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The topic for tomorrow's 20 by 20: An OIT Pecha Kucha Event is mobiles. As it turns out, this is a timely topic. Designated as a technology to watch in the 2011 Horizon Report, mobile technology is the focus in the latest Educause Review. In his contribution to that issue, Mobile Literacy, David Parry identifies three "literacies" we ought to teach students (and perhaps everyone else): 1) understanding information access, i.e., not only how to find relevant information, but also how to use and evaluate it. 2) understanding hyperconnectivity, i.e., how to use mobile devices to "engage in hypermediated experience" without being distracted from "directing full attention the event." 3) understanding a new sense of space, i.e., "the massive amounts of data that we are going to be layering on top the physical world and that will substantially alter how we can interact with space." This short article lays out substantial challenges with exciting possibilities.

Mobiles have been a topic of conversation within OIT's faculty development team. We talk about the potential of mobiles in higher education, and of course how we might help faculty, staff and students prepare to use mobiles in teaching, research and work at the University of Minnesota. I asked educational technology consultants to share their thoughts, which will appear in subsequent posts.

The latest publishing sales figures show a sharp rise in the sales of E-Books at the same time that the total number of book sales on all platforms took a minor hit. In their just released January 2011 sales report, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) noted a 115.8% increase in net sales of e-books from the previous year while overall book sales dropped by 1.9%.

In higher education, one of the pressing questions will be how might this change in reading affect the textbook market? Will students and instructors embrace digital texts? The social learning platform Xplana projects that by the end of 2011, 3% of the total textbook market will be digital and that growth will be explosive over the next five years. By the end of 2016, they expect the total sales of digital textbooks to reach 26% of all new textbooks.

The advent of new reading platforms suggests the possibility to develop new ways of interacting with learning material. While some publishers might simply settle to replicate a print product in a digital form, other more innovative developers might embed assessments or opportunities for reflection within the text. User-controlled multimedia might help students replay presentations or simulate experiments. Books that are built for collaboration might help students jointly annotate a text or read annotations by their own instructor. There are many ways a new textbook could evolve, and let's hope that with such stunning sales figures and projections, publishers and authors seize this moment to reinvent rather than replicate the text.

Spinning Our Wheels

Two scholars ask the pertinent question, "is our..." er, "Are our undergraduates learning?" Citing their own research, they find that nearly half of undergraduates have no improvement in critical thinking and other high-end measures after two years of college, and over a third have no improvement after four years. Well, that's all based on some test, and they concede there is gain in content knowledge, but there's better headlines in saying they haven't learned anything at all. Read an excerpt and link to some critical feedback here.

Here's the money quote, echoing a note that has been played in stories about K-12 education for years: this failure is not a failure, it was the plan all along.

No actors in the system are primarily interested in undergraduates' academic growth, although many are interested in student retention and persistence. Limited learning on college campuses is not a crisis, because the institutional actors implicated in the system are receiving the organizational outcomes that they seek, and therefore neither the institutions themselves nor the system as a whole is in any way challenged or threatened.

In a recent meeting of the faculty development team we discussed the article "Mind the Gap: The Digital Dimension of College Access," and considered how we might take into account the digital divide in our work. The digital divide is commonly understood mainly in terms of access to technology. Joanna Goode, Department of Education, University of Oregon, argues that while access is a concern, "the digital divide cannot be measured by tallying hardware, but rather, must be measured by determining access to rich learning experiences in which technology is embedded" (586). A digital divide exists in too many schools that serve low income students or students of color, where the most advantageous conditions for educational technology are absent: qualified teachers and student-centered pedgagogy.

Goode found that opportunities to use of technology in K-12 education differ along lines of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. In California, advanced computer classes are "overwhelmingly concentrated in schools serving middle class Whites and Asians, while vocationally oriented technology courses are more likely to be offered in schools serving large numbers of students of color" (Goode 587). Computing courses attract more young men than young women. Students in wealthier schools use computers for learning less frequently, but are more likely to use them for learning activities with intellectually rigorous objectives. In contrast, students in low-income schools are more likely to use computers for remedial learning activities.

How does the digital divide affect students once they enroll in college? Goode argues that for students who lack fluency with technology, it's not simply a question of catching up. By the time students reach college, they have developed a "technology identity," or beliefs about one's own technology abilities, about the importance of technology, about opportunities to participate, and motivation to learn about technology. Goode investigates what is involved in becoming a "computer person" by drawing on Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital, or the knowledge, education, experiences and material advantages required to maintain or achieve higher social status. Her research indicates that technology identities are shaped by and reflect social structures. In other words, a student who identifies as a "computer person" is more likely to come from a more privileged background.

Within the faculty development team we have begun a conversation about addressing the digital divide, and we would like others to join us in that conversation. How does the digital divide manifest itself at the University of Minnesota? How might we address it?

Goode, Joanna. "Mind the Gap: The Digital Dimension of College Access." The Journal of Higher Education. 81, no. 5 (September/October 2010) 583-618.

Here's at least one look back at the biggest ed tech stories of 2010. I figured the iPad would top any such list. The focus is on K-12 and much of the rest of the list is about national assessment standards, school reform, etc. What would a top ten list for higher ed look like? For us the challenges of lagging effects of the recession is certainly a top story, a focus on science and math curricula, continued concerns about privacy in an era of social networking, and renewed interest in how technology can transform face-to-face classes after several years of online and hybrid learning. We continue to look at how cloud tools can enhance and even replace course management systems, a theme that was strong last year and the subject of a CIC virtual conference at the tail end of 2009. A couple of smaller stories are the sunsetting of delicious, which I will miss a great deal, and the fizzling denouement of Google Wave, which not so long ago seemed like a big deal. Will Facebook's "fmail" be a big story of 2011, or a big letdown?

What else would you consider a top story in higher ed computing for 2010? And what do you anticipate for 2011?

Scott McLeod, director of UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) at Iowa State, offers ten ways to get serious about educational technology.

I like two ideas in particular: showing students how to manage privacy settings on Facebook (and other social network sites) and addressing the digital divide. Taking on those issues is be a learning advocate rather than a technology advocate. In my view, the learning advocate takes seriously both learning with and learning about technology.

What are your ideas for taking educational technology seriously?

Horizon Report 2011 Preview

The New Media Consortium (NMC) has just released a preview of the 2011 Horizon Report. As explained on the NMC web site: "The Horizon Project, as the centerpiece of NMC's Emerging Technologies Initiative, charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning and creative inquiry and produces the NMC's series of Horizon Reports." The report is produced in collaboration with the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and technology professionals and educators from all over the country. As the title suggests, the full report will be published next year. Meanwhile, visit the wiki to learn more about the project and to review a list of the technologies they predict will be widely adopted in the next year, in the next two to three years, and the next five years.

You can also learn how to participate in the process before and after release of the report. One easy way to learn more and participate is to explore and contribute to tagged items in delicious.

"I know I can read a book, but then I'm up and checking Facebook," he says, adding: "Facebook is amazing because it feels like you're doing something and you're not doing anything. It's the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway." (Sam Crocker, high school student)

Students, teachers, school administrators and researchers interviewed for this article offer thoughtful insights on students' immersion in technologies such as texting, Facebook and YouTube. A high school principal observes that students' choices in technologies amplify who they are: more social students like texting, while the more introverted retreat into video games. Students recognize that technology rewards them with instant gratification. They also understand that multitasking and the sheer amount of time they spend online compromises their ability to engage in deeper forms of learning. A teacher sees technology-focused classes as a way to reach at-risk students, but also worries that a student who aspires to be a filmmaker devotes too much time on developing his editing skills and not enough time reading. "If you're going to write scripts, you've got to read."

P.S. And there's a video, too! Question: does the video strike you as the Cliff's Notes version of the article, or does it bring new ideas to the conversation?

Teens and Texts

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, teens prefer texting above all other communication media, including face-to-face communication, telephone, email, and social networking tools. A remarkable finding, although the implications to higher education as those teens become undergraduate students are murky. Should we be texting the text, line by line? Or should they meet us on our own medium?

The Board of Regents just announced the candidate for President of the University of Minnesota: Dr. Eric Kaler, Stony Brook University Provost. In this episode of Stony Brook's Innovations in Education, Dr. Kaler discusses the role of technology in education.

What are your thoughts?