Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

Online course communications – tooling up for e-learning.

June 7, 2010
Trade Honours Program Certificate IV in Post-Trade Technical Applications (Supervisor)

Cert IV Supervisor course

This semester, I’m piloting a new Trade Honours Program course – Certificate IV in Post-trade Technical Applications (Supervisor). Because the course is delivered online, and my students are spread around Queensland (with just a few in Brisbane), it’s unlikely that I will get to meet each person face-to-face. To enhance the learning experience for my students, I’m including a guide for communicating with me (Cert IV Mentor), and with each other.

About the course.

Certificate IV in Post-Trade Technical Applications (Supervisor)

THP Cert IV Supervisor core and elective units

The course is designed to provide tradespeople with supervisory skills in a post-trade situation. Some students are already fulfilling the role and need a qualification, and others are moving into the role and need the skills. The first phase delivered in semester one focuses on technical skills, and phase two (semester two) addresses people management skills.

Meeting students where they are.
The course is also designed to fit around a student’s busy work schedule and home life, so it is delivered entirely online. This can be both a selling point and a barrier for students – while they wish to access learning using their home or work computer without ever visiting a TAFE campus, they are also hands-on practical people who do not identify with the advanced computer user – they are not “geeks”. Hence, there is a need for extra online support to replace the face-to-face contact in a computer classroom and to tailor the training delivery support to suit each student.

During the pilot, I’ve introduced a few online communication tools that will be useful for other course mentors to consider in their own course inductions. Described briefly in a list here, I understand that it can at first appear as a bewildering display of geekiness – but I am only too happy to help with guidance and further explanation. Just ask me!

Course comms: Advice to students.
This list is subject to change, according to developments and improvements in the my.TAFE Learning Management System (LMS).

Using hashtags.


hashtag 'thpcert4'

The course ‘tag’ is ‘#thpcert4’, and each student cohort is identified by the semester in which they start– for example, the current class starting in 2010 semester 1 is ‘#thpcert4_1001’; the next class starting in 2010 semester 2 is ‘#thpcert4_1002’ and so on. Course events, student assignments and announcements are all tagged to make them easier to find.

Voice call: Students call the course mentor 24/7 – if there is no answer, they leave a message and the mentor returns the call as soon as possible.

SMS txt:

Students send a Short Message Service (SMS) text message 24/7 and expect a reply when it’s convenient for the mentor to do so.

SMS text message

sms txt msg

It’s a good idea for students to send a text message each time they upload an assignment to the LMS; likewise, the mentor should send a message when feedback is provided by email, and when an announcement is broadcast by email.

Optus Redcoal

Optus Redcoal

The institute subscribes to Optus Redcoal which supports mass texting, facilitated via the Web.

Email: It is critical that students provide a correct email address to enter the course. Email and mobile phones are the most important ways of communicating with students.

Upload to LMS: Each assessment item in the course has an “Upload to LMS” facility so that student activity is recorded. It is necessary to do this to track student activity for marking and recording results, and to prove student participation for audit purposes. The action of uploading to the Learning Management System (LMS) triggers a notification email sent to the mentor so that the assignment can be marked, and feedback provided, as soon as possible.

YouCanBook.Me, GCal and GMail:

YouCanBook.Me logo

YouCanBook.Me logo

The meeting booking tool YouCanBook.Me integrates nicely with Google Calendar (Gcal).

Google Calendar logo

Google Calendar logo

Displayed on a “Calendar of Events” page in the LMS, the YouCanBook.Me application lets students book straight into the course GCal. Both applications were registered using the course Gmail account set up for this purpose – all emails sent to the course Gmail inbox are copied straight to the mentor’s personal Gmail inbox. Doing this allows activity to be monitored without logging in separately to each account.

Chat with Yammer:

Yammer logo

Yammer logo

The course Yammer is a discrete student community within the DET Yammer, and it requires a student’s work email for registration. Students cannot see mainstream DET messages, nor can DET staff see students’ messages. Several DET colleagues have been invited to share membership in this network to preclude an exclusive relationship between mentor and students. Yammer is useful for sharing files and web links, and the threaded discussions are searchable using tags. Yammer is particularly useful for hosting discussions between students, and it also allows private messaging.

Tweet in Twitter:

Twitter logo header

Twitter logo header

The course Twitter account is not currently subscribed to by students, but it is a useful way to broadcast information about the course to participants.

Webconference in Flashmeeting:

Flashmeeting logo

Flashmeeting logo

Flashmeeting is a sophisticated but cost-free webconferencing facility that provides video recording, text-chat recording and meeting analysis at the close of each session. Access to the recording of each meeting is gained using the same web address that was used to access the meeting, which means that the course GCal can be loaded with future meeting details, and then the archived recording accessed for an indefinite period afterwards without editing the calendar entry. Flashmeeting is useful for engaging students using a whiteboard, voting, web link sharing, and uploading, downloading and screen capturing of images and slide presentations. During a Flashmeeting session, one participant at a time broadcasts video and voice to a large main screen by clicking ‘start broadcasting’ and ‘stop broadcasting’ buttons, while all participants (who have a webcam connected) are visible in individual, smaller windows on the main screen. A session text-chat conversation is maintained on the public screen, while private text chat conversations take place via participant windows.

Scribble on an online whiteboard: I considered that an online whiteboard could be useful to explain mathematics concepts which require sketching and maths symbols. Scribblar was the best of a series of online collaborative whiteboards trialled for use in the course, selected for its ‘freemium’ features which include embedding capability, and multiple pages suitable for ‘breakout-room’ discussion. However, the embedded whiteboard did not display well in the LMS, and consumed too much bandwidth when used in conjunction with Flashmeeting.

TTS Easi View:

Desktop web cam and document camera

TTS Easi View

A better alternative to an online whiteboard is a gooseneck, high-resolution desktop web camera which can be used as a document camera for capturing hand-drawn explanations on paper. This device is simple to use in a classroom (displaying objects or notes via data projector) as well as for sending almost instant feedback to a distant student.

Post a note student survey:



The WallWisher application is good for a quick and easy survey among the student group. Students receive a web address in their email, which when accessed, displays a screen for posting responses to a survey question. Students post notes by double-clicking the screen and then typing their comment which remains visible to all invitees. When trialled, the LMS survey tool may prove to be useful, but would need to be very good to compete with WallWisher’s elegance.


Online mentoring – how will it work?

March 11, 2010

THP mentor

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Teaching and mentoring is something that everyone does in varying degrees. I’ve been doing it full-time for the last decade, but now it’s to be done with a new intensity. My block-release vocational students (who require occasional support between classes) are being replaced by online trade contracting students – I need to explain how mentoring works.

Sharpening the axe.
It can be argued that teaching and mentoring online is no different to classroom teaching. “Just do what you do face-to-face, only online!” Sounds simple, right? Well… I’ve honed my technology skills during the past few years, using Gmail, Twitter, Flashmeeting, Flickr, Youtube… in fact, every Web 2.0 tool that I could play with, so I’m ready for the challenge. My EdTech friends from Australia, New Zealand and around the world have been a wonderful support network for me as we’ve tried out many communication tools together.

It’s a familiar situation to me, only in a different context – when I was trade contracting, I’d spend part of my non-working time searching hardware stores for tools to make my jobs easier, and cleaning and maintaining my gear. I decided that I’d never be like the timber-getter chopping at a tree with a blunt axe, who complains how there is never time to stop and sharpen the blade.

Cooperative learning – somewhere between Constructivism and Behaviourism.
Online learning is easy. It’s meant to be! That’s what I keep telling myself, but what if my students don’t find it so? Then I’ll need to help. They’ll be ranging widely in ages, experiences and expectations, and I can’t be all things to all people. Perhaps some might like to learn alone, but I’m expecting that these students will be rare. The majority will need support at a number of levels, and communication barriers that can be overcome in a face-to-face setting will only be intensified.

Success lies in encouraging peer interaction, collaboration and individual accountability. Students will be arranged into work groups so that individual success follows group success.

ePorfolio assessment.
Assessment by ePortfolio is not a new concept, but there is an opportunity to embed student assessment items in an industry portal website, open to examination by potential clients and fellow students. This gives a chance for students to show their work after the course is completed, and their enrolment ended.

Social benefits.
Studying at home means that less time is lost at work, as well as travelling to classes. Provided that students have a computer and an Internet connection, as well as webcam and microphone headset, then study times can be arranged around work and family schedules.

I’m planning to ask students to provide regular updates on their progress, as well as reflections on their learning, by podcast. The web service makes this easy – it’s literally takes just a phone call to upload a conversation to a website or blog.

Email timestamps.
It’s always difficult to get busy people together, so I’m planning to use data collated by observing email time stamps – meeting students when it suits them. Web services and will also be useful for planning meeting times.

Including team members.
My responsibility as a mentor extends beyond teaching and managing students. I will also help to coordinate the team of teachers delivering many subjects in Certificate IV, Diploma and Vocational Graduate Certificate.

The mentor is responsible for managing the team’s email inbox – this is an important communication tool for the group of delivery, design and administration staff.

Sked forum.
A ‘sked’ is a scheduled online meeting, and I’ll be starting and maintaining skeds for student groups, with a view to students claiming ownership of them. Skeds will be one of the main support tools in the course.

Induction, Blog updates and FAQs.
A page of answered Frequently Asked Questions is just one way to manage distracting emergency phone calls, recognising the fact that students often prefer the reassurance of human contact. A course induction will be undertaken during the first week, followed by friendly blog updates written to engage, encourage and redirect learners.

Virtual student lounge.
Students need a place to meet casually in between skeds, discussions, completing assessment tasks, work, family, life… just somewhere for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat. Perhaps even in Second Life?

Graduation ceremony.
Whew! After all that, a time for celebration – this will be a special event to thank learners for their efforts during the year, taking the time to mark their achievements.

Saucing the stew: Streaming video chunks.

August 7, 2008

integrating videostreaming in trade skills training
Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry
This topic was discussed at a VeMentoring videoconference on 8th July 2008. Stream the archived recording (1 hour) in the Videolinq Mediasite presentation catalogue.

Adding ingredients.
Recently, I had the opportunity to present trade skill processes in streaming video. I helped to produce eight video streams – each video stream accompanied with an annotated PowerPoint presentation, and voice-over added – with little video recording and production experience.

The video streams address the geographically-spread Queensland stone industry. Additionally, the products are as accessible in the TAFE classroom as they are at home or in the workplace.

Guided by Stonemasonry industry training package specifications, each video stream is a discrete learning object addressing a separate learning need. Lessons are created by linking streams with other relevant materials.

The project provided exposure to skills necessary for creating further video streams. Feedback from students suggests that video streaming is a powerful way to access information – adding flavour to traditional TAFE learning.

I have not yet sought industry feedback, but the bite-sized chunks are aimed at their immediate business needs. The content can easily be adapted to suit any trade skill situation – although our video clips were produced in the TAFE stonemasonry workshop, they could just as easily have been made in any industry location.

The taste test.
Video streaming addresses the senses: Sight, Hearing, Touch… if only we had Smelevision. TAFE Queensland’s Videolinq video streaming hosted at Mediasite is just right for visual learning – clear, sharp slide images, and a video viewing window that fills the whole screen at a touch. Clickable buttons allow learner interaction. Just for fun, I suggest that the fast & slow video selectors could be re-labelled: give the teacher HELIUM and give the teacher VALIUM.
When TAFE Queensland Videolinq manager Paul Crosisca generously offered the stonemasonry team some time with videographer Daniel Hausin, my colleagues Michael & Daniel and I arranged to video record hands-on activities. Paul stressed the need for high-resolution video files which, when compressed for streaming, would pass the taste test.

The streaming media give learners a chance to respond to review questions, answer opinion polls and go to related websites. Using a mouse during a presentation, learners choose to jump forward or back by slide, even leaping to other streams. Narrating each slide adds a professional touch to the presentation. The narrative replaces blocks of text which can be so off-putting for trade skill students. Here then is a chance to present detailed statistical information about the topic while learners’ eyes and hands are occupied.

Integrating video streaming in the trade skills classroom.
The trade skills training workshop is a safe place for students to explore new techniques. Trained instructors lead apprentices to discover a broad range of techniques that underpin all of their workplace activities.

In the trade skills classroom, video is a useful way to present trade skills because it effectively engages students, particularly when it is accompanied with close-up images and a narrative. Linking video streams to the SkillsTech Australia Learning Management System provides re-usable classroom resources that can also be accessed remotely. Logged in to the LMS, students will be able to choose from a menu to review information presented via classroom computers. Likewise, students with Internet access in the workplace or at home can pre-view activities in upcoming classes.

Stirring the pot.
Videostreaming offers a way to link with employers in the stone industry. Through Videolinq, supervising tradesmen have a window into the TAFE training workshop, and skill assessment candidates can be informed about skills in which they will be examined.

In front of the video camera in the stonemasonry workshop, we hoisted, split, cut and then dressed a sandstone block, demonstrating a series of process skills while Daniel Hausin recorded our actions. We carried on as if we were training students in our normal way. This approach made editing difficult later on; however, it was a necessary start point for our learning.

video streaming by you.

Video streaming trade skills: link to the st0nemas0nry Flickr image

Editing video data.
After we had finished, Daniel Hausin sent the ‘raw footage’ to Videolinq in Mackay for uploading. From Mackay, Paul arranged a videoconference and I took part in the editing process from Brisbane. When the video editing was completed, I received a link to each video stream web location so that I could then prepare appropriate PowerPoint slides.

Preparing slides.
This blog update journals the process I used to create PowerPoint slides from original video footage. The slides display screen-captures of the streaming video. The large, sharp close-ups emphasise every point being made in the smaller video screen. To create slides, I screen-captured the scene each time the activity changed, noted the time on the streaming video clock and then added a heading. Doing this gave me a clue for planning storyboards – more about that later.

Slide headings and timings.
The slide heading laconically describes the activity happening in the video screen, and a voice recording – narrated to fit the length of the slide – provides a detailed explanation. After the slide headings are created, they are copied to a separate document which lists the timings for each slide. This arrangement mimics the slide layout used by the Videolinq team to arrange the slides, in that a space near each heading provides room for text which is voice-recorded and added to each slide.

Slide narration.
Narrating each slide further engages learners’ attention, combining visual and auditory stimulation. As suggested by my Ve-Mentor Karen Fainges, I use a USB headset with my Windows voice recorder.

Feedback from students about my first voice-recording efforts included: “professional… fills the gap… robot-voice.” I made a note to include more expression while enunciating my words. Videolinq staff suggested that I speak more naturally and use less emphasis on small words such as “the” and “in.” With an ear for improvement, I now listen to professional presenters more closely.

Videolinq’s streaming video presentations offer a degree of learner interactivity. Students choose to either play the video from beginning to end without interruption, or they can increase or reduce the playing speed to focus on bits of information most important to them. The slides offer a way to “chunk” information according to the slide timings – the student can quickly reach relevant information by “clicking through” the slides. Both the slide screen window and the video window zoom to fill the screen at a click.
The Poll tool gives feedback from learners about the presentation to the presenter. There is an “ask” button which opens a blank email addressed to the presenter, and links can also be added at the bottom of the page.

The next phase.
Future video presentations won’t be undertaken in the same manner as described above. Simply recording workshop activities does not provide a quality product because there are processes happening during a physical demonstration that are communicated differently in a video presentation. As an example, the fact that eye protection is worn during a demonstration would need to be heavily emphasised in the video version with specific references and clear images of the type of goggles required. Additionally, it was unclear how much time should be given to editing the raw footage – this task was made difficult because of the ‘streaming’ nature of the physical activity. Planning each ‘chunk’ more carefully will dramatically lessen editing time.

Planning streaming presentations.
Producing the eight video streams ‘opened a door’ for me. After spending a considerable amount of time ‘chunking’ a flowing stream of information into discrete headings, I was then able to scan the list of competencies in the stonemasonry qualification and briefly describe an activity for each one that would be suitable for video presentation. I found that the key to planning a trade skills video presentation is storyboarding – something with which I had previously struggled.

Separating bulk video footage into discrete elements is very time consuming. It is important that ‘chunking’ is considered before recording so that activities can be separated. I aim to produce the next set of storyboards simply by getting one of my teaching colleagues to demonstrate a process (topic) while I photograph the steps. Each image will provide the basis for a PowerPoint slide, with a header briefly describing the activity (subtopic). After this, the list of headings will be copied to a blank document with provision to record timings and a fuller description. The description in this way becomes a guide for each video chunk, and a basis for the voice-over, added later.

Videolinq video streams as an integral training tool.
Used as a training tool, Videolinq video streaming is a simple, practical way to satisfy both classroom and remote trade skills delivery. The streams are relatively easy to create and publish, and are readily customized to suit industry training needs. I believe that video streaming is a useful tool for TAFE trade skills practitioners looking to spice up their delivery.

Masoning stone

April 30, 2008

Stage 3 stonemasonry projects

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Published by Tomas Lipps in The Stone Foundation periodical issue #8

Working stone by hand, I use a mason’s steel hammer only with two stone working tools: the pitching tool and the punch. I drive the claw tool and the chisel with a nylon mallet.

Regarding the hammer throw, I like to first steady the workbench and the workpiece so there is no movement cased by the striking. I balance my stance, and straighten my arms loosely before starting work. I like to “cock” the hammer as the point is placed, that is, I develop an easy rhythm with the punch placed accurately and securely on the stone at the same time as the hammer is raised behind my head. Then, the hammer is dropped – “thrown” – and raised ready for next place, strike, place, strike etc.

A chipping hammer requires a different action to a mason’s hammer. A chipping hammer is similar to a mason’s hammer except that the inside edge roughly shapes walling stone similar to a hammer and pitching tool, requiring just one hand to hold the hammer. The other hand is thus free to steady the stone, usually on the ground between the feet. The arm holding the hammer doesn’t follow an arc, as in a throw: instead, a “pushing” action allows the bigger shoulder muscles to stop the hammer ready for the raise. I found out the hard way that using forearm muscles to stop the swing becomes very painful.

Regarding the hammer itself, my preparation includes shaping and wedging the handle tightly into the head, shaping the handle to a flared end with a mid-length swelling to grip, and roughening the handle surface. Tightening the head to the handle goes a long way to preventing mis-hits.

I find that the hammer head turns laterally upon releasing its energy to the striking tool. Selecting a long, narrow hammer head resists this turning and is less tiring to use, although the risk of hammer strike on the hand is increased. Roughening the surface relaxes the hand grip, because the increased friction lessens the need to grip the hammer tightly, thereby energy is conserved. Varnished handles straight from the tool store look good, but create blisters.

So steadying the workbench and the workpiece, steadying the stance, straightening the arms, roughening the handle and using a long, narrow hammer head all contribute to a pleasant day’s work!

Sharing electronic drawings in Flickr and Slideshare.

March 24, 2008

Mobile drawings
Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Many years ago, old friend William Whitmee gave me his book “The Elements of Geometrical Drawing” (Henry J. Spooner, 1914). On pages 167-169, Spooner describes Problem 194: To construct the Spiral called the Ionic Volute, the circumscribing Parallelogram having sides 3 1/2″ and 3″

This construction method is useful for students who are required to draw architectural elements and moulding designs (BCF3069a and BCF3035a). The Ionic volute is just one type of architectural decoration.

I had previously experienced difficulty getting students to draw this diagram. Having just presented the lesson recently (with the same confusion) I decided to redraw my directions in the simplest way possible.

My students provided useful feedback during class time, and I realised that the problem I was having was that I always try to explain “why” that is, the philosophy of proportion in Ionic Order and Classical Style buildings. BORING! They just wanted to get in and do it!

Consequently, I photographed the processes on the whiteboard and blackboard that the students understood best. Then I prepared 24 progressive drawings stepping through the process.

As explained in a previous post, the drawing were prepared using CorelDraw11, exported as JPEGs and uploaded to Flickr. Flickr images are downloadable to basic mobile phones like mine, with the added advantage of having a URL so they can be embedded in a blog and further explained.

It really was difficult for me to skip the explanation and jump straight into drawing, but the students told me that they wanted to draw the three rectangles first, then follow with the quadrants. I still felt that they needed the explanation, so added it as the first few slides.

After the PowerPoint presentation was uploaded to my Slideshare site, I Twittered the link with a request for comment. answered within an hour (Peter, you’re an early riser!)

Peter commented “iconic ionic! would have put the pics first and wordy dot point staff last – now off to carve myself a temple…”

I altered the PowerPoint accordingly, but have left the original slideshow in place.

I shared the altered presentation in my SkillsTech Australia Teaching and Learning Network (TLN) for other construction trades skills teachers to use.

Now the presentation is ready to show to the class after the Easter break, prior to exams which include having to draw an Ionic volute from memory, using different dimensions. I hope they like the new format.

TROPIC workshop

March 2, 2008

TROPIC workshop

Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Peter arranged for Martha Goldman and the TROPIC team to run a workshop for 11 VET teachers in Brisbane 25-26 February. Five teachers were from trade areas, four of whom are employed by SkillsTech Australia.

TROPIC is Teachers Reflecting On Practices In Context.

The TROPIC program develops 10 teaching microskills through a series of peer observations, followed by teacher reflection on their classroom practices, hence the acronym.

The Brisbane workshop consisted of a series of instructional sessions, followed by role plays in teaching, observing and debriefing activities.

Now it up to us teachers to put what we learned into practice, observing and mentoring our colleagues, guided by Martha’s team.

Web resources relevant to the TROPIC program are saved in stonemasonry’s social bookmarking application.

VETteaching2008 conference

March 2, 2008


Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

The Vocational Education and Training conference VETteaching2008 held 27-29 February at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre was a celebration of VET practice in Queensland.

Thursday’s keynote speaker Glen Capelli (Learning and thinking in smarter ways) emphasised “geting the blend right” against a backdrop of emotive songs. Glen stressed the value of play in freeing up learning wherever it occurs: “Neotony“.

A lunchtime workshop provided by the Vulcana Women’s Circus used a variety of Yoho “Skilled Energy Products” demonstrating brain gym principles.

As a result of these two sessions in particular, I decided to introduce elements of play into my classes.

I looked in Toys R Us at Carindale today for Yoho products, but then chose a magnetic dartboard as a practical alternative. I hung it on the classroom wall according to the recommended spacings, and printed the rules ready to give to students arriving tomorrow.

I plan to use the dartboard  to break up lessons with some focusing exercises. Maybe calculating scores will lead to LLN opportunities as well?

Meme: Passion Quilt

February 26, 2008
Stone carving class
Stone carving class
Originally uploaded by st0nemas0nry

Anne tagged me for the Meme Passion Quilt. Guess I’m lucky that I was preparing this image after the first night of the stone carving evening class.

Here are the rules:

1. Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
2. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
3. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
4. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

About the image
I asked eight of the nine students in class if I could photograph their work, their hands and their tools for a photo montage. I planned to use this in my daily Flickr post to the 366photos group. Some students were none too keen as they felt self conscious about having their first attempt at carving stone recorded. However, I hope they like the montage when I show it to them next week. I inserted the eight images into a PowerPoint slide and saved it as a JPG file, then uploaded the saved file to Flickr.

About the class
The stonemasonry section regularly hosts the Adult and Community Education (ACE) stone carving class at the Eagle Farm Training Centre. Three hours each night, one night a week for eight weeks four times a year (depending on numbers). Personally, I’m flattered that people are interested in stone as a sculptural medium and I enjoy explaining tools and materials that stonemasons use.
I try to get them busy carving stone as soon as possible after housekeeping details are sorted. Generally, there are two projects,one of which is shown at the top of this post. A block of Helidon freestone 75mm x 200mm x 300mm is used for a relief carving just to build familiarity with the material, develop finishing techniques, and to quickly produce a finished article.
After the basic skills are introduced, a larger project is discussed and planned. Participants then have the next seven weeks to finish both projects.
Most participants have an enjoyable experience, and some return for subsequent courses. A statement of attendance is provided, useful for entry to other classes.
I think that the ACE program provides an important social outreach to adults who are seeking new personal skills, and for this reason I fully support it.

I’ve tagged this meme to Joyce, Arthus, Michael, Jo and Allison.