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:

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 and 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.