SLOAN Online Conference Day One

SLOAN Conference logo
The 19th Annual SLOAN Consortium International Conference on Online Learning (did you notice…I said NINETEENTH) kicked off today.  Our keynoter this afternoon brought our attention to the fact that SLOAN has been fostering a conversation about online learning for 19 years.  With the Year of the MOOC last year notwithstanding, online learning was not discovered last year!  But more on that in a moment.

Today, I attended three information sessions and the keynote address.  As usual, I was active on Twitter using the hashtag #aln13, so one can get a sense of the proceedings by following the very active tweet stream.

My first session was with Melissa Venable ( and Amy Hilbelink (Ultimate Medical Academy): “Can Existing Quality Guidelines Inform Faculty Participation in Online Course Design.”  Check out their slides.  My take away was that quality is and should be a faculty initiative.  Administrative drivers do not always work well.  They discussed both the QM rubric and the Quality Scorecard, emphasizing that the first was course-based while the second was program-based.  Given my past blog posts on Community of Inquiry, I noted with interest this tweet from Phylise Banner:

I hope to connect with Phylise later to learn more!

My second session was with Steve Ehrmann and others from George Washington University, on Six Design Features of Distinguished Online Programs.  At VCU, we are committed to creating online courses and programs that are “distinctive”, so I wondered how Steve approached this.  He noted that the proliferation of online offerings nationally has led to commodity online education.  Learners have access to dozens of programs that are indistinguishable from each other.  They end up competing on size and sizzle.  Like any technological advance, there are positives and negatives.  Depending on audience, online education has increased quality in some programs and seen it decreases in others.  For some, online education has increased access while potentially denying it to the poor, disabled, or remote populations. Steve suggested that new programs need to be both exceptionally good and perceived by constituents as exceptionally good.

Steve suggested six features for programs that might meet these two requirements:

  1. Recruit a dream team to develop and teach the program.
  2. With a hybrid approach, exploit “place” in online programs (though place does not necessarily mean on campus).
  3. Find corporate partners to help make the program distinctive.
  4. Take advantage of scale to create customized learning for each student.
  5. Use small group synchronous activities to create tight bonds with students.
  6. Educate students to thrive in a hybrid digital workforce.

Our excitement of the day came just as Steve’s session was ending, when the hotel fire alarm sounded.  Luckily for those presenting, it was a short lived false alarm, but it cut a few minutes into my third session. Shanna Jaggars discussed recent research into online learning.  She noted that many reference the DoE Meta-analysis study published in 2009, that that study really only looked at 7 research studies of full online courses at four-year institutions.  These studies tended to research small class-size courses at elite institutions.  Her Center for Community College Research attempted to dig deeper at more traditional online students by exploring success in two-year college online courses in Virginia and Washington states.  Her study of 23 courses at two Virginia community colleges using student interviews raised an unexpected issue of students complaining that they really did not know their teachers nor feel their presence in class.  For me, I would question whether this is a factor of “online learning” or one of how teachers are selected, assigned, and supported in teaching online.

Shanna ended her session by suggesting that online teaching and learning could be improved through the conscious use of faculty inquiry and the scholarship of teaching online.  One-oft workshops were not the answer.  Totally agree here, and our CTE Online programs do attempt to integrate the research and the practical aspects of teaching online.

Hal Plotkin of the U.S. Department of Education was our keynoter.  He discussed how online learning aligned with President Obama’s goals for improving education in America. In a somewhat rags to riches story, he discussed his own background and how one event changed his life and led to a career in newspapers after first dropping out of (or as he noted, being pushed out of) high school, then eventually obtaining an Associates degree and Bachelors degree.  He noted that currently, only 7% of the world’s population go on to some college, and that meant the 93% were a hugely untapped potential.  His admonition to us was not to further prop open the door of access to higher education, but to blow the hinges off that door!

Sketch of Keynoter

As Plotkin was talking, Josh Murdock tweeted the above sketch on Twitter. I thought it was pretty cool and wondered if he had done this on an iPad?

Some tweets were pretty snarky regarding Plotkin’s message, but it resonated with me that he called for more open access, more sharing of resources, and less judging of current experiments.  He noted that the current set of MOOCs were the Model T’s of online learning…with better cars on the way.  He also noted that in the rush to develop online programs, we needed to keep the law of the land regarding ADA and accessibility front and center.

The day ended with the awarding of this year’s SLOAN-C Fellow Awards.  It was most gratifying to see my good friend and colleague Bill Pelz of Herkimer County Community College recognized with this national award!

We closed the night with dinner with VCU colleagues at Cat Cora’s restaurant on the Boardwalk.  My presentation is tomorrow.  I hope the internet gods are kind!  🙂



Integrating Teaching and Technology

tptechThis past weekend, I was in my old hometown of Atlanta for the first Teaching Professor Technology Conference.  With only 650 people attending, the conference had an intimate feeling to it.  This was one of the first conferences I have attended in which I knew very few people, but friends were quickly made…and I added to my Twitter PLN.

After the opening plenary, poster sessions, and a day of rapid fire sessions (including mine), I awoke Sunday morning with an interesting epiphany.  Online education actually has become mainstream.  Many of the sessions mentioned online instruction, but the fact that the instruction was online was not the point.  The point was how technology … digital technology … was being used to impact learning.  It seemed everyone at the conference was passionate about learning!

For someone who adopted online instruction before Blackboard was created…this rocked!

Friday afternoon, Joshua Kim, Director of Learning and Technology for Dartmouth and blogger for Inside Higher Education, gave the opening plenary talk entitled “The Teaching Professor in 2020: Shaping the Future in a Time of Rapid Change.  A good talk, yet troubling.  With the increasing use of online education and the fascination this past year with MOOCs, Joshua suggested that higher education is in the midst of a historic shift…and that shift could be one that moves education from relationships with students to mass production of learning content and processes.  He suggested that higher education over the past two hundred years succeeded because of the relationships built between faculty and students (and between students).  In an era when rock star faculty can create a “course” that has 160,000 people enrolled, Joshua suggests that there cannot be an implicit relationship between the individual faculty and individual student.  In some ways, it reminds me of the move industrially from craft manufacturing to assembly line manufacturing – which had both positive and negative outcomes. Joshua suggested that you need those relationships for authentic learning … and stated “Authentic learning does not scale.”

True?  I am not sold that authentic learning is implicitly tied to small class size…but I do buy the issue of relationships.  And I agree with Ollie Dreon, who tweeted:


Joshua suggested that higher education might move in similar directions to the airlines, which have unbundled travel into commodities you buy…or very elite high end first-class travel.  The relationship-creating experiences might become our “first-class” education while MOOCs and low cost competency assessment represent “coach-class” education.  Reminded me of the discussions we have had in our CTE led by Jeff Nugent on the idea of the post-course era.

In a blog post, Joshua noted that his three takeaways from the conference were:

  • Faculty Not Satisfied with the Status Quo – Looking to Improve Teaching and Learning
  • Faculty are looking for Campus Partners
  • A new generation of tech savvy faculty will be the future campus leaders

The poster sessions were held Friday night during the reception.  Fun discussing digital technology while wandering with a glass of wine…might be a model for future faculty development! 🙂

One high point for me was as I wandered by the poster of Erin Wood of Catawba College entitled “Engaging the Change: From Hardback to No Back” and heard her say “We got that idea from the Center for Teaching Excellence at VCU.”  Turned out that Erin was a graduate of VCU and had attended a number of CTE workshops while working on her degree.  At Catawba College, she had pointed her colleagues to our website of resources, many of which they have adopted.  One never knows the impact our group might have…but fun seeing a concrete example.

Saturday, Brian Kibby from McGraw-Hill Higher Education gave the breakfast plenary entitled “Gradually then Suddenly: How Technology Has Changed Teaching in Higher Education.”  I initially tweeted that it was interesting that the conference brought in someone from publishing to talk to faculty, yet Brian gave an uplifting talk.  He stood not at the podium but out in the room, and used no technology (other than a microphone).  One of Brian’s strengths is storytelling, and he wove a compelling story that examines the parallels between changes in publishing and changes in teaching.  In both cases, the “customer” or “consumer” is changing.

Brian’s question was whether the culture at our institutions was one of YES or one of NO when it came to using technology for teaching and learning.  Rather than focus on why one should not use technology, he suggested one look for the possibilities and then make it happen.  He discussed the focus on learning analytics and suggested that if one focuses on results, one is use a lagging indicator.  Instead, he suggested we should look for leading indicators, and engagement might be one of this indicators. (So how does one “measure” engagement in an online class?  Page views, time on pages, eye tracks?)

Brian had a recent article in Inside Higher Education that looked at the question of when will we see the complete digital transformation of higher education in the United States?  He suggests that it is started and will occur in the next three years.  Optimistic…but then again, I am an optimist!

Sheryl Barnes mentioned something on Twitter that I had not caught:

Brian ended his session by discussing MOOCs.  After the session, I talked to him and made the suggestion that McGraw-Hill might want to consider MOOCs less as a new model for courses as much as a possible new model for textbooks.  He seemed intrigued with the idea.

The next session was led by Ike Shibley, Chemistry professor at Penn State Berk, on tips for blended courses.  Ike teaches organic chemistry online…reminding us that the hard sciences can be taught online.  However, given lab components, blended makes much more sense.  Ike reminded us that students were not paying for our time or lectures…they were paying for learning.  He suggested that course design should include opportunities for learning before, during, and after each class.  He uses screencasts to cover lower order thinking levels of Bloom so that he can concentrate on higher order thinking in class.

skifailOne interesting question for online faculty lay in how authentic our learning might be.  His metaphor was that it did little good to spend 45 hours talking about skiing and viewing videos of great skiers…and then for the final exam placing the student at the top of the hill on skis and pushing them downhill.  He suggested a climate of rehearsal in courses…formative assessments tied to authentic outcomes.

This conference had lots of practical applications embedded in the sessions.  One tool that Ike demonstrated was PeerWise out of Australia.  Students use PeerWise to create and to explain their understanding of course related assessment questions, and to answer and discuss questions created by their peers.

A team from Anderson University discussed their implementation of a campus-wide iPad initiative.  They saw their initiative not as a technology initiative but as a learning initiative…looking to change practices for faculty and students.  The tablets open up new possibilities for classroom instruction, but faculty have to rethink class policies about use of iPads in class.  What does one do if students do not bring their iPad to class?  Students get AppleCare and supplemental insurance if they need to replace their iPad, and have the option to buy it if they leave early.  Faculty are issued iPads, but they remain the property of the university.

A good comment made by one of the team is that iPads do not mean business as usual.  It is a new tool suggesting new practices, and for active learning to occur in class, one should have students doing active learning between classes.

Another app that looked interesting is BaiBoard, which allows for interactive shared whiteboard through iPads.

At lunch, Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at University of Illinois and founding director of the Center for Online Leadership and Strategy at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, discussed the Vortex of Technology.  This link is a Google Site page that Ray used as both his presentation and his handout, something I found rather cool. With my aging eyes, it also helped that I could sit in the rear of the ballroom and bring his presentation up on my iPad to follow along – links and all.

One emerging technology that he discussed was LeapMotion, which uses hand movements to replace mouse or touchpads…very cool!  At $80-some dollars, I see a purchase in the near term!

One of the more interesting sessions dealt with cognitive load and screencasting, by Oliver Dreon, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; and Tim Wilson, University of Western Ontario.  I loved Ollie’s comment that an hour-long (or two-hour long) screencast was not a technical problem, it was a teaching problem.  He suggested ways to chunk material into ten-minute videos.  They noted lots of screencasting options, but suggested that for many, screencasting was an opportunity to create poor material.  At the same time, they repeated a mantra I have heard from Bud Deihl, do not let perfect be the enemy of good enough.

My session was on “Preparing Digitally Savvy Future Faculty,” which I co-developed with my fellow GRAD-602 co-teachers, Jeff Nugent and David McLeod.  Around 30 people showed up at 4pm…so I was stoked!  The Prezi is embedded below:

The last session of the day dealt with service learning and social media, a topic that my partner David McLeod will discuss in our presentation at the SLOAN International Conference on Online Learning in November.  Purdue is doing some interesting things with OpenBadges as a way to incentivize service learning.  Another Purdue app that got some buzz was Backdraft, which allows a speaker to create tweets before a presentation and then release them via iPad as they speak to punctuate their talk.  Very cool!

On Sunday morning, I attended two more sessions.  Matt Cazessus of Greenville Tech led a session on student-led blogging.  He used Blogger to create a central class site, and then multiple group blogs with 4-6 student authors in each for online discussion…in both online and face-to-face classes.  He did a nice job contrasting how boring a Blackboard discussion is versus the creativity of student blogging.  I was following the tweets from Jill Schiefelbein‘s session in another room on adding human touch to online classes, and was struck how we were having the same discussion in the blogging session.

My last session was led by Shawn Apostel of Bellarmine University on using Prezi for active learning in a class.  Shawn shares his Prezi’s before class so that students can edit and add questions or resources…which he then uses in class.  He also creates shared Prezi’s for small group brainstorming.  I have used Prezi for presentations and done the shared editing with co-presenters, but had not considered using it in class.  I did learn a new word – Prezilepsy: sickness caused by unnecessary Prezi swoops and dives around the screen.  #guiltyascharged  🙂


Good to be back in the town in which I was born 63 years ago.  Atlanta has grown from a southern town to a megatropolis of over 6 million people.  When I graduated from high school, the blue domed Hyatt in the lower right of this image was the tallest building in town.  Now, I was sitting in my hotel room looking down on the Hyatt!  I left Atlanta to join the Navy in Annapolis, but spent another 7 years nearby when I was at Gwinnett Tech.  So good to come back to Atlanta!

And good to attend a conference exploring the intersection of teaching and technology.  Next year, the conference will be in Denver October 10-14.  I look forward to returning!

{Images:  Teaching Professor, Shelly Duffer, Britt Watwood}

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At SLOAN-C Conference

I am enjoying my second day at the SLOAN-C International Conference on Online Learning.  The program can be found here.  The Twitter backchannel at #aln12 has been lively and fun. What is neat is that no one is dominating discussion, and lots of  voices are being heard:

Twitter stats for #aln12

The theme this year is Online Learning at a Crossroads…and that has been appropriate. SLOAN-C has been holding this conference for 18 years, and yet never in those 18 years has online learning been so much in the news or so diverse (lots of people differentiating between “traditional online” and experiments like Udacity and other MOOCs).

The keynoter was Sebastian Thrun, who discussed his vision for Udacity.  They are offering (a few) high quality courses to the masses for free, and have designed the courses to take advantage of interactive and engaging multimedia content with instant assessment and feedback.  A comment worth noting – this individualized approach allows for one to view his course not as a single class with 160,000 students, but rather 160,000 courses each with one student enrolled.  I thought that was interesting!

I attended some great sessions yesterday. John Vivio’s “Improving Course Interactions Through Analytics” looked at the analytics currently available in Blackboard and how one might use them for proactive interventions with students.  Jeff Seaman discussed the upcoming latest version of the Babson annual survey on online learning, with the interesting comment that after 10 years, there has remained a consistent 12% of academic leaders who do not see online learning as critical for their institution. Alex Pickett and friends discussed “Best Faculty Strategies“.  It was a Twitter moment, but after years of tweeting with Alex, I got the chance to meet her face-to-face!

The first day ended with a plenary panel with Jeff Young of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jose Cruz of the Education Trust, Alan Drimmer of the University of Phoenix, and Jack Wilson of the University of Massachusetts.  Cruz and Wilson hit homeruns, setting a compassionate case for the use of online learning to better this country.  I was disappointed in Drimmer’s remarks.  He seemed to be not as prepared and as eloquent as his fellow panel members, and more apologetic than positive about online learning.  Perhaps this is because Cruz had just illustrated that for-profits had taken advantage of the disenfranchised populations of this country, charging high tuition and setting up high debt without the retention and successful completion of degrees by for-profit students.

Today, in addition to Thrun’s keynote, I attended a great session by my old colleague Bill Pelz, again teaming with Alex Pickett, to discuss SUNY BLEND.

Jeff Nugent and I had good attendance at our session: From Critique to Community.  It is obvious that quite a few of us are trying to figure out the best way to do faculty development for online teaching and learning.  Jeff put out a call for other Centers to think about partnering with us to share best practices and processes.

Our Prezi:

Heading to EPCOT tonight, and then will finish the conference tomorrow.

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Where I Am Going Next Week

Next week, Jeff Nugent and I will be attending the 18th Annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning, October 10-12, 2012, at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL.

This will be the first time I have attended the SLOAN-C conference, so I am looking forward to it.  Jeff and I will be making a presentation on October 11th in the Oceanic 5 room at 2:20pm entitled “From Critique to Community: Exploring Faculty Development for Online Teaching”, which will discuss our Online Course Development Initiative.  I will post our Prezi next week.

Two Days of MARC

I have enjoyed two full days at the 2012 Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Baltimore.  I previously posted materials from our presentation and my Twitter 2o2 session.  By the way, Skyping Jon Becker in for Twitter 202 went just fine, and Jon added some great observations on the personal, professional, and academic use of Twitter.  Thanks again, Jon, for being a part of this session!

Some overall impressions:

Before they disappear, check out the rich conversation that has  been going on backchannel using the hashtag #marc12.  As of this evening, 818 tweets have been sent.  Jeff Nugent clued us on to The Archivist during our Twitter 202 session this morning, and I just used it to capture these 818 tweets and run some analytics.  Looks like we added quite a few new “tweeps”.  I spotted that Derek Bruff was in the top dozen twitterers for MARC 2012…and he was not even here.  The power of a distributed learning network!

Randy Bass gave a great keynote on “Disrupting Ourselves: Cherished Assumptions, New Designs and Problem of Learning in Higher Ed.”  During his talk, I could not resist shooting a picture with my iPad that showed attendees shooting pictures of Bass’s slides.  As Bud Deihl noted, this was not your granddad’s conference!

Last year, Randy talked about the problem of learning in the post-course era.  His talk yesterday continued this notion of the change needed in higher education.  He talked about courses with low impact versus courses with high impact, and noted that in many cases, those courses with little impact are what we in education call “curriculum”.  The high impact courses are internships, capstone courses, student research and service learning opportunities.

One of the more interesting sessions was by Jim Jorstad, the Director of Educational Technologies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, entitled “Making Teaching and Learning Authentic- Engagement Through Social Media in Politically Charged Times.”  Jim showed how video he filmed of protests in Wisconsin and posted through YouTube and CNN iReports were picked up and widely distributed, which for me was simply another example of distributed networks at work.

Today, Terry Carter and her grad student Jonathon West discussed their student research project.  In “Going Digital: Conducting Student Research in Teams with Web 2.0“, her capstone students used a wiki to collaboratively gather data on a real world problem involving hospital readmissions and literacy, which was cool in and of itself.   What blew everyone away was the student generated digital story at the end to summarize their findings, but also give voice to the patients they interviewed (using actors and Flickr images so as to not violate HIPAA.)

John Shank of Penn State discussed “Learning the Net Generation Way: Reimagining Instruction with Digital Learning Materials.”  A good session for faculty wishing to locate and use digital material, but I thought it was light on “learning” and the so-called Net Generation.  I asked about students building their own digital learning material as a way of learning, and it really was not an area he wished to discuss.  Shucks!

The lunch roundtables were interesting.  I sat in on the Analytics table.  There was a mix of conversation about analytics for academic support, such as recruitment, retention, and logistics underlying academic institutions.  I was more interested in learning analytics at the classroom level.  Of note, an IT member of University of Maryland-Baltimore County noted that his institution would be doing some beta testing of Blackboard’s new analytic service.

That should give you a taste of two days worth of conference.  We wrap up tomorrow and catch the train back to Richmond.


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At Educause MARC 2012 Conference

Our entire tech team is here in Baltimore for the Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference.  Bud Deihl, Joyce Kincannon and I are presenting today on our use of online courses to prepare faculty to teach online (with thanks to David McLeod, our CTE Grad Fellow, who helped with the analysis).  Without the words, the slides may not mean alot, but here they are:


Tomorrow, I will be leading an exploratory session on Twitter, while Jeff Nugent will lead a session on polling. Looking forward to the keynotes by Randy Bass and Kathy Humphrey.  Will post again later on my impressions.

ELI 2011 Wrap-Up

ELI 2011

ELI 2011

Back home in Richmond, VA tonight, but my brain is still buzzing from the excellent sessions and networking at ELI 2011.  My post on the first day of ELI 2011 is here.

David Wiley kicked off the second day with a keynote address on Open Educational Resources and Learning Analytics.  Wiley noted that “open” carried many connotations, so he defined it as free teaching materials with the permissions already given for re-use or re-mixing.  He discussed the “Four R’s” of education – Reuse, Redistribute, Revise and Remix.  To illustrate, he went into advanced search in Google and looked for items with Creative Commons licensing, and found over 350 million items.  He compared this to our out-dated legal system that allows us to be stingy on a scale never seen before.  There were chuckles as he compared academics who do not want to share with your basic 2-year-old yelling MINE, MINE, MINE.  From David’s perspective, openness is the ONLY way to do education.

If one shifts the higher education model away from “you must come to us for the learning” and instead acknowledge that the content is already out there, then new business models are possible.  David mentioned Western Governors University and the new University of the People, where students sign up and pay for assesments, but self-organize their own learning groups.  This would not work for all disciplines, but I could see some real advantages to programs where demonstrated performance is part of the assessment.

The real “ah-ha” moment for me was when David began discussing learning analytics.  We are all used to analytics.  If we buy a book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble online, we always see recommendations for other purchases…based on tracking tons of data of previous purchases.  In a similar manner, David demonstrated how he could look at data for a class and track online activity versus time and GPA ranking.  The resulting waterfall of dots was darker for students with higher GPAs (i.e., more time on task online) and lighter for lower GPAs.  Getting to that type of data is difficult for most faculty, but as the latest Horizon Report noted yesterday, learning analytics are on the horizon.  Increased use of learning analytics will allow for the customization of learning for each student…something I find pretty cool!  For David, the combination of open education resources and learning analytics can lead to processes that allow continuous improvement in teaching and learning.

ELI used IdeaScale to gather and rank questions for David.  This was an interesting use of crowdsourcing to set up the Q&A portion of his talk.  One person asked if computers were replacing teachers.  David said YES – replacing them as broadcast machines and allowing them to concentrate on the human side of teaching.

The next session I attended was with Cole Camplese and Barton Pursel of Penn State on Exposing Emerging Pedagogies: Can Web 2.0 Tools Influence Teaching and Learning? In another example of learning analytics, they looked at usage patterns of wikis and blogs at their university by schools and departments.  They noted that their students have expectations not being met by the university.  Students expect a Facebook-like level of interactivity and get Blackboard instead…which is by just about any measure pretty unengaging.  The Penn State dorms have cable TV but the data shows that it gets little use.  Instead, students watch their “TV” on their computers when they want to watch it (not when it is “on”).

The data showed them that schools tended to adopt single platforms and not the range of Web 2.0 tools.  Information tech students like wikis, but science majors like blogs.  They could also see gender differences surfacing.  Women were more active both in posting and in commenting, including continued conversation after semester’s end.  Some courses found greater traction using a course-wide blog rather than individual blogs, though I agree with Gardner’s tweet:

gardnertweetAfter all, Jeff Nugent and I have both had our students blog individually and then aggregate the class blogs into either Netvibes or Google Sites.

I took a break and hit the “power room” to recharge my laptop.  Luckily, Jim Groom, Matt Plourde and Mike Caulfield were hanging out there as well.  We talked about Jim’s current MOOC on Digital Storytelling – ds106 (worth following on Twitter under hashtag #ds106 for great examples of student work).  That led us to recall one of the better storytellers – Tom Woodward, and the video he and Jim did two years ago about RSS.  I have put a link to that video in my current class for this week’s readings on RSS! 🙂

After lunch, I attended a session by Paul Fisher and Danielle Mirliss from Seton Hall University on supporting a mobile campus.  Seton Hall has been issuing laptops for years but now recognizes that the vast majority of students show up with computers in their back pockets (smartphones) with capabilities that exceed those of the older laptops.  Their surveys show that while faculty heavily rely on email as a ways of communicating with students, 60% of their students do not routinely use email – they text or Facebook instead.  The folks at Seton Hall University are looking for ways to capitalize on the technology their students already possess and use.  The definition of “mobile” is changing and evolving, so they want applications that are device non-specific and carrier agnostic.  They showed some neat projects students completed this year using smartphones to capture video and audio (similar to the NPR StoryCorps project). While this was going on, there was a fairly active backchannel conversation about the original “mobile” devices – books!  That prodded Derek Bruff to post “Here’s my (tongue-in-cheek) take on the book as a mobile device:“. Loved it!

Dinner Tuesday night was in an unexpected yet delightful place that many of my colleagues knew…but my wife and I just stumbled on – Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe. Good people, good food, and some nice wines. Plus I checked in using FourSquare to note our good time, and they tweeted back a thank you!  Good food and socially networked as well!

Today was spent at our poster session.  I previously posted our slides here. Valerie Robnolt, Ibironke Lawal, Alma Hassell and I had a good flow of people come by and talk, and we had a chance to circulate around to some of the other posters.  Our colleagues Terry Carter, Joan Rhodes, and Fran Smith had a poster on moving learners into the open, so VCU was well represented.  I also enjoyed talking to Linda Futch and Francisca Yonekura of University of Central Florida about their online faculty development process.  And I finally got to meet Kelvin Thompson of UCF…someone whom I have tweeted with for several years!

So, a wrap up of a very good conference! I know that I have missed some interactions in these two blog posts, but rest assured, it is not because these interactions were not important.  Rather, there simply was a lot to process…and I will be doing that for days!

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Differing Perspectives on Technology

Next week, I will be attending the Educause Learning Initiatives 2011 Annual Conference in Washington DC.  With several members of our 21st Century Literacy Faculty Learning Community, we will be presenting in a poster session the results of our research last spring on differing perspectives of faculty and students to technology.

Click through the slides to check out our findings.  I would be interested whether these results match what you are seeing or surprise you.

Final Day of BbWorld09

Yesterday was the final day of Blackboard World 2009.  It was an enjoyable conference.  I met some interesting colleagues who are all grappling with best ways to teach online.  It was great seeing old friends from Georgia Virtual Technical CollegeTwitter as a backchannel was going strong, and I added quite a few new contacts in Twitter.  The hashtag #bbworld09 allowed us to attend a session but keep up with several other sessions simultaneously.  Yet, as compelling as the digital links were, I think I enjoyed most the quiet retrospective back in the hotel room with my colleague Bud Deihl about what the two of us were experiencing.

Thursday was only a half day.  I started the day the way I start every day – up before the sun, coffee, and a review of emails, tweets, Google Reader, and Facebook.

Before the closing keynote, I attended two sessions.  Kathy Keairns of University of Denver discussed leveraging Web 2.0 tools for teaching, research, and fun.  I liked that she provide her wiki handout link.  She focused on four tools:

– A great screencast tool that I frequently use
– Free but limited to 5 minute videos

– Free online image editing tool
– Works in the cloud, no downloads
– Good for quick resizing, cropping, and neat effects like Polaroid view

– Cute and quick animated video program’
– Text based cartoon – no audio (other than canned music)

– Chat Box on the fly
Just add ‘‘ in front of any URL

After her session, I attended an interesting session by two gentlemen from England.  Mark Kerrigan and Mark Clements discussed using Web 2.0 as an assessment process to improve institution retention and learning.  They noted that students come to college to get a degree, but the reality they find is that they are enrolled in 24 siloed courses.  At University of Westminster, they have integrated a process where by every student is assigned a “tutor” – what we would call an academic advisor.  After every major learning event in each course, the students are automatically sent a questionnaire/ survey, with the results forwarded to their advisor.  The students are also encouraged to blog about their learning journey after each learning event.  The advisors use the survey results and the blog reflections to help the students see the relevance of their course work and the interconnections with their chosen degree.

U of Westminster is much smaller than VCU, yet I could see parallels between their effort and our Focused Inquiry program for first year students.  Their use of social media could enhance our process in which our students are together with each other and the same faculty member for both FI One and Two.  Food for thought!

The closing keynote was Lester Holt of NBC News.  He gave a very engaging presentation on the parallels between how journalism has been evolving and how education has been evolving. One comment I liked is that both good journalists and good teachers are in the business of informing and provoking deeper understanding.  He said that Brian Williams reminded them all the time that they were writing the first draft of history.

He focused on the timeshift that was occurring, where the new generation of students expect and demand both their news and their learning on demand 24/7.  NBC is partnering with Blackboard to provide its archived news material for online learning (details and costs about NBC Learn to be provided later).  Lester noted that he was not a super student, preferring hands-on to book learning.  He suggested that he might have had better grades if he had had the online opportunities today’s students have!

His keynote was upbeat and a nice way to end three days of learning at Blackboard World 2009.

{Photo Credits: Sheila Chandler, Glenn Harris}

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BbWorld09 Day Two

I thoroughly enjoyed this second day at Blackboard World 2009.

Bud Deihl and I presented this morning on weaving the social web into learning while still using the Blackboard learning management system for the things for which it was good.  We used the class that Jon Becker and I taught last spring as an example.  In that class, Delicious was used to share resources found by students.  Wikispaces was used for collaboration and sharing.  And Wimba Classroom was used to bring in both guest speakers and total strangers who connected with us through Twitter.  Blackboard allowed for effective class management of rosters, grades, and safe discussions in the discussion board.  The web allowed for connections with other professionals involved in educational technology in K-12 settings.  It was not an either-or situation but a both-and.

We had around 130-140 people attend our session, and the dialogue was excellent.  Several reinforced our notion that social skills are a necessary literacy for the 21st Century.  When one person remarked that these skills were needed for 21st Century jobs, I reminded all that we have been in the 21st Century for nine years now!  I pointed them to danah boyd’s post from yesterday that nicely summarized some of our frustrations with faculty negativity about using social connections in education.

Needless to say, Bud and I thoroughly enjoyed both our presentation and the rich discussion it generated.

During the day, I attended several other sessions.  Connie Weber of Blackboard discussed the new Bb Grade Center, which has a quite different look and feel from earlier versions of Bb Gradebook.  I liked some features (locking columns, sorting features, special views) but saw other features as problematic.  Where you used to be able to simply click on a student’s name and see all grades associated with that student, you will now have to create a special report to achieve what one mouse-click did in the past.  As with any “progress”, we will adapt and learn to live with it, but faculty traditionally do not deal well with change…and this is quite a radical change!

I was disappointed with the Birds of a Feather session for Faculty Developers.  It turned out that no one was designated to moderate this session, and so after ten minutes of quiet, we all started sharing some practices, but it was not a session in which I gained much.

I then attended a session entitled “Social Networking, Text Messaging, and Web Technologies to Support Web-Based Teaching and Learning.  From the title, I thought the key words were “teaching and learning,” but it turned out the key word was “support” – in that this was a session about Help Desks targeted at other Help Desks.  Interesting use of social media that I sent back to VCU’s support staff via Yammer…but not what I expected.

The final session of the day was our own Sheila Chandler’s discussion of how Virginia Commonwealth University manages its Blackboard environment to ensure 24/7 availability of a system that is now considered mission critical.  I can only add my thanks for our support team who do an excellent job!

The day ended with a Client Appreciation Party.  The look-alike Barack Obama and George W. Bush had to be seen to be appreciated.  As “W” told Bud, he liked his name because he did not need to come up with a nickname for him!  I did complement “W” and told him I voted for him 3 times, and he asked “Which election?!?”  Good food, good humor, good music, and me with a bum knee!  Oh, well!  The conference wraps up tomorrow.  Overall, it has been a very valuable experience.