Other Tools to Consider

In my ILD831 class for Creighton University this week, my 12 students will be looking at digital tools.  Using Jane Hart’s C4LPT Top 200 list as a starting point, they self-selected the following tools to explore and analyze from a leadership perspective (number indicates rank on the Top 200 list):
digital tools

As part of their analyses, they will be factoring in insights as they start to read David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know, as well as thoughts on an interview with Clay Shirky on the disruptive power of collaboration.  Their analyses will appear later this week in our Netvibes class page.

It is always interesting to consider the tools not selected by students as those selected.  Jane this year has divided her Top Tools into three sub-lists – Personal Learning, Workplace Learning, and Education – and noted the following:

  • “Individuals continue to reap the benefits of the opportunities offered to them on the Web to learn in all kinds of ways – both planned and unplanned, formal and informal, through content and people, online or on smart devices.
  • Education is also making use of a wide range of multi-purpose web-based tools – probably because they are free and easy to use – alongside dedicated educational tools.
  • Workplace learning, however, is still largely dominated by the use of traditional commercial tools for creating, delivering and managing e-learning. However, there is increasing use of new-style content development tools and greater use is being made of tools for social collaboration (and social learning) within work teams and groups.”

My class has business and non-profit executives, teachers and education administrators, military, corporate trainers, and healthcare managers.  What I will find interesting is not what tools they chose or how they might use them, but “why?” they might make a choice.  As an interdisciplinary group, I know we will learn from each other.

I found Jane Hart’s observations in each sub-group insightful.  Professionals reported to her that they were using digital tools to search and research the web, learn from others, aggregate and curate resources, store and sync their various files, and increase their productivity, using a variety of smart devices.  They reported a lot of experimentation on their own before they might bring a tool into the workplace or education.

In workplace learning, it was interesting and somewhat comforting that the number one tool was still Powerpoint.  As my students know from watching my class videos, I lean towards Prezi myself, but Powerpoint has advantages, not the least being accessibility.  Workplace tools included authoring tools, asset development tools (like infographics that I have played with), course management tools, and webinar tools. There is increasing use of time-line authoring tools, audience response tools, social tools, and web conferencing tools. I found it interesting that Jane noted the decreased use of FREE tools.

The opposite trend appeared in education, where free tools continue to be widely used along with commercial products.  Tools that increased interactivity were particularly popular.

Right Tool

After 10 years of reporting the top tools, one thing that remains in my thinking is that tools come and go, but the processes seem to become more focused and defined.  The specific tool is always less important than how and why it is being used.  I look forward to hearing what my students have to say this week!

{Graphics: kelcyc, Bob Crumb}

My Current Top Tools

Jane Hart Top 100Jane Hart tweeted that her 8th annual survey of learning professionals was out for her Top Tools for Learning 2014.  I always find this list interesting and a great resource to share with my students.  I regularly use quite a number, and have at least played with all but 18 of the top hundred.  Last year’s list is available on her Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies website.  I have embedded her slideshow from last year here:

The last time I submitted my top ten tools to her survey was in 2012, so it was interesting to first develop my list for this year and submit it…and then go back and reflect on how this list might have changed from what I submitted in 2012.

My top toolsWhat is both interesting and maybe a little alarming for me is how little this list changed in the past two years.  The order is a little different, and Google Reader was replaced with Feedly…but the functionality is the same.  Facebook dropped off and the iPad was added.  Two years ago, I stated:

“…these are my top tools for learning “at the present moment” – but I do see shifts occurring in the next year.  I think this is the first year that I have not listed my learning management system (Blackboard) in my top ten, which is pretty telling on its own.  My home institution has moved to Google Apps for email and productivity, so potentially I will shift from using Dropbox to Google Drive, which folds in another favorite tool of mine, Google Docs.  As we all move to more open platforms and mobile friendly applications, some of the above will evolve as well.  I did not list smartphones or tablets in my top ten, but I am increasingly aware of how well my tools work (or do not work) on mobile devices.”

Well…two years have passed… and I have certainly moved beyond Blackboard.  I regularly use Google Drive and the associated docs…but continue to think and use Dropbox first.  Wherever I go these days, my iPad and iPhone are handy…which I use for note-taking, research, and photos.  In fact, the panorama feature of iPhone camera is another favorite.

Reflecting on the evolutionary changes occurring on the web, I think that I have moved beyond “tools” to practices.  I do have my second top ten list that I use almost as often as my top ten…

And two that were on last year’s list that look interesting and were introduced to me by students were Udutu and Trello.  I continue to check out tools…

…but it is the practices afforded by the open web that continue to excite me – not the tools.  (My grammar colleagues tell me “practice” has no plural…but my mind refuses to accept that…)

practiceBy practice, I mean working and learning in the open.  The web (and these tools) are no longer separate entities from my work / life experience.    I met with some colleagues this morning for coffee, and we were discussing the visit this week by Christina Engelbart of the Doug Engelbart Institute.  In many ways, the top 100 tools for learning simply provide evidence of what Doug Engelbart visualized as “augmenting human intellect.”  The tools have become as much a part of me as the clothes I wear…and as such, the use seems to have become second nature and unconscious.

That said, I still find value in Jane crowdsourcing the top tools.  Seeing what might surface provides new ways of thinking about teaching and learning in a digital age.  If you have not done so, join me in voting for your top tools…and let’s see what all of us develop together.

{Graphic: C4LPT, Allen Interactions}

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On the Horizon

nmc14

I am not at the Educause Learning Initiative 2014 conference this year, but I always look forward to the New Media Consortium‘s annual Horizon Report, in which a team of colleagues from around the world attempt to forecast six key trends, six significant challenges, and six emerging technologies that will impact teaching and learning in higher education.  I had the opportunity to serve on the K-12 Horizon Report Advisory Board in 2011 and 2012, so I know the hard work that goes in to developing these trends, challenges, and forecasts.

For the 2014 report key trends (with the somewhat provocative abstracts quoted) ,

  • The growing ubiquity of social media and the integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning were noted as “fast trends” driving change in the next two years.

“Social media is changing the way people interact,present ideas and information, and judge the quality of content and contributions… The impact of these changes in scholarly communication and on the credibility of information remains to be seen, but it is clear that social media has found significant traction in almost every education sector.”

“Education paradigms are shifting to include more online learning, blended and hybrid learning, and collaborative models. Students already spend much of their free time on the Internet, learning and exchanging new information. Institutions that embrace face-to-face, online, and hybrid learning models have the potential to leverage the online skills learners have already developed independent of academia. Online learning environments can offer different affordances than physical campuses, including opportunities for increased collaboration while equipping students with stronger digital skills. Hybrid models, when designed and implemented successfully, enable students to travel to campus for some activities, while using the network for others, taking advantage of the best of both environments.”

  • The rise of data-driven learning and assessment and the shift of students as consumers to students as creators were noted as “mid-range trends” driving change within three to five years.

“There is a growing interest in using new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measurement.  As learners participate in online activities, they leave an increasingly clear trail of analytics data that can be mined for insights… As the field of learning analytics matures, the hope is that this information will enable continual improvement of learning outcomes.”

“A shift is taking place in the focus of pedagogical practice on university campuses all over the world as students across a wide variety of disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content. Creativity, as illustrated by the growth of user-generated videos, maker communities, and crowdfunded projects in the past couple years, is increasingly the means for active, hands-on learning.”

  • Agile approaches to change and the evolution of online learning were noted as long-range trends, driving change out beyond five years.

“There is a growing consensus among many higher education thought leaders that institutional leadership and curricula could benefit from agile startup models… The Lean Startup movement uses technology as a catalyst for promoting a culture of innovation in a more widespread, cost-effective manner. Pilots and other experimental programs are being developed for teaching and improving organizational structure to more effectively nurture entrepreneurship among both students and faculty.”

“Over the past several years, there has been a shift in the perception of online learning to the point where it is seen as a viable alternative to some forms of face-to-face learning. The value that online learning offers is now well understood, with flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of sophisticated multimedia and technologies chief among the list of appeals…  While growing steadily, this trend is still a number of years away from its maximum impact. Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge asynchronous and synchronous tools will continue to advance the state of online learning and keep it compelling…”

Significant challenges foreseen included:

  • Solvable challenges such as the relative low digital fluency of some faculty, as well as the relative lack of rewards for teaching.

“Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. Despite the widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education and non-existent in the preparation of faculty <…those of us in faculty development would argue that “non-existent” is inaccurate…but widespread adoption is probably accurate>. As lecturers and professors begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.”

“Teaching is often rated lower than research in academia… There is an overarching sense in the academic world that research credentials are a more valuable asset than talent and skill as an instructor… To balance competing priorities, larger universities are experimenting with alternating heavy and light teaching loads throughout the school year, and hiring more adjunct professors.”

  • More difficult challenges, such as the emerging competition from new models of education, as well as the ability to scale innovations in teaching.

“New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education… As these new platforms emerge, there is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction, and assessment at scale. Simply capitalizing on new technology is not enough; the new models must use these tools and services to engage students on a deeper level.”

“Our organizations are not adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways… A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.”

  • Wicked challenges, such as expanding access or keeping higher education relevant.

“The global drive to increase the number of students participating in undergraduate education is placing pressure across the system. The oft-cited relationship between earning potential and educational attainment plus the clear impact of an educated society on the growth of the middle class is pushing governments to encourage more and more students to enter universities and colleges…”

“Many pundits worry that if higher education does not adapt to the times, other models of learning (especially other business models) will take its place…institutional stakeholders must address the question of what universities can provide that other approaches cannot, and rethink the value of higher education from a student’s perspective.”

To determine emerging technologies, NMC grouped technologies into seven categories:

edtech

2014 Higher Ed NMC Horizon Report p. 35

The six technologies highlighted as emerging this year included:

  • Adoption in next year: Flipped Classrooms and Learning Analytics

“The flipped classroom refers to a model of learning that rearranges how time is spent both in and out of class to shift the ownership of learning from the educators to the students… The goal is for students to learn more authentically by doing.”

“Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data”… new ways of applying to improve student engagement and provide a high-quality, personalized experience for learners.”

  • Adoption in next two to three years: 3D Printing and Gamification

“Known in industrial circles as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from threedimensional (3D) digital content… This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) that can be conveyed in three dimensions.”

“The games culture has grown to include a  substantial proportion of the world’s population, with the age of the average gamer increasing with each passing year. As tablets and smartphones have proliferated, desktop and laptop computers, television sets, and gaming consoles are no longer the only way to connect with other players online, making game-play a portable activity that can happen in a diverse array of settings. Gameplay has long since moved on from solely being recreational and has found considerable traction in the military, business and industry, and increasingly, education as a useful training and motivation tool…the gamification of education is gaining support among educators who recognize that effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in productivity and creativity among learners.”

  • Adoption in four to five years: Quantified Self and Virtual Assistants

“Quantified self describes the phenomenon of consumers being able to closely track data that is relevant to their daily activities through the use of technology. The emergence of wearable devices on the market such as watches, wristbands, and necklaces that are designed to automatically collect data are helping people manage their fitness, sleep cycles, and eating habits. Mobile apps also share a central role in this idea by providing easy-to-read dashboards for consumers to view and analyze their personal metrics… Today’s apps not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished… As more people rely on their mobile devices to monitor their daily activities, personal data is becoming a larger part of everyday life.”

“As voice recognition and gesture-based technologies advance and more recently, converge, we are quickly moving away from the notion of interacting with our devices via a pointer and keyboard. Virtual assistants are a credible extension of work being done with natural user interfaces (NUIs), and the first examples are already in the marketplace. Virtual assistants …and their applications for learning are clearly in the long-term horizon, but the potential of the technology to add substance to informal modes of learning is compelling.”

Of interest to me, the framework of the Up-Scaling Creative Classrooms (CCR) project out of Europe was used to identify implications for policy, leadership, and practice related to the identified trends and challenges.  A visualization of the CCR is as follows:

CCR Project

There is a lot crammed in to his graphic…but they do try and show some of the interrelationships between ideas.

Jon Becker tweeted:

becker tweet

… and then later tweeted his own answer with a link to a 2011 study by Martin, Diaz, Sancristobal, Gil, Castro and Peire – “New technology trends in education: Seven years of forecasts and convergence.”  They noted:

“The bibliometric analysis over the predictions highlights that some of the predictions were right, e.g., social networks, user-created content, games, virtual worlds and mobile devices. Other predictions did not have the expected impact, e.g., knowledge Web, learning objects and open content, context-awareness and ubiquitous computing. However, other predictions were successful, although their impact was delayed one or two years, e.g., grassroots videos and collaborative Web. Regarding the application of the bibliometric analysis to the obtained metatrends, the evolution of learning objects toward open content did not seem to be successful due to the low index of publications about open content. However, the metatrend of ubiquitous computing and context-awareness toward mobile devices was successful, according to the high index of publications. Other metatrend that can be considered successful was the evolution from augmented reality toward mobile augmented reality. The increasing importance of mobile devices in education is fostering all the technologies related to them. Augmented reality did not have the expected influence in education in 2008–2010, although, according with its publication evolution, it will probably play a more important role on 2011–2012.”

So, a track record that is not 100% but not bad either.  For our potential future faculty in GRAD-602, as well as our mobile scholars in UNIV-391, this report suggests a future in which they will live and work.

Check out this year’s Horizon Report.  What insights do you gain from this?

 

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Top Tools for Learning (at the present moment)

For six years now, Jane Hart has annually compiled the Top 100 Tools for Learning.  She does this by crowdsourcing the list and having learning professionals in the field provide their top ten tools.  One can submit their top ten tools via Twitter or Facebook or a survey.  The 2011 list has had over 160,000 views on her website and over 560,000 views on  Slideshare.  I have been submitting my top tools over the past few years, and both my list and hers continue to evolve.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ontario_wanderer/3496185271/My top ten tools this year are:

1.  WordPress – a blogging platform that I use and suggest to my students.  I am increasingly seeing WordPress as a potential learning management system that is more open than Blackboard, Angel or D2L.

2.  Google Reader – my main aggregator for feeds from news sites, journals, and blogs.    It seems like RSS is losing steam (or simply disappearing off websites), so not sure how much longer I’ll be using this.

3.  Diigo – my social bookmarking platform.  I continue to use it heavily for personal use, but have been using it less instructionally, primarily again because RSS has become problematic.

4.  Twitter – My social networking platform of choice to maintain loose connections with my personal learning network.

5. Tweetdeck – a useful desktop application for managing tweets.

6.  Netvibes – I have used both Google Sites and Netvibes to aggregate student blogs for classes, and my preference is Netvibes, both aesthetically and for ease of use.

7. Facebook – Where the students are…though I have used it more for maintaining connections with past students than for learning with present students.  I plan to play with Facebook group pages for my class this coming year.

8. Camtasia – still very useful for creating short screencasts for my classes.  I tend to point students to Screenr as a free alternative.

9.  Prezi – I have shifted from PowerPoint to Prezi this year and may never go back!  I like the creativity that Prezi allows.  I still use Presentation Zen to guide my Prezi production.

10.  Dropbox – my file service on the cloud.

I stated up front that these are my top tools for learning “at the present moment” – but I do see shifts occurring in the next year.  I think this is the first year that I have not listed my learning management system (Blackboard) in my top ten, which is pretty telling on its own.  My home institution has moved to Google Apps for email and productivity, so potentially I will shift from using Dropbox to Google Drive, which folds in another favorite tool of mine, Google Docs.  As we all move to more open platforms and mobile friendly applications, some of the above will evolve as well.  I did not list smartphones or tablets in my top ten, but I am increasingly aware of how well my tools work (or do not work) on mobile devices.

Thank you, Jane, for continuing to provide this service and for pushing our thinking about the tools we use for learning!

{Photo Credit: Ontario Wanderer}

 

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Sorta Like the Sky

rewiredMy wife was shopping at Jo-Ann‘s Fabrics this afternoon, which meant I was across the street with a cup of coffee and my Nook ereader.  I have just started Larry Rosen’s 2010 book Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.

So far, I am only up through Chapter 2, but I came across an interesting quote in Larry’s book that made me reflect on this past week in our GRAD 602 course.  Jeff Nugent and I are co-teaching this course, Teaching, Learning and Technology in Higher Education – part of VCU‘s Preparing Future Faculty program.  We have 24 bright doctoral students / post-docs in the course.

In his book, Larry examines the way generations approach technology, from Baby Boomers like me through Gen Xers (my daughter gags at that term – “What? Named after a letter in the alphabet?”), then NetGen or Millennials, born in the 80s and early 90s, to the latest generation – the iGeneration.  The newest kids on the block have lots of technologies with “i” in them – iPod, iTunes, Wii, iPhones, and of course, my granddaughter’s favorite, the iPad, as shown below.

ipad_mollyOne of my favorite quotes starts the chapter:

My younger brother, Aiden, is only 7 and already he is doing techie stuff that I haven’t even tried.  And he picks it up so fast.  He was on the web when he was 3 and already has a cell phone and knows how to text me.  I can’t imagine what he will be doing when he is my age.

—Adrian, age thirteen”

I cannot imagine either!

On Thursday night, Jeff introduced Twitter to our class.  None previously had accounts in Twitter, and in fact, many had stated they had no intention to start.  When Jeff told them that exploring Twitter was a component of this class and that they would all have to set up accounts, there was a collective groan from the room.  Some of their initial reactions can be found here and here and here.

Those groans were background noise as I read Larry’s book today.  And while Adrian’s quote was neat, the one that blew me away came from Ashley…who helped title this post:

Larry stated (p. 29):

“I have interviewed thousands of children in both formal research studies and informal settings.  I will never forget an interview with Ashley, the ten-year old daughter of a friend of mine.  I asked her why she liked technology so much.  Ashley looked at me blankly and said, “What do you mean why do I like technology? Isn’t everything technology? I guess I don’t even think about it. It’s sorta like the sky, ya know.  I don’t think about the sky.  I just know that when I look up it’s there. Same with technology. It’s just everywhere.” To Ashley, technology is not a tool to use, as it is for many adults.  It is the center of her life…she most certainly is consumed with it and by it.”

Jeff and I have been introducing our students to various web technology tools over the past five weeks.  As Jeff noted in “No guarantees…“, we have used the 7 Principles of Good Practice as a lens to examine whether to adopt a particular technology or not.  So far, these technologies have included blogging, social bookmarking with Delicious and Diigo, RSS feeds and aggregation, and last Thursday, Twitter.  I think I can safely say that our students do not feel that technology is the center of their universes…though thanks to Jeff and I, they may feel consumed by it!

Yet, these future faculty will be facing (live or virtually) students from this iGeneration in not too many years as they teach in higher education.  Larry’s research found that 16-18 year-olds now spend on average around 2.5 hours a day online, not counting the other media with which they are engaged simultaneously.  They are texting on average around 3.5 hours a day.  Nearly half of all high school students have their own computer in their bedroom.

If one assumes that communication is a key element of their lives, then what does that mean for our future faculty?  How connected will they be with their students?  What will be the expectations of these faculty and how will those expectations mesh with those of their students?  I really do not know, but I see the future as both exciting and a little scary.  Jeff and I both gave our cell phone numbers to our students, yet in six weeks, I have not received one text message from any of them.  Will that be true of their future?  If technology is sorta like the sky, what will that mean for teaching and learning?

As always, if you have thoughts on any of these questions. I would like to extend the conversation.

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iPad – Pass It Around

Our office has a new iPad and we are taking turns playing…I mean exploring its instructional uses.

But I could not help notice the fingerprints after I turned it off (they are not ALL mine!)

iPad_prints

: – )

What Walls Need Tearing Down?

labels

Michael Bugeja’s opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Reduce the Technology, Rescue Your Job,” struck a nerve today.  He started by noting that for “most of this decade, professors embraced the pedagogy of engagement, wooing students via technology and ignoring the costs because traditional methods, from textbooks to lectures, purportedly bored students who multitasked in the wireless classroom.”  He then noted the massive cuts occurring across higher education, and suggested that these “facts alone merit an immediate technological and curricular assessment, or else hundreds more professors and staff members could lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months. You may lose your job.”

Bugeja raised the valid point that too often technology decisions are made without factoring in true costs, but he then suggests that teaching centers (like the one at which I work) are part of the problem for pushing the use of technology for teaching and learning.  His final paragraph reads:

  • “I challenge anyone objecting to these arguments to look in the eye of secretaries, janitors, adjuncts, advisers, and professors of eliminated programs and say that avatars, clickers, social networks, and tweets—and the pedagogies, IT expenses, and teaching centers supporting them—are more important than feeding their families. To believe we can afford both indicates how incapable many of us are of making the difficult choices that the times require.”

It would be easy to dismiss this article if I did not think that his way of thinking was not reflective of many in mainstream faculty.  I have seen a number of faculty in higher education, as well as teachers in K-12, who see technology as an evil.  In many ways, they want to wall off their classes from the outside world.

That image of a wall is particularly relevant today, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  President Reagan has always been one of my favorites, and one cannot think of him without hearing his exhortation:

“Mr. Gorbachev…tear down this wall!”

That is the line most remember, but I like his comments later in the same speech, in which he stated “this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

Bugeja’s comments to reduce technology in order to save jobs ignores the realities of a changing world…much as the Berlin Wall did.  Technology in and of itself is not evil, and technology integrated into education is opening minds, not closing them.  The participatory web and open access to information has created freedoms that never existed in the past.  Those freedoms directly and positively impact learning.  As Derek Bruff noted in a comment to Bugeja’s piece:

“…point out that Bugeja has focused here on the cost of instructional technology, but not on the benefits to student learning. There’s plenty of research that shows that student learning is positively affected by instructional methods that involve more active student engagement before, during, and after class. Technologies that support or facilitate such instructional methods are certainly worth exploring, if our goal is student learning. When conducting a cost-benefit analysis, it’s only appropriate to spend as much time thinking through the benefits as it is thinking through the costs.”

“…if our goal is student learning…”  Well said, Derek!  If one shifts the microscope from technology to student learning, one might find many traditional classrooms in trouble!  President Reagan made his speech in 1987, and during that same period, Chickering and Gamson developed a seminal work on teaching and learning, their Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Instruction.  They synthesized fifty years of research on teaching to develop these principles:

Good practice in undergraduate education:
1. Encourages contact between students and faculty
2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
3. Encourages active learning.
4. Gives prompt feedback.
5. Emphasizes time on task.
6. Communicates high expectations.
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Rather than cast technology as an evil, I would suggest that technology is a powerful tool that encourages contact between students and faculty, provides avenues for reciprocity and cooperation among students, creates new venues for active learning, enables more timely and prompt feedback, and gives new opportunities to keep students on task.  High expectations can now be communicated in multiple ways across social media that students are using, and these diverse and multiple paths respect the talents and new ways our students are learning.

We certainly need to be fiscally prudent with taxpayer and tuition-funded monies, but now is not the time to build walls and isolate our students from a 24/7 wired world.  Instead, we need to actively help our students create the learning networks that they will need to thrive in the 21st Century.

So to Mr. Bugeja and others who agree with him, I say “Tear down this wall!”

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Faculty Development in An Open World

open_bonk

I just finished reading Curtis J. Bonk’s new book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that Wiley, the publisher, emailed me after I reviewed Dan Willingham’s book in a previous post and asked if they could send me Bonk’s book for possible review (with no strings attached).

I said yes and the next week received a copy of this book at no charge.

With that said, this book has resonated with me and I found Bonk’s approach interesting.

In many ways, Bonk is as much a fan boy of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat as I am.  Just as Friedman had ten flatterners, Bonk has ten openers:

Ten Openers: (WE-ALL-LEARN)

  1. Web Searching in the World of e-Books
  2. E-Learning and Blended Learning
  3. Availability of Open Source and Free Software
  4. Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
  5. Learning Object Repositories and Portals
  6. Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
  7. Electronic Collaboration
  8. Alternate Reality Learning
  9. Real-Time Mobility and Portability
  10. Networks of Personalized Learning

WE-ALL-LEARN provides a framework for his book and the premise that anyone can now learn anything from anyone at anytime.  Bonk  spun out chapters on each opener, illustrating each concept with stories, a bit of research and statistics, and implications for education in the future.  Working in the field, I recognized some of the people he named, but I also learned new pioneers.  Bonk continually reinforces that these openers ought to be changing education as we know it, as our world is quite different from our parent’s world.

In Bonk’s view, these openers need to viewed through three overarching trends.  First, the pipes are getting bigger allowing access to tools and infrastructure.  Second, more and more pages of content is becoming available as free and open content. Third, a participatory learning culture is evolving around social media.

One of the things I found fascinating was my own reaction to the book.  I buy the basic theme that openness ultimately improves education, and I consider myself someone who is part of a participatory learning culture.  I was pleased that Bonk provided a companion website with hyperlinked references and other resources.  But my first inclination was to begin following Curt Bonk’s Twitter account…and I could not find one for him!  Other than his blog, I did not see Bonk participating to the same degree that he discusses in his book.  I have never met him and may be way off target, but I was somewhat surprised that I could not immediately connect with him the way I did with some of the people he mentioned in his book like Stephen Downes, Vicki Davis, Clay Shirky or Dave Weinberger.

So I was thrilled with the content and miffed a bit by the author!  Weird reaction!

I also found that increasingly with books like this one, I read it with a laptop nearby, so that I can quickly go look at something new and immediately start the learning process for myself.  I had never seen Dancing Matt before, so really enjoyed viewing his Youtube video while reading that section of the book.  This bouncing between the web and the written word is a new but interesting process…and it suggests that in many ways, this should have been an e-book as opposed to a print book.

His final opener has to do with personalized learning…something we reflect on often in faculty development.  Bonk stated that we should be striving to move from where we see personalized learning as the ideal to a culture where personalized learning is the accepted norm.  With the pipes, pages, and participatory culture, anyone can establish their own learning path on any topic, whether it be improved teaching, learning a new language, or finally programming the VCR (…just kidding).  The implications for faculty development are huge!

Bonk has fifteen predictions at the end.  I will leave it to you to check them out, but I liked that he is questioning the status quo.  With the availability of all the world’s knowledge in our pockets/cellphones, the typical four-year college process no longer makes sense to Bonk.  He suggests that formalized education will expand rather than contract.  But informal learning with global partners will play an equal role to the formalized higher education model.  Learning will be authentic from passionate teachers…but those “teachers” may no longer be credentialed.  Bonk also served up a dozen issues that will have to be solved for openness to succeed.

I work with faculty daily on best ways to incorporate the internet into their teaching practices.  In the past three years since I came to VCU, the access to learning on the web has exploded.  Bonk’s book is pushing me to reconceptualize how I should facilitate faculty development in an open world.  I recommend the book to you and would be interesting in your thoughts on the evolution/revolution of faculty development in these exciting times!

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