Posts Tagged ‘Lifeline’

Lifeline: Essential information for students using Web 2.0 services

September 22, 2009


As a follow-up to my previous post about developing a risk analysis template for Web 2.0 services, I thought it would be useful to share a document (Word, 64 KB) I’ve developed for use with University-level students who are using ‘external’ services (such as WordPress, Wetpaint, Ning, etc.) as part of their course. This document provides what I consider to be essential information about the Terms of Service they are being asked to sign up for, as well as advice on how to manage the service for their class. It covers areas such as

  • the nature of the relationship students create when they sign up with a service
  • posting of offensive material
  • responsibility of work done under individual logons
  • copyright, privacy, and IP licensing
  • visibility of content
  • spam emails and notifications
  • turning off cookies and monitoring

If you are going to use an external service with students, I strongly suggest you develop a similar document to suit your own circumstances, that you go through it in class, make sure students understand it, and post it somewhere for students to easily access. It may be useful for school teachers, but I think you’d need to think more closely about the duty of care involved and how you might use such a document with parents or guardians.

Feel free to adapt/modify/reuse/improve/whatever you need for non-commerical purposes:

wordiconInformation for students on the use of an externally hosted web service provider (Word, 64 KB)

pdficon Information for students on the use of an externally hosted web service provider (pdf, 68 KB)

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Lifeline: 7 things you should know about …

July 11, 2008

If you’re having trouble keeping up with what Second Life, Google Apps, Skype and Ning might actually be, let alone how they could be relevant to education, then you really should take a look at Educause’s 7 things you should know about … series.

7 things you should know about … provides hit-and-run information sheets about emerging Web 2.0 technologies and their implications for teaching and learning. So, if you don’t know what Twitter is, or if you’ve never investigated Skype, visit Educause to learn about how these things work, the upsides and downsides of emerging technologies, and where it’s all going.

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Lifeline: Teaching students to manage their sites

July 9, 2008

There are typically two approaches taken to managing online risks for younger internet users: the first is to install firewalls, filters or spyware on your computer or network that block certain sites, and the other is to educate kids about how to keep personal information private, about how to deal with cyberbullying, and about how to act appropriately (and legally!) online. But there is a third thing we could be doing more effectively, and that is to teach kids to manage the sites they use.

Most social networking sites come with different privacy settings and also support ways of controlling personal information. But in order to teach a student how to manage their profiles and accounts on social networking sites, teachers themselves need to have an understanding of how permissions and settings work on these sites. Here are some things social networking services often allow you to do to manage your site and your profile:

  • Decide who can view your profile: everyone or just ‘friends’?
  • Block certain users
  • Restrict who can share your photos
  • Filter out spam using CAPTCHAs or a similar ‘are you human’ images or text
  • Choose who sends you friends requests, notifications, mobile alerts or invitations
  • Approve comments before they are posted on your profile page
  • Control the data your social networking site shares with third-party sites
  • Control who can see your contact information

Students should also be taught to understand a site’s Terms of Use and its Privacy Policy. Terms of Use are often legalistic in tone, but Privacy Policies are usually written in simpler language. Taking control over who can access your information is a good place to start when managing your profile on a social networking site.

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Lifeline: The right Webtool for the job

June 27, 2008

Lifeline picWith the proliferation of online tools out there to use in your class, sometimes you’ll be wondering which is the right one to use. Don’t make the mistake of looking to the tool first, and then trying to shoe-horn an assignment into it: you’ll likely end up with an incoherent assessment item that students have trouble making sense of. Instead, consider what you want to achieve and then find the best way to make it happen — if that means not using a webtech tool, then fine!

But for the moment, here’s a bit on what ‘The Big Three’ tools of forums, blogs and wikis can achieve in class.

Discussion forums should be saved for exploration of a topic, where challenges to thinking are put up and questions raised. Discussions should proceed with new information being added in each reply, and questions ensure that this happens; ‘cheerleading’ posts, where participants only encourage and don’t question, do not move the conversation forwards. Check out the article Challenges beat cheerleading from eCampus Today for more info.

Blogs are best used in getting students to reflect on a topic through the blog posts that they make. Blogs aren’t about discussion, per se, but more about what Susan Lowes calls “cumulative talk” — students can make comments that respond to the original posting without having to follow a thread from the beginning. Blogs are about process and the development of a point of view on the subject matter. Blogs help you track students’ thinking over time, through both the posts and comments that are made.

Wikis, on the other hand are all about collaboration and teamwork — they’re about the end product and they should be used to show changes in writing and to evaluate how students have synthesised research or subject matter. Wikis can tell you how students are constructing their knowledge on a particular topic, and how they are creating documents to express that knowledge.

For a really excellent comparision between blogs and wikis, visit WikiAndBlog at Bemidji State University.

Let me know your experiences with trying to make sense of the difference between these tools and how to use them in class.

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Lifeline: Writing online learning modules

May 16, 2008

Lifeline picStructure is everything when writing for learning online, but it shouldn’t dominate the student’s learning experience. You need to provide a sound architecture that will scaffold the student’s learning, but will also provide enough flexibility to allow students to explore things at their own pace and in their own style. Online learning modules allow students to make discoveries and connections in their own ways — if you set things up right from the very get-go.

Module structure

Within any course or topic that you’re teaching, be sure to get up a standard structure for your modules. That way, students get used to how to find their way around the online learning environment you’ve built for them. Whether it’s in MyClasses, BlackBoard, WebCT or in a wiki or blog, you can use the following model to structure your material.

  1. Module objectives. Think carefully about what you want the students to do and know and make it explicit to them. Objectives need to be relevant and meaningful.
  2. Student objectives. Ask the students what they’re hoping and expecting to learn. You might get some useful data out of this question.
  3. Introduction. Make it fairly brief and basic. Don’t go crazy on it.
  4. Focus questions. Ask the students to specify what they already now about the topic, or to share related experiences. Write lots of questions and direct them clearly to the module topic. This can give you a good sense of where they’re ‘at’ before you even start.
  5. Information/content. This is the core of what you want students to engage with. The content you provide can be quite detailed in nature, but try to mix it up a bit: insert videos, images, hyperlinks, as well as basic, textual ‘info dumps’.
  6. Exercises. You can get imaginative here. Again, be specific about what you want the students to do and communicate that clearly. If you’re writing questions to stimulate critique, make sure you put in lots of questions. Really interrogate the topic yourself.
  7. Reflection. At the end of the module, ask the students to reflect on what they’ve learnt. You can relate your reflection questions closely to the module content, or you can use a generic set of questions, such as these: What have I learnt? What is still unclear? What do I need to follow up on? Where to from here?
  8. Links and resources. Consolidate any links or resources you’ve referred to in the earlier ‘content’ parts of the module here, and add any extra resources. Don’t go overboard, but make sure there’s enough stimulating material to encourage further exploration.


You can check out how I’ve structured some of my free online courses on wikis and blogs in a similar way.


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