For our final assignment in the Learning and Collaboration Technologies module, we have the option of creating a 10 minute podcast on a topic of our choice. Podcasts are simply audio content, usually in the form of an mp3 file, which creators can post online for anyone to listen to. They have exploded in popularity in the last few years, as the availability of smartphones and free Wi-Fi make it easier than ever to download and listen to content.
And now podcasts can be used as an educational resource. Indeed, they have the potential to be a powerful form of mobile learning. Learners can listen to them at any time of the day and at their own convenience. Many learning podcasts take the form of an interview with a subject matter expert, while others simply present information on a subject that doesn’t require a visual component.
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One of the main assignments we have left before the end of the semester is to develop a digital learning resource using Adobe Flash and Dreamweaver. I have chosen to create a resource that introduces learners to bumblebees. The goal of this resource is to teach learners how to identify the 12 species that occur in Ireland.
It is important that this resource contain interesting interactive elements, such as buttons that the learner has to click on, or items that they have to drag and drop. Interactive learning materials such as these highlight one of the strongest features of e-learning, which makes it a far more stimulating resource than one which contains just multimedia. Interactivity helps to enrich learning and maintains the learner’s interest. However, designing these materials is another matter entirely.
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As a distance student, I happily appreciate the flexibility that it offers. It allows me to attend a university outside of my hometown, as well as enabling me to combine study with my other responsibilities.
However, it is not without disadvantages, one of which is the lack of face-to-face interaction with instructors and classmates. Fortunately, this is a blended learning course, and last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a workshop in Limerick where I got to meet some of the other distance education students.
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This week we submitted an assignment that required us to use XML and CSS to create a short document for technical communicators. Basically, it was an introduction to using markup and style languages. But having no experience whatsoever of either XML or CSS, it goes without saying that I found this a challenging experience.
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One of our assignments for this week was to draw up a list of three digital skills that we would like to develop in the future. What it made me realise is that the list of digital skills that I would like to develop is basically endless.
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One topic that has sparked my interest in the past week or so is that of gamification, particularly in how it relates to education. Gamification simply refers to the use of game design and mechanics in non-game settings, with the aim of getting individuals to engage in a particular topic or learn new skills.
Games offer a kind of engagement that rarely happens in our schools or workplaces. Jane McGonigal, in her book Reality is Broken, argues that the tasks players undertake in the gaming world often feel more meaningful than the work they carry out in their real lives. As a result, people tend to be more curious, determined, optimistic, and resilient to failure when they are playing games. Many educators are therefore interested in bringing this mind-set to the education system.
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One of the topics we looked at recently was the role of flexible learning and technology-enhanced learning (TEL) in Irish higher education. The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education is an organisation that produces reports and policy documents on the state of technology and teaching practice in Irish higher institutions.
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