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}

Call Me Hammerhand

I am still buzzing from all the ideas percolating from SLOAN International Conference on Online Learning, but today my buzz was from two totally unrelated (and yet totally related) blog posts from my PLN.

At the conference, there were many of us who cautioned people to not fixate on the latest digital tools, because the tools come and go, and what is important is teaching and learning.  After all, Jane Hart noted in her 2013 Top 100 Tools for Learning that the Number One tool of 2007 (Firefox) is now #97, and the Number One tool of 2008 (Delicious) has slid to #60 (and one I have abandoned for Diigo).  Things like WordPress or Pinterest or Poll Everywhere are “just a tool.”

How many of YOU have said similar words!?!

So, this morning I am reading a post from Gardner Campbell entitled “Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist.”  Gardner writes:

hammerhand

“There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results … The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” …

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings…”

Let me repeat, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

Which brings me to the second post I read this morning, from Jane Hart entitled “The Social Learning Revolution and What It Means for Higher Education.”  Jane provides the Slideshare below which she used for her closing keynote at the WCET Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado last week.

Jane discusses her latest findings for the Top 100 Tools for Learning, where free online social tools dominate the top of the list.  She also notes that  learning, working and personal tools are merging, and that personal and professional learning is under the control of the individual.  She suggests that in the workplace learning revolution, individuals now have the tools to solve their own learning and performance problems.  The connected workplace with its wired workers – what Harold Jarche and Jon Husband call a “wirearchy” – increasingly demands new skills and practices.

Jane then suggests that what this means for higher education is that it is not enough to just add social tools to instructional practices.  Our students need to build social competence within a Personal Knowledge Management framework to prepare them for the new world of work.  They need to learn how to leverage social tools to solve their own learning and performance problems, as they will be expected to do when they enter the world of work.  Their “school work” should not be done in isolation, but integrated with a professional external network.  Working with this external network, our role as faculty is to help students make sense of what they find in the confusing world of the web – learning how to filter, synthesize and analyze, then encouraging them to share their learning back with their network.  In other words, our role as educators is to help students develop their digital identity.

She asks “How are you preparing your students for this new world of work and learning?”  Which begs the question, how are we in Centers preparing faculty to help them prepare these students?

Gardner’s post has me considering that whether working with faculty or students, when we begin to use a digital tool in our instruction, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

How does our use of a digital tool change us, our students, and the teaching moments?

As I said, my brain is buzzing.  Would love to hear your thoughts….

Graphics: {Recon Construction}

 

 

 

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Re-Imagination of Everything

Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, recently presented at Stanford University on web trends.  Her presentation contains eighty-eight slides full of interesting and thought-provoking information.  Her message is that the evolving web forces us to re-imagine everything.  For those of us in faculty development, it is suggestive of changes that will impact our classrooms – however “classrooms” are defined in the coming years.

Several trends stand out to me:

  • USA adults who own tablets or eReaders has grown from 2% to 29% in three years
  • Mobile internet traffic has surpassed desktop internet traffic in India.  When will that happen in USA?
  • During the recent Black Friday shopping, one-quarter of shopping traffic was on mobile devices rather than desktops, up from only 6 percent two years ago.

This presentation focuses on business, but if the world is moving to “beautiful, relevant, personalized, curated content for consumers,” will not the same be expected in higher education for students?

Meeker has some interesting before and now visualizations in her “Re-Imagine” section.  I do not know that any by themselves are earth-shattering, but taken together, they certainly suggest a world that is evolving at an ever increasing pace, which raises questions on how we adapt.

As always, I would be interested in your views.  What stands out for you?

 

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Is Networked Learning Doomed in Virginia K-12?

classblogsThe Fall semester wrapped up mid-December with my departure for two weeks to visit family in New England, so I never really had the opportunity to reflect on my first use of blogging as a mode for instruction and class communication.  Three grandkids have a way of prioritizing your time!  Now that I have returned to Richmond…and before Spring semester starts, I wanted to think about my Fall class again.

Those who follow me will remember that this fall I had 13 bright Masters students in my ADMS 647 Educational Technology for School Leaders class.  Back in August, I noted that I would have my student blogging into the new academic year, something none of them had done before.  Over the 14 weeks of the class, I had the opportunity to watch each of them evolve and mature as bloggers.  We aggregated their blog posts on our class Google Sites page to facilitate viewing and commenting.  Their first posts were tentative and more like paper essays than real reflections.  Through commenting, they learned from each other and began to add links and then multimedia.  A tipping point occurred when several recorded  personal videos using Jing or YouTube and uploaded them as their blog posts.

I remember that almost all of my students self-reported themselves as technophobes back in August.  That did change.  By December, they reported that they felt confident with using blogs, and more importantly, they were experimenting with new approaches to both blogging and the use of educational technology in their classrooms.  It appeared that they were no longer scared of technology, and in fact felt empowered.  As one of my students said quoting Vicki Davis:

“…I will not be waiting on the fence where technology is concerned. As Vicki Davis had said in the video that I had outlined earlier “we need to stop waiting on SUPERMAN and be SUPERCAN“. I will definitely be looking on what I can do…”

Similar sentiments were expressed by quite a few of my students.  I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this evolution and growth.  I made a point of commenting on each blog each week, and over time, several students began to reciprocate and comment on my blog.  They easily took to commenting on each others posts, primarily since they were already an established community from the summer face-to-face classes.  By the end of the semester, I felt a part of this community, one filled with excitement!

Part of the intent of this class was to expose these future school administrators to the open and public web, with both the opportunities and the threats associated with being a public intellectual.  I was therefore disappointed that with one exception, no one outside the class ever commented on any of my students’ posts.  Over the 14 weeks, these students generated 210 blog posts covering a variety of topics.  Yet, 209 of these posts could have just as easily remained within the walled garden of Blackboard.  Of course, I do not know who outside the class might have read these posts but not commented.  If my blog is any indication, that certainly happened.

I definitely will continue to use blogs as a means of networked learning in future classes I teach.

So if I appeared to develop a class of Web 2.0 explorers, why the grim title to this blog post?  It started with a tweet from my friend Jon Becker last Friday:

becker_tweet.

That link led to a Daily Press editorial “Texting While Teaching“, which reported that Virginia is developing guidelines that require teachers to only communicate with students through official/professional/school-based channels.  In other words, as I read this – not through social media or open Web 2.0 applications.

There was an associated article Saturday in the Washington Post: “Virginia school officials consider state guidelines to prevent sexual misconduct.”  This article notes that these guidelines are a response to a horrific case of child sexual depredation by former Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks.  The article reported:

“Ricks, 50, a former Osbourn High School teacher, was arrested in February and convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy who had been a student at the school. A Washington Post investigation, whose findings were published in July, revealed that Ricks had abused boys over three decades and had infiltrated their lives by plying them with gifts, taking them on trips, staying in touch with them via Internet social networking and throwing alcohol-soaked parties.”

Definitely unforgivable.  However, the reaction by the Virginia Board of Education is that all teachers must forgo the use of social media with their students due to the actions by one.  It would be as if after a male drunk driver killed a nun in Virginia back in August, guidelines were established to ban driving by all males in the state.  I am being cynical, but the knee jerk reaction is similar.

Interestingly, the Washington Post website reporting this proposed ban gives you the ability to share this article through Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social media.

facebook_banIt is also interesting that at the same time these guidelines are being developed, Facebook passed its 500 millionth user.  I watched Lester Holt‘s documentary “The Facebook Obsession” last night on CNBC.  There was an interesting comment towards the end of the show.  Facebook was viewed more as a utility than an application.  One person stated that Facebook is becoming a global infrastructure for communication.

Our children deserve a safe learning environment in school.  At the same time, a role of education is to prepare children for the world they will inhabit…and increasingly, social media is a part of that world.  Guidelines are needed, but flat out bans are the wrong approach.  Rather, a tiered approach is needed to introduce elementary aged children to safe networks, with graduated access as students age, so that high school students understand and are capable of operating in a socially networked world as they reach their teen years.

We have not even reached Facebook’s sixth birthday yet.  Social media and networked learning are still in their infancy.  Yet amazing teachers like Kim Cofino, Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay have shown the potential networked learning affords.  It will take some time to sort through the issues and the rewards.  I find total bans on texting and social networks counterproductive at the very time we are attempting to engage our students in learning with the tools they are already using for informal learning.  We do not ban teen males from driving…we provide driver’s education.  Should we not do the same for social media?

As always, I would be interested in your thoughts.

{Facebook Graphic: Michael Garrett}

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Voices of the Students

voices2At a meeting this week, my colleague Mary Secret was discussing her online classes.  Mary has been an active member of our Online Advisory Committee and teaches both online and face-to-face in our Masters of Social Work program.  She had done research in assessing online classes, and she suggested that it would be good if we researched the “voices of our students” online.  That phrase has stuck with me all week…driven by my own students and some fascinating things that I am seeing them do this semester in my class.

In my graduate online class, ADMS 647 – Educational Technology for School Leaders, we have been blogging weekly around a variety of topics.  My students are all Visiting International Faculty working on their Masters in Education, and none had actively blogged before.  The establishment and development of a blog was the first order of business in our class, and they all successfully started a blog on the open web.  As future school administrators, I thought it important that they spend time on the open web, with all the inherent problems that might create.  As their blogs started, they really had no preconceived notion of what I expected, so their posts took on the format of a paper digitally submitted through a blog. During the first four weeks, the students explored and posted their research on a collection of web tools that could be used instructionally.classblogs

Their blog posts began to show a shift as they reflected on that initial journey.  In a short four weeks, they had moved from being fearful of the web to being enamored with it.  Their successes at posting multimedia presentations through their blog brought home some of the possibilities that this class was designed to showcase.  Importantly, the tone in their blogs became more personal, and the commenting between and among students  increased as well.

Over the past three weeks, we have explored areas that fall in the seamier side of the web, such as the rise of the cyberbully or the slanderous uses of social networking.  We also discussed a perennial sore point – the degree to which the internet is blocked in schools.  It has been eye-opening to the students – all of whom are practicing K-12 teachers. Their blog posts have become more emotional as they internalized some of the issues educators face on the web.  As that occurred, it appeared that for some, simply typing a response was not enough.

So a fascinating thing has occurred over the past two weeks.  Several of my students have begun to record videos where they talk through the issue under discussion for the week.  To be honest, it caught me by surprise.  I am grading their weekly blog posts, and it is actually easier to grade a text-based product over an audio-based one.  I can also read faster than I can listen…giving me an appreciation now on why some undergraduates listen to podcasts at double speed!  Yet, I find that the ability to hear inflections of voice adds a new dimension to these student blogs.

I am glad that they are not all doing it…though it may catch on.

What I do find interesting is how blogging – and the ownership of a blog – changes a dynamic in student-teacher communication.  When I first started teaching online a decade ago, I tended to have weekly discussions in the discussion boards and papers every few weeks, which I would mark up and return with a grade.  The shift this year to a blog format has allowed both the “discussions” and the “papers” to merge into a new format.  My students have been reflective and operating at a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy in their posts.  They have also experimented with incorporation of aspects of Web 2.0 into their posts.  So we have seen, in addition to the videos mentioned above, experimental use of Wordle and Slideshare as aspects of posts.  This has definitely shifted aspects of my class from one controlled by the faculty to control in the students’ hands.  A student-centered approach to learning…what a concept!

It has been 15 years since Barr and Tagg published “From Teaching to Learning” in CHANGE magazine, and yet in all that time, nothing I have done in my classes has had the impact on my teaching that student blogging has.

voices3

This was a cute road sign snapped by Major Clanger on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, between Portland and Beaverton, in Oregon, and posted to Flickr.  What I like about my student voices is that they are very real…and they contain some good ideas.  They use of student blogs is transforming how I teach.

{Photo Credit: yugenro, Major Clanger}

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Next Generation Faculty

My colleagues at the Center for Teaching Excellence, Jeff Nugent and Zach Goodell, have been co-teaching a graduate course this semester here at VCU.  Teaching, Learning and Technology in Higher Education (GRAD-602) is designed to provide students in the Preparing Future Faculty Program with an introduction to contemporary instructional practices and exploration of relevant issues that can serve as both a foundation, and a process for continued growth and development.   I joined Jeff last night as he took their 25 graduate students on an exploration of the changing landscape of learning.

contrast2

Using clickers, Jeff polled his students on their perceptions of whether:

  • instructional technology has fundamentally changed the way higher education instruction is delivered
  • instructional technology has fundamentally changed the way students learn
  • instructional technology has fundamentally changed the way they as faculty teach

The room was a bit bipolar…which made for some very rich discussion.  What struck me was the difference I was seeing between this next generation of faculty and similar discussions Jeff and I have had with current faculty.

In the first place, about half of the students had their laptops open on their tables and used them to check facts or search out new items to bolster their discussions.  The group struggled with whether things had “fundamentally” changed, pointing out on the one hand that the give and take between faculty and students really had not changed, yet on the other hand, that access to information made the give and take different.  International students highlighted that the digital divide was more a case of access to the web rather than access to technology itself, contrasting Africa, India and China to the United States.

What really punctuated the difference between current faculty and new faculty was when Jeff showed the slide below:

web2.0logos

He asked the class to stand, and then remain standing if they recognized and were familiar with ten of the items shown.  Almost the entire class remained standing.  When we have used this slide with groups of current faculty, we usually get no greater than six items where the majority in the room is still standing.

He then asked them to remain standing if they personally used at least five of the items shown.  About half the class sat down, but I was impressed at the number still standing.  He upped the question to personally using at least ten, and then only myself and two others remained standing.  I have to admit that given that my job involves exploration of this landscape, I had better still be standing, but it was also rather interesting that the oldest person in the room was one of the three standing!

Jeff then asked them to stand if any of their professors used more than three of the items in their instruction, and again, only a handful stood.

To me, this was a recognition of the disconnect between where our students currently are (as reflected by this room of bright graduate students) and our faculty in their instructional practice.  I am heartened that the next generation of faculty may break this mold.  Faculty tend to teach the way they were taught, but this next generation of faculty is bringing new practices to the classroom.  They are also asking the right questions about impacts on teaching and learning, as opposed to gadget of the month.

I am looking forward to joining this group as they continue to explore through the semester the intersections of teaching, learning, and technology in higher education.  They are blogging about their journey, which makes for some interesting reading.  Check them out at Jeff’s Netvibes site.

{Photo Credits: San Jose Library, smannion}

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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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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 ‘gabbly.com/‘ 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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I’ll Find Out, Sir!

As I checked my Facebook account last night, a chat box popped up from a colleague from a former institution, Gwinnett Technical College, where I worked in Georgia.  We chatted for a few minutes, and she relayed a nice complement.  She had stopped by our old college to visit with friends and discussion turned to some frustrations with their moving to Angel from Blackboard.  One faculty said, “I wish Britt was still here.  He would never tell you ‘I don’t know.’  Instead, he would tell you ‘I bet so and so knows so let’s both go and learn together how to do it.’  That brought a smile to my face, as I remember doing that many times.

Forty years ago when I was a plebe at the U. S. Naval Academy, I learned quickly that naval officers never said “I don’t know.”  The correct response if you did not know the answer was “I’ll Find Out, Sir!”  And then you had better find out!  It is a little thing, and yet, from an attitude perspective, huge.  “I don’t know” is a passive response requiring no action.  “I’ll find out” is a proactive response requiring action.

As I said goodnight to Michele, I was reflecting on her comment about my not saying “I don’t know.”  That is a personal attitude, but could it not also be transferred to our students? After all, it is simply an expectation that students will take responsibility for their own learning.

We have been debating the efficacy of allowing laptops in classrooms here on campus.  At the risk of calling them old-schoolers, there is a segment here that flatly bans the use of laptops or mobile devices in their classes.  To me, that is inviting a passive student to your class.  Luckily there are faculty here who feel the opposite.

The alternative as these other faculty have found is to tap in to the natural curiosity of students and set the expectation of “I’ll Find Out!”  At a brown bag lunch last week, one faculty talked about the excitement of having students in his History class fact-check him during lectures and pull their impromptu research into the class discussion.  I totally agree, and I think the attitude applies whether you are talking face-to-face or online classes.

In my online classes at both the undergraduate and graduate level, I have tried to set the expectation of student-generated content to add to the learning process.  My current class is a good example.  I have enjoyed co-teaching Educational Technology and School Leadership this semester with Jon Becker.  Over the past twelve weeks, we and our students have collaboratively explored the integration of Web 2.0 in K-12 programs.  At the start of class, we had a group of self-described technophobes who were very worried about taking an online class.  Through the use of active learning and collaboration in a wiki, they have grown comfortable working and sharing online.  Now, they wonder why their colleagues are not doing the same.  During the past week, the online discussion was rich with commentary about the professional development of K-12 teachers.  It was interesting to see my students moving from a former expectation that it was the administrator’s job to provide professional development to one that espoused personal learning in a networked world as the key to professional development.

“I’ll Find Out!” may be the heart and soul of learning-centered teaching, but I am coming to the realization that it also is the heart and soul of faculty development as well.  Of course, it requires action on the part of each individual.  A personal learning environment or network does not materialize overnight.  It requires time and conscious thought to develop a learning network that works for you.

Trying to figure out how to facilitate that process will tug at me for the next few weeks.  In June, Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I will be guiding our annual Teaching and Learning with Technology Institute.  Our theme this year is Teaching and Learning in a Networked World.  Our challenge will be to introduce faculty to the power of networked learning and to assist them in developing their own networks.  I have had the luxury of a full semester with my class, so this is a tall task to attempt in one week.  It will be interesting to see how we do.  Will we succeed?

I’ll find out.

{Photo Credit: Ezalis, Chrisfreeland2002}

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Telling Your Story Differently

Like any major institution, there is sometimes overlap in training opportunities being offered around campus.  We noticed this morning that I have a workshop on blogging today and Technology Services has one next week.  Interestingly, mine is about web publishing and instructional opportunities (with 4 people signed up) while the other is about the mechanics of setting up a blog, and has 12 people signed up.

Workshop In Stone

I probably read too much into this, but it suggests that people are not interested in the conversation about “why” one should or should not blog, they just want to know “how” to do it. And one reason I read too much in to it is that whether we are talking 4 or 12, few faculty in general even consider blogging as part of their professional life.

The issue may not even be blogging per se, but rather “workshops” as a verb.  Few faculty in general see a need to change how they do what they do.  While workshops remain a necessity to efficiently provide training, those who read this probably have shifted much of their professional development to the social media landscape (as I have).  But the majority of faculty do not use social media for their PLE, and if they see no need to change, they probably view workshops as something they do not need.

This was on my mind when I opened the April edition of Tom Peters Times newsletter, which arrived today in my email and contained several interesting articles on customer experience.  It linked to the following video of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant rapping his mandatory pre-flight  safety announcement.

You have to admit that this person delivered his message in a new and compelling way!

I am not suggesting that I begin singing my workshops…that would definitely drive down participation.  But I do think we in faculty development need to [re]examine our approaches in light of social media.   Taking a cue from the marketing types, networks like Twitter, Yammer, and Facebook could all be used to announce and draw in participants.  But more importantly, I need to look at the total delivery.  Would a “conversation” about blogging with faculty here be enhanced if bloggers from around the world joined the conversation by live streaming?  Why do I look at workshop format as locked in stone?  As the flight attendant noted, maybe I need to shake things up a bit!

And if the “customer experience” was enhanced, would word of mouth spread that news around campus, growing demand?

Be interested in your thoughts.

{Stone Carving from Flaming Text}

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