Many readers might have wondered where we were during the posts in between November and the start of Spring Semester. We had a little challenge with our blog software, but we are obviously back online now, thanks to James Bowles who has been serving as our new Systems Administrator.

As for myself, I’ve been very busy since returning to the CTL after a semester-long sabbatical leave to finish a master’s degree in Educational Technology at ASU. It’s done and I’m back and although I’ve been really struggling to find time to do everything I want to as well as serve the needs of the CTL faculty it’s been fun.

One of the things I’ve been really interested in is finding a way to increase interactivity in online educational experiences I’ve been developing. Many people with the same interest as far as the web is concerned call this concept engagement. It addresses issues such as “How do I make an online experience more interactive such that it induces genuine interest and a desire to continue in that experience, while at the same time increase or serve some other ulterior goal?” For business people, it means encouraging users return to an online store to purchase more goods. For entertainment people, it means enticing consumers to watch an online episode of production (video or animation). For educators, this means that we want to engage our students so that they will on their own desire to continue in a learning activity while accomplishing the goal of learning.

In all these cases, the content producer provides the experience, and the content consumer walks away with a desire to return. Specific to education, we are to engage our students in a good learning experience and we want them to desire to learn based on that experience. The overall outcome is a student who leaves our instruction feeling like they got their return on investment (time, money, effort, etc.) and we as instructors know we have helped someone to learn and to grow.

As far as technology is concerned, we should be looking for ways to appropriately select/design/implement technology that increases this rather than overwhelms someone with new technology that is difficult to learn and/or cumbersome to set up.

For the web, a big buzzword being pushed by content developers/designers is what is being called RIA’s or Rich Internet Applications. What this means is that we can use technology to enhance a web site to the point where it becomes more usable than just a static page of text. It becomes alive and responsive, with minimal impact on the hardware/software requirements and prior user knowledge/experience. For a while now we’ve been seeing this with Web 2.0 (a term I still don’t like using, but will anyway for the sake of communicating with others who do understand and use it), and social networking concepts.

I’ve been experimenting with Adobe’s Flex platform which allows a software developer to create a single-frame Flash application using traditional programming methods rather than the Flash authoring tool which has an animator/designer perspective. The types of things that can be created with this are endless and Adobe is very quick to push this into the mainstream. Adobe sees it as the best thing since sliced bread was invented, and for the time being I agree with them. If enough developers get behind it, I can see it influencing desktop educational software development for quite some time.

One of the recent products developed on the Adobe Flex RIA mindset is a tool called Scrapblog. It’s a tool that allows anyone to create a rich engaging multimedia presentation that is shareable across computing platforms for free.

I’m going to try and create something cool and post it here later this week so stay tuned. Check out some things that others have done: (I haven’t seen many educational focused presentations yet, but intend to change that soon!)

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