Ideas while travelling on the way….

Setup for the Live Presentation:

This live session was done with Blackboard’s Collaborate (formerly Elluminate).  It seems like most of the earlier problems have been resolved.  There were some initial sound difficulties, but these were quickly ironed out.

Content:

Bates sees his current work dominated by two major issues:

1.   Can universities or colleges change from within, or do we need new institutions for 21st century learning?

2.   What would reformed or new universities/colleges look like?

Current practice uses technology to enhance, not transform learning.  In other words, most implementations do not try to do something different, rather ask “how can we do better what we are already doing?”  It is important to understand that Bates is primarily addressing institutions, not individual instructors.  Does the institution have a strategic and academic plan for the use of technology and at what level is that planning done?

Successful integration requires both an administrative plan on how to integrate technology, as well as the willingness of faculty to buy into this vision and actually use the proposed technology.  According to Bates’ research, the best planning starts at the program level.  However, this must not develop into a silo approach, with each program operating independently.  Best practices include a high-level technology committee with various sub-committees.  Clear mandates for these committees, as well as the constituent schools, learning technology centers and instructors are necessary.  The following chart is meant to show how the interaction between the various levels of the institution should work:

Model of Goverance

The diagram is not meant as an hierarchical approach, but more like a view from above

The last area addressed was financial.  Bates asserted that many institutions do not have clear idea of the difference in cost between an online and a traditional course.  Online course cost can be controlled through the use of different types of activities, making use of online educational resources and by downloading work to the students themselves.  In order to succeed, administration must include not only pre-service training for faculty, but continuing support.

Reaction:

In my Master program at Athabasca, there is no author who has more textbooks as required reading than Tony Bates.  Live presentations with individuals who wrote the textbooks you use are one of the outstanding benefits of a MOOC.

On the face of it, planning for innovation seems rather odd.  How can one make a plan to integrate tools that have not been developed?  But that is not what Bates proposes.  His assumption is that new tools will arise.  Once they have been developed, what is the best way to exploit their benefits for learning?  While it was not a focus of this presentation, his previous development of a SECTION analysis for evaluating new technologies.

The major take away point for me was the importance of an integrated plan which involves all members of the institutional community.  It is also vital that faculty have support before the development of new material which utilizes new technologies.  The old adage, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

Setup for the Live Presentation:

Previous commitments did not allow me to take part in the live event, but the recordings were available.  Distracting background sounds frequently marred the recording, possibly because the recording was from sounds from speakers rather than directly from the digital stream.

Content:

This session with David Wiley was more Question & Answer than a formal presentation.  Given his vast and varied experience, it seemed more like George Siemens and Stephen Downes were picking his brain.  As such, the content was wide ranging and hard to summarize.  It was also quite different from Wiley’s initial blog post which highlighted the various phases of his career.  On the Friday chat between the three facilitators, they commented how unusual it was for Wiley to speak of himself and his many accomplishments.  Back to the Q & A….

The discussion had six main parts: The opening question dealt with was publishing.  Wiley asserted that the current model with static and very expensive textbooks is not sustainable.  As an alternative, he is involved in Flatworld Knowledge publishing which allows free downloading of open license textbooks.  The business model is built on making money if a person wants a paper or audio copy or access supplementary material like flash cards.  Those would not be free, but purchased using pricing similar to downloads from iTunes.

The second area discussed was Wiley’s encouragement for academics to “Do the right thing” by releasing their work using a open license.  Does he think this is the only way things should be done?  While he recognises that there are others models, he insisted that his approach must be understood as one right way to do things.

Downes asked if the FlatWord model was sustainable if paper purchases disappeared.  Wiley responded by saying that if and when that happened, alternative models would need to be developed.

The fourth area highlighted Wiley’s “pragmatism over zeal” approach.  Wiley argued that his textbook publishing approach was analogous to the open source versus free software debate.  He came down on the side of the open source model which requires openness, but does not try to remove all commercial enterprises from participating in the field.

The fifth area dealt with the phenomenon of self-organization in the midst of chaos.  He used Slashdot as an example of a site that was able to develop self-regulation which arose from within the users of the site in the face of a huge proportional of off topic posts to news stories.

The last area discussed was the use of analytics in the education process.  Preliminary steps of analyzing the participation of individuals can highlight when a student needs help in an specific area.  Wiley stressed that this is not the time place for some pre-programed response to kick in, but rather human intervention: Human involvement at exactly the point where help is needed.  Thus analytics will make a more human approach to education possible.  After all, it is human beings who are doing the learning, and human beings who need support.  The goal of analytics is to figure areas that need help.

Reaction:

Certainly much more could be said than what is contained in the above summary because Wiley is involved in so many different initiatives.  His passion to make educational materials more accessible is admirable and he does much more than simply theorize about it.  I found the discussion of learning analytics the most fascinating.  This is not an area in which I have specific expertise, but I appreciated his stress that the approach should not be seen or used as a replacement for human assistance, but as a method to more efficiently focus on areas of need.  Obviously there is a lot of potential for such tools, but the training in how to use them will need to be developed so that needs can be met in a timely fashion.  The data must be accessible and easily understandable if it is to be useful.  But the potential to enhance learning is huge.

Collective Learning

Setup for the Live Presentation:

Some of the earlier technical glitches seem to be diminishing.  For this session, I was not able to attend the live version, so my subsequent comments are based on the recording.  Unfortunately the recordings listed are only the audio version.  At least there did not seem to be major connection problems.

Content:

Two questions immediately come to mind when the term “collective learning” is mentioned: What is it? and Why use it?  Littlejohn answers the “why use it” question first.  The answer is simple: for the betterment of society.  Complex problems can only be addressed by using specialized expertise which can only reside in many individuals.  No one individual has all the tools necessary to address such problems on their own.

The “what is it” question was addressed in a more roundabout way.  Instead of strictly defining collective learning, she showed what the process looked like.  It begins with connecting.  Through connecting with other people, individuals can consume each other’s knowledge, from that added knowledge they create new insights and then contribute the new knowledge to the community.  As others join this process, called CHARTING, it continues as more and more connections and contributions are made.  She cites Paavola and Hakkarainen description: “A kind of individual and collective learning that goes beyond information given and advances knowledge and understanding: there is collaborative systematic development of common objects of activity.”

This type of learning needs certain background conditions if it is going to succeed.  People need to be willing to participate and what they produce must be open so that others can use it.  Learning resources will be more open when individuals and institutions see the benefits of making them.

Reaction:

My first reaction to this was that it seems too optimistically idealistic.  But then it may not be necessary for every member of society to buy into the model for it to work.  I am also put off by the term “collective, ” but that may just say something about me.  When I hear the term, I think of are the Borg from Star Trek, Next Generation.  All individuality is lost for the sake of the overall goal.  But this is not what Littlejohn is advocating.  If I understood correctly, it is only individuals (or perhaps individual institutions) who can connect and eventually make contributions.  They do this to address situations that they as individuals see.  The entire process, however, is a delicate one.  Individuals must see the advantage and be willing to take the risk.  If the result is positive, the cycle may grow, but if someone takes contributions and treats those contributions as personal property the entire process may stop.  To think that this will not happen is the optimistic idealism I mentioned earlier.  One does not have to look far in the world of open source software to see both the benefits and great accomplishments, as well as the perils and resulting disillusionment that can and do happen.

Digital Scholarship

Setup for the Live Presentation

One of the most frustrating elements of this MOOC is the difficulty with making good connections for online presentations.  This session started late and there were problems with the uploading of the slides.  Some participants could see them, but others could not.  This is annoying for all concerned, but it must be especially exasperating for moderators and presenters.  Doing this kind of work without a huge investment in hardware and leasing of software services is clearly a challenge.  Such is life when pioneering….

Content

Weller defines Digital Scholarship as “Changes in all aspects of scholarly practice as a result of the application of digital, networked and open technologies and associated practices.”  One of the most interesting  to me was the reluctance to use some of the new technological tools.  He cites Proctor, William and Stewart saying, “frequent or intensive use is rare, and some researchers regard blogs, wikis and other novel forms of communication as a waste of time or even dangerous.”  While this is not surprising in the case of older, established scholars, he cites Harvey, et al, this way: “We found no evidence to suggest that ‘tech-savvy’ young graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors are bucking traditional publishing practices.”

On the other hand, the one of the important outcomes of research is sharing.  Unfortunately, traditional publication methods can make this process very slow.  There may be several years that pass between the time of writing and the time of publication.

Weller observed that scholars are often judged, not primarily by members of their own institutions, but by “waiting for the presses to decide” (citing Waters).  Ideas grow best in community and the online world can be an ideal place for sharing.
In order for digital scholarship to keep on growing, it will need to find digital equivalents for traditional methods, essentially translating current practices.  But there are also opportunities for the emergence of entirely new assessments including analytic metrics (how much a resource is used), micro-credits (some scale of achievements for small contributions) and non-traditional conferences (where the emphasis was not on presentations, but interaction).

Weller certainly has practiced what he advocates.  He is a regular producer of blog posts and pod-casts (not to mention participating in this MOOC).  His latest book, The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Academic Practice, it available in print form, as well as online.  This is not open digital scholarship, but open digital scholarhip.

Reaction

The reaction to digital scholarship seems like an example of Everett Roger’s Bell curve of the adoption of innovation (2003, p. 281).

So far digital scholarship seems to be in the Innovator’s/Early Adopters phase.  It will certainly grow, but the question is when and if it will became widespread for the majority of practitioners in various fields.  It will be interesting to see which fields adopt digital scholarship quickly and which ones will lag behind.

An interesting example comes from a field not always thought to be technologically innovative—Biblical scholarship.  In a recent gathering of the Society of Biblical Literature, innovator/early adopter Mark Goodacre reflected on his experience in blogging and pod-casting:

Back in the early days of doing scholarship on the internet, I remember being asked by another scholar about the value of this sort of work, not, at that point, blogging, but e-lists, websites and the like.  I was working in the UK at the time where we had a thing called the “Research Assessment Exercise”.  I wouldn’t be able to submit any of my internet stuff to that, would I?  I was a little take[n] aback by the question.  It had never even occurred to me that the internet stuff might be taking me away from proper scholarship, the kind of stuff that one could submit to the RAE.  Perhaps he was right; perhaps this is not the way for a true scholar to behave….

I suppose that what I am saying to the graduate students is that it really is a waste of time to blog, to podcast, even to tweet, if you are doing it for its own sake, to gain recognition or something like that.  But if it’s something you’d enjoy, it does have its rewards.  I sometimes think, “That’s bloggable!” even if I don’t get around to blogging it.  Or “I could do a podcast on that!” even when I never find the time to sit down and record.  And that’s something that can keep you sane, which can’t be a bad thing (Goodacre, 2011).

Goodacre, M. (2011, November 17). Pods, blogs and other time-wasters. NT Blog. Retrieved November 21, 2011, from http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/pods-blogs-and-other-time-wasters.htm

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

(I am way behind in posting from MOOC.  It is time to make up for lost time….)

Setup for the Live Presentation:

The first full session of MOOC #change11 was presented by Zoraini Wati Abas on “Mobile Learning at the Open University of Malaysia.”  Things got off to a very rocky start when the presentation software crashed.  After the crash, everything moved to a new service, but unfortunately many participants, including myself,  did not get word of the move until after everything was finished.  At least there was a recording of the session.

Content:

One of the most interesting statistics shared was that in Malaysia when the project was launched in 2009 there are 26 million people, but 28.9 mobile phones.  A poll of the students revealed that 98.9 percent had mobile phones.  The project studied the use of Short Message Service (SMS) to enhance the learning experience.  Initially five categories of SMS were developed: forum, content, tips, motivation and course management.  Of these five, those related to course management proved most useful, while tips and motivational messages proved least helpful.

Reaction:

There is no question that mobile phones are ubiquitous throughout the world and this makes them a prime platform for delivery.  However, I was expecting more about how participants did work via mobile connections, but instead the presentation was primarily about using SMS to support students in current courses.  This made the SMS more of an add-on, rather than a core component of learning.  As indicated by the pilot research, course management messages concerning announcements and reminders were most useful.  On the other hand, delivering content and working on assignments is more problematic given today’s mobile phone.  While smart phones are more versatile than those used in the study, it will be the proliferation of tablets with mobile connections that will be the real game changer.  This platform allows both the consumption and the production of work.  Abas does address these issues in the section where she talked about the shift from pushing messages to pulling resources.  Until that happens the SMS route is more of a support to learning, rather than a tool for mobile learning.

Starting a MOOC

This week marks the beginning of something I have wanted to take part in for quite a while: a MOOC. For those who don’t know, that term refers to a Massive Open Online Course.

After watching the orientation videos, I have two somewhat conflicting feelings. First, excitement over the opportunity to interact with so many leaders in the field of education. Second, a dread of being overwhelmed by the volume of material that will be generated. It is like swimming in the deep end of the pool for the first time. Even when you know it will be enjoyable, there is still the apprehension of diving in and getting used to the water. George Siemens used the term wayfinding to describe the coming disorientation.

Another image that comes to mind is drinking from a fire hose:

If you are interested, it is not too late to join in!

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