Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Thing 9 - CamTools

After completing Thing 9
  • You will know what CamTools is all about (if you didn't already)
  • You will have tried out some tools within CamTools & have reflected on how they can be useful for you
  • You will have tried to embed some of the previous Things in your CamTools site
What is CamTools?

CamTools is a Virtual Learning Environment or platform used at the University of Cambridge; it's a collection of online tools to help you communicate and share materials with selected students, researchers, administrators, other lecturers, college groups and so on, by building up password-protected 'sites'. CamTools is based on the Sakai software, developed in collaboration with other Universities worldwide. This means you might recognise the functionalities in platforms other Universities are using as well, but maybe with a slightly different look, branding and so on.

The CamTools log in page: use the Raven button if you're a University member

Once logged in, you'll see your CamTools Dashboard with an overview of Sites you're a member of

An example of a site after entering it

People who have a Raven account can create a new site in CamTools to share lecture materials and information with students, fellow supervisors and lecturers, create a project site to collaborate with colleagues within a college or the University. You can also invite collaborators from outside Cambridge University to join your site, or make sites available for any Cambridge University member to join.
Although CamTools isn't focusing on Curriculum Design in the first instance, we wanted to introduce this to you in this programme anyway because CamTools is something that most Cambridge University members are already familiar with, and because we want to give you the opportunity to invest how CamTools can actually be used in a better way for curriculum design purposes.

How is it used?

When using CamTools, you might want to use it for different purposes. In order to answer that need, CamTools uses a functionality called 'Tools'. As there are different needs, there are also different Tools, such as the Files tool (to upload, download, share different kinds of files and resources), the Wiki tool (where you can type up any kind of text), the Forum tool, Blogs, Polls, and so on.

When focusing on Curriculum Design specifically, there are again some Tools that might be used to better meet that need. For example, if you would wish to organise and share course preparations with other lecturers, you could use the Files or Resources tool for that; or if you would wish to type up some preparations and some of your pedagogical practices, you could keep a record of that in the Wiki.
as well keep a record of that in the Wiki. You could also add some of the Things that you've been introduced to during the 13Things programme into a site.

Have a look at the following video of how you could use CamTools to fulfill some curriculum design needs:

Step by step instructions

We've created a CamTools test site for each of you (more information about it below), which means you can try out anything you like in this site; if there aren't any members added to your site, you will be the only one to see the things you're doing with it. If you already have a CamTools site with students added to it (e.g. for your course), then this is the way to try out some tools without them seeing it!
  1. Visit CamTools here
  2. Log in using your Raven account (as you're a member of the University, you should have a Raven account but if you don't have one, let us know).
    (Hint: if you're having problems logging in, have a look at this Tutorial)
  3. Once logged in, you should arrive on your Dashboard where you'll find a list of your Courses and Projects. Go and find the test site that we've set up for each of you (with the name '13 Things test site - your crsID ). Don't be surprised there isn't that much in your site: it's just a default set of tools and it's up to you to populate it with things you like.
    Get yourself familiar with this CamTools site and with CamTools in general (Dashboard etc) if you haven't used it much before.
  4. There are different tools you can try out, but for this task we'll just guide you through some of which we think might be of interest for curriculum design.

    Say you want to have some of the 13Things added to your CamTools site because they are an easy way to quickly assess some aspects of your course; you can add those websites to your CamTools site.

    The way to do that is the following:
    • Click on the title of your specific test site
    • Click on 'Site Info' on the left side
    • Click 'Edit Tools' in the top bar and now click 'Web Content' in the list
      (if you would want to have more tools added to your site, you can just tick those you want), click continue.
    • Add the URL of the website you want to add (e.g. the Pedagogy Profile Widget,, and fill in the Title as you want it to appear in your CamTools site navigation on the left (e.g. Pedagogy Profile Widget).
    • Click the 'More Web Content Tools' drop down if you wish to add even more sites and do the same thing as you did for the previous website. (e.g. you could do the same for Phoebe, CloudWorks and the other online tools we've come across).

  5. Imagine you would want to have those Web Content Tools (i.e. Phoebe, Cloudworks etc) in your site in order to manage your curriculum design for each course in an easy and quick way (so that you wouldn't need to access each individual website separately), but you wouldn't want your students or other members of your site to see those Web Content Tools in your site if they're also member of that CamTools site.
    In order to do that, you can 'hide' some tools in CamTools, so that only the maintainers of a site can see those tools but students can't.

    The way to do that is the following:
    • Click on 'Site Info'
    • Click on 'Page Order' in the top bar
    • Click on the yellow light bulbs next to the name of the tools you would want to hide for non-maintainers
    • Click 'save'

  6. Other Tools you might be interested in, are 'Files' or 'Resources' (both are for uploading, downloading, sharing files and resources, but Resources is for slightly more advanced usage), and the Wiki tool. Have a look at those tools as well and play around with them.
    (Hint: Have a look at the Files Tool Tutorial if you're having problems using it, and have a look at the Wiki Guide if you're having problems using the Wiki Tool. We don't expect you to investigate it in such a thorough way, but you can do if you want to).
Blog Thing 9
  1. What do you think of the ideas behind CamTools (Sakai)?
    What was your impression? If you already used CamTools before, did it change your opinion?
  2. In what ways do you see this being useful to you as a course organiser? (i.e specifically about the ability of letting you pull together and use various curriculum design tools?)
  3. What would you like to see from CamTools?
  4. What do you think of the possibility of having a specific CamTools site where lecturers and course organisers could share curriculum design outcomes, preparations and ideas? (e.g. a specific CamTools site that would allow you to do that?)
If you're interested...

During the 'Step by Step instructions', we just introduced you to some tools that could be useful for Curriculum Design. There are many more tools though, that could as well be useful for teaching in general.
  • Try out more of the other tools. If you only have other sites in CamTools where there are already many more members part of, this is a good opportunity for you to try out those tools without having other people seeing what you're doing with it.
    If you get stuck at some point and would need some help, have a look at the Help Tutorials or written guides.
  • If you want to know how students would see you site, and to check whether they really can't see the hidden tools, you can always add a 'fake user', by adding one of your own email addresses as a Friend user. By default, they would have most of the permissions set as a student would. You can try it out yourself how to do this, but if you're not sure how to do this, it's good to have a look at item 8.2 in the Administrator's Guide for CamTools.

1 comment:

  1. CamTools is Cambridge’s Virtual Learning Environment and thus something that all of our participants should be familiar with. We included it because it provides a ready-made institutional environment for collaborating on course designs. CARET’s previous observations of curriculum design have highlighted the difficulty of collaborating between, and even within, departments as a problem, so we thought this could be useful. Looking back to comments earlier in 13 Things, about colleagues being reluctant to “interfere” in each others’ designs, and painting design as an act of lone, heroic creation, maybe we’ve been like the blind man only feeling one leg of the elephant.

    mrj10’s first thought was that “I would be more likely to use CamTools for course administration and delivery rather than curriculum design”, however, “a specific CamTools site where lecturers and course organisers could share curriculum design outcomes, preparations and ideas could be helpful”. Even Socratic Investigations agrees: “the tool could in principle be adopted beneficially for sharing academic resources (including audio) in the context of ... a dialogue among scholars ... Were I to have access to the profiles of various courses via CamTools, I might find handy suggestions therein when preparing my own course.”

    Beyond sites for curriculum design ‘teams’ (Cambridge scare quotes) CamTools might support “a forum for discussion of curriculum design tools and resources ... where people could access the tools, discuss their experiences and post examples of their use” (mrj10), or more content-focused “shared course resources (texts, images, recordings) helping me (and other educators) see what some colleagues find most relevant to specific areas of discussion/investigation” (Socratic Investigations).

    “The issue”, points out mrj10, for such a generic site, “would be how to maintain interest, keep things up to date and publicise and design it in a way that people who might be looking for help or ideas would be able to find and use it.  Given the fragmented way in which curriculum design seems to occur in Cambridge this would be no small task.” The challenge would be to enable “genuine sharing rather than one person dominating the proceedings”, or having a majority of non-participatory ‘lurkers’.

    mrj10 thinks such sites would work best at “Departmental or course level (where there would be some commonality of interest and processes) ... although I wouldn’t want to preclude browsing other Departments’ or courses’ sites in search of inspiration”. Socratic Investigations would like a broader scope, “a straightforward means to link to educators across the UK or even abroad via a "research subject" search ... including inter alia, previous course outlines to refer to in editing my own”.

    Although at this point we have relatively few opinions to synthesise, the lack of such a facility for discussing teaching and learning was mentioned by numerous participants during registration and at 13 Things meetups. Other universities have teaching and learning development units, but the Cambridge way is the primacy of the academy, so the appropriate equivalent for us should be a “community of practice”, enabled by an online forum, and perhaps facilitated by an organiser.