (where the people he/she interacts with are successful actors in the roles accepted by the community), and the "virtual" (where the identities she interacts with have successfully created identities that represent their deepest desires of who / what they would like to be in the world).

Both worlds require adaptation and socialization.

One can use the virtual world / Internet to provide:
-- positive guidance via a mentor
-- increased self-awareness on the part of the learner which allows him or her to contemplate
-- what he/she would do if empowered
-- how she appears in the mirror-space created by the Internet; for the first time she is able to look deeply and see what he or she would like to be, how to be that entity, when the persona is appealing, who the created persona would like to interact with (and how), and what the persona wants to do at various times and places.

Such self-knowledge could be a lamp in a dark existence, and could help deal with deeper issues. Not only can the guide-mentor relationship create better citizens, with equipped with new skills and strategies for living in a rapidly changing world, it can also address the problems and underlying factors that give rise to cyber-criminals. Further, the mentor can guide the student to an awareness that can allow her or him to remove the barriers that have been blocking his or progress. This will give learners a new opportunity to develop a vision of themselves or of where they want to be, and to guide themselves to a new understanding of how, and when to take steps along a path to a better existence.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Interview with Peter Bray, Trivantis: Innovators in E-Learning Series

E-Learning design mistakes are insidious and often hard to identify until they’ve basically infected the entire course or program. By that time, it’s extremely difficult (and expensive) to correct. So, the time to make sure that you’re following good design principles is in the initial design of the certificate or degree program (associates, bachelors, or masters). Another good time can be when you’re conducting your periodic updates and revisions in response to instructional materials changes or upcoming accreditation reviews. Welcome to an interview with Peter Bray of Trivantis, a provider of innovative e-Learning software, including the well-known Lectora and Snap!.




What is your name and your relation to e-Learning?

Peter Bray. I am the Chief Marketing Officer of Trivantis Corporation. Trivantis is the leading e-Learning software company with our products as the e-Learning software of choice for Global 2000 companies in over 70 countries.

What are current statistics about the popularity of e-Learning?

The rise in e-Learning around the world is apparent and e-Learning software and services are constantly evolving to keep up with the ever changing industry. For instance, you can see this evolution within our company and the ways in which we introduce new and innovative tools to meet the growing demands of learners, such as Snap! by Lectora and Lectora X.5. Just last year Ambient Insight reported that the US market for self-paced e-Learning products and services reached $18.2 billion – and that revenues will reach $24.2 billion by 2015. Through harsh economic times, the e-Learning industry continues to grow along with the necessity for affordable and easy-to-use software.

Which elements are most effective in e-Learning? Can you point to any studies that support the points?

Effective e-Learning needs to be engaging and grab the attention of the learner. The developer needs to take all learning styles into account when designing a course. To be effective, courses should include various forms of activity and interaction, feedback, branching scenarios and of course, multi-media elements such as audio, video, Flash and narration.

What do most e-Learning programs do right?


E-Learning that incorporates interactivity can be highly effective.

There is software that helps enable interactive content incorporation. For example, Snap! by Lectora one such software program. It enables users to create interactive courses quickly and easily by allowing users to add audio, video, and interaction by means of an intuitive interface.

What are the top 5 mistakes that are often made in the design of e-Learning programs?

I frequently see the following issues in courses:

1. Too much content on a page. There is such a thing as information overload and seeing a long page of text can be overwhelming for learners.

2. Inconsistent navigation and user interface. Keeping the user interface consistent makes it easier to navigate through a course and makes learners feel more comfortable.

3. Clip art. Bland, boring clip art on pages is a snooze for learners…or worse yet, no visual support to the message.

4. Font issues. From font being too small to choosing a bad font style, hard to read text is no-no.

5. Not enough engagement. Too often, we just provide information, but we need to be interacting and engaging the learner.

What are the top 5 mistakes that are made in the deployment of e-Learning programs?

1. Not Considering the Technology of Your Users
. Remember the equipment your audience is using. If they do not have speakers, audio narration is not an option. Find the common denominator; if you build for the least advanced, you can be sure it works for all learners. Also, be sure you know that your audio, video and Flash content functions work correctly everywhere it is used. Plus, don’t forget about mobile!

2. Bad Design. 
When designing your course be sure you know your objective and your audience. Content needs to be designed to meet the need and also to engage the audience. Find out what your audience responds to best and design accordingly. To compensate for lack of an instructor, include easy navigation with audio narration. Also try to anticipate the questions and to provide a ‘facilitator’ to enhance the learners’ experience. Introducing an interesting story or a serious situation can set the tone and get people excited about the course. And most importantly, keep it short. Shorter courses are easier to take and are more likely to help learners retain the key content.

3. Not Enough QA and Testing
. Testing your project is a step that simply cannot be skipped. Preview each page while building your project and catch the mistakes early on. Plan for Murphy’s Law, because you never know what could go wrong – especially when it comes to technology. And, once you’ve tested, test again, because small changes can have large effects on the whole course.

4. No Follow-Up or Feedback
. Following up with the learners will allow you to learn from the course as well, and make the necessary changes for next time. Let the learners tell you how they are doing and what they think of the course. You can use whatever you have access to, but be sure to receive some type of feedback. Once you have all the feedback, act on it. Take others’ suggestions and make your next project even better.

5. Poor Content Management. 
Things change all the time so odds are that your courses will need to be updated. But, if you can’t find the files, don’t have the latest version or need to go to multiple vendors to get pieces of your courses then making changes becomes a nightmare. Keep a repository for all your content and make sure you’re using a tool that enables you to easily update your courses, like Snap! by Lectora.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anti-Bullying E-Learning // Interview with Pavel Tchourliaev, Kiwi Commons: Innovaters in E-Learning Series

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
My name is Pavel Tchourliaev, and I’m the COO of Kiwi Commons Inc. At Kiwi Commons, we feel that e-learning is essential in educating kids and raising them in a digital world. While we are very aware of the risks that surround the online world, we also feel that emerging technologies, if used responsibly, can be a great learning tool to engage students in the classroom, and an intuitive way to continue their learning at home.


Pavel Tchourliaev




2. In your opinion, what is cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying is the use of online technology and social media to deliver deliberate, repeated, and hostile messages and pictures (using e-mail, instant messaging, texting, or sending images via cell phones, blogs, Web pages, and/or chat rooms) by an individual or group with the intent of causing harm to someone.

3. What are common manifestations of cyber-bullying? What does it look like when children engage in it?
The most common way cyber-bullying occurs is through the use of social media where it’s easy to target people. It’s generally done through ridicule, humiliation, spreading rumours and other means that threaten a victim’s reputation and safety. It is arguably more pernicious than schoolyard bullying because it can occur at any time and its young (often anonymous) perpetrators cannot be brought to justice by traditional authority figures like teachers. To the victim’s chagrin, it can persist indefinitely.




4. How can one combat cyber-bullying?
Restricting access to social media sites until children are old enough, can help prevent the early on-set of cyber-bullying problems. ‘Blocking’ itself however, is not a solution. Parents can combat cyber-bullying through communication and education about online issues. Teaching empathy at a young age can help deter children from becoming bullies when they are older. It is also important to have open conversations about kids’ online lives and create an understanding that whatever is said in the digital world can have consequences in “real life.”

5. Are there ways that social media can help children develop empathy and courtesy? How?
Social media is a great way for children to learn what it is like to be in another person’s shoes. It can teach empathy by exposing them to the real issues that their peers might deal with on a regular basis. The lesson that needs to be taught when they come across these issues online is to not be a bystander to bullying. It takes courage to speak up against bullies, but it can make a world of a difference to a person who is being harassed.

6. What is Kiwi Commons?
Kiwi Commons Inc. is an organization dedicated to Internet safety-related topics such as cyberbullying online privacy and gaming addiction. We deliver free seminars in schools through our non-profit division - Kiwi Seminars. Kiwi Filter is a great web filtering tool for parents with kids ages 4 to 11.

Kiwi Commons itself is a blog, with a mission of educating parents and teachers about the risks that surround youth on the Internet so that they are better equipped to educate their own kids. The website also provides resources for both parents and teachers about how to deal with specific issues, hands-on.

7. How does filtering really get at the core issue of bullying? It seems to me that it would take more than simply blocking content. Please explain how you would address cyber-bullying in a more integrated, larger way.
Kiwi Filter goes beyond just blocking content because it works using a whitelist that parents can create themselves. Creation of these safe website lists encourages communication between parents and children about websites they need or want access to. Filtering is also a good deterent for cyber-bullying as it can remove access or reduce time spent on social media websites.



Since bullying is often driven by a victim’s reaction, lack of it can help prevent the escalation of the problem. An understanding of the risks and a responsible online behaviour should be established before children are allowed to use social media sites.

Kiwi provides tools and information necessary for parents to address topics such as bullying, whether they believe their child is being bullied or is a bully. You can view these resources at:
http://kiwicommons.com/resources.php

Monday, October 17, 2011

Interview with Jody Hoff, Federal Reserve Bank: Innovators in E-Learning Series

With all the recent efforts by the U.S. federal government to respond to the ongoing economic challenges, the demand for understanding the role of the Federal Reserve Bank has grown dramatically. In response, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSB) has developed an informative and innovative way to help learners of all levels gain an understanding of the banking crisis of 2008, in addition to ongoing current challenges.

The materials that the FRBSF has developed are appropriate for online and hybrid courses, and would fit in well in portfolios developed for many different subjects, ranging from economics to marketing.

Welcome to an interview with Jody Hoff, Senior Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

1. What is your name, your organization, and your relation to elearning?

a. Jody Hoff, Senior Manager

b. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

c. I direct our education efforts for the 12th District which includes nine western states. An important component of our educational strategy leverages elearning approaches to reach our key audiences, including students and educators.

2. What is the Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco (FRBSF) doing in the area of elearning?

a. In the Education group, we are in the process of shifting our strategy to provide content to students and teachers in an electronic format. Examples are the Crisis and Response and What is the Fed? web resources. In addition, we are rolling out a new project called DataPost that will provide a weekly chart/visualization of the economy with a brief explanation of the story behind the data, discussion questions for the classroom, and the actual data set so that students can experiment with their own visualization or chart.

3. What is the mission of the FRBSF's educational outreach? Why? What do you hope to see in the future?

a. Our education mission is to provide meaningful learning opportunities about the Federal Reserve, economics, and the economy.

b. As an institution, the Federal Reserve is charged with implementing monetary policy to promote a healthy economy, job growth, and stable prices. We are committed to providing a variety of opportunities for people to learn about the Federal Reserve and its role in the U. S. economy.

c. The explosive growth in access to technology and information is erasing the traditional split between teachers and students. I recently witnessed two teenagers utilize a YouTube video to complete their algebra homework. They were having trouble remembering the classroom lecture from earlier in the day and rather than dig through the textbook, they pulled up a video on the exact topic, watched it for about 90 seconds and then completed the problem. We view our online resources, like the Crisis & Response site, as offering a self- serve, if you will, source of information and analysis. Our strategy is to support learning in a way that gives the user some control about how to process the information. OurWhat is the Fed? resource follows this model with text, conceptual images, discussion questions, and a monetary policy game called The Fed Chairman Game.

4. You've used a combination of video, animated graphics, and an interesting schema-building instructional strategy that allows learners to move to ever increasing levels of detail and depth. Could you describe how that happens in your site, and why you took that approach?

a. The sites are organized around essential questions and bullet point answers. We wanted to provide a way for the reader to get their arms around the big picture before diving into the specifics of the content. We also wanted to provide a variety of tools for the reader to develop their own meaning about the narrative. We used compelling data and graphs to support the bullet point answers and also created a number of conceptual images to help readers understand unfamiliar terms such as ‘macro-prudential supervision’.

b. Our approach was to frame the issues around essential questions that would tell the story of the economy without completely overwhelming the reader. We wanted to experiment with an approach that didn’t just drop you in the deep end of the pool and hope you could swim. Rather, we wanted to provide an entry point to the story that you could follow to increasing levels of complexity.

5. Cause and effect plays a big role in the fundamental narrative and logic structure of your site and the approach you take. It seems extremely effective and appropriate given the economic crisis and the need to untangle the basic "why's" and "how's" of what occurred. Could you discuss how you settled on which major issues to address?

a. Because of the challenge of synthesizing the complexity of the crisis into a concise, essential question format, our most senior economists wrote the narrative. And, we spent a great deal of time thinking through the story of the crisis and how best to contextualize the issues.

6. What are your plans for the future? Do you have any plans to encourage banks to put in links in their online banking portals? If so, how do you see your role in relation to local banks and also users of banking services?

a. That’s an interesting question. A direction we are exploring for the future is the use of short, immersive video “talks” to quickly and directly pull the viewer into a look at the economy from the perspective of a research economist. Our goal is to share new understanding and insight about economic processes. These efforts are focused primarily on educators, students, and the general public.

7. Please discuss an aspect or two of your philosophy of elearning.

a. My philosophy of learning is based on the constructionist perspective that places the learner at the center of the action. We design content with a specific context and provide tools that support the learner’s efforts to understand and create meaning. Taking that perspective to the elearning environment, we’ve incorporated many of the instructional design principles outlined in Richard Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. The Crisis and Response site is really all about trying to reduce the cognitive load for the non-expert members of the public, including teachers and students, who want to understand more about the complexity of the financial crisis. Our What is the Fed? resource and upcoming new DataPost project also incorporate these design principles.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Jill Ambrose, CourseSmart: Innovators in E-Learning Series

E-textbooks and other digital assets have become extremely important in the world of textbooks. The texts are evolving quickly, in both the way that they are delivered and in the kinds of instructional activities, materials, and collaborations that are included.

Welcome to an interview with Jill Ambrose, Chief Marketing Officer at CourseSmart.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
Jill Ambrose, chief marketing officer at CourseSmart, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials. CourseSmart believes in anywhere, anytime access of course materials for everyone. Therefore CourseSmart enables and supports access to e-learning.

Jill Ambrose, CourseSmart

2. What are some of the latest trends in e-learning?
I would say the two biggest trends in e-learning right now are the push towards mobile access and learning as well as interactive course materials that improve learning outcomes.

With today’s students being more tech savvy and taking their college learning experiences beyond just the classroom, mobile access to e-learning tools has become increasingly important. CourseSmart has been committed to meeting the growing mobile needs of today’s students, and just this year, we led the industry in mobile innovations by introducing the first eReader app for Android™-based devices which joined our other industry firsts – the iPhone® and iPad® apps, launched in 2009 and 2010, respectively. We also launched an HTML5 single platform reader (another industry first) allowing users to access digital course materials online, offline or on mobile devices. And earlier this summer, CourseSmart launched the industry’s first social commerce tab on Facebook, giving students unprecedented access to eTextbooks through a site where they already spend a lot of their time.

CourseSmart is the only digital course provider that offers eResources from multiple publishers. eResources are highly engaging and interactive learning products that make faculty teaching more effective and student learning more engaging by providing immediate feedback to the student to ensure comprehension of key learnings. eResources include an automated, integrated grading system that provides real-time feedback to ensure comprehension of key learnings by the user.

It’s not just about what’s “fun and interesting” in their eTextbooks, but rather, it’s what truly helps students with learning and ultimately the comprehension of that learning experience.
All eResources are not alike but many include quizzes, tutorials, interactive exercises, videos, links to other websites and the digital text.

3. How have digital textbooks changed over the last 5 years?
First off, the content has not changed. Availability and how you interact with the content is where there have been dramatic increases.

Regarding availability, digital course materials and eTextbooks are now available through multiple channels; online, through some Publishers and the campus bookstore. The sheer volume of the CourseSmart catalog of eTextbooks continues to grow everyday and currently includes more than 20,000 eTextbooks which represents 90% of all core higher education textbooks in use today.


How you interact with the content has also changed. Mobile access is a big shift in the last few years with the increase of smartphone and tablet usage as well as emerging mobile app technology. At CourseSmart alone, almost one third of all users (faculty and students alike) prefer to read their materials on a tablet rather than on a computer. Product features have also improved significantly, as CourseSmart has continued to listen to consumer feedback, adapting our features to meet the changing needs of students. This includes improved highlighting and note-taking functionality, the ability to cut and paste sections of text, email select content to classmates, etc.


4. What do you see as some of the main trends in cloud-based digital texts?
An important element that CourseSmart recognizes in the use of digital texts is the ability to access texts when needed, without limiting storage to only one device or access through multiple devices, as well as creating the ability to synchronize notes and highlights when you are working between computers and devices. This is where the case for cloud-based digital textbooks becomes especially relevant to our customers. The availability and portability of cloud-based applications, such as CourseSmart’s library of eTextbooks and digital course materials, means that students and faculty can access the texts and course materials anytime, anywhere. Access is available from any web-enabled device or through one of CourseSmart’s downloadable apps. Our cloud-based model perfectly fits with the on-the-go lifestyle and need for portability without the burden of carrying around heavy textbooks. Even notes on the texts, if entered within CourseSmart’s interface, are portable!

The cloud-based nature of eTextbooks and digital resources also eliminates the need for costly investments in storage and infrastructure by schools and students to store loads of downloaded materials. While CourseSmart eTextbooks and digital course materials can be accessed offline, they remain stored on the cloud, taking advantage of the efficiency of cloud storage.

5. How well do CourseSmart texts integrate with learning management systems?
They integrate extremely well. CourseSmart is dedicated to providing a streamlined teaching and learning experience for faculty and students. CourseSmart Solutions for instructors and institutions can be fully integrated with various learning management systems like Pearson LearningStudio, Blackboard® and Desire2Learn, allowing instructors and students to access their course materials in their current daily workflow. Current solutions may be found at Arizona State University, University of Michigan and Western Governors University to name a few.

6. (Revised) What kinds of multimedia do you typically bundle with an e-text? Do you have standalone audio (mp3 format) that students can download to their portable devices, or do they have to access the e-text through the CourseSmart portal each time they want to watch a video or listen to an audio podcast?
Publishers determine the content that should be offered as an eTextbook or an eResource. The publisher also determines appropriate content that should be bundled with eTextbooks. There are various forms of multimedia used with titles offered by the publishers. Again, these are determined by the publisher. The types of multimedia selected are based on how well they support the concepts being taught.

All of CourseSmart’s eTextbooks are stored within the cloud and are accessible to students and faculty anytime, anywhere via a Web-enabled device connected to the Internet. At this time, only CourseSmart’s non-multimedia content can be accessed offline.



© 2011 CourseSmart, LLC. All rights reserved. CourseSmart® is a registered trademark of CourseSmart, LLC. All other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Interview with Joe Landsberger, Website Study Guides and Strategies

Welcome to an interview with Joe Landsberger, who has put together extensive online study guides and study tools to meet the needs of students everywhere. While courses can be relatively easy to find and OpenCourseWare more prevalent, it is often difficult to find effective study tools, particularly in different languages.

Joe Landsberger:
For the past 16 years, I have researched and authored content, as well as developed and financially supported its Website Study Guides and Strategies. This stemmed from my professional and educational background in assisting learners and developing training modules in a university setting, as well as discovering the educational potential of the Internet back in the early 1990’s. In a chance encounter with an academic support professional at a conference, I discovered that a Website should be a useful tool delivering study strategies in a learning center environment. With publication of those first pages in a Website, I immediately began to receive appreciation from developing countries. A cadre of dedicated volunteer translators and collaborations also emerged to where its resources are translated in 39 languages.

Joe Landsberger
Study Guides and Strategies

Over 250 topics in content have been developed. Some have been developed as part of a logical sequence, some by chance encounters identifying a need, and even a few by request. They include options in learning as types, in the classroom, with others, online; time and project management; test preparation and taking; reading and writing guides. Each Webpage adheres to a similarly bulleted style and format in a consistent design and navigation template, which is of course reversed for right-to-left text as Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian.

Initially the content was verbal without images, but as capabilities progressed more were illustrated. In 2003 Flash was deployed in order to facilitating engagement with content, and over 100 interactive exercises are now online as well. Aside from developing these exercises, another effort toward enhancing the effectiveness of the resource has been made to group, and even sequence topics. One limit to the singular nature of the Website, is that there is no institutional affiliation, which impedes research into determining effectiveness or in terms of outcomes, and also limits my opportunities for funding (while a public service, the organization is not non-profit, just without profit!). However, over 60,000 (educational) institutions link to the site worldwide, and traffic has continued to grow each of its 16 years, currently increasing at 23% in 2011 to over nine million visitors.

Due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, it has been difficult to gauge characteristics of visitors, whether student, teacher, support professional or parent. Alexa.com however presented this profile (December 2010): "Compared with internet averages the site's audience tends to be aged under 25 and 55-65; they are also disproportionately low-income, moderately educated, childless women browsing from school and home." English accounts for about 80% of pages accessed. Interestingly, only about 5% of visitors use handheld/mobile devices.

Approximately 51% of traffic originates in the US, 6% the Philippines, 4% Canada, 3.6% Mexico, 3.5% India. Over the years the international traffic has increased as more guides are translated. One curious source of traffic originated in a developing country. When I inquired from a researcher the reason, he stated that the guides seemed research-based, freely accessible, and that his country did not have the resources either to develop them, or to provide academic support in school settings.

Aside from adding topics, translations, and exercises future projects will respond to advances in technology. Recognizing the limitations of Flash and evolving standards and specifications for web-based e-learning (SCORM), I eagerly await HTML5, as well as other applications and developments in promoting interactivity for the topics and content of the Website.

Currently all 1500 pages of content are being migrated into CSS, with 20 of 39 languages completed. This effort has magnified the limitations of myself as developer. I had to dedicate several months of time not only to assess the next iteration, but also, lacking any collegial environment, teach myself the development and implementation. This last has involved a line-by-line review of not only code, but also the content itself. Foreign languages presented a unique challenge that was remedied by machine translators and Internet searches to verify and optimize text!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Review of Drive (dir. Nicholas Refn, 2011); OpenPlan Film Criticism Collaboration Sample / Tool

E-Learning Queen is delighted to offer an OpenPlan Film Criticism Collaboration Paper example and template / tool. This OpenPlan offering is designed to help overcome some of the problems that accompany online collaborations. For example, lack of motivation and confusion with course procedures can cause online collaborations to fall flat. However, with wikis and other documents sharing programs (Google Docs, for example), collaborations can be the highlight of an online course.

The key to successful collaborations is having a good instructional strategy that includes a topic that is intrinsically motivating. One of the most engaging collaborations can be to develop movie review teams, and to create reviews. The structure can be very flexible, ranging from a back-and-forth point-counterpoint approach (or a thumbs-up, thumbs-down exchange), to the production of a seamless document that successfully melds together the two voices to create a satisfying, engaging read.

There may be some utility in maintaining a bit of the rawness in the process. In E-Learning Queen’s OpenPlan Film Criticism Collaboration Paper In the example below, some of the data is presented at the end as a kind of mini-appendix.

NASH & LYNCH REVIEWS

Drive (dir Nicholas Refn, 2011) by Susan Smith Nash and Seth Lynch

Drive (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn, 2011) features a gorgeous noir city with sharp-edged skyscrapers and pinpoints of light above the labyrinth of roads that constitute Los Angeles. The opening voiceover refers to the seeming infinity of interweaving streets, the labyrinth of physicality and solitude, which wind and converge. One might think that the taciturn Driver is the hero of the film, but it's much more complicated than that. Like so many self-reflexive films, Drive contains interpenetrating references and allusions to elements in the popular consciousness: the first that come to mind are video games (Grand Theft Auto, Midnight Club), cartoons (Speed Racer), classic car chase sequences (Bullit, The French Connection), and the cars themselves -- gleaming, fast, classic (‘73 Chevy Malibu).

One of the elements of Drive is extreme, almost surreal precision. The Driver (or “Kid”) meticulously plans his heist getaways. For example, in the opening scene’s basketball game getaway has been planned to the second. The film begins with him in a hotel room with the game on the television. After the opening getaway scene, nowhere else in the movie does it show him watching or listening to sports. While in his deliberately anonymous Impala, he simply listens to the game for the timing, knowing the exact moment to lose the cops in the arena’s parking lot. He dons a team hat, but he doesn’t wear it again. He has no interest in the game other than using it as a getaway. His sole focus and purpose is driving and when Irene asks him what he does for a living, he responds, “Drive.” Of course he follows this by saying he is also mechanic, but only after Irene asks if he drives for the movies.

Precision shows up in other aspects of the film as well: the Driver carefully works on an intake manifold and gangster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) slices the veins in the hapless Shannon’s arm with surgical finesse so that it bleeds out quickly and “painlessly.”

Like the Damascus knives that Bernie Rose collects, precise engineering can either mean the ultimate heist getaway – allowing mere mortals to transcend the limits of our corporeal existence, both in the bodies that bind us, and the laws – or the ultimate meting out of carbon-steel justice. You transgress, you pay.

One might think the gangsters in the film are uniformly clocklike in their precision, as is the Driver. They are not. In fact, the gangsters are refreshing in that they are not filled with hubris and do not have ostentatious lifestyles. Instead, they are fearful and essentially greedy. Their violence is messy but mercifully quick.

The Driver enables gangsters to do what they do, but he is not gangster. Instead, he is a layered, complex, paradoxical presence. The Driver possesses attributes that blur the line between hero and anti-hero. Once he decides to act (violence, expert maneuvers), he doesn’t hesitate. He is very controlled under normal circumstances, but has difficulty restraining himself from bashing a mobster’s head in with a hammer, and his inner struggle is evident in the fact he is sweating profusely. The audience may notice that the strippers in the dressing room who witness the violence are not shocked, but are still in a kind of frozen tableau that also gives the impression of a scene from a comic book, cartoon, or video game.

The Driver knows he is flawed, and with that self-knowledge, he can detect the flaws of others: when Bernie extends his hand, he is left hanging for a while, then the Driver says his hand is a little dirty. Bernie says his hand is dirty, too. This scene parallels the scene when Bernie reaches out to shake Shannon’s hand only to slash the veins in his forearm. Judging character seems to be something one possesses as an instinct. When watching TV, the Driver asks Benicio how he knows a character is a bad guy and Benicio says he just knows.

The overall mise-en-scene reinforces the experience of being the driver and feeling the car, the streets, the omnipresent threats (police, gangsters, and attachment). Panning long shots establish the driver and the viewer in a maze, and prepare one for high speeds and adrenaline, while two-shots where the individuals are on the edges of the frame reinforce the idea that togetherness is something strived for but never quite achieved.

Further, many of the shots are framed within the frame, which gives the sense of looking through a window or from a keyhole. The experience is both distancing and voyeuristic, which adds to the sense that you can never really get to know the Driver, nor can you establish consubstantiality or true resonance. There is a wall that blocks the viewer from projecting too much of one's emotions, except in the sense of alienation and profound existential solitude.


With the modifications made to the cars, and the latex masks and costumes / disguises employed by the stunt driver / getaway driver, identity is problematized. It is always changing, except for the things that do not change -- scorpion jacket and a sleek, fast car.

The city itself adds to the notion of problematized identity as drivers make their way in the pristine, dark labyrinth of city streets at night. The implication is that one can ever get free. All roads lead back to an emotional minotaur, or at least to Nino, who will call due your obligations, and will trap you with your own dreams, whether they be of money, freedom, or emotional connection.

The white satin jacket with the embroidered scorpion on the back represents the Driver’s life. In the beginning it is clean; likewise, the driver is unencumbered with emotion: he has no real feelings for others. He works for Shannon, but they do not appear to be friends. It is little more than a business relationship, but he is loyal to his boss (he goes after Nino right after he discovers a bled-out Shannon in the garage, though he likely would have gone after him anyway to save Irene and Benicio). In the beginning of the film, when the Driver shows up at Shannon’s garage to take out the Impala, he is told about the car (the most common model in California, but with a modified engine), but the Driver does not respond. The Driver only speaks to Shannon twice: he tells him to cut out his joking with Irene, then angrily confronts him after determining how Bernie learned who drove the getaway car in the pawnshop robbery.

The jacket becomes soiled with blood after he assaults Cook in the strip club and later when he viciously kills a hit man in the elevator. The stains on the jacket show parallel a life soiled by the messy relationship he forms with Irene. Though their relationship is mostly pure (while Standard is alive, they do nothing more physical than hold hands), the responsibility he feels for her and Benicio compels him to help to make any sacrifice. The scorpion is emblematic of the driver. He asks Bernie if he’s heard the story of the scorpion and the toad, indicating that he is the scorpion and will act accordingly. His fate is to kill those who fail to recognize his true nature. He also knows that Bernie is no different. He instantly sizes him up at the track and does not change his mind. When Bernie offers to meet, the Driver understands what is in store. They will both act predictably. The Driver knows not to trust what Bernie says to him at the restaurant. When Bernie says he will be let go, only to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life, the Driver simply responds with a smile.

Drive is amazingly intertextual, and the icons in it evoke elements of other films. There are many references / visual allusions, probably too numerous to mention here. However, the Driver’s scorpion jacket must be recognized as utterly metonymically intertextual, namely, with another racing film in which the protagonist wears an iconic jacket: Rebel Without a Cause.

The Driver wears the mask to conceal his identity while performing stunts. He also takes it from the trailer at the movie set and uses it to stalk and kill Nino. Anonymity provides the driver with a sense of comfort in his violence. He becomes habituated to using it while doing dangerous stunts and it gives him the courage to take out a ruthless gangster. He does not use it as a getaway driver, because these situations call for self-control. He doesn’t simply outrun the cops, but skillfully hides from them. In this scene, and in the chase scene following the pawnshop robbery, he uses slick tactics, not aggression, to evade his pursuers.

In a larger sense, masking is the essential mechanism that resonates in an uncertain world, where people can’t be trusted, and love is always unattainable, either due to one’s own honor codes, or because it’s taken away before things can be realized. Masking is the protective carapace that allows one to take action. To be emotive means you’re incapable of true action, and, further, you can’t be an action hero. To be taciturn and emotionless, means that you are capable of action. You possess the essential attributes of an action hero.

The action hero must live with contradictions and paradoxes. The Driver is at his happiest when he can be himself around Irene, but he has a secret identity as a wheelman. Of course there is another side to him that he tries to hide. He does not tell Irene he about his criminal activity, even when he plans to help Standard pay off his protection debt. He does not want to burden or implicate Irene with any knowledge of the robbery, but wants them to remain pure. Likewise, he does not want to provide them with any knowledge of his violent nature, but when called on to protect them, he will act. He knows he has to kill the hitman in the elevator, yet he understands Irene will be appalled. He kisses her, knowing that what he has to do will change her perception of him. After he stomps in the man’s head, he looks at her with a wild sadness as he realizes Irene is too shocked to speak or to stop the elevator door from shutting between them and their relationship closes. The driver knows that whatever happens, he and Irene can never be together. He calls her one last time to conclude things. He tells her that the time he spent with her and her son was the most meaningful experience of his life.

During other times of violence without the mask, it is essential for him to remain in control. After he smashes Cook’s hand with a hammer, he has his arm back ready to bash him in the head as he speaks with Nino on the phone. Even after Nino questions the offer to settle things, the Driver does not kill Cook because he hopes the situation can be resolved.

Feelings do not flow freely through a mask, and likewise, the viewer is not likely to see much emotion in the action hero. Blood, however, does flow freely, which allows the catharsis to take place, and the action to have a focus. In Drive, as in many other action films, the emotions / blood starts flowing when a loved one is harmed or in danger of being harmed. The anti-hero's flawed nature is what gives him the advantage when dealing with the villains of the film because the anti-hero possesses the same knowledge and perhaps even the same nature. What ultimately saves the anti-hero is the fact that his motives are sacrificial, and that his blood flows almost as freely. The Diver is shot, beaten, and broken -- his pain absolves him. It also awakens him, and he feels again. Ultimately, the loved one is spared, and the audience has experienced a vicarious flow as well, either in relating to the sacrifices of the hero, or in a cold recognition that they, too, inhabit a world where the price one pays for being (or seeming) emotionally impervious and distant is a brutal (and often fatal) pain upon awakening.

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Appendix: Violent scenes


  1. Gangster (“Cook”) stabbed by Bernie in the eye with a fork and then with a knife in the chest.

  2. In Shannon’s garage, Bernie slices Shannon’s arm and causes him to exsanguinate

  3. In the parking garage, two thugs seek out Standard in order to collect on the “protection” debt that Standard incurred while in prison

  4. In elevator, the Driver stomps to death a thug sent to kill him

  5. In parking lot outside pawnshop, there is violence when Standard is shot by someone in the pawn shot (and not someone in the Chrysler 300 with tinted windows that pulls up as though it’s part of a rival gang. (startling since you don’t see who shoots Standard – expected something to happen because the Chrysler 300 with limo-tinted windows pulled up close to the driver’s stolen Mustang and no one got out, but didn’t expect shooting to come from the pawnshop; similarity to precision driving because of quick action, must have quick reflexes)

  6. In hotel room (didn’t expect Blanche to be killed with a shotgun blast to the head since she was with the mobsters, she called them when the driver leaves the hotel to call Irene).

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OpenPlan Film Criticism Collaboration Template / Tool


  1. List the name of the film, the director, year released, and the key characters and actors.

  2. Where and when does the film take place? What is the atmosphere?

  3. What is it about this film that makes you care about it? How does it engage you emotionally? Intellectually? What is the primary focus of the plot?

  4. What makes this film special? What are the narrative elements that set it apart from others?

  5. How do the characters distinguish themselves? How are they special / unique? What do they do or say? (Describe illustrative scenes)

  6. What is the dominant camera work? What types of shots characterize this film?

  7. What are other films that may resonate with this film? List them, and describe what makes them have something in common with this one.

  8. What are some aspects of the film that you’re not quite sure how to process, but which linger long after you’ve seen the film.

  9. List a few philosophical / psychological ideas that may relate to the film.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview with Allen Partridge, Adobe Systems: E-Learning Innovators Series

The iPad is becoming increasingly friendly for any time / any place learning, ranging from K-12 to graduate programs. Welcome to an interview with Dr. Allen Partridge, the eLearning Evangelist for Adobe Systems, who discusses some of the new technologies that make it possible to convert different formats to play on the iPad, including HTML5 and HTML5-enabled Captivate.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
Dr. Allen Partridge is the eLearning Evangelist for Adobe Systems Inc. In addition to his work for Adobe Systems, he continues to serve on the doctoral faculty in the Communications Media and Instructional Technology program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Allen has written several books and a host of articles on topics ranging from 3D game development to Instructional Design for new technologies. He is active in explorations of Immersive Learning as well as traditional multimedia enhanced eLearning and rapid eLearning. Allen works closely with the eLearning Suite and Captivate teams at Adobe, providing a channel to customer needs and concerns and helping facilitate communication among team members.

2. What are some of the exciting new directions you've observed in elearning?
Most of the movement lately has been in the expansion / ease of access to creating great content with limited experience working with software. We’ve been focusing a lot of attention over the past couple of cycles on modernizing Adobe Captivate and the Adobe eLearning Suite to modern standards. Most eLearning online uses Adobe Flash to deliver the content in a web browser played back using the Adobe Flash plugin. About five years ago Adobe made dramatic improvements to Flash technology and adopted a new programming language commonly called AS3 (ActionScript 3). All of Adobe’s eLearning software is now fully AS3 compliant so it all runs better, smoother, and much much faster using the full strength of Flash.
In more recent months we’ve been extending Captivate’s reach on mobile devices. Captivate users can already publish content to Apple iOS using the App Packager that comes with eLearning Suite, but we wanted to add the option to produce HTML5 compatible content easily from a Captivate SWF.

3. Where do you see some of the most innovative uses of tablets (iPad, etc.) in elearning?
We’re offering the HTML5 converter free to the public on Adobe Labs while it is still in development. We feel strongly that this open forum will provide users with a relevant voice as we rollout new features and seek to meet the needs of users for this rapidly growing platform. While for a long time, we saw little statistical evidence that eLearning content was being created for mobile platforms, the introduction of mobile tablets had dramatically altered the playing field for educational content developers. This does a number of things. 1. It creates a strong need for touch based interactions that anticipate the differences between clicking a mouse and touching an application with your fingers. We addressed a lot of those issues with the release of Captivate 5.5 – most notably adding special interactions to quizzes that made it much easier to deliver successful quizzes on mobile devices.
The addition of another export format (HTML5) further extends Captivate’s reach as the industry leader in eLearning authoring. This thing is really pretty cool. You just feed it a Captivate SWF – like an application capture demo, and it spits out HTML5. Then post the HTML file.

4. In the past, the fact that some technologies do not run on iPad operating systems has been a problem. What is being done to address that?
We’ve seen a variety of approaches from various companies. Some rely on third party technologies, others have developed proprietary solutions and some of the companies who had traditionally used older technologies like HTML, found that they could easily support HTML5. Adobe was among the first to offer a robust solution, and was the first to create a Flash to App converter which was released with Adobe Flash Professional CS5. There were however some difficulties, because Apple altered the terms of their developer’s license shortly before the CS5 software was released, and that alteration prevented authors from using the Application Packager from Adobe. Shortly afterward, Apple reversed course, and re-enabled the use of the Packager. So people can use it now, and many do. In fact many large games for iOS devices are Flash games, converted with the App Packager.


5. What is HTML5?
Well that depends on who you ask. Some will tell you it’s a clever marketing campaign. HTML is Hyper Text Markup Language. It’s the standard used by web browsers for the past 20 years to display text and graphics (and sometimes other stuff) on web pages. The number 5 is the version number. HTML5 is not yet complete, none of the browser companies display the content in the same way, or use the same technologies to display that content. So think of it as the next version of the web language. The excitement comes because it will be able to do a lot of interactions and animations, video etc. that weren’t possible before. That said, it’s not at all a silver bullet. It has a lot of limitations, and won’t really effectively replace the kinds of things we see in eLearning today, but we feel it goes far enough that we can do a good job of converting most of the features of Captivate and making it much easier to get rich interactive content created for iOS devices.

6. What are some of the Captivate products, and what are they used for?
Adobe Captivate is a super simple to use eLearning authoring platform. It’s used by more eLearning developer than any other eLearning authoring tool and people love it for creating all kinds of eLearning content. It’s famous for interactive screen / application captures. It also does a great job with PowerPoint conversion, allows authors to easily create custom interactions without any programming, and makes branched projects –like scenario based training simple to pull off.

7. Specifically, what does it mean that Captivate products can now be converted to HTML5?
The converter is an Air Application that takes an Adobe Captivate SWF and exports a web page (HTML) that complies with the HTML5 standard. It has been optimized to perform best on Apple iOS devices including Apple iPhone, iPad & iPod. Especially on iPad, this will give eLearning authors the ability to quickly and effortlessly convert their content into a format that will play in the browser of an iOS device and will not require them to duplicate their efforts, building a separate version from scratch just to accommodate users on iOS devices.

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