Saturday, March 31, 2012

Individual Tutorial & Reflection - Overall Reflection of PHP (Due 3/19)

Individual Tutorial & Reflection - PHP #4 (Due 3/19)

Individual Tutorial & Reflection #3 - PHP (Due 3/16)

Individual Tutorial & Reflection - Rhetorical Analysis of Moodle is "a free, open-source PHP web application for producing modular internet-based courses that support a modern social social constructionist pedagogy." According to Moodle, the site's principles of development are based upon four concepts: constructivism, constructionism, social constructivism, and "connected and separate." These concepts can work together to provide a dynamic, student-centered, interactive learning experience in which students themselves can essentially become teachers, while the instructor "change[s] from being 'the source of knowledge' to... and influencer and role model of class culture (Moodle)."

The philosophy held by the developers of this site is in line with my own teaching philosophy, which is what attracts me to this site.  Additionally, this site is one that I would like to start using in the near future as an online tool to support my face-to-face ESL classes.

The authors of the site are careful to establish credibility and authority by providing an in-depth explanation of its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) on their "About" subpage, which is easily located on the navigational toolbar at the top of the site.  This subpage provides a description of the site's features and why people like it; documents describing the terms of use, philosophy, pedagogy, basic structure, and key terms; statistics of its use; and a demonstration site.

The intended audience for this site is primarily teachers and students. The developers clearly state their philosophical and pedagogical values in order to appeal to teachers like me who may think along the same lines.

Moodle has a visually appealing, user-friendly interface that seems to follow the CRAP concepts of visual design nicely.  

The developers achieve contrast by taking advantage of juxtaposing the white space on the page with various shades of orange. There is an orange border around the edges of the page that is solid toward the top of the page, and then fades through different degrees of transparency as you move toward the middle and bottom of the page until it blends into the white space altogether. The authors of the site encourage you to click on the subpages by providing clickable boxes, most of which also have a graphic and are filled in with a relatively transparent, light orange color.

Repetition is another nice feature of the site, and I would use its navigation features as an example of that, because one can move easily through the different subpages by clicking on the various toolbar buttons at the top of the  home page, the menu on the right-hand side, or a set of large buttons on the main page. Sub-pages include the About section, which I have already explained; a news page with announcements about the application; a support page with information about documentation, forums, books and manuals, and commercial services; a community page with information about forums, events, registered sites, connected sites, Moodle jobs, recent participants, donations, and the Moodle shop; a development page with information about the developers, documentation, a tracker, and open source code; and a downloads page where you can find standard packages and language packs.

Another example of repetition is achieved is through the manner in which a great majority of the headings are designed. The headings and subheadings are always in a large, bold font, with an long line underneath them. This allows the users to clearly see when a section on a page begins and ends. Additionally, the site consistently uses bullets with links, and alignment is almost always left justified.

Items are grouped together on the page in a logical way to achieve proximity.  This can be seen on the front page in the arrangement of the navigational buttons:

The format of this site seems to work well for its intended purpose, and the only complaint that I might have is that it's a little difficult to figure out how to actually get started with setting up a Moodle site. That information seems to get buried under all of the "this is who we are, and this is what Moodle can do" type of information.

With just a small amount of searching, however, it is easy to locate a page that will help you to get started. In the near future, I hope to start playing around with the page (or, as Shelley might say, "I'll bang my head against it...") to see how I can incorporate it into my teaching toolbox. Analyzing the site itself was a great way to get started, because it allowed me to familiarize myself with the basic components.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reflection on Four ENGL 866 Blog Posts

This week, I reviewed and replied to the following four blog posts.

Diane Cook - Reflection, reflections, reflections, never-ending-reflections…

I really enjoyed Diane's post because it was really a one-stop-shop of the reflections from this week.  I was also drawn to it because she reviewed two of my posts (one from my blog, plus the canonical wiki page) and provide some great feedback and insights.  I was also relieved to see that someone else was stressing a bit about work load and lack of hours in the day.  I'm not complaining, but I have to admit I have my hands in a lot of pots right now so time management has been a bit of a challenge for me lately. Finally, I enjoyed reading about Diane's adventures in learning JavaScript.  I can relate to the feeling that the tutorials I'm choosing aren't fitting my needs.  I haven't checked out any of the tutorials on Lynda or, so I think I may do some poking around on those sites for my next set of tutorials.

2) Jennifer Buckner - Rhetorical Analysis, VW Beetle Site in HTML5

Jennifer wrote a really fun blog post about the new VW Beetle Site, which uses HTML5.  The site is really cool, and I would encourage anyone to check it out.  I liked Jennifer's post because it was informative and clear.  It was helpful to see how she conducted her rhetorical analysis.  The only thing I might do slightly differently would be to try and connect some of the concepts I have learned in tutorials with features I see in my text. Then again, maybe that's not appropriate for a rhetorical analysis...

3) Amanda Lynn David - InDesign Tutorial Part I

I was drawn to Amanda's post because she is working with an application I have never heard of before - InDesign.  Since it was completely new to me, I went ahead and watched the first intro tutorial that Amanda posted, and I realized the InDesign is like Microsoft Publisher on steroids. :)  Since I knew nothing about her application, I ended up responding to her posts with more questions than comments.  I look forward to seeing what she does with the software for her final project.

4) Eric Sentell - Reflection on the Peer Review Process

The last post I reviewed was written by Eric, and it was a reflection on the feedback he received on his Canonical Text Wiki Page.  I felt bad for Eric because he received some comments he did not expect/understand, and I hadn't reviewed the wiki by the time he had written the post, so he didn't have much to go on.  Anyway, the main thing I learned from his post was that we really do rely on each other for timely, thoughtful, detailed and accurate feedback, and when we don't get the kind of feedback we are looking for, it can be very frustrating. Totally understandable!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reflection - Canonical Text Wiki Page Peer Review

I reviewed the following two Canonical Text Wiki Pages:
Medium is the Massage +
Simulacra & Simulation & The Illusion of the End

The main thing I learned from reading and replying to my classmates' drafts was that the format, structure, and visual design elements of a wiki page are essential when there is a massive amount of complex information that must be presented in a clear and logical way. If used correctly, design elements (following CRAP principles) and engaging format options (embedded objects, links, polls) are more than just aesthetically pleasing, but they actually help the reader move through and digest large amounts of content. 

I was excited to see how others were able to connect their texts to the 12 key concepts, because this is one of the main things I have left to do on my own draft.  I was especially impressed by the graphic representation developed by the group who read the McLuhan text.  I would like to do something similar for how concepts from the first, second, and third waves of cybernetics connect to the 12 key concepts.

I really liked the idea of having a hypertext table of contents to link to different sections of the wiki page.  I also liked the idea of having subpages - I'll ask Cheri what she thinks about having subpages for the three waves of cybernetics.  If we do that, we can keep the general format of our wiki, but maybe we could add a sidebar for the table of contents.  Also, this would mitigate the issue of the columns being different lengths.

Jennifer was the first to comment on our draft.  She mentioned that we need to include the information about "how [it's] used/useful to the production process," which we plan to have ready for the final draft.  I agree with her critique that we need to fix alignment of subheadings.

Eric had some great comments as well.  I liked his suggestion to incorporate the key concepts by showing how the concepts "change humans into post-humans."  For example, "how does the PC interface shape cognition, archiving, pattern-recognizing and -creating, perspective, etc." I thought this was a great suggestion. He also said the text was a bit too detailed, and he pointed out the summary sections.  Maybe on the main page we could have the brief summary and then link to a sub page for the more in-depth summary by using a "Read more..." type of hyperlink. I also really appreciated his edits! I would like to italicize all quotes as he suggested - I had done that in my sections from the beginning so maybe we can carry that through to the section Cheri prepared as well.  Also, he pointed out how we could provide some additional definitions, explain the Macy Conferences, and add some alt-text on graphics. His comments were so helpful.  I hope to incorporate some if not all into the final draft.

Amanda made the suggestion to explain the drawings - I'm assuming she meant Hayley's Map of Cybernetics and the graphic in the section called "Mapping the Framework of the Posthuman." I agree that some prose to accompany those images would be helpful. 

Diane left a comment as well, and also mentioned some additional terms we could define, and she thought we could mention information about some of what I might call existential questions related to posthumanism.

This exercise was extremely beneficial - it was great to see the work of others, and also to have multiple sets of eyes provide constructive criticism on our work as well.  I look forward to cleaning up our final draft and presenting on Monday!  Can't wait to hear the other presentations as well...