Some Gems from Week 1 Blogging

During the first week of ADLT 640 – The Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration into Adult Environments – we looked at the changing landscape of learning (with hat-tip to Jeff Nugent) and the Evolution of Elearning (with hat-tip to Ruben Puentedura)

A term that came up in class when defining “e-learning” was organic…a natural part of the learning environment.  I have never heard it described quite that way, but this really resonated with me.

You can check out their blogs here.  There were some interesting take-aways.

From Julia:

Is there a difference between “online learning” and “learning online”?  Online learning is the buzzword that we use to define an alternative and formal method to learning that is still evolving.  Learning online was what my sons did – fluid, organic, and not associated with school.

…and from another post by Julia:

However, nine minutes of conceptualizing about hybrid thinking in the next 20 years left me even more personally aware that this is truly the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth.  I am at the same time both excited and a bit overwhelmed by the prospect.

From abryk:

So to answer the question: YES! Online teaching is absolutely marked by practices that are different from face-t0-face courses. The two are not equal. I am not saying that one is better and the other is worse, but that the two are distinctly different settings that require distinctly different methods to facilitate learning and engagement. Unfortunately, I feel that many educators prefer the safety of classroom limitations than the risk – no, challenge – of seeking to successfully educating online. (Similarly, many of us learners fear the challenge of adapting to learning in an online environment.)

In a similar vein, Jennifer noted:

There seems to be this great divide between those who are against technology and those who are strongly for it. I personally feel in the middle.

Another student blogged:

Although in-person is preferred for lengthy or certification trainings, I would argue quick hit e-learning is the preference for many people. To increase the popularity of longer e-learning courses educators must figure out how to incorporate the cultural aspects of the classroom into e-learning.

Caitlin posted an interesting observation about elearning she had experienced:

I’ve taken other eLearning classes since.  One was an entirely online course in accounting, not my strongest subect anyway. It also wasn’t what I was hoping for:  I wanted a guide on how to use software to do small business accounting, and instead I was caculating payroll taxes with a calculator.  Bogus.  It gave me a bad impression of online courses because it used the pervasive “post an original post to blackboard, and comment on three other posts.”   The format was really foced and unnatural.  Plus, who wants to comment about accounting? … So now we’re talking about elearning, and I’m looking at it from the lens of an Adult Ed student, one who still has most of her professors use the post-one-comment-three method for most of our reflective blogging.  It begs the question:  who came up with that ratio?  Why is it so pervasve?  Sometimes it begets engaged comment threads, but a lot of the time there are three comments that say things like, “Yeah, great post, I agree!”   or some variation therein.  I think we can all agree, that’s not a conversation.

And from Mo:

The question that needs to be asked is: is technology changing/transforming/redefining how we think of education? The obvious answer is yes if we look at the trends in the use of technology in the classroom. Looking carefully at the current education, however, we can see that technology is used to replace the old ways of doing things in many educational settings. It acts as a direct tool-substitute with no functional improvement.

Lots to chew on….

This week, we explore the learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and connectivism as they relate to elearning.

New Courses and New Play Things

Thought VectorsInteresting days here on the fourth floor of the Academic Learning Commons at VCU.  Today was the roll out of our institution’s first MOOC – Thought Vectors in Concept Space.  CogDog (Alan Levine) and Tom Woodward have been creating magic side by side for the past week – developing a single platform in which six professors, their students, and the world can interact and build learning networks – within a class, within VCU, and within the world wide web.  For an informative “behind the scenes” look at what it took to make this happen, see Alan’s blog post – “Under the Hood of ThoughtVectors.Net.”

On Twitter, people lined up to emulate Douglas Engelbart’s pose.

The Pose.

This course is open to the world … and in talking to some of the faculty teaching it, they truly desire the world to come in and interact with their students.  Check it out.

Today is also the first day of my summer course – ADLT 640 – The Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration into Adult Environments (and no, I did not make the course name up…just living with it).  In keeping with the “thought vectors” firing around our floor, and in keeping with the practice Jeff Nugent and I have done for the past two years, I am also running my course on the open web, rather than using Blackboard.  The website is http://rampages.us/adlt640/. My students will also be blogging weekly, so check out their links in the Learning Journals tab in about a week.

eLearning is nearly as old as the web itself, but as with any innovation, there have been both early adopters and skeptics. As publishing and managing content on the web has become easier, and as providing online training and courses has become increasingly more popular, interest in providing elearning is high in government, the corporate sector, and education. A common (mis)perspective is that moving instruction online is primarily about designing and sequencing the content. This is wrong.  Rich content is already out there.  Changes on the web in the last decade – toward a more open, social and interconnected space – have necessitated the rethinking of what it means to teach and learn online.  eLearning is not about content…it is about connecting people – as our new MOOC stresses.  New theories are emerging regarding teaching and learning online. We will explore these theories (with a focus on connectivism) and the new practice of eLearning in my course.

This course explores the theory and practice of integrating eLearning into adult learning environments and addresses the many factors that need to be considered in the design and delivery of eLearning.  eLearning offers a great deal of promise to both adult educators and learners, yet eLearning must be implemented appropriately; its use integrated into well established and well-researched pedagogical practices in order to be effective.

ADLT-640 will (hopefully) provide learners with a theoretical foundation and rationale for the successful integration of eLearning into formal and informal adult learning environments. This course begins with an overview of educational theory and social constructivist teaching philosophy before addressing the fundamental issues instructional designers should consider when designing, providing, and assessing eLearning.  This foundation coupled with the practical issues associated with eLearning will set the stage for exploring digital media in ADLT-641, which is taught by Jeff.

My course is a hybrid one, with us meeting face-to-face the first two weeks to explore the theories, then going totally online for a month to apply the theories, and then reconvening face-to-face for the final two weeks to analyze what we do and look at emerging trends.  It is a fast 8 weeks!

3D Lion WeightAs if a MOOC and my own course were not enough, Jeff and I met with Benard Means today to set up our own 3D printer.  Benard and his students have been doing some amazing work digitizing artifacts they recover from the Jamestown / Williamsburg area.  We have a new MakerBot Replicator 5 which Benard helped us set up, and we immediately … and by immediately I mean over the next 45 minutes … printed out a replica of a Jamestown brass lion counterweight.  3D printing and instant gratification are not co-equal terms…but it fascinating to try.  Having a 3D Maker Space on our floor might open up new learning opportunities for faculty and students.

Over the afternoon, Jeff and I played with downloading scanned files from Thingiverse.  Shown below are some practice prints we are doing with Minecraft gear.

3D Printing

{Graphics: Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, Britt Watwood}

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Thought Vectors Firing Up

A grand experiment is launching today at VCU – our first cMOOC.  As it notes on the About page:

Starting June 9, the official course opens for six sections taught at VCU, and the rest of the internet is invited to join along as open participants.

The official name of this course at Virginia Commonwealth University is UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument. Starting June 9, the official course opens for six sections taught at VCU, and the rest of the internet is invited to join along as open participants.

Our special digital engagement pilot name is “Living the Dreams: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds.”

thought vector rocketWith the awesome team of Gardner Campbell, Jon Becker, Jessica Gordon, Jason Coats, Bonnie Boaz and Ryan Cales, the course site launched today … with help from Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, and Patty Strong.  Enoch Hale posted on his blog about this experiment.

I am looking forward to observing this thought experiment unfold … and engaging with summer students in the process.  Join us as well!

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Two Weeks, Three Books, and A New Role

In that short period between end of Spring semester, our Online Course Development Initiative, and the start of my summer teaching, I dove into some books:

summerbooks

The first was assigned reading.  The VCU Center for Teaching Excellence in which I have been a member for the past 8 years is merging with our Online@VCU staff to form the Learning INnovation Center – LINC.  Our new tag line for LINC is “Connected Learning For a Networked World.”  It is not coincidence that LINC was the forerunner of the modern personal computer.  🙂

So last week, our new LINC staff held a retreat with our Vice Provost for Learning Innovation – Gardner Campbell, to begin the process of growing our new organization.  It was a good day to help align each of us with Gardner’s vision for LINC.  As part of the retreat, each of us completed the Clifton Strengths Finder online assessment to find our top five strengths out of a possible thirty-four that we each brought to LINC.

As might be expected, we were a diverse group…though ten people shared the strength of “strategic”:

Strengths List

My own top five strengths – which did not surprise those who knew me – were:

  • Responsibility – one who, inexplicably, must follow through on commitments
  • Learner – one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
  • Input – one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use
  • Belief – one who strives to find some ultimate meaning behind everything they do
  • Futuristic – one who has a keen sense of using an eye towards the future to drive today’s success

LINC themesSo I had no unique strengths…but rather shared my strengths with at least two others…though no one had my combination.

LINC will have four areas of focus – Faculty Development, Student Engagement, Communities of Practice, and Technology Enhanced Active Learning.  Jeff Nugent and I will be acting as the research arm of LINC.

Moving from a role of faculty consultant to one of active research is quite a change!  It was with this change in mind that I read the other two books noted above.

The late Gordon MacKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace (1998) was the right book to set a frame of reference for this change.

As Anna Muoio of FastCompany magazine explained:

“…A hairball is an entangled pattern of behavior. It’s bureaucracy, which doesn’t allow much space for original thinking and creativity. It’s the corporate tendency to rely on past policies, decisions, and processes as a formula for future success.

All of this creates a Gordian knot of corporate normalcy — an entanglement that grows over time. As its mass increases, so does its gravitational pull. And what does gravity do? It drags things down. But hairballs can be effective. They provide a necessary stability. It’s not the job of the hairball to be vibrant, alive, and creative…”

By this definition, higher education is as clearly a hairball as the corporation MacKenzie worked at – Hallmark.  MacKenzie suggests that the path to creativity and innovation is to orbit the hairball – benefiting from what it has to offer in terms of stability and resources without being sucked in to its gravitational pull.  As Muoio noted, “…It’s a symbiotic relationship: without the hairball, the orbiter would spiral into space; without the orbiter’s creativity and originality, the hairball would be a mass of nothing.”

Or as MacKenzie puts it – The Hairball is a twisted mass of “policy, procedure, conformity, compliance, rigidity and submission to status quo, while Orbiting is originality, rules-breaking, non-conformity, experimentation, and innovation”.

paradoxOver the coming month, we will all be developing our new job descriptions within LINC.  I loved MacKenzie’s approach when told to develop a job description.  The word “paradox” came to mind, and he looked up the definition.  He turned it in and said, “These are the definitions of the word I would like as my job title.”  MacKenzie thus became the Director of Creative Paradox.

Now, no one knew what a director of creative paradox actually did, but they assumed it was something meaningful.  So people at Hallmark would take ideas to him … and he would validate them.  With that validation, they would then make it happen!

So as part of the research arm of LINC, I see a bit of creative paradox playing out here at VCU.

As I was reading Orbiting the Giant Hairball, I spotted Levitt and Dubner’s latest book at Barnes and Noble – Think Like a Freak.  It was also a fun read, though not as relevant (for me) as MacKenzie’s book.  As noted in their Freakonomic’s website, thinking like a freak means:

  • First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
  • Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
  • Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
  • Find the root cause of a problem—because attacking the symptoms, as often happens, rarely fixes the underlying issue.
  • Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
  • Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
  • Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.

Good lessons…but not as captivating (or innovative) as MacKenszie.  As I move in to my new role, I will hope to orbit the giant hairball, being more of a creative paradox and less a freaky sideshow!

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