April 28, 2015

Problems with the use of images in open textbooks

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If you have downloaded my open textbook, ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’ in pdf or Modi format for the iPad or Kobo, you may have noticed that many of the images I have liberally used throughout the book do not fit on the page or have become separated from their ‘frame’ (the green and black lines before and after the images), in the downloaded versions.

The problem

Here is an example (I have reduced the size of both images):

This is the html version that you would read by going to the book site (http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/)

Original html web version

Original html web version

Nice, isn’t it? And this is how it appears in the pdf version:

pdf version

pdf version

You can see the image has been removed from the frame and dropped into the next page.

The same kind of thing happens in the iPad and Kindle versions, only worse, because the screen size is smaller. I realise this is not a unique problem and one faced every day when moving materials to mobile devices.

The reason

This happens primarily because the html version read on computer screens or laptops scrolls, while the pdf and mobile device versions are paginated. What fits nicely on a scrolled screen does not always fit a paginated version because the image is too large to fit within the remaining page space, so it is bounced to the next page. This is made worse by my having artistically framed the images. The frames are independent objects from the image though so do not move with the image when it is ‘bounced’.

Solutions

OK, I should have known this would happen, but I didn’t until after I finished the book. (This is one form of experiential learning that I don’t recommend). One way to minimise (but not eliminate by any means) the problem would be to avoid putting in frames for the images (the frames were suggested by a highly professional graphic designer) and keeping the in-text images much smaller. However, reducing the size of the images is not always desirable, especially with complex or detailed images.

In the end, it is a software problem needing a software solution, such as the ability to integrate frames around images, and to resize images to fit the pagination or to move paragraphs around the image until it fits the page.

The dilemma

So what should I do now? The html version works beautifully, but even reducing the size of graphics and moving them won’t solve the problem for the exported versions, because each exported version is different in the way it handles the lay-out. I could go through the whole book and remove the frames but there are over 100 images and graphics throughout the book.

Should I leave the frames? I can’t leave them on the html version and remove them from the other versions because the other versions are direct and complete exports of the html version. I also can’t edit the pdf version independently of the html version without creating a whole shadow site.

Is there a way to ‘fit’ frames to images in WordPress? if there is please let me know!

Does it matter?

This is where I really need your advice. OK, so it isn’t perfect as a pdf or on an iPad, but is it good enough? My wife says I’m crazy to worry about this (‘It’s the content that matters’), and my best friend accused me of being a compulsive-obsessive personality (that’s what good friends are there for, to tell you the truth), and he said if people don’t like it, they can use their laptop, but my wife and my friend are not the audience for this book. You are, and if this is a problem for you, I need to know.

So what’s your advice on this? Don’t worry about it, or find a solution, and if so, what?

Defining skills for a digital age

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Video games designer 2

ACT (2105) Unpacking “Career Readiness” Iowa City IA: Act Inc.

ACT Inc, the organisation that designs and administers the most widely used high school standardised tests in the USA, has just published a short but interesting document. In it, they state:

In the report Broadening the Definition of College and Career Readiness: A Holistic Approach (Mattern et al. 2014), ACT has begun to describe the skills needed for postsecondary success through a new model of learning readiness that encompasses at least four overlapping but distinct domains:

  • Core Academic Skills in English language arts, mathematics, and science
  • Cross-Cutting Capabilities such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and information and technology skills
  • Behavioral Skills related to success in education and the workforce, such as being dependable, working effectively with others, adapting, and managing stress
  • Navigation Skills, or skills needed to successfully negotiate educational and career pathways, such as self-knowledge of abilities, likes and dislikes, and values; knowledge about majors, occupations, and future career opportunities; and the variety of skills related to educational and career exploration, planning, and decision making needed for long-term success in the workplace

The documents also states:

Readiness assessments that focus solely on academic proficiency risk ignoring what education, business, and industry leaders have long recognized: behavioral and career skills and crosscutting capabilities are no less essential to success in the 21st-century college classroom and the workplace. The “life skills” framework suggested by this new model supports this holistic picture of readiness.

Comment

It is good that ACT is raising the issue of the skills needed by learners and graduates in today’s society. Identifying the most important skills is an essential first step to ensuring that they get taught.

However, the paper raises more questions than it answers, such as:

  • is this the ‘right’ list of skills? For instance, shouldn’t knowledge management and digital literacy (which is not the same as IT skills) be in there somewhere? And who should decide what skills are important?
  • is it the job of colleges and universities to teach these broader skills? I believe it is, but that raises further questions, such as:
    • do instructors currently have the knowledge, time and inclination to develop these new skills?
    • do these new skills replace or are they an addition to what schools and colleges are already teaching? What are the trade-offs that will be necessary if more focus is given to these skills?
  • what teaching methods are most likely to enable students to develop these skills?
  • what is the best way to measure or assess such skills?

The last question is particularly important to ask, because I suspect ACT is looking to build standardised, computer assessments for such skills, but this may not be the most appropriate form of assessment.

My online open textbook, Teaching in a Digital Age, attempts to address at least some of these issues, but I don’t pretend that I have all the answers. It is good though that ACT is raising the issue of identifying and assessing these ‘soft’ skills, even if there may be a commercial motive behind their research.

Reference

Mattern, Krista, et al. (2014) Broadening the Definition of College and Career Readiness: A Holistic Approach. Iowa City, IA: ACT Research Report Series 2014-5

Book ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’ now ready and available

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image

Click image to view the book

IT’S OPEN! IT’S FREE! IT’S ONLINE! IT’S READY!

For the last two weeks I have been frantically re-editing my online open textbook, ‘Teaching in a Digital Age.’ I am relieved and pleased to announce that the book is now finished – or at least as finished as an open online textbook will be, as it’s possible, indeed essential, to continue to add or remove materials to keep it up to date.

So if you get the chance, log in to the book, have a look at it, and, if you can find the time, send me your comments.

The target group

The audience I am reaching out for are primarily:

  • college and university instructors anxious to improve their teaching or facing major challenges in the classroom,
  • school teachers, particularly in secondary or high schools anxious to ensure their students are ready for either post-secondary education or a rapidly changing and highly uncertain job market.

Different ways to use the book

The book will download in epub, pdf, and mobi versions, so it can be printed out or the whole book can be downloaded, for straightforward reading.

It can also be downloaded in xHTML, Pressbooks XML, or WordPress XML from the home page, so it can be edited or adapted for secondary use.

The book is written on the assumption that most reading will be done in chunks of one hour or less, so each section of a chapter can be completed in one hour at the maximum (some sections will be much shorter).

There are many different ways this book could be used. Here are some suggestions:

  • straight read through (over several days) for personal use by individual teachers and instructors: this is probably the least likely use, but there is a logical sequence and a continuous, coherent argument that builds up through the book;
  • specific chapters or sections that are useful or timely can be read by individual faculty or teachers, more as a reference or for a specific purpose, and other sections or chapters can then be read as needed;
  • teachers or instructors can do the activities that follow most sections, mainly for personal reflection, but also to compare their responses to either mine or other readers;
  • the book can be used, whole or in parts, as the core reading for an online course (or part of a course) on how to teach in a digital age. The activities I have suggested can be included, or, if you use one of the editing formats (XHTML, Pressbooks XML or WordPress XML), you can replace the activities with your own;
  • use the book, in parts or as a whole, as preparation for faculty development or pro-d workshops
  • take sections or parts of the book, and combine them with your own materials, for either an online course or for faculty development/pro-d.

See About the book – and how to use it, for more details

Content

I will be doing 13 separate posts summarising each chapter, but in the meantime:

Chapter 1 Fundamental change in Education

This sets the stage for the rest of the book. Chapter 1 looks at the key changes that are forcing teachers and instructors to reconsider their goals and methods of teaching, In particular it identifies the key knowledge and skills that students need in a digital age, and how technology is changing everything, including the context in which we teach.

Chapters 2-5: Epistemology and teaching methods

These chapters address the more theoretical and methodological aspects of teaching and learning in a digital age. Chapter 2 covers different views on the nature of knowledge and how these understandings of knowledge influence theories of learning and methods of teaching. Chapters 3 and 4 analyse the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of teaching ranging from solely campus-based through blended to fully online. Chapter 5 looks at the strengths and weaknesses of MOOCs. These chapters form a theoretical foundation for what follows.

Chapters 6-8: Media and technology

The focus in these three chapters is on how to choose and use different media and technologies in teaching, with a particular focus on the unique pedagogical characteristics of different media. Chapter 8 ends with a set of criteria and a model for making decisions about different media and technologies for teaching.

Chapters 9-10: Modes of delivery and open education

Chapter 9 addresses the question of how to determine what mode of delivery should be used: campus-based; blended or fully online. Chapter 10 examines the potentially disruptive implications of recent developments in open content, open publishing, open data and open research. This chapter above all is a messenger of the radical changes to come to education.

Chapter 11 and Appendix 1: Ensuring quality in teaching in a digital age

These take two different but complementary approaches to the issue of ensuring high quality teaching in a digital age. Chapter 11 suggests nine pragmatic steps for designing and delivering quality teaching in a highly digital teaching context. Appendix 1 looks at all the necessary components of a high quality learning environment.

Chapter 12: Institutional support

This chapter very briefly examines the policy and operational support needed from schools, colleges and universities to ensure relevant and high quality teaching in a digital age.

Scenarios

There are ten ‘what if’ scenarios scattered throughout the book. These are semi-fictional, semi-, because in almost every case, the scenario is based on an actual example. However, I have sometimes combined one or more cases, or extended or broadened the original case. The purpose of the scenarios is to stimulate imagination and thinking about both our current ‘blocks’ or barriers to change, and the real and exciting possibilities of teaching in the future.

Other features

Each chapter ends with a set of key ‘takeaways’ from the chapter, and a complete set of references. There is also a comprehensive bibliography that collects together all the references from the chapters. Most chapter sections end with an activity.

There are also several appendices providing more detailed information to support each chapter, and some sample answers to the questions posed in the activities.

 

Over to you

As I said, an online, open textbook is dynamic, not static. Changes are possible at any time. Your feedback then will be of immense value, not just to me, but also to future readers.

What have I missed? Is the structure clear? Is it appropriate for the target audience? Is it useful to you, and if so, in what ways?

Above all, can you help me to reach beyond instructional designers, and enthusiasts for online learning, into the main body of instructors and teachers? Can you pass the word on? What would you recommend I do to get to the target audience?

As always, your help will be so much appreciated. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the book.

Conference: Distance teaching and learning, Wisconsin, 2015

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The Monona Terrace, Madison, Wisconsin

The Monona Terrace, Madison, Wisconsin

What: The University of Wisconsin Distance Teaching and Learning Conference

You will discover innovative ways to teach and support online learners. Learn best strategies, practices, and solutions. Connect with experts in online education and engage with e-learning colleagues from around the world.

When: August 11-13, 2015

Where: Monona Terrace, Madison, Wisconsin

Who: The conference is organized and sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies’ Distance Education Professional Development (DEPD) team.

Keynote speakers

  • Marc Rosenberg
  • Mark Prensky
  • Sharon Derry and Susan Singer
  • Simone Conceçãio
  • Michael G. Moore

How:

  • Registration opens May 4
  • To register, click here

How much:

The conference fee will be US$495 for registration by July 31, $545 afterwards. reduced fee for students, groups

Online Fundamentals Conference Certificate

Designed for those new to online learning, this blended certificate entails pre- and post-conference work plus onsite conference activities. Get both the conference and certificate for only $850 ($1,200 value).

Comment

This has been the largest and longest running (30 years) distance education conference in the USA. It’s good to see Michael Moore is speaking. We worked together many years ago at the Open University in Britain and he has been a pioneer of distance education in the USA.

CNIE 2015 conference in Winnepeg

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The Red River, near the Forks, Winnipeg (my own photo)

The Red River, near the Forks, Winnipeg (my own photo)

What: The CAUCE-CNIE Conference: Beyond Diversity: Learning and Working in an Inclusive World

Conference Themes:

  • dialoguing on human rights
  • creating access to education
  • embracing inclusivity.

When: May 27-29, 2015

Where: Inn at the Forks, Winnipeg, Manitoba (Winnipeg = Muddy Water in Cree.)

Who: 

  • Canadian Association of University Continuing Education
  • Canadian Network for Innovation in Education
  • University of Manitoba

Keynote speakers

  • Ovide Mercredi
  • Stephen Murgatroyd

How: 

  • Closing date for Early Bird registration: March 31 (Tuesday) – so get cracking!
  • To register, click here

How much:

The conference fee will be $650 for registration by March 31, $700 afterwards. Conference fee includes all meals, Gala dinner and dance

Comment

This is the first time I believe that CAUCE and CNIE have organised a joint conference.

An interesting and topical theme, given recent events in Winnipeg, and for a long time across Canada, regarding violence against aboriginal women.

I would like to have attended but I will be on holiday in Europe at this time.