Category Archives: Web/Tech

Emerging Learning Design 2011: A Selective Recap

I attended the Emerging Learning Design 2011 Conference yesterday at Montclair State University. Here's a recap of key themes and ideas.  

Pedagogy First

Intellagirl kicked off the conference by reminding us that pedagogy comes first, technology second, and gave us a framework for assessing technologies for use in education. She urged us to tinker with new tools and understand what the creators of those tools had in mind from a design perspective and then see how those goals map to our own educational objectives.Smith-Robbins Dissertation Defense Slides

 See slide 27 here, to learn more.

Thinking of Teaching Online?  Another Take.
I wanted to hear how other folks are talking to new faculty about teaching online, so I attended Suzanne McCotter's Beginning Pedagogy for Teaching Online.  McCotter is the Associate Professor, Counseling and Educational Leadership at Montclair State University.  She said that students are ready to learn online teaching, and know how to interact.  I think a more accurate statement might be that some students are ready to learn online, but in general, I'm skeptical that generation is really an issue.  Mark Bullen sums this up well here:    Still, the idea that online teachers need to foster a sense of safety and community resonated.  I liked how she puts students in her asynchronous class in small discussion groups and then appoints a leader and someone to summarize the discussion for the larger class.  I am thinking I may give this approach a try for the research process and methodology course I'm teaching this summer.  

Mobile Transforms Teaching?
I was somewhat fearful of attending Apple's sponsored presentation on Mobile Pedagogy in today's classroom by Jon Landis, but it turned out to be one of the day's most interesting sessions.  He notes that mobile devices with high speed connections will soon outnumber desktop devices and that approximately 63 percent of college students have smart phones.  He chafes at the notion that smart phones aren't allowed in K-12 environments and are merely tolerated in higher education.  He then goes onto argue that technology is changing, or should change how we teach.  He contends current educational models, whether in k-12 or higher ed, are predicated on information scarcity.  Information is not scarce, it's abundant and therefore the educators role changes from being an information expert to a concept shepherd.  (This idea echoed Intellagirl's idea that as educators we model the practices of master learners.) His pitch goes something like this:

Content should be consumed by students outside of class.  Classes should be experiential.  When more materials are available to students and classes focus on doing and discussing instead of content dissemination that attendance goes up.  

He closed by making an ethical case for introducing innovations in education.  Landis slipped a disc 20 years ago.  A surgeon repaired it but it required a 3 inch incision and a 3 day stay in the hospital.  Some 10 years later (facts are placeholders to retell the anecdote), same surgery, 1 day in the hospital and a 1 inch incision.  A friend had the same surgery (coincidentally, so did I) just this year. 1/2 inch incision and it did not require an overnight stay.  The same doctor performed all three surgeries. If that doctor used the same tools or techniques, he would be sued for malpractice.  Why are educators allowed to use the same methods?  He argued that it's unethical to stick with the same methods.  He urged participants to pick a single thing in their teaching that's not working and see if there's a way it could be improved.  

Let's Augment Reality

NYU's Craig Kapp presented on augmented reality.  He demonstrated how symbols could be embedded in textbooks to augment and update them.  If that sounds abstract, imagine a children's book where holding the pages up could produce a 3d image on screen that kids could then interact with through the computer's web cam.  Zooburst is an augmented reality authoring environment that lets people create their and share their own books.  He also demonstrated how to use QR codes to conduct real time simple surveys in class. When you see a QR code, you see a link to the virtual world. 
In sum, we're carrying around tremendous computing power that gives us new ways of seeing, connecting and learning.  More about Craig's work on his blog.

This year's presenters were invited.  The call for presentations is scheduled for September of 2011.  I'd like us to be there to talk about online learning.  

First Reflections on Educon 2.2

Educon 2.2 is something of an un-conference.  Instead of presentations, facilitators lead conversations. The conference is hosted at the Science Leadership Academy,
a public charter school in Philadelphia, led by Chris Lehmann.  Over
500 educators from primary and secondary schools, a handful of school
administrators and higher education professionals attended.  Largely,
this group self-selects.  Many pay their own way, all give up a weekend
to be there.  It's one of the best educational gatherings that I've had
a chance to participate in.   

My head is still spinning, but
I'm going to highlight three areas:  1) the overall participatory
environment at SLA and the conference  2) Jeff Han on Multi-touch
interaction experiments and finally, 3) a conversation that I
facilitated about online teaching and learning.  

1) Students
managed all of the logistics from tech support, to checking bags to
helping people find sessions.  They also joined sessions and shared
their experiences.  That students were central to the conference
permeated all of the sessions and made the experience authentic in a
way that few conferences are. Chris Lehmann spoke about how he and his
colleagues create this community on a session he facilitated about
leadership.  I'm a bit in awe of Chris–it's great to hear about it AND
see it in action at SLA.

2) Jeff Han presented Pixel Perfect, a spin off of his "multi-touch interaction research." 

More on Jeff and his work here: 
Jeff was eager to hear from us about how we could imagine the data
visualization tool used in education.  It's worth looking at the videos
of Jeff showing how the touch screen works–but it feels like something
out of a movie, where instead of interacting through a keyboard we
manipulate data with our hands.  At a glance, one might think, oh, it's
an interactive whiteboard–but it's much, much more than that.   Many
people can be on the board at the same time, it's as sensitive as an
iPad's touch screen and it's wicked fast.  Jeff argues that we have
plenty of processing power, but that we're not making enough advances
from the interface side.  He also envisions a day when the technology
is as cheap and ubiquitous as wall paper. From an educational use
perspective, we imagined ideas for collaborative writing projects,
virtual dissections and geographic analysis, but somehow I wished that
we picked a few specific curricular contexts and started with
educational goals.  Nevertheless, it was an amazing conversation.

3) I facilitated a conversation on online teaching and learning best practices
I was struck by the deep and broad interest in online learning as a
means of both student engagement and continued professional development
for educators.  Barbara Treacy, the Director of EdTech Leaders Online
a capacity building program for K-12 organizations, among other
educators, joined in the conversation, along with other teachers who
are designing educational experiences.  Barbara posted their checklist for educators designing their own online courses  as well as basic tips for online facilitation.    Sean Musselman posted a podcast summarizing the session

I am still processing the event, but I am glad that I was able to have conversations with educators about our open Educational Technologist  opportunity, want to check out the mind map that David Warlick posted 
would like to thank all of my peers at Educon for making it such a
wonderful event, to Chris Lehmann, and the teachers, students and
parents at SLA and of course, Kristen Sosulski and the NYU-SCPS for
giving me something to talk about.

Facebook Gets Pushy with Friend Coaching

Has anyone noticed that Facebook's suggestions are becoming more aggressive? Perhaps their new tagline could be "Facebook, your digital friend coach: We help you find friends, provide guidance on how to connect with them and never let you forget a birthday."  Sometimes the reminders have a sad quality about them.  Today, I was prompted to help a friend find more friends–is there something that triggers this prompt?  FriendSuggestions


Then there are the paternal reminders, "you haven't spoken with Jack in a while, send him a message,"  Forget that Jack used to taunt me about my height in high school, "Hey Jack, what up bro?"   And then there's the seamlessly unlimited supply of friend suggestions, and despite how inane they are, I can't resist clicking on them.  I wrote earlier on the Five Phases of Facebook, and I'm still at acceptance.  I am grateful for friends tagging good reads, sharing reactions to the season finale of Dexter, or encouraging folks to support health care reform, or same sex marriage, but I remain perplexed by the stream of quizzes, and Farmville updates.  I'm also struck by the conversations that start here.  My college consitutional law classmate debating with my Parisian neighbor out here in the 'burbs.   Facebook, where worlds collide.    How's your Facebook experience these days?  Love it?  Hate it?  Can't imagine life without it?  

The Five Phases of Facebook

If you thought Facebook was a time-drain before, now they’ve gone and added Chat.   Their stock price notwithstanding, these clever folks are taking notice of how annoying Facebook’s become.  Between their choice of Billy Joel’s "We didn’t start the fire,"  for the melody, and replacing it with "we’re getting sick of facebook," LLP81’s video critique is one of the funniest things I’ve seen online in a while.  What are your thoughts on Facebook?

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Here Comes Everybody (I’m here too!)

Clay Shirky’s latest book, Here Comes Everybody:
The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
discusses how light-weight web-based
technologies like blogging, twittering and photo sharing sites like
Flickr result in real world actions.  Shirky talked about the book
at the Markle
on April 10.  I’m going to highlight
a new of Clay’s examples and then reflect on what I think his ideas
mean for traditional organizations. 

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A Blogging Manifesto

Why bother keeping a blog? Everyone’s doing it, but I struggle with this humble blog–whether or not to post, what to post, analyzing my analytics, and questioning the worthiness of the endeavor. Why bother with posting your thoughts and reflections in public? Given all of the other things that we could be doing, why blog? I am at war with my old media self, that’s quite content to keep a journal that’s for my eyes only and new media self, who wants to embrace this not-so-new medium with more gusto. Given that context, here’s the argument in favor of blogging I’m working on:

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Starting to think like a Computer Scientist

I am in day 2 of programming school and am working my way through "How to Think Like a Computer Scientist" (python edition) by Downey, Elkner and Meyers.  This book’s available for *free* as in free beer.  It’s well written and fun to read.

Learning to think like a computer scientist is practical.  In the author’s words: "The single most important skill for a computer scientist is problem solving. Problem solving means the ability to formulate problems, think creatively about solutions, and express a solution clearly and accurately."

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Learning to Program

At work, I am a manager, and the truth is that I’ve always been a little bit embarrased that I don’t really know how to do so many of the things that the people for whom I work do–especially, program.  I’ve been working with computers since my Dad got me my first Zenith Z-148 (an IBM XT Clone)  The catch is that I’ve always been content to be a user–working with the programs that others created–learning them, getting a sense of what’s possible.  And even many programs are worlds onto themselves–feature upon feature–tapped and untapped potential.  But somehow I think I am capable of being more than a user–I think I can learn how to program.  I don’t expect it to be an easy road, but I’ve taken the first step of asking for help and my friends Anders, Eric, and Jonah have all responded enthusiastically.  Why am I undertaking this project?

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