Last week, I asked two of my Retail students who are presently on a co-op placement, to come back the classroom to make a Podcast about their experience with using the Learning Management System.  Both immediately agreed to come in, and were excited to do so.  That was a relief; I was a little worried that this would be like pulling teeth.skills-podcasting

I arranged this myself.  I called their HR managers to let them know what was going on.  I think I made the mistake of explaining the project in too much detail to her.  She appeared to have been multitasking at the same time, but pleasantly agreed to let the two learners off for the day.  When I contacted them, I asked if the manager had told them what we were going to do.

Claudia said yes.  And that she was excited to do a radio interview for the CBC.

I knew I should have comprehension-checked the HR manager!  Regardless, I cleared it up with Claudia and Diego (who seemed more relaxed to know that it was not a live radio interview with CBC).

The Podcast Procedure

When I fired off an email to the media centre explaining my project, I was actually just wanting a microphone.  Our lab has headsets with a mic attached, but only one person can record at a time.

So, I ended up with a monstrous mixer board which came with an encyclopedia of instructions, over 75 feet of cable, two standup microphones, and two other microphones whose purpose I could never entirely figure out.  I used the program “Audacity” to do the recordings. The recordings could easily be converted into an MP3 file.

What Claudia & Diego Had To Say

I chose one learner who I knew already had some technological competence, and one who didn’t.  Diego, the one who didn’t, was an interior designer and I was interested in his opinion on the layout of the program.

They both talked about the program’s user friendliness.  Doing a task was fairly straight-forward.  Diego wished he had known about all the units we never had time to do.  He always did the front matter and didn’t know to scroll down to see what else was there.  Looking through the LMS prior to the interview, Diego was surprised to encounter the other LINC tasks on the site – that was my fault.  I should have made sure the class knew that there were many other activities on the site that they had access to that would help with their LINC 5-7 Reading/Writing/Listening skills.

Both are currently using technology in the workplace.  Claudia is using several different computer programs; one is very cool.  It’s the retailer’s colour-match program that involves taking a colour sample, scanning it, then working through the system to create the exact colour that the customer wants.  I actually got to see her do this at the co-op a few days after the Podcast.  She was beaming as she took me through the stages.

Diego took me through a product-search program on his workspace computer. He showed me how to enter the product code, and how to maneuver through the system to find out if the product is in the store.  He did this with ease.  This is the guy who sat at the computer on the first day of class with a deer-caught-in-headlights look in his face.

Lessons Learned

Diego and Claudia  were under no obligation to approve or disapprove of the LMS.  I had to press them to get them to talk about anything that they thought could be improved.  Their overall impressions were that gaining confidence using technology was very important.  Technology is used in the workplace, and the employer expects some understanding of basic computer functions.  Using the LMS helped in this regard.

Also, making podcasts is relatively simple.  I may be doing more of them in the future – sans 75 feet of cable and the 40 pound mixer.

Stage 4 – Ready to go…

It Must’ve Been The Game

The downloading issues, and extreme slowness at school on Friday, I figure it must have been because every staff member and credit student was tuned into the Olympics hockey game.   I was thinking that maybe this speed is just how it is, that I’m going to have to get used to it.  Then I went home.

canadian_olympics.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoI don’t always take my work home, but when I get started on something, I usually want to finish it.  Especially if it’s cool.  So I loaded up the home PC and tried again to get through the material in Unit 3 of Stage 4.  It was lightning fast.  Point, click, video…  So I downloaded Hot Potatoes, WebSequitur, and WebRhubarb.  And the downloads did not take 1.5 hours.  Done in minutes.

Plan for My Course

The next thing I have to do is to start laying out the course and then create some Web 2.0 material for the group.  I am a visual person, so I need to see the course.  I’m going to need to set up a calendar, because I don’t want any time-related surprises.  Often I think of the course in 12 evenly distributed 1-week chunks.  I forget stuff like PD days, minor holidays, field trip days.  I’ve already got at least 5 field trip days planned, so already, 5 days gone.

From what I’ve learned already in Stage 4 (which, by the way, never ever google “stage 4” thinking you’re going to find a clever graphic), I know that I am going to look more into developing a WebQuest for the group.  I like that idea quite a bit, and think that it will work well with a Retail theme.

My Short List

  • make up a calendar for the next retail class
  • field trip plan: Fabricland, Bridal/Tuxedo shops (for fitting language), The Bay, Fanshawe College (Costume Design), WIL
  • enter the outlines into the course
  • find out how to add the students to the course (in Stage 3, I was given a number of logins)
  • start creating material using Hot Potatoes
  • talk with Jim about what I’m supposed to be doing (maybe this should be first…)

I knew I was always going to do Stage 4, and now I wish I had budgeted my time better back in January so I could have started it sooner.  There is a lot to get to know.  And the Unit/Topic #3 stuff?  I def. will be watching the videos more than once, especially once I start putting the material together.

I wish that there was a larger Stage 4 community so we could bounce ideas off of each other.  As it is, if you look at the forum, there hasn’t been action there in a year in some cases.  I feel like I’m the only person on the planet doing Stage 4.  And I know that one of my colleagues is as well.  We had once been logged on at the same time, and I excitedly sent her a message from the site, but never heard back.  You have to know to check your messages or they all just sit there in the virtual mailbox forever.

How Important Are the Tools…

Patience is a Virtue…

I know that waiting for something is not one of my strong suits.  Waiting for programs to load, waiting for a video to queue, waiting for a doc to be downloaded…  I am, at this moment, waiting for something from Hot Potatoes to load onto my work computer.  I have been waiting since lunch, which is now about an hour and a half ago.

Occasionally at work, things slooooowwww down to a crawl.  The computers aren’t all that old; it just seems that there are definite peak times when every credit student with a smart-phone is logged onto their student account doing highly useful educational things.  If I seem irked, how perceptive of you to notice.  The irksomeness stems partly from this bandwidth issue, and from the no-ESL-students allowed policy at my school.  Credit students can straddle our bandwidth and ride it all they like; ESL students are not given accounts.  We’ve asked.  They’ve said no.

Hey Hey, Got Some Action Finally…

Somewhere in the middle of the last paragraph, my Hot Potatoes install finally clicked on.  When I checked download status in Chrome, it said “estimated time – 1 day.”  Now, I know that isn’t true. Chrome tends to exaggerate the size of its fish, but come on – almost 1.5 hours?

Today seems to be particularly hard on our poor bandwidth.  YouTube videos struggle, and then give up about a third of the way through.  Stuff from the LIT2Teach site also takes excessive amounts of time.  I want to point, click, count to three, and then see the fruits of my labour.  Is that too much to ask?  Is it really necessary to have a book to read while pages load?

Lightning speed PCs with huge bandwidth… mmmm… I can see it now.

E-Learning Workshop


In a workshop at the central library last week, a speaker gave a short presentation on e-learning.  I was able to go, but I have to admit, it was fairly basic.  I was hoping to learn more about LMS’s, and what others are doing with them.  It seems that LMS’s are too new for there to be a large group of people using them together in the same room.

The speaker has a guest account with a D2L platform for a credit high school English course.  She introduced the group to it briefly, but didn’t seem to know very much about the platform.  She indicated to the group that discussions were not used here, but could be in college or university courses.

Bells and Whistles

Discussions can be used in D2L; in fact, that is one of the main reasons why we are exploiting D2L and Moodle right now in SLT.  Discuss and share.  What is your experience like?  What are your thoughts on this particular reading or concept?  A teacher can choose not to include discussions in their platform, (which for me would be nonsensical, but to each her own), but discussions, and groups are a huge part of many LMS’s.

The speaker had responded to a question about student interactivity.  I did stick my hand up and share that yes, if the instructor chose, this option could be added.  As could blogs, groups, glossaries, and any number of other functions.

Choose what works for you

I know that for me, and for my learners, there are some functions that are more useful that others.  Having clear content, weblinks, discussions, handouts, and quizzes are part of the learning experience that makes sense to them.  Or so I think.


What my learners prefer, and what they find challenging, I will find out on Friday.    I will create a poll in the LMS to ask the whole group, but for now, I will have two of my learners come to school to be interviewed about the LMS.  I chose two; one of whom always did everything I asked in the LMS, and the other who tried but struggled.  I think we need to hear both perspectives.

My Predictions

I think that both learners will talk about how difficult it can be to access the platform at home; that they both got so much more out of it when we had access to the lab at school.  The more technie of the two will likely be able to appreciate the practice and recognize an LMS’s applicability to the workplace.  I think that they will prefer the free-writing aspect of the system, but that they both will also comment on being able to access videos, links, SCORMs etc. outside of the classroom on their own time.  Yes, it can be hard to find the time, but when you do find it, you can enhance your learning significantly by using an LMS.

The Future of Learning

I hear, regularly and often, that learning is changing, that education is changing, and that instructors need to be ready to embrace this change.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here – there is no one stop shopping for learning.  There is no one model or method or pedagogy that works in all situations in all times. We don’t work that way.

As Jim Edgar told me once (he was quoting someone but can’t remember who), technology is not going to replace teachers.  But teachers who use technology are going to replace those that don’t.

Why not surf this wave and see where it takes us?  If there are authentic learning opportunities available for our students, lead on, MacDuff.  If these authentic learning opportunities will open up doors for our learners in the workplace, then we have a duty to support them.

The “flip” is a flop?

Wondering what MOOC stood for, I did a quick Google search about an hour ago and came across this article by Steve Blank.  (MOOC, by the way, stands for Massive Open Online Course.)

Blank, who apparently teaches to scientists at Stanford, tried to flip his classroom, and noted that there were a number of benefits, but ultimately, he needed to modify the flip and make it a sort of a hybrid.  The true flipped classroom offers the lectures via video and then the in-class component is to be more of a hands-on, demonstrate learning type of thing.

Blank likes the technology, and since he’s teaching a group of scientists, wanted to find a way to make this style work.  He is still using an online component, but has chosen to continue to present and lecture in person.  Doing so by video or webinar seemed to distance him from the learners.  His hybrid model looks like this:


I think this is where online learning is going – the true “flip” won’t work for every group of learners.  The online learning component works best when it is used as one tool, used in the CALL lab, and not as a substitute for lectures and teacher presentations.

Anyhow, that’s my thought for this morning.


What? A Speaking Task on an LMS?

Speaking on an LMS

An LMS opens itself up more easily to Reading/Writing activities.  An instructor can direct learners to a website, or upload a reading onto the LMS, and then link the task with a writing assignment.  Listening activities are also quite simple to do…  But a speaking activity?

MOODLE uses the “nanogong” tool – which I have used, with some degree of success in the classroom.  Nanogong is a voice recording tool, similar to Vocaroo or other such devices.  I like that it connects with the LMS, for tracking and whatnot.

How Learners Use it:

The Instructor needs to create a nanogong activity first, which the learners can then access simply by clicking on the activity.

Nanogong in Action

The learners in my SLT class (Retail) were researching interview techniques, specifically the STAR interview process.  Learners had ample time in the classroom with this procedure, and had written STAR answers in their journal prior to this activity.

Learners were then posed a common behavioural job interview question, such as:

  • Tell me about  a time when you had to work with a difficult person.  How did you resolve your differences?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

I encouraged the learners to think about their answers, and to maybe jot notes, but not to write out their entire responses.  To illustrate this, I had a teacher demonstrate by reading some text, and then by naturally answering it.  Learners discussed the differences in the two responses.

When they were ready, the learner would access the program and record his or her answer.  They could stop, rewind, delete, and try as many times as they wanted until they were satisfied.  Then they could listen to their responses.

The instructor can give feedback right in the activity, and provide links to help with fluency, or provide feedback face to face.


The learners were all together, in one CALL Lab, working on the LMS.  They were also working on other assignments, and would not all necessarily be on the speaking assignment at the same time.  Students would feel self-conscious in an otherwise quiet lab, suddenly giving an answer to the interview question.  Or, if a few were on the same topic at the same time, the recording would pick up the background noise.

Solution:  The lab was big enough that we could dedicate a recording corner, which might afford some privacy and keep the background noise to a minimum.


The Nanogong tool works best in the Firefox browser, but it still comes up with a security alert message.  Learners have to be directed to select the right response, or the application will not work.

Other Speaking Tasks:

  1. Leaving voicemail messages:  Students are given a scenario where they have to return the phone call of a job interviewer, and give details regarding availability, etc.
  2. Customer Service Scenarios:  Return phone calls –voice mail message; students role play customer service associates returning a customer call with specific information
  3. Customer Service – Inquiries: Role play learners as customers asking about a specific service or product
  4. Work Role Play – Calling in Sick – students are given information or told to make up their own and role play a phone call voicemail message to their supervisors
  5. Customer Service – Product Knowledge – students use the nanogong to record their response to a customer’s question about a specific product (warrantee, features, benefits, etc)

LIMITATIONS:  The nanogong is hard to do interactively, but it can be done if you have the right equipment in the lab.  Our lab is currently set up with a headset/microphone, so only one person can record at a time.  With a hand-held microphone, however, you can do more interactive role-plays and other scenarios that would be useful training tools.