Tag Archives: Book Review

Brian Chen: Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future--and Locked Us In

Book Review: “Always On”

It’s been a while since my last book review, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been keeping up to date with my reading list – if anything the list is getting longer (and the days shorter).

Brian Chen: Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future--and Locked Us InMy latest addition to the list is from Brian Chen – “Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future – and Locked Us In“.

It is clear to see all around us just what impact smartphones have had on society and, in my area of interest, learning. It has enabled truly mobile learning to take place – in the sense of mobile materials as well as mobile individuals – as well as interactions when we, the learner, wants it, not just when the course director wants it. Apple has taken something, developed it, marketed it, and let it loose on the world. You could argue about Apple and Steve Jobs’ intent and whether they knew what they had when it was first released, but it is the inclusion of the App Store and the developments the global community made that have helped steer and mould the direction the iPhone and subsequent smartphones took.  Continue reading

The Sketchnote Handbook

I don’t write anymore, I sketch #sketchnote

A couple of months ago I had one of those ‘ah ha’ moments I should have had 25+ years ago at school. I have never been good at taking notes. Never.

At school I was always behind and struggling because I couldn’t keep up with my teachers and their dictated notes. I wasn’t alone with this, but it was still hard. At University it was the same, but it felt worse because everyone else wrote and kept amazing notes from lectures, demonstrations, field-trips, etc. I survived and gained my degree because I had generous friends who helped me when I needed it.

Now, with nearly 18+ years since graduation I’ve finally realised why I am still making rubbish notes in meetings, conferences, etc. (apart from the obvious reason that I suck at it). It’s the wrong medium for me. It’s not that my handwriting is so awful I can’t read it (which, unfortunately, it is) it’s that I don’t respond to those kinds of notes. Therefore I shouldn’t be trying to take notes like that.

I should be sketching, or rather taking ‘sketchnotes’.  Continue reading

The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual: Your toolkit for putting elearning into practice

Book Review: “The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual”

The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual: Your toolkit for putting elearning into practiceLate last year (2013) I started reading the latest offering from Rob Hubbard, “The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual”. A collection of chapters from leading and respected authors and educators this book offers the reader a “broad base of knowledge and the tools you need to navigate the eLearning terrain.”

The book is structured with well-defined chapters written by respected educators who lead their field, covering aspects of eLearning for synchronous and asynchronous delivery, internal- and externally-provided learning opportunities, and the differing platform and approaches to online / eLearning, including:

  • Jane Hart – informal and social learning
  • Charles Jennings – learning management
  • Ben Betts – games-based learning
  • Clive Shepherd – what is eLearning?
  • Julie Wedgewood – blended learning
  • Colin Steed – facilitating live online learning
  • Jane Bozarth – in-house, off-the-shelf, or outsourced eLearning?
  • Clark Quinn – mobile learning  Continue reading

Instant Prezi for Education How-to

Book Review: “Prezi for Education How-to”

Instant Prezi for Education How-toInstant Prezi for Education How-to” is written by Domi Sinclair (@Lilly_Stardust to you and me) and build on her experience and background as a Learning Technologist at University College London.

Designed as a short ‘instant’ book (I read the MOBI formatted file for Kindle, using the Kindle App) it is well structured and covers the basic details of Prezi for anyone new to the tool, and is sufficiently detailed for experienced Prezi users to find something new and useful too.

“This book is for people in education who are bored of delivering the same old presentations to their students (or perhaps it is the students who are bored!). This is for people who would like to increase student engagement by using more dynamic tools. This is for people who have not used Prezi before and may not be technically minded, but are willing to learn and utilise this online presentation aid.”  Continue reading

MOOC YourSelf - Set up your own MOOC for Business, Non-Profits, and Informal Communities

Book Review: MOOC Yourself (@Ignatia) #MOOCyourself

MOOC YourSelf - Set up your own MOOC for Business, Non-Profits, and Informal CommunitiesThis is the first book on MOOCs I’ve been inclined to read, purely because Igne Ignatia de Waard (@Ignatia) is someone I respect through our shared interest and conversations on Twitter – “MOOC YourSelf – Set up your own MOOC for Business, Non-Profits, and Informal Communities”.

Self-published through the Amazon Direct Publishing process Ignatia looks at the different options/formats for MOOCs and fits them in to best online learning practices and offers design and learning options. In the book she also looks at the pedagogy surrounding MOOCs and the options currently available for the often-criticised certification routes.

“The challenges and benefits of MOOCs are highlighted and guidelines on how to build an optimal MOOC experience are shared. Online learning best practices’ are listed with a focus on MOOC specific learning characteristics, certification options and pedagogies.”

The background and history to the current MOOC hype(first section of the book) is not for me, but it is worth reading as the basis for the cMOOC and xMOOC approach are explained well and are vital if you are to get the most out of the rest of the book. Continue reading

Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social Web

Book Review: “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do”

Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do: A Manager's Guide to the Social WebYou may think this a strange choice for a Learning Technologist to review – “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web” by Euan Semple - but I’m reading this more out of my interest in Social Media and how we use it in our everyday (personal and professional) lives, rather than my interest in management styles or business process. That is to say, however, that these don’t interest my as well, it’s just my main focus is in our use and abuse of social media, whether it’s deliberate or accidental (or just plain ignorance).

I can’t remember now how I came to hear about this book now; it could have been the Amazon digest email recommending it based on other books I’ve bought or browsed, or it could have been someone on Twitter, but the blurb resonated with me on a level of my own use of social media. The book aims to provide:

“managers in all sorts of organizations, from governments to multinationals, with practical advice, insight and inspiration on how the Web and social tools can help them to do their jobs better … this uniquely people-centric guide to social media in the workplace offers managers, at all levels, valuable insights into the networked world as it applies to their challenges as managers, and it outlines practical things they can do to make social media integral to the tone and tenor of their departments or organizational cultures.”

In the book you can easily change the business-orientated wording and terminology to an academic and/or student orientation and the book is still relevant and informative: just how do we use social media, how can a single employee or students ‘like’ or tweet impact the organisation, school, or institution?  Continue reading

Digital Vertigo

Reading: Digital Vertigo #digitalvertigo

Digital VertigoWith the eBook edition of this book set at £0.00 I couldn’t resist seeing what the fuss is about – this book has received good and bad reviews. But, more importantly, it’s made people question our interest and reliance on online tools and websites and networks and activities.

Even though I’m only a few chapters in to the book already I’m realising my over-reliance and over-bearing interest in putting my work and family life online (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) is not necessary. For the most part it’s intrusive and getting in the way (especially photo-editing family pictures to post to Facebook – yes, it’s sharing for those who can’t be present, but it still gets in the way of the actual event).

“Rather than virtual or second life, social media is actually becoming life itself – the central and increasingly transparent stage of human existence, what Silicon Valley venture capitalists are now calling an ‘Internet of People’.”

“What I glimpsed in that late November afternoon in Bloomsbury was the anti-social future, the loneliness of the isolated man in the connected crowd.”

“Personal visibility, I recognised, is the new symbol of status and power in our digital age. Like the corpse locked in his transparent tomb [Jeremy Bentham], we are now all on permanent exhibition, all just images of ourselves in this brave new transparent world.”

Continue reading

Book Review: "Using Social Media in the Classroom"

Book Review: “Using Social Media in the Classroom” #edtech

Book Review: "Using Social Media in the Classroom"I’m a Learning Technologist. Regular readers will know I have an interest in using, and understanding how we can use, Social Media and Social Networks with students and learning. It’s not just about helping students understand their ‘digital footprint’, or improving their digital literacy, or how their actions online can affect their employability. It is also about using the different tools and techniques for learning and Social Media and Social Networks are a valuable source of learning materials from many different cultures and backgrounds.

Which is why this book is of interest to me – ‘Using Social Media in the Classroom‘ by Megan Poore. Billed as a book that provides “an overview of different types of digital technologies” it is more important to me and how I work that it also covers more contextual and “constructive guidance on how to safely and intelligently use them as tools for learning”. All good stuff I hope you’ll agree.

This quote from Megan is key to the understanding of the benefits for communication, collaboration, participation and socialisation of, and in, education:

“One of the most exciting features of social media for education is precisely  their socialness. They allow us to break out of the paradigm of the monolithic learner into the more intricate and complex world of constructivist, active, and situated pedagogies.” (p. 8)

Continue reading

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur--How to Publish a Book

Book Review: “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book”

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur--How to Publish a Book

“APE is 300 pages of step-by-step, tactical advice and practical inspiration. If you want a hype-filled, get-rich-quick book, you should look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want a comprehensive and realistic guide to self-publishing, APE is the answer.” Amazon UK

Anyone interested in writing a book (fiction or non-fiction) needs to take note of what Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch have to say in this excellent new book: “APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book”. If nothing else, learn from their experiences.

Why am I reviewing a book about self-publishing? Well, publishing your own text is a phenomenon that I think, within academic circles, will grow as the process becomes easier and more people understand the ease and the benefits – and I don’t just mean the financial benefits either. This book from Guy and Shawn is just such a good place to start!

Whether you’re thinking of writing your own course text, writing an in-depth technical guide based on experience/training/teaching, or writing that novel that’s been on your mind for years, now is the time to seriously think about it.

The eBook, for that is what I have,  is 300+ pages of advice, information, details, anecdotal evidence, stories, links, quotes, tables, facts & figures, and entrepreneurial  ‘genius’ … all asking you the same question(s): are you ready to self-publish, do you have what it takes, and do you know your market? Re-read the title and you’ll understand this … “Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur”. You need to be all three if you are to make a reasonable attempt and (hopefully) success of your book idea.

Continue reading

Essentials of Online Course Design

Book Review: “Essentials of Online Course Design”

Essentials of Online Course DesignThe book “Essentials of Online Course Design” from Majorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski is one I have heard about from a few people recently, and one I felt would be worth reading, and at a reasonable £22 from Routledge it’s a fair investment … not to mention the accompanying companion website.

The book is described as a “fresh, thoughtfully designed, step-by-step approach to online course development.” The core of the book is a set of standards that are based on ‘best’ practices (I prefer the term ‘good practice’ as ‘best practice’ implies there is no room for improvement) in the field of online learning and teaching. “Pedagogical, organizational and visual design principles are presented and modeled throughout the book and users will quickly learn from the guide’s hands-on approach. The course design process begins with the elements of a classroom syllabus which, after a series of guided steps, easily evolve into an online course outline” (this last bit was taken from the promotional text).

It is well structured with chapters organised in a nice ‘progressive’ way enabling you to build on previous concepts and content (not to mention contexts), with chapters like:

  • Engaging the Online Learner
  • Activities and Tools: Working Collaboratively and Independently
  • Assessment & Feedback
  • Building the course Foundation: Outcomes, Syllabus, and Course Outline
  • Creating the Course Structure: Online Lessons

The authors are at pains with this book to describe what works in an online learning and teaching environment without using the same tired, complicated, and often dense formats, and they have successfully simplified the processes required when applying a ‘standards-based’ approach enabling you to think more clearly on the “challenging task of rethinking your content for online study”. I know from experience that the recording of a face-to-face lecture does not work for online students: they just won’t sit for 45+ minutes to watch or listen to it. However, if you break down the recordings to an optimum 10-15 minute chunk they’re more manageable and digestible, therefore it should be recorded in this way and properly structured in the first place, with the online student in mind (the recordings are still valuable and applicable to campus-based students as well).

The companion website is also a valuable resource in its own right, but with the book targeting what and when you should use it the examples and references it contains should help you with the initial course build as well as being a good reference guide for course review and redesign.

Essentials of Online Course Design

So, what have I got from the book, either as something new or some existing knowledge or ideas reaffirmed?

  • Course design: careful consideration is needed when developing a course from scratch, especially to the structure you use and the technologies you implement – each element will need an introduction and explanation according to your target audience/student. If you think your student audience is likely to need more hand-holding when dealing with new technologies then get the appropriate support and/or resources in pace for them before they realise they need it.
  • Multimedia: images, video, and audio presentation/narration can improve the ‘clarity’ of presentation and understanding and can, where used appropriately, enhance the learning. Where they are used badly it can be an unwanted distraction, so use wisely.
  • Context – often overlooked in course design is the simple step of introducing yourself to your students. It’s not just about “this is me and this is how you can get in contact’, it’s also about giving the students the background as to why you are qualified to be leading them in this course/subject area. Tell them about your professional self, your research, your publications, what qualifications you bring to the subject speciality … only those that are relevant to the topic (not your full CV, they’re not that interested!).
  • Sign-post it and Use it – whatever you design, make sure you sign-post it, explain why you’re doing it, and use it yourself. If you have a discursive activity explain the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’ and be the first person to post – introduce your expectations. Don’t forget to close the discussion as well, bringing the different strands of the activity into your conclusion and highlight concepts and individual contributions, not necessarily as good/bad examples, but just posts that led the discussion in certain directions.
  • Consistency – use the same font, font size, colours, etc., as well as the same type of headings in different places – if you swap and change throughout the course you’ll confuse and disorientate your students. You also need to consider the consistency of the jargon and style of your words, find your style and stick to it, it’ll be easier for the student to read.
  • Structure – what works in your classroom does not translate directly to the online world. Online resources for learning does not mean a ‘document repository’ of PDF and PPT files. If this is what you have and insist on using then at least provide a meaningful introduction to the file, what it contains/what it’s about, why the student needs it, and an activity for the student to engage in a a result of reading the file.
  • Orientation – thankfully this book does include orientation. Too many students are dumped in at the deep end with their online course with little explanation as to what or why they’re doing it (other than to ‘learn’ and ‘pass’) and hardly ever have the ‘intended learning outcome’ (ILO as I know it) explained. Include and explain the outcome and syllabus in relation to the assessment and any related knowledge needed for subsequent courses.
  • Learning Outcome – ever needed to write a learning outcome for your course and struggled? There’s an appendix to the book that covers this, and is a really useful guide including outcome vs. objective, rationale, and writing the outcome.

I know I can’t include all the best bits of the book, I’d have to reproduce a vast quantity of the book to do that, but I hope I’ve given you an idea why I like it and will be using it for reference in the future.

Have you read this book, do you agree with me and/or the authors? Please leave a comment below and join in the discussion.