RMIT Staff Educational Technologies Survey – Now Open


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Image of popular social media logos wearing graduation hats

Image courtesy of Flickr CC license

Are you teaching at RMIT University in 2014? Do you have an active online presence with your teaching – either within the Blackboard learning management system or beyond? You may have received a postcard for the staff educational technologies survey.

Please tell us your views on using digital technologies for teaching and learning at RMIT. It takes 10 minutes and we’re keen to hear your experiences.

Image of iPad riding a bike to show mobile learning

Mobile Learning


Samantha Vardanega: Get started with Google Sites and Blogger


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Samantha Vardanega sitting at a desk speaking to the audience

Samantha Vardanega. Photo by Margund Sallowsky

Workshop Round-up: Get Started with Google Sites and Blogger

On Wednesday 8 October, 2014, we were delighted to host Samantha Vardanega at RMIT University in Mebourne, Australia. Samantha spoke to 50 RMIT teaching and professional staff about Google Sites and Blogger.

The workshop was hosted by the LTIF project, Beyond Blackboard Course Shells: “What on earth are they using?”

Workshop Overview

Google Sites and Blogger are two powerful tools for creating and sharing content with your colleagues, students and the world.  In this session we learned how to choose and get started with the tool that’s best for your situation.  We explored how to create, configure and share sites and blogs, and make them look professional and stylish. We also learned how Sites and Blogger integrate with other Google tools. We discussed how these technologies can be used by staff and students in teaching, learning, research and administration.

You can access workshop learning materials and Storify record. The video will be added shortly.

Wide screen photo of RMIT staff at workshop, Samantha Vardanega at front

RMIT University staff at workshop on Google Sites and Blogger. Photo by John Benwell.

About Samantha

Samantha Vardanega is a Google Certified Teacher and Google Education Trainer with more than eight years experience in tertiary education. She was first introduced to Google Apps at Monash University, where she spent several years helping staff and students find innovative ways to teach, learn, research and work together. As a consultant at Simplify Solutions, Samantha is now helping schools, universities and business in Australia get the most out of their Google Apps journey. She regularly presents at events around Australia, as well as delivering customised training sessions for educators, administrators and IT staff at any level. Samantha’s in-depth knowledge of Google tools allows her to tackle even the most complicated questions or problems with real answers and creative solutions.




Jeremy Yuille on User Experience Design (UX) and Digital Literacy


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Push Pad to Open Automatic door. Right...

Photo credit Dave Stone on Flickr: CC licence

Jeremy Yuille lectures in several subjects at RMIT in the School of Media and Communications around User Experience Design, Interaction Design, and Digital Design as well as professional practice and studio contexts.

Do you use Blackboard?
I use it as little as possible. In the last course I used it to manage assessment. So it was the place where students had to submit their work. It was the “official” place where the final word on what was going on in the course was put. It worked better than it has in the past.

I’m pretty sure that at least a quarter of the students did not look at anything there, but then I am also pretty sure about the same number did not turn up to the class either! (I’m not sure about the correlation between those 2 things.) It was really just used for the grade centre. I did it to see how it would work. I will probably continue with it as it makes that end of semester work flow go more easily. It also meant there was no physical artifacts to have to deal with and no chance of losing anything.

What other tools do you you use?
In the course of teaching, I have used lots of different tools. Before blogs we had Moveable Type and Typepad. We installed our own instances on the servers here and were managing them. These days, I tend to use something more lightweight. I have been using a Facebook page.  It wasn’t as successful as I thought it would be. I used a “page” instead of a “group” – they are different. I’ve used Twitter and then quickly found out that most of the students at that point didn’t use it. I have used a Google Site and that was disappointing, mainly because I work with design students and it immediately lost credibility no matter what content was in there.

The thing I’ve found that works best is a WordPress site. It is very easy. We don’t have to worry about login or access. I just use the free rather than hosting Other colleagues use it as well.

I have tried getting students on to their own blogs. It didn’t work. I have heard good stories of others doing this. Young people are tending to communicate visually. It might be better to get them doing their own Pinterest or something like that. I would like to get them to write more and better. For us, WordPress is like a link bucket and we use it for reflecting/collaborative/sense-making, and write it in a way that students can comment into it.

I have used Google Docs for sharing documentation with our Singapore students. Their brief  was written in Docs and they could use the commenting and collaboration features to ask me questions about that.

I’m about to use Google Docs this week to teach students how they can do remote interviews for instance. It’s much better than email because you are working with someone on what their interview will look like, particularly if it is to be published. It puts more work onto the interviewee. So the success depends on what the payoff is for the interviewee. Writing input can vary wildly.

I have tried getting students to collaborate on Google Docs. Our students are interesting. We think they are digital natives but they are not – or not in the way that we think about it. In the past I have assumed students knew why this was interesting or why the way you can collaborate on, say, Google Docs is so good. But it’s not until I contrive the situation where you get someone to open it and you edit something in front of them and they all freak out and suddenly they get it. I have done this with staff too. Or you do it on the phone with someone and you are talking to them about it and it’s not until you contrive those “aha” moments that they get it. I am hoping to get students a little bit more in it this year. Google Docs is a bit more stable now. For the last couple of years I have trying to get my colleagues to use Google Docs, while managing the program and that was a challenge.

In what particular ways are students not as savvy online as we might think?
We have found that they are not as critical as we have led to believe. This means they tend to be consumers on information but their appetite is not broad. They don’t tend to look widely. It’s a bit like they come here on a diet of junk food.
Photo credit Max Crowe on Flickr: CC licence

When it comes to content creation I am still quite surprised by my students because communication design or graphic design happens with digital technology. But these are offline solo processes. So that doesn’t map really well on to them having a lot of experience working with people online. Just the idea of being networked isn’t a large part of their online identity.  There is a student I am noticing at the moment who does seem to have a large networked identity and I think that is because they have been working outside in the fashion industry. That student is aware of what the value of a networked identity. Whereas a lot of our students have not had a lot of experience outside of school and they have no sense of what a networked identity is. And that then flows into a lot of digital literacies, for example, how do you work with someone, why is it valuable to even work with someone online? With studios it is challenging to get them to interact face-to-face let alone online. One of the things we still find hardest to teach are these kind of soft skills. We need to think about these as digital soft skills with the first question being: How do you form relationships with people?

What were your your intentions in using Facebook?
Basically, lowering friction; reducing barriers. Previous informal research in class showed me 99% had it in common. If I put things there it is easier to get them to see it. Then, once you’re on there, you have all sorts of other features. So I created an equivalent of live Tweeting during lectures. I created a backchannel and have a series of guest lecturers and would have a live feed on the page. The students who engaged with the page and attended the lectures tended to benefit, although that didn’t show up on the student survey scores. But I suspect that the students who attended didn’t do the survey – what can you say? This is the first time the course had been taught and we had a only a few survey responses and those were mostly negative.

Technically the students could have input into the Facebook channel, but I am not sure they are aware enough of that practice. We could run a whole course just on backchannels. We could foreground it a bit more or put it on the screens like at conferences. I suppose they get it because they see it on things like Qanda; but I am yet to be convinced that they have actually taken part in something like that. That would be different. At present they are just spectators. They are quite sophisticated spectators but are not overly critical. When it comes to making something or contributing, those skills are not as developed.

How do we help students find the practical experience?
I don’t think it’s happening explicitly in our systems. It is starting in first year where they have taken on the task of expressing literacies in transition. So much of this is about being able to communicate with the written word. I am a little bit gobsmacked that the middle aged lecturers who are teaching courses about digital design are far more sophisticated users than the student — who we have been lead to believe are good at doing stuff online. There is a mistake there and we haven’t quite cracked that. We need to know: what is their understanding of this medium?… or how can we get them thinking about engaging with the network? Some of the things they are doing in primary schools now are going to lead into networked literacy. So that is 15 years before they get to university, and hopefully between now and then we will begin to understand and observe some change.

With design there is a large part that is embodied. But it’s not just soft skills but also how you look at situations and perceive different ways of framing things. There is a large amount of embodied knowledge in these platforms. When you first open a Google Doc and start synchronous editing – no one forgets that. Those moments when the penny drops. Those kind of threshold learning experiences. They are embodied and yet because we think of it as virtual we think, they will just get it. We think that students will jump into these sort of environments, yet their literacy with them is so low. If you have had experience of seeing an edit war in Wikipedia then you have a different perspective on that Wikipedia page and all that’s behind it. This week I will show students an edit log of an interview I did with someone, so they can see how it all happens. One of the challenges here is how to pull someone into the experience of using something without them actually using it. How do you simulate their use in order for them to experience what it means to use it and see the payoff?

You can tell someone, “Oh it’s great you can collaborate with someone.” But collaborate is a big word that means so many different things. However, the first time you do collaborate and you see that the work is better because you collaborated, then you understand what collaboration means.
Photo credit Vanessa Bertozzi on Flickr CC licence

For me it’s that the digital platforms are fine (there are challenges with clunkiness and access). It depends what they have experienced physically. I am interested in the role of video. Some of the platforms that have been developed recently like Adobe Voice. I will be exploring more time-based rich media.

How could learning design learn from UX?
With Marius Foley and Blair Wilde we are working in how you take the studio online. The Internet pipes are now all connected. You can now go online, press a button, and start a blog or whatever. It’s still a bit clunky but much better than it used to be.

This raises questions. How are you then able to stand back and put an experiential skin across all that? How do we create an experience that is as rich as sitting in a studio or us having a conversation now? They are interesting challenges not just in education but commercially as well. I do think UX can help here by framing embodied experiences so that people learn by experience. Experience is interpreted through your embodied interactions with the world. It gets more abstract through a piece of glass when online. Experience seems to change when you talk with someone or listen to someone talking. There are different cues for connecting with humans than connecting with information. I am interested in this and don’t have all the answers.

We are proposing a masters for experienced designers. It will teach design skills that are not so much about usability but about how to be better leaders in organisations. It will be entirely online and we don’t yet know how we will do that. It’s a really interesting opportunity. If we can do it well, I think they will borrow a lot more from cinema and sound design than they will from computer and user interface design. We know how to bolt stuff together, so then how do we make it affective?

Google Sites as a Collaborative Wiki


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Arthur Shelley lectures in Knowledge Driven Performance as part of the MBA program in the College of Business. We caught up over a quick coffee at Pearson and Murphys’ cafe.

Do you use Blackboard?
I use is as a key repository for course info. I’ve always got set up week by week teaching materials as well as support materials including external links. It’s basically a repository, what else I do beyond that is up to the class.  For RMIT courses run through OUA (Open Universities Australia) I include a lot more online discussion. In the classroom I don’t include these activities because we are doing it face-to-face.

What other tools do you use?
I use Google Sites a lot, especially the Wiki function as I am creating a collaborative learning environment. Firstly each student develops a profile for relationship and networking. it’s used particularly so that people can find their groups and learn a little about each other and choose who they want to work with. As part of their their first assignment they each get a  different topic to research that needs to go into the wiki. Each topic needs to be linked to another student’s work. So what students are doing is research for their own page but also learning from all the other students work, so that gives a much richer and broader understanding of the topic. The wiki is perfect for that.  I tell students they have to link to at least half of them because they are all interdependent topics. Students can gain extra marks for insights and tips given to other students topics. they can’t do that within their own page, but in the wiki there is a comments section at the bottom. So I am rewarding collaborative support. And they do that. You see whole conversations going back and forward with links back and forward to each others’ pages. I prefer to do the work in Google Sites because as soon as you go to Blackboard you lose the collaboration.

I create a new wiki from a template for each new group each semester and I also leave prior Wiki’s available for viewing as samples. For assessment students have to copy their Wiki pages into Blackboard as a Turnitin assignment. That collaborative element is a big part of social learning. It really enriches the learning between the students. Sites elevate the overall standard of the work through students seeing the standards of others that they have to match. They pull their socks up and it makes everything transparent. Students can see each other’s work but can’t copy as it is about a separate topic.

Once it is inside Blackboard as a Turnitin assignment I use the full extent of Grademark. I do use the full functionality of Grademark for assessment with rubrics embedded. I give voice feedback.  I have specific quickmark sets for all of my assignments so I can give comprehensive feedback relatively quickly.

Do you use other tools?
I use response ware for in class real time polling. It’s interesting because you never quite know how students are going to answer. In my Knowledge Driven Performance course for example, one of the weeks is on reflective practice. We get to a stage where I ask them about how they are already applying what they’ve learnt in their workplaces. They log in on their mobile in the class and then I can show everyones collective responses on the screen and then we talk about that. This is good for understanding how they are applying what are learning in the class.
In some weeks I have Youtube videos and provide self made videos. Each week has an introduction to give them a 5 minute overview to get them prethinking. I try and mix each week up. Sometimes I link to a video prior to class and then when they come to class I show them a completely alternate view on the same topic and ask for their opinions. There are links to blogs or websites. Each week also has a set of powerpoint slides and prereadings. All of that stuff just sits in Blackboard.

I sometimes record audio of student discussions and then post recordings to the OUA page, which provides a richer resource than just recordings of the lecture. The feedback from OUA students is terrific such as, “sometimes I hear a student asking the question going through my mind”. And then they hear the answer, and not just discussed by me, because I will often throw questions back to the students.

On occasion I have used Google Analytics but not as extensively as I would like. Unfortunately the issue there is time. This semester I am running 4 masters programs and I have about 150 students and I’m a part time casual. I’m not going to do that stuff before I give feedback.  In previous times with OUA courses I have used some of the analytics in Blackboard checking for frequency of contribution by individual students. While I know a student has contributed I like to know that the numbers reinforce that. They do get graded on quality and frequency of contributing content. That puts a bit more robustness behind what you feel is going on.

You can watch the full interview with Arthur below.

You can see another example of response ware mentioned in the video as part of the whatonearth project here.

Reina Ichii: using Google Communities


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googleplusReina Ichii lectures units in Development Economics, Microfinance and Development, Aid Adjustment, Development and Cultural Business Practice in Asia. These are part of undergraduate degrees in International Studies and postgraduate degrees in International Development in the school of Global, Urban and Social Studies. She uses a lot of contemporary online practice to help solve the problems of delivering at distance and modelling practice to students.

Do you use Blackboard?
Yes because we are told we have to. I put announcements there as well as course materials readings and Powerpoint slides when available. I also use the course wiki to form groups. When students do a group presentation, they go to the course wiki and identify regions of interest. I put their email address so that students can then contact each other using uni email. The next time I do this I will use Google Docs and I can post it to the Google Community.  Finally in Blackboard I use the grade centre for assessment.

I use Blackboard Collaborate if I teach both face-to-face and online together. Online students in a similar time zone can join in and asks questions. Both groups can benefit from each other. Blackboard Collaborate records my powerpoint slides, my talk, students discussion and chat room discussions, which helps students who cannot attend the physical class or attend online.

What other tools do you use?
Google Forms, Docs, Drives, Communities and Hangout. Also YouTube. YouTube is for students to upload their group presentations in a shared course account. Also I can upload my podcasts to YouTube.

For the course blog I use WordPress. The main assessment involves critical reflective writing. I blog from my experience in developing countries. I use it as an individual example as well as for providing relevant practical information.  Also our program has a WordPress blog which is also an example for students.

I don’t use much email.

How does Blogging Help?
Students can select topics in their own blogs according to assignment tasks. Blogging gives them the flexibility to choose topics and do their own research. They can manage all the content and they love the flexibility. As lecturers we can’t teach everything. In our subject area we are dealing with the whole world. In order to manage different needs and expectations blogging helps students to develop their own learning areas and interests. Also, blogging enables us to collaborate with students in different learning modes – face-to-face and online. Usually students can’t see their peers’ writing when delivering learning via traditional methods but they can with blogs. Thus, they get more information and knowledge on the course topics. From these assignment tasks, I learn how to step back! Previously I needed to pretend I knew all these international examples; but if I haven’t been to those countries and face with practical issues how can I sound authentic? Now all I need to do is to teach a process and not much content. I teach them how to do a blog; and how to use it to make a case for what they know or want to research. It’s then all about sharing information. They comment on each others’ work. Or even better one of my students was really excited to get a comment from outside the classroom.

So you are placing them in a global context?
Yes. I also lecture as an RMIT partner arrangement into a core postgraduate course at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Bangkok. It is part of an 8 day intensive in June. This year there was 29 students from 14 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia, Iran and Myanmar. These students love their blogs. Unlike a lot of students these are already tech savvy. Because the university there doesn’t have many facilities, they always have to use their own laptop. Once I teach them how to blog and use Pinterest they become so enthused. There are differences between onshore and offshore. In our RMIT program there are two students aged over 60, 80 % are female and one-third are living overseas. Usually they have come from full time work. They tend to care more about appearances so they prefer WordPress, whereas at the AIT they need it easy and prefer blogger. At AIT the students need to use their own private Google logins to receive shared Google Docs via Google Drives from me. Because I am a visiting faculty, I do not have access to their Learning Management System like Blackboard in RMIT. Everything in Google happens with their own private account. Their internet system is sometimes too slow or complicated or is having outages due to power supply issues.

You also use Google Plus Communities
All of the current students are now in the Google Plus Community. It’s all fine once they get past opting in to the new Google apps. I ask students where they prefer to receive announcements. They prefer Google Plus Communities over Blackboard because they can get mobile phone notification via Google App. Blackboard then becomes just a backup. I use the Google Plus Community for announcements, rubrics, group discussions, fielding questions. And also I use the event function to schedule online discussion sessions with students via Google Hangout on Air. Students can communicate within a group task. As well in the community we share tech tips. I place Google Forms for peer evaluation and provide podcasts of lecture content. Students share links to their Presi presentations and initially share introduction videos. There is also embed links of some relevant YouTube materials.

At the moment I am just using Communities with elective courses which means I can keep the groups small. I will be running a core course next semester and it will be interesting to see how students behave. Some of my colleagues are more careful for introducing new technology to students. They want to see everything work first and see an example. I don’t have time to test the process. I need to take risks and work by trial and error. We don’t have a lot of support for these new initiatives. Teaching online courses takes more time than teaching face-to-face courses. However, we get asked to use more online technology to increase online students enrollment. We can’t always wait until everything is available in order to provide what our students need.

Because I am permanent staff,  I can take a risk. Casual staff may not take risks all the time because students’ course evaluation is used as a benchmark of our teaching performance. Some online students appreciate my challenge introducing online technology in class. One of the students told me that in previous online courses they feel like they are treated as a second-class citizen; but now they feel they are becoming a real citizen.

Being selected for a Global Learning by Design project is nice. It gives us many opportunities including collaboration between our program faculty, SLC learning advisors, program liaison librarians and DSC education developers. And fortunately our Deputy Dean of Teaching and, Learning and Program Director are very supportive of me introducing new technologies in class.

Youtube: the current state of play


YouTube cafe

Recently we held a workshop on YouTube with Samantha Vardanega. Until RMIT turns on YouTube there are a number of issues that are useful to be aware of.

RMIT has been working towards adding YouTube to our Google Apps suite. While
there is not a firm date set for this, it is expected to be available
for 2015.

Should you wish to use YouTube before it becomes available through the Google
suite, there is a process for getting an official RMIT channel approved.
More information is available here.

It is also worth noting the following issues:

RMIT has strict policies when it comes to video. Any video that is public facing is considered a promotional video and therefore is subject to branding policy. There is also an expectation on quality of the video. More information on production and branding can be found here. It is worth noting that videos that are not available to the public (ie, for use in courseware) are exempt from branding policy.

As YouTube is a social media platform, it is subject to RMIT’s current
social media policy. With technology in this space changing regularly,
this policy may be subject to change so it is worth checking
periodically, particularly once YouTube is launched at RMIT. For more information on the social media policy:

Using 3rd party materials, personal channels and other unaffiliated sources
that haven’t been cleared with RMIT’s copyright service puts both you
and the University at risk.

Using Video in Learning and Teaching
It is important to contextualise video use in your learning and teaching.
Videos are more effective when concise and direct so always try and
provide only the video content that is necessary. It is worth placing
yourself in the students’ shoes and imagining what your video content
might feel like to them.

While video is an effective medium, there are other delivery techniques such
as still imagery and podcasts that at times, can deliver the same
learning with greater effectiveness.

Delivering video via the web also means ensuring adherence with RMIT’s web
accessibility policy, and this includes providing captioning and
transcripts for all video content. It is recommended that you read
through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as developed by the
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on which the policy is based. Making
learning resources accessible to all students is a key responsibility of all staff.

Thanks to David McLay and Meaghan Botterill for providing this information.

Photo: m anima on Flickr

Michael Fedyk on Flickr

Space Invader in Melbourne Photo: Nocturbulous on Flickr CC licence

If you are interested in the street art around RMIT University, it might very well have been shared to the world by Michael Fedyk. Michael needs little introduction to the university as the Blackboard trainer at RMIT. While doing Blackboard training with Michael I was impressed with how he uses images from Flickr to make his training more interesting and engaging. Flickr is a widely used tool in education both as a source of free photographic content as well as providing storage and community for photographers. In a video of our forthcoming Vice Chancellor Martin Bean that have been circulating it is interesting to see that he has included some Flickr attributed images in his presentations. Flickr is also one of the few social media tools integrated into Blackboard, the others being YouTube and SlideShare.

Describe your use of Flickr
I joined in 2008 – I remember because I had just given up smoking. I was using a phone camera to capture street art. A colleague here suggested I post them to Flickr. At the time the free service allowed 200 photos max. I hit that in the second upload. By comparison it is now free to sign up and you get a free terabyte of storage. It can also hold short videos too although it is 99% images.Graf writer Photo: Nocturbulous on Flickr CC licence

Each photo can be set to private or publicly viewable. You can also make sets and groupings. Photos can be added to albums. Photos can also be tagged with keywords which is important because all the photos can be made to be searchable. All the camera settings also get stored with the upload so you can refer back to how you captured an image. The location of where a photo was taken, can be included so that you can make a Google map of all the images, or create other geotagging activities.

There are also themed groups in Flickr – I remember you pointed me to Rusty and Crusty

In Flickr you can create closed communities where only the members can view and have commentary. There are lots of open communities too. For example I am on a Canon DSLR user group made up of professionals and students who are constantly uploading and getting critical feedback. It is great for learning from others. There are sometimes prescribed tasks, such as using particular framing and settings. It works very like a photography class or a MOOC only more open and optional

Vertical - Grass Tree flowers in the Brisbane Ranges Photo: Nocturbulous on Flickr CC licence

When you share with groups you get a lot more hits on that image and are more likely to get feedback. You need to invest a bit more time with groups but it has a lot more payoff.

What are the payoffs for you?
I have made 2 friends that I have never met physically. J.D. Hancock who photographs pop art toys and Chris McVeigh who is a Lego photograper in Canada. Through getting to know them and helping them out  they have sent me their paraphenaila such as  postcards, special images and t-shirts. Flickr is also a great leveller – I can feel we are part of each other’s lives. It defeats the tyranny of a distance. It really is a good community. I know that I am not alone. There are lots of others on a similar journey. You don’t have to worry if you just have a mobile. Sometimes the composition by itself  is so important. Crappy cameras teach you that. And you can upload directly to Flickr from your smartphone.

What about copyright when using Flickr?
I always ask in what contexts can I use images? Often the case is that an image is copyrighted. What I do then is contact the owner on the messaging in Flickr and ask . I say I am a trainer at RMIT and outline what I want to use it for. They always write back and say yes for free and thanks for asking. I keep a record of that communication. My partner on Flickr has experienced this from the other point of view. She has become a specialist in photographing flora and fauna.

Crimson Rosella (1) Photo sixdos on Flickr CC licence

So far she has 24 publications ask to use images. They have emailed and she always grants permission. It’s very satisfying. Once she was asked to use an image on a board game and got sent the board game. She gets great joy beyond sharing with family and friends and is inspired to continue putting up great photos. I have watched her evolution – she’s not a geek, and Flickr is now one of her main sites. Photographers are so happy you are using their image without stealing it. If you want you can also prevent download; and you can also create albums for others to use and share.

Creative Commons (CC) is popular on Flickr. Why put your photos up as CC?
It makes it easier to put images out there for others to share. If you get your work out there others refer back to your image. Then if they are shared on blogs or Facebook your stats are tracked. All clicks and views are stored, but also where is that site coming from but you can drill down on Google to find what people were searching for to find your image. This is where your tags come into play as they are retrieved in search results.

Creative Commons is more readily shareable. Creative Commons can get you presence pushed further into the subject genre that you are into. It is like being well known in a visual form. Students can become known in their field. For example the lego guy is really well known now. Over time he has projects with Gizmodo and Lego themselves made contact and asked him to be one of their photographers. At the beginning he wasn’t a photographer. Flickr taught him how to do it. Because he shared he became known and on the way he learned. The two things go together. I am fascinated by his journey and I feel a part of it.

It is vital to tag photos with keywords. This is critical for others searching. It also makes it easy to  integrate with other social media. I will share my  “graffitiart” tag on Twitter. So it makes it very simple to share out to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Tumblr. With one click and there can be a lot of cross promotion.

It is important to keep your tag clouds succinct but to try and also imagine what people would search for. I like finding my images with my specific tags as search terms.

Flickr teaches CC better than anywhere. It was the place where it all opened up. Copyright Services in the RMIT library can help with those resources as well.

Why share photos to Flickr and not another photo sharing site?
At the time Flickr  was the best thing available. It still is the best because of the way it holds the images with different sizing options, Creative Commons options, and the ability to keep them private or not. In Flickr more capability that belongs to the owner and not the vendor. It has an inbuilt photo imaging editing and enhancing app called Aviary and it’s all free. And you can put in your own copyright.

What are the advantages in searching Flickr for learning content?
You can search in Flickr for all images or you can just search for those freely available to use through creative commons. In Flickr you get great quality. A lot of professional photographers store their work there. Some have both professional and private accounts as their portfolio. The site is more readily made for image viewing and you get to choose from a wide range of size formats if you only want something small.

During the bushfires I had friends that lost all their photos. I started recommending Flickr as these memories become your archives. In education images have a place. Often photos can have better impact than video. You can get to the point in one place whereas video takes time to get there. From Flickr I have learnt a lot about the world. It’s my photo blog that captures my journey in life and what is meaningful to me.

MAT and Mandy Kienhuis

MandyDr.Mandy Keinhuis is a lecturer in Health Sciences at RMIT and is using RMIT’s Media Annotation Tool (MAT) developed by the team at EduTAG.

MAT is a tool that allowed material to be presented in a way that allowed students to see links between materials. It was something that was developed by the EduTAG team. It is quite interactive. Students could go in and click on a theorist and once they clicked on it up would pop all the stages of development. And if they popped on the linkage area it would tell them where in the text-book it was discussed. It was a way for them to see connections. Student feedback from previous years mentioned there are so many theories, that there are so many domains of development (social, emotional, cognitive) that students found it difficult to connect all that material together to make sense of it in a way that they could then apply to understand development throughout life. This is where MAT assisted with their learning.

 Do your students think that MAT supports their learning?

Yes I believe so. We haven’t collected a lot of formal feedback about student use of the tool. However we have got more informal feedback, like asking students to post on the discussion board where they found it useful. We found that the unsolicited comments from students were positive in that MAT allowed connections to the material.

What process did you use to choose the alternative online tool (MAT)?

I was talking with the EduTAG team about my needs as it was a part of a funded project they were involved in. As part of a larger funded project, we changed the whole way the course was delivered; in terms of a flipped classroom approach and the MAT tool we developed along side that. The students had access to more engaging, interactive flexibly delivered resources. Its engaging in a way that it’s a normal thing in the way that student could go in and see the links between the different facets. When I went to meet with EduTAG, I told them what I wanted, I had no idea what they could do, but I had this idea in my mind, and what it looked like on paper and when I told them what I wanted, once they showed their concept to me I thought “yes!”. I have been using it for about 4 years as the initial development started in 2011.

Interviewed by Erika Beljaars-Harris

Berenice Nyland on using Blackboard

Berenice Nyland is an Associate Professor in the School of Education. She is a supervisor of HDR candidates, an active researcher and lectures into the early childhood programs.

Do you use Blackboard?

Yes I do. I use Blackboard for any course I teach, and I will put some type of material up every week. Some are linear, some are blended courses, and some are fully online. So yes, I use Blackboard extensively.

Do you use any other alternative online tools?

I would use Youtube, but not sure if you consider it outside of Blackboard. I do use my own recording devices. One is a flipshare and I use video recordings from it onto Blackboard. I use an audio recorder and put up lectures  as an mp3. I record a PowerPoint, record on the device, tape it and place it into the computer and put it into Blackboard. I record it in the office, at home, where ever I don’t get interrupted.

I have used Adobe Presenter 9, its great in that the audio and the slide go together, and you can go into individual slides and you can edit the sounds and edit the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ in each individual slide. It’s very easy to use.  I have had trouble getting it installed onto my work computer. I am going to try Echo360 and see how that functions, so I may switch to that tool which may take the place of Adobe Presenter.

Obstacles and barriers?

I find that I can’t do a lot of things that I want to do. I wanted to use a DVD from China and put it into Blackboard but it wouldn’t function properly in Blackboard for some reason. I was disappointed that it wouldn’t work. It was movie length though, not a 3 minute Youtube video.


When it (technology) works it’s wonderful. I use GradeCentre and that works fine. As soon as somebody shows you something it’s easier to use, but it isn’t intuitive if you try to find your way. Just somebody showing me a little bit makes a huge difference.  As soon as someone shows you something it helps. Blackboard is not intuitive, so someone actually showing you what to do makes a huge difference.

I use Skype, which works really well, between Bundoora and the city it works great with staff. We were all on a Skype call and we’re all in Blackboard at the same time. There is a bit of synergy with Skype that works well.

Do the other tools enhance student learning?

Yes. We are constantly looking for ways to make the online content more innovative. We’re using technology and wanting the students to use it as well. I do avoid social networks, as some students don’t like being on social networks, they want to be in a ‘system’ such at Blackboard that the university provides.

I have a Facebook page, but do not use it personally, or with the students. There was a problem last semester as students were using Facebook from another course and providing inaccurate information to each other when all the accurate and up to date information is available in Blackboard. I do keep up with what is occurring in Facebook when it’s industry related, however that is all.  My Facebook page is not for students but it is for my teaching. I will share something with students if I see it is of relevance. There is a lot of official government education resource material that comes through Facebook accounts.

Interviewed by Erika Beljaars-Harris

Samantha Vardanedga on Getting Started with YouTube


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On 19 August, 2014, we were delighted to host Samantha Vardanedga at the city campus of RMIT University in Melbourne. Samantha gave an deeply engaging presentation on YouTube.

YouTube is a great way to share course content and promote the activities of your department, school or Faculty. In this session we learned all the basics you need to get started with YouTube. This included creating and configuring a channel, verifying your account, uploading videos from desktop and mobile devices, managing videos, sharing videos and managing interactions. We also discovered how to create and share custom playlists, edit and enhance videos right from YouTube and utilise Google+ to create and manage multiple YouTube channels for different purposes.

We were also helped to understand the RMIT University’s learning and teaching policy framework for social media.

Guest Presenter: Samantha Vardanedga

Samantha is a Google Certified Teacher with more than eight years experience in tertiary education. She was first introduced to Google Apps at Monash University, where she spent several years helping staff and students find innovative ways to teach, learn, research and work together. As a consultant at Simplify Solutions, Samantha is now helping schools, universities and business in Australia to get the most out of their Google Apps journey. She regularly presents at events around Australia, as well as delivering customised training sessions for educators, administrators and IT staff at any level. Samantha’s in-depth knowledge of Google tools allows her to tackle even the most complicated questions or problems with real answers and creative solutions.

Samantha presented this workshop on behalf of the project, Beyond Blackboard Course Shells: “What on Earth are they Doing?”