Tools


I’m still learning how to get the most out of my Mac, and loving every minute of it! I wanted to find some music videos in Spanish to use in my classes, and this ended up being even easier than it was with my PC.

If you’re using Safari, there’s an easy way to download YouTube videos. Open the page with the movie and press Command-Option-A, which shows the Activity window. If you’re also loading other sites, you’ll see a list of them: scroll until you find the YouTube page and click on the arrow to show details about what is being loaded. You will see an item that is over 0.5MB. Double-click on it (even if it is still loading), and Safari will download it. When the download is over, navigate to the file in the Finder and add the extension .flv to its name if necessary. That’s it!

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What are the differences you see between traditional learning systems (LMS) and open participatory environments? How do you think you can effectively promote open participatory skills in teaching? What may be the benefits and the constraints that open environments bring? How do you think students will react when they are introduced to these new environments?

I feel that it can be extremely time consuming to be an active member of an open participatory environment. This is especially true for those of us who don’t have 24/7 Internet access anymore, and even more so for students. There is a learning curve for all of these tools, and the tools change often. They require more effort on the part of the end user to organize and mangage, where as a closed system is usually more user-friendly. I took an EVO course on Moodle two years ago, and have enjoyed playing around with that course management tool, although I’ve not yet been able to convince any of the institutions I’ve worked for to set up a server for me, and I’ve not had the time or equipment to do so myself. These so-called traditional LMSs and open participatory environments both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like the fact that a closed system gives me more control as a teacher and administradora in assessment and such. On the other hand, OPEs (can I abbreviate it like that?) give students and teachers new ways to develop social networks and audiences for their ideas, opinions, interests, etc. Disadvantages to traditional LMSs can be the same as the advantages…they’re closed to the general public, and to those outside the class. For OPEs, I feel that there are so many tools to choose from, that it quickly can become overwhelming, and that it takes more time to master these tools.

In order to promote open participatroy skills in teaching, I first need to master these skills myself. Although I think it’s a fabulous idea to learn along with my students, I want to have a strong base in this beforehand. In addition, I have to have access to computers where my students can learn this skills. This, unfortunately, as I mentioned in a previous post, is what I’m lacking. Expensive cyber cafes and at-home Internet connections don’t help with this, either.

I have had many students ask me of ways that they can find people to practice their English with online, and I think that open participatory tools are one way to do so. It does require the student to be a bit tech-savy, which isn’t nearly as common here in Central America as it was in the U.S. People can use email, office, and chat programs, but don’t tend to go much beyond that.

I still feel rather skeptical about using Flickr with my blogs. I’ve found Picasa and Google’s web albums to be intergrated better and certainly easier to use. Maybe I just need to play around more with Flickr, but even at 11:00 pm, it’s taking forever to upload pics and then connect them. Picasa usually takes much less waiting time.

Suprglu is nice as well, but it’s also been very slow in loading, and I’ve had problems logging into it on several occasions.I think that students will be motivated by these new tools, but if they take as long to load and are as problematic as they have been for me, that motivation could quickly wan. As a tech junkie myself, I have no patience for tools that are not easily learned, or that are too “technical” for their own good, or that don’t prove their usefulness right away. Why should I use my time playing around with all these things if they’re not easy to use? It’s not to say that they’re horribly difficult to use either, but maybe some of them need a year or so to be developed better and more easy to integrate with each other.

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