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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CourseLab

Alright, so this entry will be about another piece of software that I just discovered this year. It I called CourseLab. As I have mentioned before I have been using Certiport's Practice Tests. However, I the ones I have been using only cover Windows XP and Office 2003. To continue to prepare my student for the newer IC3 exams I need to get into Windows Vista and Office 2007.

The Search

To start working with these versions I came to the conclusion that I had to create the simulations on my own. This to a LONG time to research. Some programs that I have used in the past have allowed me to capture the screen, however when I create the simulation they only allow one hotspot. (For those who might not know what a hotspot is, basically it is a spot on a picture where you can click on go to the next slide or to another area).

Multiple hotspots are essential in creating a computer application simulation. If there is only one hotspot, it would be too easy fir students to figure out how to complete the simulation. Plus on most programs there are at least 3-4 diferent ways o completing most tasks (for instance, how many ways can you bold, itlicize, or even spell check). Only one hotspot would only allow for one way of completing the simulation. Thu was the complexity of my search.

CourseLab

In the end I found the CourseLab software. It allows me to create a simulation in a very familiar PowerPoint 2003-like environment and allows me to have more than one hotspot on a slide.

When I stumbled upon CourseLab, I knew I had hit the jackpot. This software allows me to create several hotspots on each page. It also allows me to use keyboard shortcuts when available. It took some time to create my first simulation (starting PowerPoint from the start menu), but it was well worth the effort.

As I started creating more questions I learned even more. It started being fun to create some questions and really challenging to create others (and I always love a challenge).

CouresLab allows me to create simple web pages with the simulations that my students could use to learn and practice the skills they need to learn to take and pass the IC3 exams. It also allows me to create AICC or SCORM files that I can upload to my LMS like Moodle so I can have them learn these skills not just in my lab, but anywhere they can access the Internet.

Collaboration

So, I felt pretty good about my discovery and the great way I had created the questions that I put myself on a list to present my findings in our annual CTE summer conference. Usually when I present something at these conferences and need a lab, they put me in the furthest lab away from the main area of the conference. Of course this might be because usually I have submitted my proposal late, and it us probably the only lab open, so it us completely my own fault. So I didn't have any hopes that anyone would show up or even care about what I was presenting. The two people from my district with whom I carpooled that day showed up and I was really greatful. However when about 15-20 people finally shied up I was flabergasted.

Anyways, I had copied the questions I had created to the network and I did my first test run with multiple people running the pages at the same time. Of course they were simple web pages and I didn't worry too much about it since I had run web pages on a network before, however I was greatful.

From the very first it was a hit. I was shocked. I presented the software that I used to create the questions and people had a lot of questions (which I always love because hate being the dreaded "sage on the stage"). In the end about 8-10 people were so excited about the whole concept about collaborating on this that they created their own session the next day with me to show them how to use the software.

I was totally excited and nervous about the whole thing. I didn't expect it to work. Although I will have to say that I have to give a lot of credit to my collegue Diane Lungo because she always helps to take the boring technobabble that is coming out of my mouth and make it fun and interesting.

So, the next morning we had our session and it was a success as well. There again were tons of questions and some great ideas that came out of the session. In the end we exchanged e-mails and started divided up the workload.

In the past week I was able to get help from several people on the CourseLab community page and I learned how to create a randomized test. This means I can have as many question as I like (both simulations and regular questions) and the program will select the amount if questions I want and have them randomized for each student and for each time a student takes the test. I've always liked doing this because the student can't just memorize that the answer to question one is B or and not really learn the material. It also helps me because then I don't have to create a new test for each time the student wants to retake the test. I was totally excited when this finally worked for me.

IC3 Integration

So, my next steps with this program is to develop the different levels of PowerPoint simulations and questions. This usually is the first lessons that I teach because PowerPoint us so easy to learn and if students can learn the basics if PowerPoint, then Word and Excel become easier to learn.

More Collaboration

I am sending out the invitation to any computer teacher that wants to collaborate on these exams and tutorials. My big project right now is to develop tasks for students to complete in the following programs:

  • PowerPoint (although I already have quite a bit, more is always welcomed)
  • Excel
  • Word
  • Outlook
  • Internet Explorer
  • Windows Vista
The reasoning to use these programs is because that is what is tested on the IC3 exams. The lists of tasks are Google Spreadsheets and are easily shared and updated. I also am planning on having som Google Docs that we can share Multiple Choice questions as well that we can incorporate into the tests. Of course the tests and tutorials will be freely distributed so that we can even collaborate on best practices.

If you are interested in collaborating or have questions or suggestions for me, please post here, e-mail me, or find me on Twitter, FaceBook, or LinkedIn (my usual username on all three is pbhanney). I look forward to hearing from all of you. -- Post From My iPhone

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