Development eLearning Perspectives Portfolio Uncategorized

Pirongia Heritage newsletter

Newsletter Front Page

I have been fascinated with the Newsletter concept since, as a teenager, I used to cut stencils for our local Youth Hostel group and later University publications in Earth Science.

So I found it an interesting challenge and having recently joined a local Heritage group (for whom I put a database of PDF Newsletters online) immediately thought of one of theirs.

It’s quite a challenge since traditional Newsletters by their nature are text heavy and there is really no way around that.  I suppose that makes PDF an ideal way to distribute them but surely, I thought, there must be some feature of Storyline that makes the concept useful.

The first thing of course is the navigation, it’s nice to browse a Newsletter or sit reading it in the afternoon sunshine but sometimes you want just that one article to re-read.  So we add links from a contents page.  In this case I highlighted the feature articles and left the humdrum of committee and society notices to a single link.

I did try regular buttons but I felt they detracted from the general look and feel of the original so I made them text links.  Alternative stylings (eg colour could be used here as well).

I normally prefer to have my own navigation on Storylines rather than use the side menu as, often, that’s just a lot of screen real estate and sometimes I don’t want the user to have that much autonomy (especially with assessments).  However, in this case, I decided to leave the menu in there as the navigation text links may not be that obvious (even though I added the little animated arrow).  My (usually) elderly readership would likely appreciate that.

The next thing is the density of text and the text size.  Of course we have screen readers and on modern tablets and browsers we can adjust the font size if necessary.  However I felt that maybe text-to-speech was the way to go and so I added a button to each of the text blocks and created a pause/play effect.  I might have done more with the icon states but it works well using a toggle variable.

Finally using this format gave me the opportunity to add some further information about the Heritage Centre location and purpose and to explain some aspects of the Te Reo Māori name of our organisation.

I haven’t converted the entire newsletter but just wanted to show a proof of the concept.

You can view the original PDF version here:

Development eLearning Perspectives Portfolio

An Ethics Training Storyline

The challenge was a makeover of a piece of US government web-based training:

NOTE: This is not a complete course, just enough to give an idea.

This will give you a flavor of the original site:

With this kind of thing you do need to take into account the conservative nature of government departments, generally speaking, so we can’t go full crazy on such a topic (also it is a rather serious and even relevant topic in the current situation).

To start with I thought that a menu-based navigation system would be better and rather than the standard titles, perhaps some prompting questions for the user:

The orange bars change when the slide sequences have been visited.

I also thought some little videos might give it a more modern feel:

Video is part of the who is it for sequence.

Next I thought to ask the question about filing before the sequence on information about filing financial disclosure information. I feel this is a better approach pedagogically.

A simple drag and drop.

Of course I’m assuming we are preparing for a browser-based tablet or desktop use, if we wanted to go to a mobile phone we might do something else.

eLearning Perspectives Portfolio Schools

Using Mahara for Social learning

Mahara is an ePortfolio in which the default for all stored information is private.  It makes a great “walled garden” for introducing students to the concepts of social and mobile networking as well as being a great learning tool for individuals and groups. The tool is seen by teachers and students alike as intuitive and easy to use.

1     Introduce via “social presence”

One of the first things to do is to show students the profile fields (on the Content tab of the home page).  Here teachers can stress such things as persistence of social data, appropriate choices when making descriptions and selecting screen names. Clicking your name at the top right of the screen will bring up the profile screen where students can request friendship with other students and write comments on their wall.

2     Make use of the Journal

A point to remember is that Journal entries don’t have to be like private diaries and they don’t have to be long entries.  You could even use the Journal as a Twitter styler blog – 140 characters reflections on the day’s work.  Journal entries can be tagged and they can be placed on a personal page or a group page. Taking 5 or 10 minutes every day to write these entries will instil good habits and consolidate learning.  Looking back over a period of work will enable students to see their progress.

3     Use Mobile uploads

There are photo upload apps for both iOS and Android devices.  These allow students to record their work, store photos in their files area which they can then use on pages.  Students can also record videos with their mobile devices and this can provide another way to promote reflection. A video, made by students following completion of a topic, can help them reflect on progress and reinforce collaboration and teamwork.

4     Create web pages

Once a page has been created, other students can be allowed to comment, at the discretion of the page owner.  The student may moderate comments before they are posted which leaves them in control.  Pages can be tagged and can include external sources, such as RSS feeds, Google Docs and Open Badges.  These are in addition to student created artefacts like text files, image galleries and profile fields.

5     Encourage teamwork

The teacher can set up a class group easily in Mahara.  The software also includes Collections – or groups of pages that are linked.  One use of Mahara with small groups is to create Group Collections which have a main page and individual pages linked together.  Each student has their own working space (which may be used for assessment if required) but collaborate on the Group Page.  The teacher can also see what individuals have produced as well as the group.  Students can plan their pages offline using large sheets of paper, for example. Mahara has proved itself to be a user-friendly and versatile tool to encourage engagement in the classroom and to teach 21st century skills.


Richard would like to thank colleagues at The Southport School ion particular Dr Jill Margerison for providing screenshots and information on the use of Mahara in English teaching. Richard Jones is a consultant living and working in New Zealand.