November 26, 2007

Teaching, Learning, and Doonesbury

I'm not sure how Gary Trudeau does it, but he continues to capture cultural issues of the day, including in this cartoon:

What a great reflection on today's classroom. We have a student who is "multitasking" in class. I know that some say that multitasking is an ability that the younger generation has. I agree that they are more comfortable trying to multitask, but it often appears that it is at the expense of focus. While it appears that Zipper is multitasking in class, he's actually only attending to his email.

However, this is a student who knows how to find information when he needs it. I think this illustrates and emphasizes the need for instruction to move away from pure delivery of information (which the internet is really good at doing if students are able to find and appropriately evaluate sources on the web) to instruction that asks students to interact with the content actively, socially, and reflectively (see the title of this blog!).

Large enrollment courses have often been safe havens for pure content delivery instruction. However, recent models have shown that there are options. For example, see the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) project at North Carolina State University. The University of Minnesota's Office of Classroom Management has recently opened two "Active Learning Classrooms" that are modeled after the SCALE-UP efforts.

November 8, 2007


I fully endorse ScribeFire, which is a Firefox browser plug-in. It makes it SO easy to update blogs.

Of course, I still don't update very often thus far. If only ScribeFire would give me the time to blog ...

October 9, 2007

Thoughts on Collaboration in Higher Education

Our College is working hard to create an environment where multidisciplinary work is valued, supported, and encouraged. This multidisciplinary work requires collaboration. Due to some recent events, I've begun to realize that there are some barriers to collaboration that should be addressed. I have no answers right now, but I'd like to explain the barriers, as I see them.

Sharing the credit: In higher education, an individual's career rests heavily on her/his reputation. This reputation is built through the hard work of obtaining grants, publishing, and speaking. But you can only do these things if you have: GOOD IDEAS (or at least unique ideas!); ideas that make you stand out and be seen as someone advancing the field.

So, everything revolves around ideas, and credit for those ideas. Collaboration requires that you share those good ideas before you get a chance to obtain grants, publish, or speak about them. By sharing, you're risking that someone else will take these ideas and take credit for them through their own grants, publications, and presentations. This has been happening to me frequently lately, and I'm not happy about it. The fear of losing credit for your own ideas motivates people to keep ideas to themselves.

I will continue to share my ideas and try to collaborate with others because I think it's the right thing to do. I think the key here is to design a way for people to be able to share, yet retain the credit that is due to them. But how to do this? This is the answer that I said I don't have. I'll have to think about this.

January 3, 2007

Personal Media

Part of the Web 2.0 paradigm is the idea that information is becoming more democratized. That means that control of information is increasingly being put into the hands of average people.

An early example of this would be the Rodney King video footage. While the officers involved were acquitted, the power of the bystander's video is evident.

Today, that power is increased as average people (in the developed world, at least) have ready access to a distribution channel for their personally recorded media: The Internet. Take the execution of Saddam Hussein. There was a controlled release of footage from the Iraqi government (with no audio), then there was the more complete footage that someone who was present at this gruesome event took with their cell phone and posted to the internet.

Today's students need to learn more about 21st Century literacy. This includes much more than reading and writing. It is focused on being critical thinkers about media and information. I believe that media and data will become more and more pervasive in our everyday lives. Today's students need to know how to evaluate it, use it, and create it.

December 8, 2006

Technology Enhanced Learning Seminar - 12/6/06

I presented at the TEL Seminar today with Joan Hughes (C&I) and five others, including three faculty from PSTL (Murray Jensen, Gerald Shannon, and Jill Trites). I think it's great that, of the seven panelists, five were from CEHD!

I have to admit that I've been soooo busy that I didn't really prepare much for this presentation. If you saw it, you might have noticed! Generally, I think it went well, although I think it was difficult for people to really connect with what we were talking about without seeing the actual environment (it's still vaporware!).

The last two times I've presented this with Joan, the same gentleman asks this question:

Do you have experimental evidence that your environment will be better than face-to-face?

I'm all for research, but we stopped doing "better-than" research years ago. Educational Technologists are now more focused on affordances: What is this technology good for? What will it allow us to do that we might not have been able to do before? And besides, our project has nothing to do with replacing face-to-face. Instead, it's an additional opportunity for interactions.

November 30, 2006

Virtual Pals

I've long maintained that the real power of the internet is it's ability to connect people. A new survey finds that

... 43% of online networkers from the US felt "as strongly" about their web community as they did about their real-world friends.

Online education is often described as "impersonal" but this is evidence that meaningful human interaction can occur online. Some might not feel comfortable with this, but a previous generation had the same misgivings about the telephone. Now it's a very valued way for people to stay in touch and communicate. Perhaps online communication also needs some time to become part of our society's social norms.

This doesn't mean that online communication can always replace face-to-face interaction (neither can a telephone call). But it has its place.

November 23, 2006

Podcast study

An interesting study by the good folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Although the number of people who say they've downloaded a podcast in August (12%) has increased since spring (7%), only 1% o of people say they regularly download a podcast on a typical day.

You can find the report here.

The increase doesn't surprise me, but the low regular user is interesting. Why so low? Some possible answers:
1. Not enough content
2. Not enough quality content that adds value to someone's day
3. The process of subscribing to a podcast, downloading, ... is not convenient enough for someone to do everyday

Personally, I don't think that #1 or #2 is true. The amount of content, both audio and video, is growing (I personally think that NPR and American Public Media have the best content).

My guess is #3. This is why I don't listen to podcasts everyday. I have an hour drive in to work, when I could be listening to all sorts of interesting podcasts. I just don't take the time in the morning to hook up my iPod, download the podcasts, make sure the iPod has suffient battery, and arrange for it to be broadcast over my car stereo (I use an FM transmitter on my iPod). It's just a lot easier to turn on the radio. And, other than my driving to and from work, I just don't have the time to listen to podcasts.

Sometimes, I think we assume that students are all using any relatively new technology that exists. This doesn't seem to be the case for podcasts.

Podcasting is huge right now in the world of educational technology in higher education. It seems that everyone is talking about it and wanting to podcast their classes. I'm not sure that the findings of this study impact the use of podcasts for teaching/learning. Most courses use podcasts to record a class session so that it's available online afterwards. Perhaps a class has students for which English is a second language. Being able to review lectures could add some real value for them. But the ability to record lectures has been around for decades. Remember the tape recorder?

The innovation of mainstream podcasts is that (1) anyone can easily publish audio to the web for a world-wide audience, and (2) you can "subscribe" to them and get regular updates.These innovations aren't too important in regards to podcasting a class. Instructors generally aren't interested in an audience larger than their class, and subscriptions aren't important; just that the audio is available.

But these are just my thoughts, and I'm not a member of this "podcasting generation." On the other hand, according to the Pew study, neither are 99% of Americans.

November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Things I'm thanksful for:
1. My family. There is no close second.
2. Great colleagues. This includes the good people I work with across the college, but also the great people I get to work with across the University. You know who you are!
3. The CEHD Academic Technology Staff. I've been told many times that "your organization is only as good as the people you hire." I've found that to be absolutely true, and we've got a GREAT fledgling organization. :)
4. Opportunities to do great things for CEHD and the University.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, however you choose to celebrate it.

November 19, 2006

Space, Tools, and Collaboration

What this University needs is a space like Temple University's TECH Center. TECH stands for Teaching, Education, Collaboration, and Help.

Check it out.

The world is changing. People are recognizing that learning is best achieved through active experiences, social interactions, and self reflection (create something from yourself!). Thus the title of this blog.

I'll talk more about this later. If you'd like a primer, read "Learning Spaces" (free download) published by Educause Learning Initiative.