Innovation in Pedagogy Summit

Newcomb HallYesterday, Joyce Kincannon and I traveled up the road to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia for their second annual Innovation in Pedagogy Summit. We spend a good deal of our mental energy in our learning center focused on innovation in teaching and learning, and so this was an opportunity to see now another university might approach both the topic and the process of faculty development around the topic.  This full day event was a collaboration between the UVa College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Teaching Resource Center, the Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost, and the 4-VA Collaborative, and we appreciated the invite!

During the morning, six faculty shared their innovations in teaching with their peers, while the afternoon was devoted to José Bowen, author of Teaching Naked.

In many ways, what we saw from faculty were concepts we have advocated for the past few years…yet these concepts seemed new to many in the room.  We saw Ran Zhao’s Elementary Chinese course that incorporated student-created videos as assignments, Claudrena Harold’s African American studies course which scaffolded mini-assignments before sending student groups out to interview and archive alumni perspectives, and Brian Helmke who welcomed student use of Google before and in his lectures.  Mark White discussed the use of spoken stories to motivate students, Stephanie Van Hover used Structured Academic Controversy to encourage the use of multiple perspectives in class discussions, and Dave Kittlesen illustrated how low-tech paper handouts can help students conceptualize difficult genetic concepts.

While the focus for the morning was “engaging students”, I was struck by how few faculty in the room had devices to connect to the internet during these morning presentations.  It appeared that digital engagement was lacking.  There was no established hashtag for the summit, and little advocacy was apparent for digital engagement – other than demonstrating how a few faculty used digital connections with their students.  It hit me as an interesting missing element at an “innovation” summit…or else it highlighted that the web is so much a part of me that I am surprised when it is not a part of my colleagues.

ALC 4110 Learning Studio

During lunch, each table had a “theme” assigned.  I sat with folks who wanted to discuss “collaborative spaces” as a new breed of classroom.  I shared information about our Learning Studio – carefully designed by my colleague Jeff Nugent – which seemed in line with some proposals UVa is considering.  Our Learning Studio is a state-of-the-art classroom that has been designed to support VCU faculty members and students in their exploration and study of new learning spaces. Located in the Academic Learning Commons, the Learning Studio contains a wide array of technologies and furniture that combine to provide unique opportunities to enhance teaching and learning.  For larger classrooms, José Bowen shared a view of a traditional tiered large classroom in which all desks had been removed and replaced with “Learn2″ chairs on wheels to facilitate small group work.  This also aligned with changes being considered at UVa.  As the welcomed outsider, it was interesting to hear faculty discuss new ways of conceptualizing class spaces with no clear “front of the room.”

Teaching Naked bookFor me, the highlight of the day was José Bowen‘s afternoon presentation.  He is the author of Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of the Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.  I was expecting a “close your laptop” focus, but what I heard was the exact opposite.  I subsequently read a review by James Lang that summed José’s premise up well:

“The book’s title make Bowen sound like a cranky Luddite, a chalk-and-talk professor who wants the kids to put away their smart phones and get their noses back into the books, and then sit up straight and listen to the professor in class.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Bowen actually celebrates the ability of technology to move much of our traditional teaching work out of the classroom, and wholeheartedly embraces a wide range of educational technologies as capable of doing the work of teaching content more effectively than professors.

The flip side to that argument, though, is that once we actually get students to interact with those technologies outside of the classroom, we should be spending our time in the classroom engaging in more frequent face-to-face interaction with them. Bowen sees the classroom as the space where we prove our value as educators to students, and argues that we should not be wasting that valuable space by lecturing students on basic content.  Let them gain first exposure to that content through podcasts, videos, e-mails, Google searches, and so on.  Then let them deepen the exposure in the classroom through human interaction.”
José Antonio Bowen is currently dean of the School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, and was recently named to be the 11th President of Goucher College effective in July.  He is a dynamite presenter, passionate about good teaching and even better learning.  He suggested that much of the focus on technology in teaching has been misplaced … and that the opportunity exists to create “Massively Better Classrooms.”  To do this, he suggests “teaching naked”, which involves:
  • A digital entry point as first exposure to a topic
    • By email, Facebook, or other social media
  • First exposure to the topic through a pre-assignment
    • Short and focused
    • Find open content (or let students find it)
    • Use summary sites like Wikipedia
  • A short writing (a paragraph on index cards…or Evernote) to reflect before class
    • Start with what matters to students…then connect to what matters to you
    • Ask the question not in the summary site
    • Interpretation…not summarize
  • A low stakes exam on entering the classroom
    • Use higher order thinking skills from Blooms
  • A challenging class – not lecture
    • Alter conditions and have students reanalyze
    • Complicate and reframe problems
    • Have students work on problem solving and “learning to learn”
    • Keep it relevant and real world
    • He suggested using techniques from Stephen Brookfield
  • Digital communication after class to reinforce
  • Cognitive wrappers for self-regulation of students
    • Self-reflection by students on time they spent preparing, process they used, and what they might do different next time

José’s focus is that the role of faculty no longer involves providing scarce content.  Technology provides richer content than any of us could provide.  Instead, our role is to prepare students to face the unknown…to be critical consumers of this ubiquitous content.  Students pay a lot for class time…and they should get more than a lecture.  New technology means that we can focus with our students on thinking and integration.

This aligned nicely with a post this morning by Debbie Morrison – “A Not-So-New Recipe for “A New Culture of Learning”“.  Debbie was reviewing a book by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown entitled A New Culture of Learning.  Thomas and Brown suggests that this:

“…new culture of learning actually comprises two elements. The first is massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is bounded and structured environment that allows unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries”.

In this new culture, questions are more important than answers, and students learn through inquiry rather than instruction.  Debbie suggests that this message is not new…but will be new to many faculty.  I would agree.  Our work with our GRAD-602 students reinforced that their concept of teaching is rooted in older models…not this new reality.  José suggested to me that I remind our GRAD-602 students that they are the outliers – successful in the game of school and looking to continue that game.  That no longer matches “the real world” … and José passionately believes we need to help students prepare for this real world – a world of unknowns and a world where unlearning and relearning will be key skills.

So fun day at UVa and a chance to add José to my PLN.


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Sloan Online Conference Days Two and Three

SLOAN Conference logo

An interesting second and third day here at the 19th Annual SLOAN Consortium International Conference on Online Learning.  The second day started early with an 8am keynote by Daphne Koller of Coursera, entitled “The Online Revolution: Learning without Limits.”

Her abstract for this talk made the following points:


“We are at the cusp of a major transformation in higher education. In the past year, we have seen the advent of MOOCs – massively open online classes (MOOCs) – top-quality courses from the best universities offered for free. These courses exploit technology to provide a real course experience to students, including video content, interactive exercises with meaningful feedback, using both auto-grading and peer-grading, and rich peer-to-peer interaction around the course materials. We now see MOOCs from dozens of top universities, offering courses to millions of students from every country in the world. The courses start from bridge/gateway courses all the way through graduate courses, and span a range of topics including computer science, business, medicine, science, humanities, social sciences, and more. In this talk, I’ll report on this far-reaching experiment in education, including some examples and preliminary analytics. I’ll also discuss how this model can support a significant improvement in the learning experience for on-campus students, via blended learning, and provide unprecedented access to education to millions of students around the world.”

Given the hype around MOOCS and her early talks, I was a bit skeptical going in, but she delivered a solid keynote.  She seemed to emphasize that Coursera was in the platform business more than revolutionizing higher education…that Coursera was a good supplement filling a need that life-long learners had – given that 80% of the 5+ million Courserans already have a degree.  She noted that her own degree in computer science was dated, and so the types of courses offered by Coursera attracted (and completion demonstrated) those that wanted to update knowledge and skills.

She was quite proud of the reach of Coursera, noting not only numbers, partners, and courses, but that 14 students in Antarctica were currently enrolled in Coursera courses. #neat! She also made the point that when you reach massive scale, the cost of a course per student approaches zero. She demonstrated some neat applications of both machine grading and peer assessment in physics courses, chemistry labs, and humanities essays.  Of particular note (for me) was a study in which 1200 peer graded essays were also graded by TA’s, and the results strongly correlated.  I thought it was a leap to suggest that peer grading built community, but it is evident that sub-communities do form in Coursera courses.

She took on the issue of retention and completion rates, noting that first of all, completion was not the intent of most.  However, if one measured completion of those who paid and signed up for Signature Track, the completion rates approached 85%.

Sloan07Contrasting her talk was the keynote on the third day, with Anant Agarwal (edX & MIT) discussing “Reinventing Education.” My colleague Yin Wah Kreher captured me madly tweeting during Anant’s talk!  His abstract noted:

“Digital technology has transformed countless areas of life from healthcare to workplace productivity to entertainment and publishing. But education hasn’t changed a whole lot. EdX is a MOOC (massive open online course) initiative that aspires to reinvent education through online learning. EdX’s mission is to dramatically increase access to education for students worldwide through MOOCs on our platform, while substantially enhancing campus education in both quality and efficiency through blended models that incorporate online elements created by the edX team.

This talk will provide an overview of MOOCs and edX, and share student stories that reveal how they are increasing access to education worldwide. The talk will also discuss where MOOC technologies are headed, and how they can enhance campus education. Finally, the talk will provide some recent research results that will allow us to improve education online and on campus, and discuss how MOOCs might evolve in the future.”

I found his talk much more nuanced and positive compared to Koller’s talk.  Rather than “selling” Coursera and pointing to huge (and impressive) numbers, Anant focused on the slower growth of edX and how lessons learned from decades of educational research was mindfully integrated with their approach.  Their first course was one of MIT’s hardest, requiring differential equations and complex problem solving.  They anticipated 2,000 signing up, but 155,000 signed up.  Over  26K did the first problem (indicator of true interest and not “tourist” status}, over 9K passed the midterm, nearly 7200 were certified at the end.  As Anant noted, the press focused on 95% not completing, but he focused on the fact that 7200 completers represented the potential output of 36 years of teaching circuits by the old model…something to be celebrated.  edX has continued to grow and now has nearly 100 courses.

As impressive as the courses and partner institutions are, Anant singled out how other institutions like San Jose State University are using edX MOOCs as “next generation textbooks.”  SJSU’s circuit course that used the MOOC for content and interactions saw a class failure rate drop from 41% to 9%.  Anant saw no difference to using MOOCs as next generation textbooks as he saw in the typical practice of most university courses using a textbook written by someone other than the teaching professor.  Huge implications for both publishing and teaching practice, but this concept really resonates with me!  As Rena Palloff tweeted:

Anant was very proud of the edX platform – OpenedX.  He described it as the GarageBand of education!  The active learning technology that he demonstrated was indeed – as he passionately noted – “very cool!”  He showed a Science of Cooking lab simulation that sizzled when the students cooked their steak.  Homework feedback gives big green checkmarks when work is correct, and green checkmarks have now become a meme on campus.

Overall, the twitter backchannel had some skeptics, but the majority saw this final keynote as a winner.  Well done, SLOAN-C!

Dropping back to Day 2, David McLeod and I did our presentation on “Liberating Students: Harnessing the Power of Open Student-Generated Content.” I have to say that the tech gods certainly smiled on me, as my presentation depended on first the use of Prezi, then playing the embedded YouTube with David’s portion of the presentation, and finally connecting with David at University of Oklahoma by Hangout for the Q&A portion…all in a 35 minute window.  Yet, it all worked perfectly.  I had set my laptop up on top of the podium facing the audience, and during the Q&A, David interacted with the audience like a rock star!

We described how we empowered students to create their own meaningful content outside the confines of an LMS, using WordPress, Netvibes, Protopage, and the creativity inherent in our students to make impacts in student lives…and in David’s case, the wider community.  Our Prezi is below, and I would recommend watching David’s pre-recorded 7 minutes within it, as all of the follow-up questions were directed at his super-innovative Project710 class.

I felt so bad for Lauren Cummins in the session following mine, as the tech gods that smiled on me frowned on her.  She presented on “Social Presence: Creating Online Learning Communities that Empower Student Learning.”   Two doors down from mine, yet she could not connect to her Prezi, and ended up using a Powerpoint hastily constructed the hour before…which was too large for the projection screen, so the words were cut off.  She gamefully pressed on and discussed ideas for creating community. Key was the social presence of both the students and the teacher.  Research has demonstrated that student perceptions of the presence of the teacher lead to higher student satisfaction with the online course…as well as potentially increasing student engagement.

Yesterday I noted that Bill Pelz was awarded a SLOAN Fellow.  At the second day luncheon, numerous other awards were distributed, including one to Kelvin Thompson and Baiyun Chen of University of Central Florida, for their work in faculty development.  I caught up with Kelvin afterwards, along with other BlendKit alums, to discuss BlendKit 2014, which Kelvin is currently developing.

I briefly attended a panel discussion by some of the thought leaders in higher education on “Leading the e-Learning Transformation in Higher Education.”  Most discussed the beginnings of elearning, but I left before I heard any transformative thought…in order to meet up with the BlendKit folks.  I will have to go back and listen to this one, as the make-up of the panel was impressive.

poster2The poster session was lively.  Quite a few posters on a topic that bothers me – processes to proctor tests using video systems.  I know such processes are probably needed…but current state of technology (to me) seems to try and sell a false sense of security.  But as one faculty lamented…if I can just get my students to stop cutting and pasting during tests, that would be an improvement.  With all the amazing enhancements to assessment demonstrated during (in particular) Anant’s edX keynote, it seems that there are better ways to assess students – and use assessment formatively to enhance learning.

<Climbing off soapbox>

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed three days of interaction and engagement with my colleagues at the SLOAN International Conference for Online Learning.  Looks like next year’s conference will be October 29-31 in Orlando.  I understand that the Sebastian Thrun costume was already trending on Twitter as must-wear next year!  I hope to be back.

{Credits: Josh Murdock, Yin Wah Kreher, Britt Watwood}

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Group Reflections on OpenVA

cropped-openva_headerMy colleagues in the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence spent an hour this morning debriefing our experience at the first OpenVA Conference held October 14-15 at University of Mary Washington‘s Stafford Campus.  Our Jeff Nugent was on the organizing committee for this conference, with strong input from our colleagues at UMW like Jim Groom and Martha Burtis, as well as cool outside speakers like Alan “CogDog” Levine and Audrey Watters.  It was a homecoming in some regards for our new Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success, Gardner Campbell, who spoke at several sessions.

In our podcast, Yin Wah Kreher suggested that we use the 4 C’s thinking routine as a guide for today’s discussion.

  • Connections: How does it connect to what we already know?
  • Challenges: What do we find challenging?
  • Concepts: What are the big ideas?
  • Changes: How have our actions and attitudes changed as a result?

All in all, a great learning experience…it will be fun to think about how “open” continues to impact education in Virginia and globally!


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Day 1 at ELI 2011

ELI 2011

ELI 2011

This is Day One of one of my favorite conferences, the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Conference…even though this is only my second one that I have physically attended.  As usual, the tweeting using hashtag #ELI2011 has been superb, such that I have interacted with attendees in my sessions, other sessions, and those not physically here (and this is how I attended the last few years).  I have to admit that it is nice actually being here, as it has given me an opportunity to catch up with some friends I have not seen in awhile.

One of the first tweets I saw was this one:

eli_tweetMaybe they will be collector’s items, as mine starts with page 19-36, and then has pages 1-18.  As they note, the content IS correct!  Good to see a sense of humor at play.

Only a half day today, but some good sessions.  The opening general session featured Eric Mazur discussing his use of clickers to engage students in his physics classes at Harvard.  He noted that when he first started teaching in the 1980s, he never questioned “how” to teach – he assumed that he would teach in the same manner in which he had been taught, using lecture.  He came to see that lecture was good for DELIVERY of information, but that the assimilation of learning was left to students, and that was the hard part.  He learned that data from the Force Concept Inventory showed that many physics students showed little gain in knowledge during introductory classes, and when he tested his own Harvard students, they matched national results.  He then went to using clickers and peer teaching, which showed significant gains in learning and retention of knowledge. Mazur went on to note that the specific technology was not important – technologies come and go – but the use of peer teaching helped move the learning from shallow (what do I need to pass the test) to deeper learning (what does this concept mean).

For my second session, I listened to Amy Campbell, Samantha Earp, and Edward Gomes of Duke University as they discussed the process Duke had used to decide on a new LMS as their license with Blackboard expired (or as Edward noted…how to make someone on campus continually mad at you).  Their 15 month process is documented at E-Learning Roadmap.  Interesting, they narrowed their move from Blackboard 8 to one of three solutions – Blackboard 9, Moodle, or Sakai.  They ultimately settled on Sakai, but less for functionality than for strategic reasons.  As they saw it, Bb 9, Moodle and Sakai represented a three-sided coin…little real differences in functionality.

Finally, I checked out some of the poster sessions.  Three caught my eye.

  • John Fenn of University of Oregon discussed his use of student generated content and remixing of student work through blogs, Diigo feeds, and YouTube for collaborative learning.
  • Jeff McClurken and Martha Burtis of University of Mary Washington discussed how they teamed faculty, an instructional technologist, and students to develop group digital history projects.  It was also an opportunity to talk to Martha about the work she and Jim Groom are doing in their Digital Storytelling classes (check the twitter hashtag #ds106).
  • Joseph Madaus discussed a University of Connecticutt project to apply Universal Design for Instruction to their online and blended classes.  Joseph noted that many think of physical disabilities when exploring UDI, but in fact the larger audience is students with learning disabilities.

The last session of the day was the annual rollout of the NMC annual Horizon Report. For nine years, the New Media Consortium has tracked new and emerging technologies for teaching and learning.  Near term technologies are already pretty evident – ebooks and mobiles (one only need look around this conference).  Mid-term (2-5 years) will see more use of augmented reality and game-based learning.  More far term will be the emergence of gesture-based computing and learning analytics.

Looking forward to a full day tomorrow.

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Reflections on Faculty Academy 2010 – Part Two

Yesterday, I posted about my reflections after attending the first day of University of Mary Washington‘s Faculty Academy 2010. I will finish up with some reflections on the second day here.


The first morning session on day two had two presentations.  Raul Chavez and Lisa Ames discussed their use of a Ning social network they had constructed which linked business students with alumni and local businesses.  Their Ning, Project Management Student and Alumni Network was primarily constructed for instructional use,  but two-thirds of the members were graduates of the program networking for jobs.  I asked about their plans given the recent announcement about Ning dropping free sites, and they stated they planned to continue it at least through the next year but at the mini-level.

The other presentation involved Melanie Szulczewski’s use of class blogging to encourage students to connect with the relevance of their studies.  In her undergraduate course on Global Environmental Problems, she had her students look for and post both reflections on the course topics and new resources they might find.  What was fascinating was how the rhetoric in her class changed from passive to active as her students became engaged with the topics and each other.  From reducing meat consumption to eliminating the use of bottled water, her students moved from personal action to evangelists urging others (family, roommates, even Congressmen) to take action.  I also liked how Melanie used Awesome Highlighter to mark up her student blogs and provide feedback.  It was an interesting study in both social media and learning.

Julie Meloni returned to provide a third keynote on “System, Self, and Society: Understanding and Controlling the Rhetoric of Information.”  Her talk was fascinating as she discussed the underlying code of the web and how the choices made by individuals were in a way rhetoric.  As she noted in her abstract, “…our collective experience has likely shown, the concept of the digital native is little more than a polite fiction.”  That started an interesting backchannel debate on the efficacy of the concept of digital native.  I liked the fact that Julie used her own freshmen students to debunk the concept.  However, Derek Bruff defended Marc Prensky’s original use of the term, stating that the whole tech savvy emphasis had been tacked on later.  Tom Woodward noted by tweet that the digital native term is an over statement that encourages a false divide, a divide that helps no one.  I hope Derek follows up and blogs about this as he promised!

I found one comment by Julie insightful when it comes to this concept of shared learning on the web.  She said that it was not her place to tell students where to go, rather it was her place to tell them where they could go.  Interesting and subtle difference.  Importantly, she works to educate her students towards understanding the ramifications that their individual choices online have.  Jim Groom summarized this concept nicely with his comment that he tells students to get their own space and not be a sharecropper online!

The next session was a panel discussion on Is Digital Scholarship Really Scholarship? by Zach Whalen, Steve Greenlaw, and Jeff McClurken.  As much as I expected three YES’s, they really were tentative in their presentations.  They showed what I would consider some great digital scholarship, such as Zach’s dissertation morphing online, or Steve’s scholarship of teaching and learning, but seemed to fall short of declaring it scholarship themselves or something that would be recognized as such by their peers.  As Zach’s grandmother questioned, did he write a real book or some online thing?  I offered up the definition from ISSOTL which defines scholarship as follows:

… an act of intelligence or artistic creation becomes scholarship when it possesses at least three attributes: it becomes public, it becomes an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community, and members of one’s community begin to use, build upon, and develop those acts of mind and creation.

It seemed to me that the examples they were showcasing fell into the broad categories of public, evaluated by one’s community, and used to build upon.  Jeff cracked me up when he noted his next book would be considered scholarly because it had a colon in the title!  Steve stated that he was less interested in going the book route in the future because the turnaround time was too slow and paper just did not engage him like hyperlinked text did.

Mike Caulfield did a session on integrative course design.  Biggest takeaway was his use of De Fink’s taxonomy rather than Bloom’s taxonomy as an aid in course design.

The final session was by Andy Rush on the use of web video.  He has an excellent list of resources on his center blog.

So, two days of informative presentations, excellent networking, and engaging colleagues.  I am still digesting all that I took in…and look forward to seeing how others who were there blog about the experience.

I said before I went that UMW’s Faculty Academy always re-energizes me, and this year was no different.  My hat is off to the wonderful faculty and staff at Mary Washington…thanks for helping me get my learn on once again!

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Reflections on Faculty Academy 2010 – Part One


For the third year in a row, I had the opportunity to attend the University of Mary Washington‘s annual Faculty Academy with my colleagues Jeff Nugent and Bud Deihl.  This was the fifteenth year in which UMW faculty have shared their creative ways of using technology in teaching and learning.  It has been interesting to watch FA evolve over the past three years.  It has gotten smaller but more intimate.  Bud Deihl noted today that it has shifted from faculty evangelizing about technology to more of a demonstration of how creatively their students have used technology in the learning process.  I saw a good deal of that, but I also saw faculty generating conversation around both their ideas and their concerns.  In other words, it was a very healthy discussion about teaching and learning with technology.

With so much packed in to two days, I suspect I should do this reflection in two parts.  Somewhat arbitrarily, I will stick to day one and day two.  So here are reflections on day one.

The very first session was a panel discussion with Steve Greenlaw, Janet Asper, Teresa Coffman, and Marie McAllister on “Is Course Design Only for Online Courses?”.  The genesis of this session was Joshua Kim’s Inside Higher Ed post on “The Primacy of Course Design.” Kim listed 8 fundamentals for solid learning design, and noted:

“Fully online courses, and programs, have the advantage that the LMS is the only classroom available. Online faculty are willing to go through a course design methodology as part of their compensation for preparing to teach online.”

The question looming for this panel – are not these same fundamentals necessary in face-to-face instruction?  Their answers appeared to be “maybe.”  They seemed to all recognize that Kim’s fundamentals are “good,” but they went back and forth on how explicit they were in their teaching.  One noted that her winging it was possible because of her years of experience.  Another noted that she would like to be more explicit, but that took time – time she did not have.  It was noted that there were good online courses and bad, just as there were good f2f classes and bad.  Design is part of the mix, but as Jeff tweeted to me, teaching practice and interactivity are as important if not more so as design, whether online or in a classroom.  I liked Steve’s closing point that his design was based on “how will class time be used” to achieve learning objectives rather than focusing on the content or the technology.

As usual, UMW FA 2010 brought in some wonderful keynote speakers.  The first was Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia, who spoke on the Googlization of Higher Education.

Siva is currently finalizing a book on Google, and noted how hard that project was, as Google continued to change and morph.  His talk focused less on Google per se than it did on an emerging culture in which Google is embraced by both faculty and students.  He stated that in the rush to adopt new technologies, we in higher education should not reject centuries of wisdom in the educational process.  There were some interesting comparisons between the corporate Google and institutions of higher education.  He suggested that universities had sprung from monasteries, which were essentially big piracy machines copying others’ work!  Google’s founders were children of academicians whose culture mimics in many ways the academy (with many members coming straight from academia).

Siva argued against the findings of two recent books: Jeff JarvisWhat Would Google Do? and Anya Kamenetz’s DIY U.  While higher education definitely needs updating, Siva saw it as wrong to simply throw out the educational process in favor of just-in-time self-development.

google sign2

Siva spent most of his talk on the googlization of students, research, and education.  He noted the huge shift by institutions towards cloud computing, GMail for students, Google Scholar, use of Google Docs and Google Reader, and asked the question – do faculty and students understand the vast data mining going on behind their use of these Google systems?  I would opinion that the answer is no…including in many ways myself.  He asked for a show of hands of who present (and it was a fairly tech savvy group present at Faculty Academy) had taken the time to modify their settings in Google regarding privacy?  Out of the room, maybe 3%-5%.  So if the Google default is the maximum vacuuming of data, are there issues with that?  Of course, Google is not the only one – Facebook has been in the news lately regarding its own data mining and privacy settings, with the default again being wide open (See danah boyd’s reflective piece on Facebook and “radical tranparency” (a rant)).  Like danah, Siva saw Facebook as out of control compared to Google.  Just look at this graphic from FastCompany on Facebook’s privacy settings! (Click here for enlarged view)

FB_privacysettings3Much to think about…and it raises questions for those of us in faculty development as to how to address these questions.

Equally thoughtful was Mike Caulfield’s session on Learning in an Age of Just-In-Time Instruction.  Mike’s abstract stated:

People with no IT background installing complicated computer systems in a single afternoon. Amateur chess players beating both grandmasters and supercomputers using off the shelf software. Your spouse cooking a meal like a master chef — without any formal training. Coworkers communicating to someone across the world in a language they are just encountering for the first time. This is not science fiction — it is the average person’s life today, in 2010. Just-in-time instruction is the hidden revolution that has already radically changed how we live.

Mike started by suggesting that higher education was marked by the banker model of instruction, where people come to IHE’s to bank and save knowledge that they might need in the future, when they can call on that knowledge and withdraw it.  His abstract and talk gave examples of how the web has flipped this model so that people can  search for needed information and train themselves as they need that training. Mike had the room research how much electricity we would need to cut to equal the carbon savings if we switched to a vegetarian diet.  It was fascinating to see how the different tables came to similar answers…with little questioning of the veracity of the websites we used (back to Siva’s talk).  On Twitter, there was an interesting side conversation by those not present on whether we would want our doctors using just-in-time instruction…and some agreement that – YES, we want our doctors using the web to stay current in the fast changing medical world.  Mike suggested that the liberal arts are about discerning truth…and that remains relevant in a world of informal learning.


A side comment by Tom Woodward nearly brought tears to my eyes.



The day (for me) ended at a session led by Julie Meloni, a newly minted Ph.D. from Washington State University.  Her session was on the basics of Twitter, though it did not get into instructional uses to the degree to which I desired.  Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear her discussion about the grammar and rhetoric of Twitter – themes she continued the next day in her keynote.  She did introduce me to Twapper Keeper – a neat tool for archiving tweets.

Energy running out, so will complete this post and come back to reflect on day two.

{Photo Credits: Martha Burtis, psd, Dan Nosowitz}

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Unicorns in a Balloon Factory

Just completed the first day at BbWorld 2009 in Washington DC.  The setting has been wonderful – the new Gaylord Resort in National HarborBud Deihl and I are attending together and it has been fun hearing his perspective on the various sessions.

There has been an active Twitter backchannel linked here, so check that out.

Seth Godin of Tribes fame gave the keynote, substituting for Sir Ken Robinson.  While I hated to miss Sir Ken, Seth gave a great talk.  In many ways, it was an expanded version of his TedTalk earlier this year.  But one take away was that education was the one industry Ben Franklin would have no problem recognizing.  He likened those of us in education to workers in a balloon factory.  It is nice work and we enjoy creating our balloons, but every now and then, a unicorn comes along and makes us nervous.  I would like to think that our work in online learning is one of those unicorns…and I kind of like the analogy!

After the keynote, I attended “Back to Basics: Five Elements of Exceptional Technology Enhanced Learning,” by Stephen Laster, CIO, Harvard Business School.  It was a good session and about 120 attended this session.  His five elements:

o Styles
* Learning Styles
* Cannot give every student every choice, but you can drive expectations on how learning will be delivered
* Also consider Teaching Styles
o Designs
* Course design is like creation of symphony
* A flow that comes naturally
* Design starts with objectives and outcomes and navigates based on learning and teaching styles
* BIg Question – How much mass customization can be support?
o Context
* Relevance
* While not perfect, students are pretty good at finding info
* My comment to him – all learning is now online  – he agreed
o Community
* New notion of teams
* Tribes
* Collective learning models
o Adaptability
* Leveraging Unplanned Opportunities
* New communication norms

Laster suggested that these elements gave a common language that geeks and non-geeks could get behind.  He did note that there was no need to mention technology – that technology should now be assumed to be transparent.  He also suggested that the overhead in education is administration, and that the internet makes higher education ripe for consolidations.

Jarl Jonas of Blackboard discussed Creative and Proven Ways to Keep Students Engaged.  It was somewhat a sells pitch for Release 9, but I did agree with his roles of instructors in an online class:

o Space Planner (Suggested students see our classes as blindfolded musical chairs)
* Consistency, flow
* eClass online model – Explain, Clarify, Look, Act, Share, Self-Evaluate
o Host
* First Impressions
* Keep Out the Welcome Mat
* Banners
* Orientations
* Icebreakers
o Pace Setter
* Manageable Segments
* Vary Discussions
* Individualize
o Connector
* Connect to Content
* Alternative Assessments
* Connect to Each Other
* Students as Teacher
* Groups
* Blogging
* Connect to Faculty
o Mirror
*Model what you are expecting of students

The corporate keynote after lunch was focused on welcoming Angel, as well as discussing strategic direction for Blackboard NG – universal access, increased ability to measure results, and increased mobile applications.  Ray Henderson discussed customer support and transparency, and Michael Chasen announced that Blackboard had just acquired TerriblyClever Design, creator of the iStanford mobile phone apps.

We attended two more sessions in the afternoon.  The one on Constructivist Approach to Distance Ed showcased some interesting use of videos but never really discussed constructivism.  The other was on faculty development and why faculty fail to come to training.  Their bottom line was that one cannot force training, so they have shifted their efforts to web tutorials and tip sheets.

We wrapped up the day at the poster receptions.  Bud and I talked to some interesting folks from Valdosta State University (smartphones in ed), West Virginia University (course design), and Texas Womens University (Quality Matters assessments).

Looking forward to tomorrow – Bud and I are on first thing in the morning discussing weaving the social web into Bb to make it more of a learning portal.  I hope we pop some balloons!