The Social Side of Social Bookmarking

DiigoIn EDU6323 this week, my students explored social bookmarking.  As one student noted in her weekly reflection – “Holy Moly – How Did I Not Know About This?”  Her observation matched about 90% of my class…which is interesting given that social bookmarking has been around for nearly a decade.  In my mind, this in some ways simply demonstrates that our past educational system was built on the individual, which resulted in people who do not naturally share or collaborate in digital ways.  The changing landscape of the digital world in the past decade has resulted in processes that are open, social and participatory…but that does not mean that those educated in earlier days automatically adopt these practices.  Within our class discussion forum, we had some interesting discussion around digital literacy and skill building.  Many suggested that they were rethinking fundamentals – that skills such as social bookmarking were critical skills that should be integrated in K-12 education rather than waiting until higher education.  Several stated that they were immediately discussing this practice with their students.  Others likewise were sharing the practice with their co-workers.

To help demonstrate the power of social bookmarking, we used Diigo to collaboratively collect articles associated with three myths discussed by Michelle Miller in her third chapter of Minds Online.  Michelle debunked three common myths involving digital technology – that use of technology is rewiring our brains, that kids are digital natives, and that the use of social media is destroying relationships.  Student reflections noted that many of these myths resonated with them, and that they were frankly surprised to find that there was little research substantiating these beliefs.  They collected a nice variety of articles that supported Miller’s view, and in the process illustrated how collectively we can quickly amass an excellent resource.

In thinking deeper about digital literacy, they reflected on how they and their colleagues tended to reject change.  In working with faculty over the past decade, I and others have seen this repeatedly.  However, after initially rejecting change, we have also seen faculty come back, retry something, and ultimately embrace it – whether we are talking about technology or new teaching practices.

In reflecting and discussing the social side of social bookmarking, several students saw potential opportunities for collaboration, but they also worried about collaborative approaches in a world still focused on individuals.  If a group collaboratively built something, how does one grade individual effort?  Others worried that students might violate copyright if they were allowed to freely share content.

Regarding grades, I spent part of the 1980s involved with the quality movement, known then as Total Quality Management.  One of the guiding lights of TQM was Edwards Deming, who passed away in 1993.  Deming was chiefly responsible for the rebirth of Japan following World War II, in which the quality of products (Sony, Toyota, etc) far exceeded USA products – at least until American companies started listening to Deming.

One of Deming’s beliefs was that you could pick the top 5% and bottom 5% of effort in any project, but that it was meaningless to spend time trying to quantify the middle 90%.  As such, he felt that in education, individual grades tended to be meaningless.

That was 30 years ago!  With the new affordances of digital technology – and the opportunities associated with collaborative learning, perhaps a new grading scheme is needed!  Would teachers and faculty be ready for such a radical notion?

As to remixed copyright, I shared Larry Lessig’s TED Talk.  Another radical notion?

I really enjoy our journey through digital technology, which several students describe as “eye-opening”!  Next week, we move into aggregating content.  I hope more radical notions are uncovered!

{Graphics: Marc Campman, Educause}

Deeper Searches

google-search-resultsIn the third week of EDU 6323, my students explored web searches.  I had them read the second chapter of Michelle Miller’s Minds Online, Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid, Eszter Hargittai and colleagues’ Trust Online, and Clive Thompson’s Why Kids Can’t Search.  I also covered advanced search techniques on Google as well as the use of WhoIs and the Wayback Machine.

As an exercise for the week, my students were tasked with picking a 2016 Presidential candidate … and then first searching using Google to determine the “Super Pac” that is backing that candidate … and then trying the same search using Bing and DuckDuckGo to see if they got the same results.  One of my Asian-American students added Baidu, which was rather interesting!  They then were to explore more deeply the website for the SuperPac they had chosen to see if they could find who registered and authored that website. Using the Wayback Machine, they explored how long has the website had been around.

This was the first time I have tried this particular activity in one of my online classes, and I was impressed with the analysis of my students.  First, they learned a lot about SuperPacs, One of the go to websites was OpenSecrets.Org – which they in turn analyzed for validity.  Several were surprised to find SuperPacs supporting Bernie Sanders (though this apparently was not reciprocated).  Several not only found the founder of certain SuperPacs, but then dug deeper into data about this person and how that might influence how the SuperPac was being used.

I found the reflections around personal searches most interesting.  As one student noted, “…everyday web searching is superficial compared to the possibilities.”

An interesting quote from one student:

“At this point I took a pause to think about the article “Is Google making us Stupid?”  because in just under half an hour I had learned something very significant about political campaigns in this country, I had read (not skimmed)  several articles, and I certainly felt wiser and more informed.  When I first read the article, before doing this search exercise, I was in agreement with the author– afraid of my thought processes becoming like an algorithm. But last night, when I went to go read a new book that I have,  I noticed something interesting. In order to read a book, I need to take my body off of high alert. It may seem like we are passively searching the Internet, sitting on our butts on the sofa,  but I noticed that my breathing was different,  my calmness level was different, and even the way I felt about reading was different when I was holding a physical book in my hand versus being online.”

Most noted they had used Google without much thought, and appreciated the new awareness of both alternatives as well as search shortcuts within Google.  Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo tended to return similar sites, but the look and feel was different.  All seemed to return news stories ahead of the SuperPacs themselves, which helped reinforce the concept of PageRank.  Interestingly, Baidu returned similar sites, but the taglines in some cases were several years older. Most of my students had not heard of the Wayback Machine or WhoIs before and liked the ability to better understand the history of a website.  Several noted that they could now as parents help their children more critically search!  They seemed to agree that teaching search skills is a digital literacy that needs to start in K-12 and be reinforced in higher education.

searchengines3

Most disagreed with Carr’s viewpoint on Google making us stupid, though his point about skimming over deep reading seemed to resonate.  Most noted that Google is a tool that can make us more efficient…or lead to superficial search.  As one student noted, a hammer can build or tear down.  It is not the tool but the use that counts.  One student suggested that mainstream media and its soundbite mentality had more to do with skimming than any website.

Miller brought up the use of technology to mitigate against cheating in online classes in her second chapter, and that led several of my students to discuss cheating in a digital age.  Most seemed to think that focusing on cheating only in online courses missed the broader point.  Several also suggested that deeper engagement by students could lead to less problems with academic integrity.

So, I was very pleased with how this week’s thought exercise worked.  Next week, my students will begin using Diigo and explore the concept of tagging.

{Graphic: Geomarketing}

Should Students Blog?

During the second week of EDU 6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning, I had my graduate students examine blogging for learning.  In addition to starting Michelle Miller’s Minds Online, they read Stephen Downes’ Educational Blogging, Henry JenkinsWhy Academics Should Blog, Steve Wheeler’s Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog, Sue WatersTop 10 Ways Blogs and WordPress Are Used In Schools, and Vicki DavisLove Song to My Readers.

To add to the context, I also asked students to view Sir Ken Robinson‘s TED Talk:

Finally, I asked students to go to Teach 100 and find 3 blogs that resonated with them.

Their discussion posts aggregated yielded this Wordle –

Week2Wordle

The blogs they liked (and the spread shows the diversity of 14 graduate students):

So, a mixture of corporate blogs, edited blogs, and individual educator blogs.

One of the questions I asked my students was whether students “should” blog?  The answers were generally positive, but with interesting additional notes.  Some felt that we should start students journaling in elementary school, but within safe zones … with mixed feelings about the appropriate age for students to blog on the open web.  Others felt that grading blogs diminished their learning potential – it led to extrinsic motivation rather than intrinsic.  Most felt that blogging needed to be purposeful and aligned with learning objectives.  Most saw a clear alignment between student blogging and Miller’s call for course redesign through technology.

As to whether teachers and faculty should blog … most were skeptically positive.  In fact, one student decided this was the week for her to stick her toe in the blogosphere.  Unfortunately, within a day of her establishing her blog through GoDaddy, it was hacked and hijacked.  An unfortunate learning opportunity for us all … and she does plan to try again with a more secure setup.

This exploration of blogs leads next week to exploration of web searches and website validity.  It should be interesting!

 

Seminal Books on Online Learning

Monty Jones at VCU emailed several of us today with an interesting thought query from Brianne Adams:

What are the seminal texts in online education?  Given how fast the field has evolved, are there any?

I have been evolved with online education for two decades, and along the way, there were books that had a huge impact on me, so I do believe there are “seminal texts.”  They were not the first books on online teaching and learning, but they were five books that stay in my mind.

book_palloffThe first book that really impacted my teaching online was the 2007 Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom by Rena Palloff and Keith Pratt.  I had read several “how-to” books like Susan Ko’s Teaching Online: A Practical Guide (now in its Third Edition), but Rena and Keith’s book solidified for me the learning community aspect of elearning.  I had just shifted from directing an online program at Gwinnett Tech (and teaching several business management classes) to faculty development at VCU’s Center for Teaching Excellence, so Rena and Keith’s book hit at just the right moment for me.

Using case studies, vignettes, and examples from successful online courses, Rena and Keith provided a mix of theory and practical ways to handle challenges such as engaging students to build an online learning community, establishing a sense of presence online, maximizing participation, increasing collaboration and reflection, and effectively assessing student performance.  During the four years in which I coordinated VCU’s Online Course Development Initiative, this was the book we gave all participants.

book_AndersonThe second book that comes to mind is Terry Anderson’s 2009 The Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2nd Edition).  This edited collection of chapters on theory, design, and support of online learning provides background and context around the Community of Inquiry framework, which Anderson and others developed. The Community of Inquiry framework was developed during a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities research funded project which ran from 1997 to 2001. The framework focused on the social, technological, and pedagogic processes that could lead to collaborative knowledge construction in online learning environments. This framework was extensively researched over the past 15 years, exploring the three forms of ‘‘presence” -teaching, social, and cognitive presence.

I used Terry’s book as my textbook in my hybrid course on the Theory of Online Learning that I taught for VCU.  The second edition brought in the concept of connectivism as a theory, as well as the use of social media for networked learning.

The third book builds on this framework of the Community of Inquiry.

Garrison bookRandy Garrison, another contributor to the CoI, published his second edition of E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework For Research and Practice in 2010. Randy synthesized a decade of research into the Community of Inquiry model for online learning.  Our CTE team spent a semester reviewing this book and related research around the Community of Inquiry, such as an article by Karen Swan, Randy Garrison, and Jennifer Richardson in 2009 – “A Constructivist Approach to Online Learning: The Community of Inquiry Framework.” The CoI factored in to the design of VCU’s Preparing to Teach Online course back in the last decade, as well as their year-long Online Course Development Initiative.  From Randy’s perspective, learning is shaped by a collaborative constructivist view, with discourse inseparable from critical thinking.  Critical thinking is both highly individualistic and shared…we co-construct our knowledge with others.  This connected learner framework has certainly informed the design of my courses.

One aspect of Randy’s book I like is the holistic look at the interplay of all three presences together.  Not only does the influences shift between them, but they also shift over time within a course and beyond a course.  The “learning” might kick in two to three courses later as continued integration and resolution occur.

Clark Mayer bookMy fourth “go to” book is by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer, who in 2011 published the Third Edition of E-Learning and the Science of Instruction.  This book not only looks at the science of learning, but it brings in Richard Mayer’s concepts of dual channel learning with multimedia.  Mayer has researched how our minds process information from both visual and audio channels.  He found that students learn better when material is presented with both words and images, when information is provided in smaller chunks to prevent cognitive overload, when words and images are integrated within a presentation, and when information is presented in a conversational style.  His work has informed much of our Online Course Design Orientation Program here at Northeastern University.

minds_online2My final go-to book is a recent addition that I have blogged about before – Michelle Miller’s 2014 Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology.  Michelle’s book is one of the first books to tie what we know about how people learn to online learning.  I am currently using this book as the textbook in my latest online course – EDU 6323: Technology as a Medium for Learning.

There are a ton of other books and articles out on aspects of elearning (such as Tisha Bender’s (2012) Discussion-Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning), but the five above are my go to volumes.  This is also does not begin to scratch the surface of books on learning science, such as Susan Ambrose’s How Learning Works.

It would be interesting to hear from you as to what you consider seminal works.  What would you add to this list?

 

 

First Week in EDU6323

It has been awhile since I blogged…but as I move into retirement from faculty development and spend more time teaching adjunct, my blog offers a place to reflect on my online teaching.

I am currently teaching a graduate course for Northeastern University – Technology as a Medium for Learning (EDU6323).  I was asked to completely redesign this course to add more learning science to the course flow.  As the course objectives aligned with a course Jeff Nugent developed several years ago, I took the basic flow from Jeff’s course, but added Michelle Miller’s book as the course textbook, so that we would examine the various digital technologies through the cognitive lens of Attention, Memory, Thinking and Multimedia.

EDU6323coursemap

To start the course off, the students read Mike Wesch‘s From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able, The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment, and an interview by Mary Grush on moving from course management to course networking, all within the context of learning in a networked environment.  They also viewed the Networked Society video:

The students are tweeting to hashtag #EDU6323 weekly, as well as analyzing the readings and discussing their insights in our Blackboard discussion board.  My students span the country.

6323maptweet

Some are in K-12 as teachers or coaches, some are in community colleges, and some are in higher education administration or educational technology. Yet it was interesting how these readings and video in some ways overwhelmed my students.  While living in it, they had not reflected before on the pace and magnitude of change occurring in learning environments.  Some questioned who was ahead in dealing with this change – higher education or K-12?  There was some discussion on the potential gap that can exist between haves and have-nots, but also a recognition that in some ways, developing countries now have access to learning – leading to the question as to whether it is the middle that is being squeezed.

What is gratifying is that my students appear focused on student learning, not tools and technology.  There was discussion as to whether more or less technology in the classroom was the answer, but they kept coming back to the affordances technology “could” give for learning.  One student summarized:

“E-learning empowers the individual by putting information in the hands of everyone, not just the elite.  It affords everyone, even those in the remotest of regions and in the most un-institutional places, the invaluable advantage of learning, of being both the holder and creator of knowledge.”

Given that I have several students in health care education, there was some push-back on Mike’s article.  These students teach in programs that lead to students taking national certification exams, so “teaching to the test” is a bit of the norm.  We had some good discussion in both Twitter and Blackboard around assessment of learning.  As one student noted:

“With all of the personalization and every aspect being chosen for the learner (ie review questions, etc), how does this bolster dedication, motivation, perseverance, and most of all organizational skills?”

Some questioned whether the concept of “learning management systems” is an outdated concept.  We will dig deeper into this in a few weeks.  There was comfort in the structure that LMS‘s provide, but recognition that they also limited both teaching and learning.  Some noted that this comfort has more to do with teachers than students, and that fear of change may keep teachers from experimenting.

It was nice to see the concept of “free” surface in the first week.  There are many free apps and softwares available for teaching and learning – but there are “costs” associated with the selection of these free apps, particularly when it comes to time for teachers to tinker and play.

Please join us at the Twitter hashtag #EDU6323 in the coming ten weeks as we explore digital technologies for learning.  Next week, my students will be exploring educational blogs and trying to answer the two questions – Should students blog? and Should teachers blog?

How would you answer that question?

 

A Layered Blimage Challenge

blimage_onionAs those who read me know, I have been participating in a recent blogging challenge that has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here and see a continually updated list of blimage posts here.

Enoch Hale and I have been challenging each other, with his latest thoughtful post here.  Now he has challenged me with this image of a cut onion.

My first thought was staff meetings in the past where my colleague Bud Deihl would get thoughtful and say, “My mind is reeling…so many layers suggested by this…”.  He used the onion metaphor frequently.

The onion metaphor is useful because it brings to mind surface issues and underlying deeper issues.  Thirty years ago, I learned about quality principles while still in the Navy, as DoD (and much of America) rediscovered Dr. Edwards Deming.  Deming was a engineer, statistician and quality expert who helped turn around Japanese industry after World War II.  A NBC documentary in 1980 entitled “If Japan Can…Why Can’t We?” helped bring Deming to the attention of American industry, and he consulted with government and industry until his death in 1993.  His quality principles were an integral part of my dissertation study on middle management in community colleges.  Deming regularly admonished management to focus on systems rather than people as the causes of problems (and opportunities for improvement).

Having moved into faculty development for the last decade, I see the work that we do in many ways as problem solving.  Whether moving a class online or incorporating a new technology into the classroom, we focus on working with faculty to improve the learning process.

The danger in problem solving is to focus on symptoms rather than underlying root causes. Toyota instituted the “Five Whys” process to try and get at causal issues rather than band-aiding surface issues.  In “The Five Whys Technique” by Olivier Serrat, an example is provided of Jeff Bezos of Amazon using Root Cause Analysis to get at the underlying cause of a safety issue.  During a visit the Amazon.com Fulfillment Centers, Bezos learned of a safety incident during which an associate had damaged his finger.

root-cause“…He walked to the whiteboard and began to use the Five Whys technique.

  • Why did the associate damage his thumb?
    • Because his thumb got caught in the conveyor.
  • Why did his thumb get caught in the conveyor?
    • Because he was chasing his bag, which was on a running conveyor.
  • Why did he chase his bag?
    • Because he had placed his bag on the conveyor, which had then started unexpectedly.
  • Why was his bag on the conveyor?
    • Because he was using the conveyor as a table.

And so, the root cause of the associate’s damaged thumb is that he simply needed a table. There wasn’t one around and he had used the conveyor as a table. To eliminate further safety incidences, Amazon.com needs to provide tables at the appropriate stations and update safety training…”

So when I gazed at the onion, I was wondering how often I and fellow faculty (and students) jump on the top layer (issue) and do not push to the underlying cause?  Deming noted that there are common cause problems (part of normal variation) and special cause problems (unique events).  Treating and fixing common cause issues as if they were special cause problems inevitably leads to worse issues, not improvement.

Maybe asking “why” five times might lead to more insight into issues facing us today.  In this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, there is an article by Mary Ellen McIntire entitled “‘Machine Teaching’ Is Seen as Way to Develop Personalized Curricula.”  Some faculty might see this as an attack on teaching…one comment in the article states: “Ah, get rid of the human teacher to make the learning experience more personal… and profitable for ed tech…”

I would disagree.  I think that integration of technology into lessons (and personalization) is part of the unfolding evolution of teaching.  Perhaps we first need to identify the root cause that machine teaching could help improve.  Focusing on the threat implied by machine learning is only peeling back the first layer of the onion.

{Graphics: Onion, Root Cause}

The Risk of Not Engaging

Tom_Fletcher_British_Ambassador_to_Lebanon_640_001As I was driving in this morning, I was listening to NPR Morning Edition, and they aired a story about British Ambassador Tom Fletcher‘s farewell letter to Lebanon.  Ambassador Fletcher has been at his post for the past three years, a time of tremendous strife with the Syrian conflict so close.

As moving as the story was, it was 5:30 into his interview that I heard something that really resonated with me as an educator.  He was talking about how the British Foreign Office encouraged its members to take risks, and he noted:

“…particularly with social media, the biggest risk is not to be engaged…”

He went on to note that of course there was the risk of saying something stupid, or of saying something that might inflame the wrong party, but that in many ways, the “best use of Twitter” is to use it for discourse and debate.  He noted that diplomacy is full of difficult issues, and Twitter provides a vehicle for “picking arguments and challenging people.”

It would be foolish to equate the rsocialmediatreeisks that Ambassador Fletcher faced with the risks that educators face in their classrooms, but I do like his take on social media and the opportunity it affords to take discourse and debate and move it outside the classroom.  Social media gives faculty the ability to engage with each other, with their discipline in and out of academe, and with their students, in ways we never had a decade ago.  One could “argue” that the heart and soul of scholarship and research involve picking arguments and challenging people (and ideas).

So what is your take?  Is there a risk for faculty in higher education to not engage with social media?

{Graphics: Najib, geralt}

A Dam Blimage Challenge

As I noted in my last post, a new blogging challenge has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here.

I so far have twice challenged my colleague Enoch Hale (who last year challenged me to a 30-Day Challenge with wicked fun results) and he responded with excellent posts here and here.  He in turn challenged me which resulted in my last post.  Now I have received another challenge from Enoch with this image of Ross Dam:

ross-dam

Ross Dam by werner22brigitte

Great image!

Do I focus on what is held back or what is released?

Holding back brings to mind fear, which brings to mind faculty discomfort with social media.  Behind the dam, the waters appear pretty calm.  The status quo is working, so why would faculty want to bring the disruption of social media into their classrooms?

Melissa Venable provides some thoughts in her post last year entitled “Face Your Social Media Fears“.  She noted that perhaps the importance of social media stems from the fact that is so widely used:

She suggested that faculty were concerned about privacy, looking unprofessional, going public in a traditionally private world, and managing the time investment social media seemed to require.  She gave practical suggestions on each of these concerns, and ended with two suggestions to keep it all manageable:

  • Find a good role model. Where are professionals in your career field or field of study engaging via social media? Spend some time on those platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) first, and look for one or two people whose style and approach you can emulate and make your own.
  • Stay positive. Build your reputation, through your approach and the messages you send, as someone who is not only knowledgeable, but also helpful to others in the community.

Good suggestions.

So what can happen when you release the potential of social media in your classroom?

Ross_Dam_USACE_20031022

Marie Owens suggested in a post in Faculty Focus that faculty should view social media not as a concern but as an opportunity to connect with students. “By approaching the nearly constant online interaction of their students as a chance to connect, teachers might find a new context to do what they love to do: teach. ”

Like all aspects of teaching, the use of social media does not in and of itself lead to learning.  Knight and Kaye in their 2014 published study “To Tweet or Not To Tweet” found that students made greater use of Twitter for the passive reception of information rather than participation in learning activities.  Kelli Marshall had similar results until she made some mindful changes in how she used Twitter (and communicated that use).  Likewise, Mark Ferris used Twitter to add engagement to his statistics course.

Lisa Blaschke conducted research using questionnaires and interviews and incorporating the perspectives of both students and instructors on the use of social media in the online classroom, looking to explore how media influenced interaction and learner development. The results indicated that students perceived specific social media (Google Docs, mind mapping and e-portfolio software) in conjunction with specific learning activities as influencing specific cognitive and meta-cognitive skills (constructing new knowledge, reflecting on course content, understanding individual learning process). Her research also indicated an increase in student familiarity with using social media and student research skills.  She noted that “…it is evident that social media alone is not the exclusive factor in influencing cognitive and meta-cognitive development in learners. Rather, it is the combination of the pedagogy in the course design and delivery, together with the technology, that creates the kind of nurturing environment for this development to occur.”

In their book Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson quote John Seeley Brown and Paul Duguid from The Social Life of Information:

“Learning is a remarkably social process. Social groups provide the resources for their members to learn.”

We are only beginning to research the opportunities that social media bring to classrooms – motivation, engagement, ability to surface prior knowledge, and self-directed learning.  Yet I find the potential that can be released exciting!

My thanks to Enoch Hale for his challenge.  Back at you next week, buddy!

Graphics: {Brigette Werner, Wikipedia}

Blimage Challenge: The Rock Arch

Bending

A new blogging challenge has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here.

I challenged my colleague Enoch Hale with an image of a hand holding chalk that was about to write on a blank blackboard…and he responded with this wonderful post.  Now I get to try it with the image above that he sent me and others via Twitter.

What a great image!  My wife and I just returned from a week spent on the Carolina coast, so seeing the ocean in the background really resonated with me.  But in the spirit of #blimage, let me concentrate on the rocks in the foreground.

The first obvious point for me is “balance.”  We know from the learning sciences that students (and faculty) are not only intellectual beings, but social and emotional ones as well.  In How Learning Works, Susan Ambrose states that students’ level of development interacts with the social, emotional and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.  As one who teaches online, I strive to build relationships with my students, to understand better their unique social, emotional, and intellectual drives.  I also work to balance the passion I bring to the course with realistic and practice-based applications that student can take away from the course.

Keeping with principles from Susan Ambrose’s book, the image also suggests to me a knowledge organization.  As faculty, we work with students to help them make connections between topics and see the “big picture”.  Focusing only on the top rock…or the yellow one…misses the conceptual knowledge one can take away from the whole.

Connections also raises the methodology of connectivism as a learning process.  Learning is an active, social process that involves change in knowledge, beliefs and behaviors, done not “to” students…but done by students. The online environment supports a learning-centered approach, providing a vehicle by which interested scholars can exchange and refine ideas via discussions and/or reports. That is the premise upon which my courses are constructed, and it aligns with the evolving digital world.  A constructivist and connectivist approach can be used to guide participants on a journey of discovery, sharing of learning, and building of community. Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences. Connectivism looks at how individual knowledge is shared in a social environment. Learning, especially learning in a fully online “course” in the digital information age can look very different from learning face-to-face in earlier days. George Siemens suggested that connectivism is relevant to online learning.

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed (Siemens, 2004).

Finally, the image brought to mind Garr Reynold’s book Presentation Zen – as he has similar stacked rocks on his cover.  Garr quotes Leonardo DaVinci:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

A lot to pull from one image – but at its core: Balance, Connections, and Simplicity.

Thanks, Enoch, for the challenge.  I’ll have another image shooting your way tomorrow!

{Graphic: Mary Roy}

Direct Instruction and Learning Science

icon-e-learningKristi Bronkey had a nice article in Faculty Focus yesterday entitled “Re-Thinking Direct Instruction in Online Learning.” She noted that while direct instruction had a bad reputation associated with passive learning, it did not have to reflect passivity. She suggested a model framed around the notions of “I Do, We Do, and You Do.”

  • I Do – Direct instruction by faculty using screencasts
  • We Do – Faculty guided student processes with frequent feedback
  • You Do – Students working together in authentic group processes

Kristi noted:

“Direct Instruction should be an ongoing exchange between professor and students. With effort, creativity, and the intentional use of the I Do, We Do, You Do structure, we can present new information in engaging ways, provide guided feedback as students strive to draw meaning from their new learning, and allow students the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues before independently reflecting on their own learning.”

How Learning WorksI was struck by the parallels between Kristi’s article and the research Susan Ambrose and her colleagues published (2010) in How Learning Works: Seven Researched-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.

Kristi noted that for “I Do”, faculty could use short screencasts to help students make connections between the reading assignments and bigger picture aspects of the topic being discussed. She noted that this allowed students to “hear our thought processes.” This aligns nicely with the Knowledge Organization principle:

“How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.”

Students do not have the rich knowledge structure and associated connections of facts that faculty experts draw on when conceptualizing a topic. Articulating these connections can aid student learning.

Faculty screencasts can also help guide the students in both procedural knowledge and the knowledge of how to employ them – steps towards mastery. Developing a concise screencast can help faculty push past their own “expert blind spot” by clearly identifying skills needed and steps for applying these skills.  This aligns with another principle noted by Ambrose:

“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply them.”

Facts can be dry…but rarely come across as dry when a passionate expert discusses them. Screencasts can provide avenues in which this passion of the faculty becomes evident, and that links to student motivation for learning. As Ambrose noted:

“Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.”

Two more principles can surface in the We Do area of learning processes. Students come to our courses with a wealth of knowledge already, and helping students surface that prior knowledge influences how they filter and process what they are learning. If they lack sufficient prior knowledge, learning can be negatively impacted. The facilitative nature of We Do can help engage prior knowledge.

“Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.”

Kristi’s article also discusses the use of frequent feedback. Ambrose noted that learning is best fostered when students engage in practice that is directly linked to learning outcomes, set at an appropriate level of challenge, and is linked to specific and explicit feedback.  As Kristi noted, feedback does not simply have to summative – it can be used formatively during learning processes to guide students to higher levels of achievement.

Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.”

In the final section of Kristi’s post, she discusses the independent nature of You Do in online learning, but advocates for a mix of group activities and independent metacognitive reflection.  Tackling the potential for isolation addresses another principle noted by Ambrose:

“Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.”

The reflection on their own contribution to the progress of learning also aligns with the final principle noted by Ambrose:

“To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.”

learning_graphicI like Kristi’s call to action for online professors.  We would not want passivity in our students, and we should not allow our delivery to be passive.  Incorporating the concepts of I Do / We Do / You Do as a mindful approach to course design can not only help keep students engaged, but also better incorporate aspects of learning science that we know from research lead to more effective learning.

{Graphics: EuroMedia, Jossey-Bass, John Hopkins University}