Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Podcasting, Webcasting, and Coursecasting

The advent of iPods and the MP3 format have given users the freedom to download audio files from the internet for later listening. In education terms podcasting has allowed learning materials and resources to become more portable and accessible than ever before, simply because so many students have access to an MP3 player of some kind.

It is predicted that podcasting will soon become a mainstream application, providing those in the teaching and education professions with a cost effective way of distributing course materials and resources. While I don’t think it will ever replace classroom learning, the use of podcasts, webcasts and coursecasting means that the needs of more students can be met in a simple, effective and cost efficient manner.

Like everything else, there are always downsides to such a great technology. For example, having sufficient bandwidth to download the podcast and format compatibility issues. Podcasting does not allow for participatory learning either or any form of audience interaction as it is a form of one-way communication. However, many feel that the possibilities for this form of educational resource are endless and that there will be a rise in the number of podcast aggregators particularly where education is concerned. Students are able to get access to missed lectures, experiment or assignment instructions and other course notes. There are also plans to provide video content within podcasts so students will also be able to view material whilst listening at the same time.

For educational purposes, coursecasting is rapidly being taken up by educational providers such as universities and schools, although some studies have shown students are either unaware of the existence of such resources or are unwilling to use them. The potential benefits to education from podcasting, coursecasting or webcasting are huge so long as they can expand on the classroom learning principles and create new learning experiences which students are willing to use.

Networks of Personalized Learning

The Personalized Learning model was developed over ten years ago within the public charter school sector in California. It has shown that by tailoring the curriculum to the needs of individual children it can help them to learn with greater success compared to more traditional teaching methods. Many public charter schools across California adopted the model and further research has confirmed its value in contributing to children’s academic success. Although there are many definitions for personalized learning, its core function is ‘putting the learner at the heart of the education system; (Leadbeater, 2008).

Personalized learning systems allow for the creation of different learning experiences to engage and motivate students into learning in a way which meets with their educational needs. The model was initially adopted by schools, but has now become a key approach to learning throughout many types of educational establishments.

There are many methods used to present a personalized learning course to a student. Some will involve traditional teaching methods; others will utilize technology and computers along with online resources to bring together a course which represents the needs and abilities of the individual student. It has been shown to bring a greater degree of flexibility and choice to students about what is taught, when and how it is taught and where.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Educational Blogging

In terms of social media, blogging is sitting at the top of the tree. From personal diary style sites to topical news and features pages, blogging has become a firm favorite for disseminating news and information around the web. When it comes to keeping my finger on the pulse I turn to my personal favorite blog sites such as TechCrunch and Mashable to help me stay up to date with current events in social media, internet developments and the latest tech releases.

For education, blogging represents a unique challenge. While teachers, lecturers and students alike can identify blog sites that are useful to their curriculum, ensuring the quality of information can be more difficult. Many universities and their lecturers have personal blog sites on which they post articles related to their respective fields and these have quickly become another form of scholarly article sources for anyone who is interested.

Traditionally, scholarly articles would be published through industry publications or journals and potential authors would need to prove their credibility to stand any chance of being published at all. Blogging however has changed that and now offers opportunities for scholars, academics and experts alike to publish papers, articles and research quickly and without the need for explanation. You could say blogging has taken freedom of speech to another level.

Whether it is a blog site dedicated to the faculty or a course resource, blogging is quickly becoming a valuable addition to educational resources and sites are now a common appearance on students reading lists and cited as references in academic work.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mobile, Wireless, and Ubiquitous Learning

As mobile and wireless technologies have improved then the potential for their use in ubiquitous learning techniques or u-learning, has been explored. It has become a trend in recent times for such technologies to become integrated into electronic learning practices allowing students the freedom to study anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

However, despite the maturity of mobile and wireless technology, there are still issues with the large amounts of data generated through such learning practices, a challenge which many systems simply cannot handle. The answer has been the development of Grid technology to provide a platform for not only delivering content but storing it as well. Wireless technologies such as WLAN, Bluetooth and RFID can be used for geographical and context services, while web technologies can be used to provide the content in a format compatible to the device in use.

In educational terms the adoption of mobile and wireless devices along with associated applications means there is a great opportunity to develop curriculum with a socially based learning and teaching aspect. These technologies can enable interaction away from the classroom and outside of the limitations of conventional desktop computers, giving students and teachers alike the ability to interact on a scale never used before.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

It came as a surprise when I learned that technologies such as virtual reality and massive gaming have been in use within the education sector for sometime. While they are being used in other areas of education, these technologies have been used in medicine and aviation for quite some time. Their uses within the classroom and their effectiveness within developing applications are being explored further by researchers interested in adding the technology to various curriculum.

Over the years there have been many studies carried out to show that students respond well to a variety of teaching techniques and it has been acknowledged that the use of computer simulations and virtual reality presents a powerful tool to learning. Its uses have been developed to provide students with a means to learn skills and concepts that they may otherwise only ever read about in a textbook. As a student that learns by “doing”, I can certainly understand this.

Computers and software have become a fundamental element in teaching and in the classroom. Their importance as teaching aids is well documented and the continued development of multimedia and virtual environments means teachers now have the ability to introduce to students virtual simulations of situations which could otherwise be too expensive or dangerous to carry out in the real world.

Whether it is virtual reality, massive gaming or other forms of computer simulation, students are now able to interface with situations which have a high degree of interactivity, immersion and realism. However, the software requires high quality graphics often of a 3D nature and the use of specialized hardware components such as head mounted displays and specialist clothing to be able to achieve this high degree of interactivity and realism. Because of this the concept of virtual reality has taken more than 30 years to find its way within the budget of many research establishments.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interactive and Collaborative Learning

Traditionally, education or training would take place on a face-to-face basis, in a classroom or lecture hall. But as the trend towards online programs grows at pace many fear that the quality of learning provided will suffer, especially because educators and trainers are no longer in control of the sessions at the front of the room.

This new form of learning, dubbed collaborative learning, can occur both in real time and in multiple sessions in ways which allow the participants to become interactive without having to be online at the same time. This is heralded as the solution to the problem of loss of quality and control because it can allow one-on-one interaction, group discussions and other activities to take place. This form of blended learning can encourage interaction and also enable the provider to tailor the content or training to individuals on the course.

Engaging with students and participants is also a concern when it comes to online presentations, webinars and training sessions. Many instructors complain of a lack of visual clues to enable them to judge whether participants are engaged, interested and even understanding what is being delivered. By using collaborative learning trainers and providers can move the course delivery from static one-way presentations to fully interactive sessions which engage the participants and further encourage participatory learning exercises which will involve everyone.

Alma Mater Using YouTube Instead of Essays for College Admissions

In all of our forum discussions, we've discussed using YouTube, TeacherTube, etc. for various things. This evening, I came across an innovative idea that George Mason University has implemented -- replacing college admission essays with YouTube videos. I'm a litte biased since Mason is my alma mater but I think it's a brilliant idea. It's more fun for the applicant to put together and I'm sure its more entertaining and interesting for an admissions counselor. Win-win, right? For the full story, please check out: http://news.gmu.edu/articles/1902.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

YouTube, TeacherTube, and the Future of Shared Online Video

Teachers and educators alike know of TeacherTube, the self-proclaimed ‘safer alternative to YouTube. Before this course, I had never been fortunate to be acquainted with it. TeacherTube was developed primarily to provide educational content for teachers and students alike, omitting much of what could be found on YouTube and other shared online video sites. Unlike YouTube, TeacherTube requires all content uploaded to the site to have an educational and learning objective, it must not advertise products or services, show nudity or contain profanities and should be appropriate for viewing by all audiences. Video has become an important media resource in teaching resources and training materials, so the inception of TeacherTube in 2007 has been widely welcomed and positively commented on.

The future of shared online video will rely upon the quality and management of the content, along with the ease of use the site gives its users. There are other educational video sites available such as edutube.org and mylearningtube.com and of course, many more shared video sites which do not have a specific educational focus. TeacherTube has been commended for its ease of use and accessibility, something which it shares with its big brother, YouTube.

The long term success and longevity of educational video sites will depend upon the take up by educators, trainers and students to use the sites and to include the content within curriculum, projects, courses and training materials. Mobile technology and services such as podcasting or coursecasting could hold the key here, but as video viewing technology via MP3 or wireless/mobile devices is still being developed, especially for educational purposes where video quality is fundamental, the take up could be slow.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wikis -- WikiPedia, Wikibooks and Other Collaborative Writing Tools

The term collaborative writing is used in reference to projects which have been created by many authors rather than just one. Online collaborative writing has inspired many projects to grow without any editorial guidance and many (including myself) feel that this will change the way in which academic publishing is done in the future.

Wikis, Wikipedia and Wikibooks are the most used form of collaborative writing and are often part of community based websites where users are encouraged to contribute, modify or reference the content. Everyone who joins the community will have writing privileges and can contribute anonymously or use wiki based sites to increase their own online presence. What they can also achieve is an equal balance between the academic and non-academic worlds, allowing contributors and readers alike the chance to share experiences and ideas, as well as the more traditional views.

Does online collaborative writing through the use of wikis help to improve academic content? Both in quality and quantity? Well, there are those that argue it can and will help to improve the quality of content because of its collaborative nature. But others feel that the traditional culture of academic writing will struggle to support such an approach. What is clear is that collaborative writing and wikis in their many forms are still in their infancy, with even the most established sites still struggling for legitimacy. But they will continue to attract academics and non-academics alike because of the ease in which work can be published and in which authors can gain credit and recognition.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keeping Your Dignity

Who doesn’t like to be loved? Truth is, everyone loves to be loved. It’s such a great feeling, right? Whether it is impressing someone to get a job or showing off to capture the attention of your “crush”, people do crazy things. My mother always told me “don’t change who you are and pretend to be somebody you’re not”. How far should one go for attracting someone’s attention?

Well, not as far as the Mayor of Topeka Kansas. Recently, Google announced that it will build incredibly fast fiber optic Internet networks in certain areas of the country. To capture Google’s love, the Mayor elected (with no argument from the city council) to temporarily rename Topeka, Kansas to Google, Kansas. Call me crazy but this is outright ridiculous! Topeka, Kansas is a large American city. It’s a state capital. To change the name to capture Google’s love and attention in hopes to be selected for Google’s broadband effort is outrageous. For the full story, Google [Topeka Google].

Moral of the Story – Don’t Whore Yourself for Anyone’s Love. It’s not worth it; be the person (or city) that you are and be proud of it. You’re liked for who you are and what you bring to the table or you’re not. If not, it’s not meant to be – continue looking for that better suited friend, partner, employer, etc.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Connectivism, Social Knowledge, and Participatory Learning

Years back, to be literate meant that a person had the ability to read and write. Since then, especially with the advent of the Internet, the definition has grown to include additional skills. To be literate now goes beyond reading and writing to being able to effectively communicate and identify, understand, interpret, computer, create, and use materials of various types including print, written, web, etc. The Internet has created a new set of tools to aid students; however, students are required to improve their learning to be able to keep up with the challenge of modern day literacy.

Participatory learning is the dynamic use of social media to aid in sharing information and collaborating with others. It includes, although it isn’t limited to, blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking and videoblogs. All of this requires the modern student to be able to multi-task effectively, because the new online and multimedia learning environments require them to be using participatory media and other web-based tools. These new learning processes has given rise to such terms as connectivism and networked learning. What does this mean? Current teachers and future teachers must keep up with technologies inside and outside of the classroom. Many critics of contemporary education feel the traditional classroom-based teaching model is now obsolete and that teachers are no longer required to teach but to instead guide and advise their students since there are so many resources available.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Google -- Harnessing or Harming?

With a catchy title, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” immediately caught my interest from this week’s list of readings. Unfortunately, the title is all that kept my interest. Hmm, perhaps due to the author’s notion that Google may be making us stupider? (I’ll get to this point in a few minutes). One interesting tidbit was from a published study of online research habits that examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites. The finding: “people using the sites exhibited ‘a form of skimming activity,’ hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they ‘bounce’ out to another site”. Interesting research, I’d agree. Forget reading long novels, I’d prefer reading short 2-3 paragraph blogs. We’ve been spoiled with Google’s efficiency feeding us (most of the time) relevant and useful information in the first few results of natural search. So is Google Making Us Stupid? I wouldn’t go that far; it’s a different way of thinking. When Gutenburg’s printing press came on the scene in the 15th century, critics worried that the availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness. To avoid losing anyone’s interest, what’s to come? The availability of books has shown great advancement in developing knowledge and intellect, what will Google bring?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Open Educational Resources (OER) and OpenCourseWare (OCW)

There is little doubt today that the internet and its associated digital technologies have transformed the way in which education and learning is presented. Academic resources are far widely available than ever before which means everyone, from teachers to students, now has the ability to globally exchange knowledge.

The inception of the Creative Commons License has allowed the necessary infrastructure, both legally and technically, to provide this knowledge exchange via materials known as Open Educational Resources (OER) and OpenCourseWare (OCW). Both of these have become invaluable to providers of educational resources in that it allows greater accessibility, adaptability and in allowing users to inter-operate. In essence creative commons licenses have allowed tutors and academics the ability to increase the availability of their educational resources and to utilize those of others to suit their own needs and those of their students. It has also allowed for faster searching and finding of relevant OER and OCW resources.

Continuing the success of OER and OCW will depend upon the collaboration of educational providers to continue providing resources, both legally and technically, through Creative Commons Licenses. This in itself will require all institutions, tutors, educational providers and policymakers to continue using and recommending the use of Commercial Commons for the purpose of educational resources.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Neo Millennial and Web 2.0 Learners

It may sound like training jargon but you may have to get used to terms such as ‘neo-millennial learning’ and ‘distributed learning communities’ because they are being touted across the training industry as a shift away from traditional educational and training methods to a new way of learning.

The internet has revolutionized the way in which we access information. Collaborative learning techniques, blended learning, ubiquitous learning and full online courses have all changed the way in which training and educational courses are delivered and in turn have fostered new learning styles which have enabled interactive and social media to come to the fore.

Chris Dede of Harvard University has identified three new developments which will ultimately shape the way in which we learn and our use of technology. Initiatives such as Web 2.0 can provide participants with access to experts and information across the world by allowing collaborations, interactions and virtual communities to be built. MUVE’s allow users to create digital characters of themselves or avatars which can interact in a virtual environment. This provides the means for collaborative learning techniques and the ability for trainers to set challenges and activities within the course delivery. Ubiquitous computing through the use of mobile and wireless technology can aid participants in accessing materials, information and resources at anytime and in any location.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Movement toward Free and Open Source Software

It would seem we are amidst a revolution when it comes to developing new websites. While free to download software has been around for years, Open Source programs and software are changing the way we think about web design and the applications we use. Software such as Wordpress, Magento and Drupal have become household names, partly because they are free to download, partly because they are feature rich and partly because they are very powerful.

Open Source works because it relies on a global community of developers, programmers and designers to enhance, add and enrich the software for the benefit of users. Many of my clients now have websites powered by Open Source programs and because these programs continue to develop and grow, I can continue to offer unique websites tailored to my client’s requirements and within a budget they can afford.

But what about using Open Source in other industries such as education? Because of its flexibility, Open Source programs can offer educational establishments a cost effective way of teaching and developing student’s skills in areas such as programming, web development and web design. Setting up a school blog site is a simple enough task, whilst more advanced users may want to set up social sites for students to incorporate not only their own faculty or institution but to be able to partner with others across the world.

With Open Source it would seem that the sky is definitely no limit to the opportunities it presents both in business and personal website development. Its flexibility combined with affordability means it is rapidly becoming the weapon of choice for users and developers alike, whatever industry they may be in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Blended Learning Boom

Blended learning is not necessarily a new thing. Since the advent of the internet, its use as an educational resource has been well documented and online learning has existed for some years now. Blended leaning itself aims to combine the benefits of various teaching solutions including traditional face-to-face classroom sessions and online e-learning. But it is perfecting the recipe between the classrooms and the technologies that has seen it continue to expand and grow in popularity amongst students and teachers alike.

Universities have been quicker to latch onto the benefits of e-learning. Whilst blended learning combines three distinct forms – classroom, distance learning and online or e-learning; there is also a growing trend towards full online learning courses and the creation of virtual universities. The introduction of open universities and blended learning techniques offered students a way to study at their own pace through the use of traditional teaching methods and mixed media such as video and audio content. This concept worked perfectly for those students who found full-time study difficult perhaps because of personal circumstances or work commitments. Universities found it to be a cost effective way of providing higher education to all students regardless of their geographic constraints.

As the World Wide Web began to grow, distance learning went with it and full online learning and virtual universities were created to provide a method of delivery for a wide variety of courses. Following on from the blended learning techniques adopted in distance learning, students were able to study at their own pace, in their own time and wherever they wanted. But it was not without its problems. Courses were often not engaging enough or students lacked the motivation to see the courses through. I can certainly attest to that. Many felt that the loss of the social aspects of traditional learning was to blame, a deficiency which took some time to address.

Today, the rise in social networking websites has allowed the inception of virtual classrooms where students can engage with each other without loosing the freedom e-learning provides. The continued expansion of blended and online learning allows students the ability to interact in a way which was never before possible in the virtual world. Students now have the ability to start discussion groups, file share, have real time meetings and classes and to just simply chat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Sudden Explosion of E-Books and E-Book Readers

E-books have been around for a while; however, only recently, E-book readers have found a place for themselves in the market. But while E-books themselves are relatively inexpensive, the readers require a far greater investment. (Be careful too, only a select few are worth it). While I’m not too familiar with E-books I’ve heard discussions about the lack of compatibility between readers. Despite some reputable big names introducing E-book readers to the market, there are also many smaller companies looking to get in on the act and pricing their readers much lower.

Amazon’s Kindle is regarded as the best E-book reader on the market with Barnes & Noble’s Nook not far behind. However, the problem with both of these is that they will only support one E-book format making it difficult to port E-books from one device to another and their reliance on the slow e-ink based technology which produces a display in black and white.

At present the E-ink technology is regarded as a stopgap measure until such time as full color video tablets or ‘slates’ become available. However, rushing these to the market could see an influx of cheaper but lesser quality devices, leaving consumers confused about the technology and unable to tell the bad from the good (remember what happened when the iPod first hit the shelves?).

My advice: go for a Kindle or Nook; wait for full color video tablets to hit the market or take the old fashioned route and buy a paper and ink book instead!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sign of the Times

I should preface this entry by saying that I HATE chain letters, SPAM, and the likes. With that being said, I was recently forwarded this emai,l and while it pains me to admit, is rather relevant for this weeks digital literacy topic. See the pictures below.

Any favorites? 


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ladies and Gentleman, Googlers of all Ages...

A few months ago, I read the drawn-out book "The World is Flat". While an interesting read discussing globalization to its core, the 400+ pages was a bit too long of a read for this subject. Great content, too many examples driving it all home. A few books that I would suggest that have interesting topics but are more efficient at driving them home are: The Tipping Point and Freakonomics. Two of my favorites, so don't criticize ;)

Anyways, while unsure on what I'm supposed to be writing this blog about, I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be book reviews. Since I'm not too big of a reader, that's probably for the better though. Personally, I like blogs and websites. When you get a chance, check out techcrunch.com. A personal favorite.

Wow, I digress again. Focus, Mike, Focus.

Some would argue that the world is flat while others would argue that the world is open. I see both points and while I agree with them, I like to keep things even simpler. The world is GOOGLE. Not only are they a search giant that has engulfed market share from all of the old school players (remember Alta Vista?) but a company is a noun but also a verb. After all, it's probably mostly used a verb. I'll Google it later, no pun intended. Now they are tapping power markets?

Kids these days are growing up on Google just as much as they are growing up with baby food and pacifiers. Maybe a few years later but nonetheless. Instead of playing football in the street, these Googlers (sounds dirty but in no such way is it meant to be) are cruising the vast highways of cyber space, blogging, uploading videos and file sharing. Even though, I'm technically categorized as this "Net Generation", I'm not so sure any of those technologies existed when I was growing up. We had the Internet but we preferred our Nintendo and our friends that we can go big wheeling with, throw a football with, etc. Now, forget the football and big wheels, let's poke our friends or write on their Facebook walls, tweet about the latest shenanigans, or even better broadcast it on YouTube.What will the youth of 2020 be called? What cool gadgets, gizmos, and web apps will they have? Only time will tell...