May 9, 2013 — Uncategorized
I’ve been growing tired of cable tv for a long time now, but I wasn’t sure I was willing to give up my DVR, channel-surfing, Lazyboy ways until recently. The reasons:
1. Roku 3 – it’s getting terrific reviews and as announced yesterday, now supports PBS so I can get my Masterpiece fix
2. Cable TV news is now virtually all commercials, bad reality tv or repetitive, sensationalist programming like the Arias trial
3. I still have to pay for an baffling array of channels that I do not have any interest in whatever
4. Verizon sold my contract to Frontier, which is the beyond horrible for customer support and I don’t want to give them one more cent more than I have to
5. Let’s face it, tv is not exactly the best use of my precious time anyway
So as soon as I can get my Roku 3 delivered and installed, I’m calling to cut the cable cord and be free at last. Dumping my land line for cell only was a great decision, and this feels like one too.
Next up: To find a cell program that lets me buy the right amount of voice and data services we actually use. I pay every month for service I never use in a big-bucket plan; it’s a rip-off.
May 9, 2013 — Uncategorized
According to this: http://gizmodo.com/now-is-a-horrible-time-to-buy-a-laptop-496028699 we should all wait until the newest Intel Haswell processor-enabled computers come out, presumably in June. If you are wondering what a Haswell chip is, it’s supposed to be a much faster, much more energy-efficient, and is supposed to be One Chip To Rule Them All (meaning it can be used in all your devices). In practical terms, your average user might run your new laptop all day long on a single charge, and find that all your multimedia displays much more quickly and perhaps without the need for a discrete graphics card. Now, that’s pretty cool – I’d definitely perk up and pay attention for an all-day battery life device.
May 6, 2013 — Uncategorized
Edublogs is a pretty cool blogging tool, no doubt about it. I have been a fan since I saw a demo at an EDUCAUSE conference years ago, back when it was still grant-supported. I told one of our professors, Rob Gardner, about it a couple of years ago and he did some really amazing things with this platform in his courses. Now, I think he deserves some well-earned praise. I particularly like this lovely site, which Rob created but for which he gives his students credit for the content:
April 30, 2013 — Uncategorized
One of the chief characteristics of today’s student is that he or she seeks authentic experiences in learning. Educators are most effective when they put the learner at the center of the learning experience. I’m a fan of keeping it real, as they say, but does academia respect that authenticity very much?
We in higher education tend to hold each other’s feet to the fire in terms of using evidence to support our various claims. Toward that end, we try to eschew personal opinions in favor of facts – and thus we tend not to value reports or studies that seem to be at all personal in nature. This opinion avoidance gets taken to ridiculous extremes at times. After all, requiring authors to write in the third person may seem to indicate some level of impersonal observance on the part of the researcher, but that doesn’t actually stop authors from producing biased reports. Meantime, we are forced to read and write incredibly awkward pieces in which we express things like, “The researcher determined that …..” instead of “I saw that…” It’s as though we try to pretend that we are robots floating in space, looking down on some event on the surface of planet Earth that we are only remotely, passively interested in. No wonder academic is so unreadably dull! It may be real, but it sounds inauthentic.
Why can’t we speak as the human beings that we are? Why do we try to pretend we are free of bias when we know we are not? We can admit that we hope to find a particular outcome while still being truthful about the outcome we actually get, can we not? We should be able to test our instruments on a variety of people to ensure clarity, regardless of whether we admit to our biases.
April 19, 2013 — Uncategorized
cMOOCs, xMOOCs, heutagogy, participatory literacy.
Oh, and this:
March 21, 2013 — Uncategorized
As an ambivert, I’m one of those people who is comfortable in a purely online environment. I am a blogger, a Twitter user, a webmaster, an LMS user, etc. etc. etc. I love multimedia and I’ve made these tools my default mode of communication. I am not so comfy lecturing or giving talks, and I’m not even that great explaining things to people who are purely audible learners. I need to move, touch and have something to see. I can communicate orally best if I can draw something while I am talking. That’s why I have been a digital resident since the early 1990′s, and that’s why I feel I understand the student point of view better than many traditional faculty members.
I get why students want MOOCs, distance courses, etc. In my 18 years (wow, already?) of instructional technology/design/faculty development, I have barely seen traditional faculty budge away from the traditional lecture format. People still haul out slide projectors, for heaven’s sake – but it’s not the use of old technology that bothers me so much as the attitude people have that it isn’t worth it to explore new teaching modes. They aren’t comfy and at home with it right out of the gate, and they don’t get anything extra for making the effort, so many faculty just phone it in the same old way. They even try to control the classroom by controlling access to wifi, and lately, to recording devices.
As I see it, these efforts are laughable. Students will barely slow down as they step around these minor impediments, legally or not. I see this attitude from students constantly in the way students cheat on traditional papers and in online quizzes, and I think the proper response is to change teaching methods so that cheating is not rewarding. There are many excellent ways to do so, and in doing so, faculty have an opportunity to re-examine the way they teach, potentially improving learning outcomes for students. The same goes for use of wifi etc. in class – faculty should take charge of these elements, embrace them and use them to empower students instead of trying to block them out. Yes, it takes a little effort and initially, it takes time. Mistakes will be made – but in the end, it’s so very worth it.
Blocking students from using technology affordances is like tacking up a postcard on the top of a telephone pole to warn people to avoid a flash flood.
Lately, I’ve gone to a number of Ed Tech conferences in which the keynotes were quite disappointing. Many are retired professors who tout their talks as wisdom for our brave new world. One promised a superior alternative to MOOCs, only to recite the findings of an education committee that urged faculty to engage students early and often in the learning process, to promote active, authentic learning, etc. etc. I can’t imagine how this speaker might have come to the conclusion that somehow these ideas are new or that they are mutually exclusive from MOOCs, or that his offering was in any way an alternative to MOOCs. Somehow, he wanted to persuade us that sound learning principles were separate and distinct from this new mode of delivery. I think he pulled the old bait-and-switch routine just to get the speaking engagement, frankly. I saw him wandering around the conference later, alone and looking bereft. I’ve never been one to suggest that we never lecture again, but being made to consume that dry, tasteless keynote after a steady diet of tasty, zippy blogs, Twitter feeds, and other SoMe goodies is making me reconsider.
So why are these guys still considered education leaders? They don’t seem to understand our brave new world at all, yet here they are keynoting ed tech conferences, selling their services as woefully under informed consultants, and writing books that are a waste of time to read. The world of learners is MUCH more nimble and adept than it used to be. We are all bricoleur learners now – and crowds are proving often wiser than individuals. Openness is here – the question is, are our current educational leaders ready for it? In my tiny little world, the answer is too often “one thousand points of NO.” I refuse to give up, though, because of the brave souls who trying new things, who do put their students first, and are genuinely willing to take a risk if it means they can improve. So, cheers to these hearty faculty, and I hope they have a fantastic spring break.
December 5, 2012 — Uncategorized
There is an incredible sense of excitement out there in the world over “X” such as edX and other open learning possibilities. I can all but taste it. It’s not actually radically new; it’s just coming together finally. Openness and digital connectedness was the subject of all three keynotes at Educause this year.
I’ve long been a proponent of hybrid or blended format courses, because I think humans naturally yearn for structure and leadership from a respected figure when trying to grapple with learning anything. It’s a whole lot easier than trying to begin the learning process by having to guess what direction to take, what bits to read and what bits to discard, and what bits are widely accepted now as “fact”. Still, we don’t want boring classes that all march us through the same information in the same way, at the same pace, whether we need that or not. I still remember the pain of sitting through an undergraduate art course with a professor who read to us out loud from the assigned textbook. Slowly. I still hate that man to this day.
Now, we can have open learning! Here, one can get the structure and respected authority that one craves, while also controlling the place and pace, while also sharing with the whole world of learners just as excited to know as you are. I can skip the stuff I already know and move ahead to the bits I don’t know, and I can go over those bits as often as I need to until I get it. In tools like edX, I can even control the pace of the video narration (hallelujah!). And, miracle of miracles, it is FREE, at least for now. The faculty involved are at least as excited about these new developments as the students are, and they are joined by course leaders who help them manage these courses brilliantly.
Simultaneously, there are countless traditional educators who a) never heard of it b) hope it doesn’t exist and c) are like climate deniers – they hope by pretending not to know about it/ridiculing it that it will go away. In a word, NO. I have heard some crazy reasons from faculty about why we shouldn’t adopt technology, ranging from the “tried and true tradition” argument to “it harms the environment”. I hear things like “I just like using a pencil to grade” as a reason for forcing students to submit short papers instead of participating in an open online discussion, ignoring all the many positive things that happen for students in these online discussions that don’t happen in short papers. “Oh, we discuss things in class” doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the human brain doesn’t turn itself on and off when class begins and ends. Worst of all, I hear, “I don’t have time to learn new things.” Well, why should they? They’ve got tenure.
Everything about open learning seems intuitively right. Students can learn in a mode they prefer. They can learn complex things from world renowned experts at prestigious schools. They can get credit for their work, or they can just dabble long enough to get what they need to refresh their skills or learn just the bit they need to know. They can contribute their own expertise. They needn’t worry about fitting in, paying tuition, or paying off onerous student loans for decades to come.
So is edX et al the death knell for higher education institutions for small liberal arts colleges? Wellesley just signed up for edX and I expect that this means they don’t believe that this is the case. In my view, you can join this marvelous new world or you can be rendered extinct, so I am rooting for Wellesley to succeed.
October 29, 2012 — Uncategorized
I won’t waste time here going over the pros and cons of qualitative vs quantitative data as already presented ad nauseum in scholarly pieces. I think both can be valuable – but in my 15+ years experience as an educational technologist, I have found that the qualitative data is most useful. Why?
Your typical quantitative questions:
1. Likert response how much you like/value/use Tool “X”:
2. Would you use Tool “X” again? Yes or No?
What you get for #1: Some value on a scale that may or may not mean anything at that snapshot moment in time. Who knows what variables affect this answer? Occasionally, you get a strong preference for one number on a Likert scale – but in that case, it’s unlikely you didn’t already know the answer to that question.
What you get for #2: If yes, more favorable than not. If no, less favorable. Who knows what variables affect this answer?
What the hell is a real, front-line person supposed to do with this new data? It is practically useless. What should we offer more or less? What should we change? What are the factors that help or hinder success that we should adjust?
Now repeat a whole bunch of times. Is this any more useful now? No, it’s just generalities on a larger scale. If anything, surveys this vapid are damaging, since we could get less biased, more reliable data through raw metrics such as bandwidth traffic without causing survey fatigue in our target population.
Faculty are people. Self-organizing, quirky, randomly developed organic human brains in human bodies on varying timelines. They don’t all do things for the same reasons at the same rate, and they each have their own agendas. Quantitative surveys about something as personal as teaching ask people to respond as though they are interchangeable widgets dealing with binary choices. When you ask people to answer questions on surveys, there is an implication that it means you care enough to do something. But with a survey like this, what could you do?
It just isn’t that simple. The best we can do is hope that by asking people to describe their experiences individually, we can extract common themes (aka the heuristic phenomenological research approach). These themes can be rich sources of ideas and insights that might actually shape our policies and pursuits. Even these themes are snapshots in time, and could change radically from one semester to the next – but it’s all we’ve got. Anybody who does what I do by relying on quantitative data only won’t be in this business for long.
September 13, 2012 — Uncategorized
Here’s what I know about education today:
1. Too much of what we ask our students to learn has little real value to them in their lives. We need to focus less on skills they’ll probably never use (not eliminate, just focus less) and more skills they’ll use every day. We can now provide “just-in-time” learning modules to students so they can acquire the skills they need when they can actually use them, throughout their lives. So why do we try to jam it all in to the wrong time frame?
2. Assessment in the form of test scores or grades means little to most students and everyone else, too. It’s not a meaningful way to truly assess a student’s KSAs.
3. Kids feel bored, disconnected and disrespected too often. No wonder school drop out rates are so high!
4. Kids need to learn how to communicate and how to parse information effectively. They need to know how to manage their lives effectively, and that includes using technology purposefully. They should be able to write and express themselves with visual and multimedia materials well, and find/filter information correctly. They should understand argument structures and be able to see that the work they do has some sort of meaning and impact to them. They should be able to collaborate as a team.
So, here’s what I would do for my middle/high school class over the course of a year (I’m dreaming here).
1. I would pre-test everyone on reading, writing, multimedia etc. skills. Boring, yes, but necessary.
2. I would ask each student to identify some thing in their own neighborhoods that they would like to see changed. We could explore as needed to get ideas.
3. I would ask students to design and deliver a survey research instrument that helps them form community partnerships and learn about their worlds. So far, we will have connected our learning to something meaninful in their lives, learned a means of communication and information filtering, and a means of understanding the quatifiable and qualifiable data they have collected. They will present findings – so communication and presentation skills are being developed.
4. Next, we would decide as a class what our community service project will be and then go out and do something about it. All along the way, we journal, we communicate, and parse data, we evaluate and adjust and adapt. We reflect. We create meaning and we change their lives.
5. We connect everything we’ve done to others who have gone before us and compare and contrast.
6. We assess. Not only do we post-assess all the same things we pre-tested for, but we also determine as a class what impact we had on our community and next steps. We peer-grade one another to satisfy individual grading requirements.
7. We celebrate! After all, we did some good, we grew as humans, we improved our reading/writing/’rithmatic skills and we learned some real world skills that will serve us well over our entire lives.
August 22, 2012 — Uncategorized
We are all bustling about, putting the finishning touches on all the bright and shiny new stuff we collected to help faculty and students teach and learn. Here are some of the highlights:
FDL updates: If you walk into the lab and see an imposing black and red desktop, that is our honkin’ cool new Origin gamer. Gaming computers are usually configured the same way high-end multimedia computers are configured, i.e. lots of space, speed and power. You won’t believe how fast it performs!
We also added a number of new cameras including some “tough” Panasonics that can really take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. They can go 30 feet underwater and are dust and sand resistant, and although I hope nobody tests this theory, they should be hard to break. So field work, here we come!
Because faculty seem to be buying lots of iPads, we bought two generation 3 devices and set them up for Science and for Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences. The Science one even comes with a Proscope wireless camera – nature nerds, rejoice! These are 64 GB devices that can be checked out for field work, or just so faculty can try them out.
We now have a higher-quality, large bed sheet feeding scanner, so that should help people convert media to digital content nicely.
We are heading more and more toward social software and open, online resources, but we still were able to update our software. All 7 FDL computers now sport Adobe CS6. Sweet!
Even BBLearn is getting a boost. At the beginning of the summer we updated to allow faculty to select from a variety of attractive new templates and color schemes. Faculty underestimate how important appearance is to students, so this is a change I heartily welcomed. Many behind-the-scenes improvements were made as well, so performance should be improved.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Excited as I am about all the promising new fall tools and resources, I am NOT ready to abandon summer just yet. I will relish the Oregon sunshine for as long as I possibly can, fall frenzy or not.