Week 3 post

“Are they ready to work” was a reality check for me. As much as USA is ahead of the curve in the field of computer-related technology and innovation, it looks like we are falling behind in the preparing students to meet the workplace demands. How did that happen?? More importantly, what can we do to fix it?
One way is to ensure that we are encouraging students to use Web 2.0 to develop their skill set and not just as a source of entertainment and hobbies. (Btw, I am guilty of this. Instead of using my vocabulary-building app more, I play Fruit ninja till my shoulder hurts!)
Also, one thing I have observed is the informal nature of communication on mobile devices and social media platforms seems to encourage the use of poor grammar and acronyms. No wonder writing skills are deteriorating among the youth and that nearly 81% of the high school students are deficient in written communication skills.
As I read portions of the Learning for the 21st century Skills report, one of the lines that struck out to me was “Education that prepares students for learning in this complex, digital society will be more meaningful for students and, ultimately more effective in preparing them for the future.” That’s why I think it’s important to determine what technologies are working and use them effectively.
Only time can really tell whether Pew Research Center’s theory that millenials will make online sharing in networks a lifelong habit. A few years ago, Web 1.0 was considered a big leap for mankind. Today, if you only use email and desktops, you are not part of the in crowd. So, maybe web 3.0 will evolve into something that we can’t even imagine—making blogging, “facebooking,” and tweeting uncool. We’ll just have to wait till 2020, won’t we? I better save this document on paper just in case we are able to transmit thoughts via electronic telepathy or some technology like that.
Reading the abstract of the: Designing Choreographies for the “New Economy of Attention,” I realize that as educators and instructors using digital media, we will still be challenged by the A in the ARCs model—even more so than before. Because now the instructional medium we use can also be a source of distraction. Students can play a lecture being delivered as a podcast while playing a game online. That’s probably why I find the psychologist Hugo Munsterberg’s conclusion in his book Psychology and the Teacher that attention requires a certain complexity in the presentation of visual objects a little difficult to agree with. Let’s not forget that he wrote the book in 1909, which did put him at a disadvantage. He had no idea what was going to happen in a 100 years.

Week 15 post

Well, it’s the end of the semester and the course for us. From what I can tell from your posts and final projects, all of us have been engaged in personalized learning, haven’t we? The digital age has made it possible for us to do so. And, it doesn’t hurt to have an instructor who is a proponent of personalized learning either.

As the article “Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now?” states digital media is redefining the classroom (should we just call it “learning spaces”?) Parents probably need to give up checking students’ backpacks for their homework assignments, and check their mobile devices instead.

One of the points highlighted in the article that I particularly liked was that web 2.0 is bridging what we used to compartmentalize as formal and informal learning. As I was completing my project for R685 (the formal learning piece of it), I picked up a few things from youtube and when I had to troubleshoot the apps I had incorporated into the project, I used the apps’s discussion forum posts (informal learning). And, before you knew it, my project was taking shape.

Here’s a question—would MOOCs be considered formal or informal learning? Or, does that belong to a brand new category of semi-formal learning?
Another aspect of web 2.0 that this article talks about is that young people’s digital practices promises the formation of competencies that are absolutely vital to their futures, in an economic, social and cultural sense.” Last week, when I was “defending” my IST portfolio (actually it was a very pleasant conversation with the professors at IST), one of the questions I was asked was how did the online program prepare me for work in the field. And, I responded by saying that being in an online program and working with students with varied backgrounds and who live in different parts of the country was a useful training ground for me to work with geographically dispersed team members at work. I am more likely to consider the time zone differences and the difference in cultural, social, and educational backgrounds when I work with my fellow team mates in Ukraine now (which is what I’m doing right now).

Since we are 1/3rds the way into 2012, I couldn’t resist readiing the Tech Predictions for 2011 tidbits article—just to find out how correct CNN’s predictions were for the previous year. Thy are right on the money about instagram—Facebook bought it to avoid the stiff competition scenario. And working for a company in the online deals space ( I think they are going with the term f-commerce to describe themselves), I know this space is exploding! My company is barely able to keep up with their clients’ demands for new features in our app. Obviously we are onto something, because Amazon too has joined this bandwagon.

As I worked on my final project, I researched quite a bit on the latest digital media being incorporated into education. Although I didn’t incorporate any twitter-like apps in my project, I became very curious when someone narrated that their teacher communicates primarily with his students using twitter. So, I simply had to read about Sugato Chakravarty’s experience using twitter at Purdue.

I think the concerns underlined in the article Teaching with Twitter: Not for the Faint of Heart are not to be trifled with. No matter what and how, students ought to be taught to submit original work and not use the conveniences of Web 2.0 to cheat!

But, I love the fact that I can ask a “dumb” question anonymously without being sneered at. I can’t tell you the number of times I have not asked what was on my mind in high school—just because of the fear of being ridiculed by the teacher and/or fellow students.
I agreed with Chakravarty’s sentiment instructors have to be willing to be wrong. Goes back to that shift from instructor-led teaching to student-centered learning.

I KNOW personalized learning is here to stay—thanks to the online tools and apps we have at our disposal. And, I am glad because it means I will continue to build my skills and knowledge even after I’m done with R685 and my master’s program. I might not add a degree to my resume, but I’d still be learning. And, that’s what matters.

Week 14 post

For every class that’s required it, I have undertaken blogging. And, it’s my least favorite class activity to do. At some point or the other, I end up falling behind on it. I blame my job as a writer for it. After 5 pm, I want to do something other than writing more stuff. J I should take up podcasting next time.

I do think maintaining blogs have helped me see the path I have taken during the course, how my learning has expanded, my attitudes have changed, and the new things that excite me. So, it’s definitely certainly a thermometer of sorts.

Despite my lack of love for maintaining blogs, I must confess that I have learned a lot from other people’s blogs. I tend to follow blogs who are experts or semi-experts in an area, and post blogs about that area of expertise. My blog reading has bettered my culinary skills for sure; I have picked up a thing or two about being a better technical writer and instructional designer; my interest and love for photography is on the rise.

And, if I ever want to write a book, I’m going to do it this way. I’d rather blog a book, than deal with publishers. Perhaps, this is how textbooks will appear in the future. Would love not to have to pay $150 for a book for one semester of reading.

As I was reading “Blogging Practices: An Analytical Framework,” I was intrigued by the use of the term “rules” with respect to blogs. Apparently, following these rules (more like guidelines) can determine whether you are accepted into a community of practitioners.

The article “Anonymity and Self-Disclosure on Weblogs” made me wonder how many anonymous blogs are out there. I have yet to come across a blog that gives no idea about the user’s identity. Typically, children’s names (even though there’ll be tons of pictures with them in it!) are protected, but that’s about it.

My “Tidbit of the Week” award goes to the article “Digital Tools Expand Options for Personalized Learning.” Creating individualized learning plans and then providing customized feedback means students can now make the best use of their strengths and improves in areas they need to. And, it does so without adding to the teachers’ burden.

I end this post on a sad note. In Prof. Bonk’s list of educational bloggers, he’s included Kim Foreman, a former professor of mine at San Francisco State University. Sadly, she passed away in 2010. But, I’m glad that the work she started in Africa is still continuing, I also know she inspired many of her students—including me—to be passionate about learning and designing instruction. You’ll always be remembered fondly, Ms. Foreman.

Week 13 post

There are two things I cannot leave my house without, and it’s not my lipstick and mascara, but my wallet and…you guessed it…my cell phone. Although I have never really used my mobile device for formal learning, I learn a lot of things in the informal category using this device. What’s the best way to get to my destination, how many calories should I be consuming today, and the list goes on.

I really loved reading about the Flipped classrooms, and the rationale behind Roshan’s approach to asking him (the instructor) how to solve a problem last. What a time saver this type of class could be. I hope there’s a way for this new approach to students from low income backgrounds too.

In another article I read about Flipped classrooms here, the reporter also highlights some other potential problems we could have if we flip the class without too much thought. Instead of saving time, it could eat up time if the course is not structured well. Also, the emphasis should still remain on learning—using the technology and support of cohorts, and not just as a way to showcase new technology.

I agree with all the benefits of m-learning that Cochrane and Bates list—except the one about bridging the digital divide. When we look around, “everyone” seems to own a cell phone, right? Well, let’s not forget that not all cell phones are smart phones, and despite what we say, not everybody owns a phone. So, I think a mobile app should have a regular desktop version for non-mobile users.

Reviewing the Seeds of Empowerment site was a heartwarming experience for me. What a simple concept, and yet so powerful. I also found it equally encouraging to read about Professor Chao and his attempts to reduce the cost of online classes. With these kinds of programs taking wing, it is easier for me to believe that the world is truly opening and the gap between the educational haves and have-nots is reducing.  

On the flip side, reading about android tablet made just for school left me disturbed. Education does not have to be drudgery. And, there’s nothing wrong in chatting with your classmates while you do homework. It might actually add to the team-building and collaborative experience.

Regardless of the anticipation and excitement surrounding m-learning today, the authors of

 “Mobile Usability in Educational Contexts: What have we learnt?” remind us that success with m-learning learning depends on the learner to a great extent.

I can also see how designing m-learning solutions can be challenging because there isn’t sufficient research to tell us the preferred mode of use learners are going to employ.

I agree with the authors that screen size is a huge factor in play when it comes to learners using their mobile devices. I, for one, prefer using my tablet or e-reader to the smart phone. I see myself quitting a lot earlier if I have to spend more than 10 minutes reading using my phone. The next generation growing up with these itty bitty devices may not face the problem—just because they got used to it a lot earlier in their lifetimes. Then again, they might come up with yet another category of devices between the tablet and the mobile phone that serves both purposes, and is a lot easier to carry around than a tablet. Read this before you chuckle. J

Week 12 post

Among all the latest technologies out there used in the field of education, I am probably the least informed about the world of gaming and simulation. I do play a few games on my ipod and laptop, but haven’t done any investigation into the world of educational games yet.

My first findings for this week led me to this article: http://www.mobiledia.com/news/138081.html

I particularly liked the idea of playing games to have tuition paid for. A bit too late for me. J And, Tuthopper has me envious. This company is focused on introducing and instructing children in code.

Having said that, I am not all that ready to join the bandwagon of virtual reality as an educational platform. I tried it for a class I took a while ago, and I have to say I wasn’t convinced that my learning experience improved because of it. That’s why I had to read “Why Virtual Worlds Can Matter.” The authors did get me to make  couple of paradigm shifts: participating in games such as World of Wars can help people develop a greater ability to adapt to change. And, this is so true of the times we live in. The second shift is in the whole concept of “learning to be” before learning about—reverse of what happens in a traditional setting. Reminds of that proverbial situation—learning to swim when you’re pushed into the deep end of the pool.

One of my biggest concerns is the amount of resources required to build and maintain virtual worlds. Is it worth the effort and money? The success story reported here is encouraging.  I also enjoyed reading about the SuperCharged game in “Open-Ended Video Games: A Model for Developing Learning for the Interactive Age.” Physics can be tough to chew. With games like these, students can be more “charged” about electromagnetism. What rings true about MIT students who found it challenging to grasp concepts from textbooks being more successful when introduced educational games is also true for lots of students across the country. But, like the report notes, games can only engage the student to a certain extent. After that, it’s up to the parents, mentors, and teachers to encourage students to continue pursuing that field of learning.

I love that some games give students the opportunity to participate in differentiated roles. This should give them a sense of their strengths, interests—which, in turn, can help them determine what careers they would love to take up as adults.

So, is all game-based learning successful then? What I gleaned from the report: “Learning in Immersive worlds: A review of game-based learning Prepared” is that we still have a little ways to go before we can conclude with confidence about the most effective use of gaming in the field of education. But, I think it’s worth pursuing.

K-12 is not the only sector caught up with this gaming bug. Gamification is also making a splash in the corporate world. I can totally see myself enjoying a career in the corporate sector developing games that help employees accomplish their learning objectives.

Week 11 post

I am a huge fan of collaborative learning—in both virtual and classroom settings. In addition to what I learn from the instructor, my cohorts always seem to introduce me to new, challenging, and creative educational resources, tools, articles etc. And, typically when collaborating on a final project together, my team work skills are sharpened, and I get objective feedback on things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. It’s also a great way to get introduced to a field or area that you probably don’t have prior experience in. For one of my class team projects, my team members and I worked on creating a part of instructional manual for a scout group. Since I’ve had no exposure to scout activities before this, normally I wouldn’t even have attempted such a project. But, because in a collaborative environment, you are not expected to be the expert on everything, I could rely on my team members’ knowledge to work on the project.

I don’t know if collaborative learning is more crucial in online classes, but I have no trouble believing that several studies out point out that collaborative learning in a virtual setting provides a way to building meaningful knowledge. In the article, Interactive technologies for collaborative learning, the authors talk about the three modes of virtual teams. I agree with this description, but based on my experience, I also think the three modes tend to overlap.

I can’t remember all the interactive tools I have used over the years to work with team members living in different parts of the country, but without them, working on projects asynchronously would not have been possible.

For document sharing, my two favorites have been Google docs and Microsoft’s workspace. I like the latter a little better because I have found it to be a little more stable and has more powerful features than Google docs.

Skype has been my go-to tool for conferencing both for work and school. And, I have yet to find a good tool for chatting. And, in my experience chat rooms did not promote good discussion. Forums, on the other hand, have been more discussion-enhancing among my fellow cohorts.

Moving to the next article, Learning at a Distance: Engaged or Not?—my short answer is—it really depends on the students, their interests, and to some extent, the instructor’s effectiveness in engaging the students (the onus of course lies with the students).

I am not surprised that almost all the students interviewed cited convenience as their main reason for taking online class. Not having to show up at a certain time on a certain day at a certain location is definitely an advantage I have benefited from during my time in the IST program. The other option was to drive 40 miles to San Francisco State University after work. No-brainer, right?

As convenient as distance learning has made my life, my journey is by no means inspirational like Amy Stokes. Her work moved me to tears. Yes, the security concerns are real, but providing emotional support to children who have lost one or both parents via e-mentoring, now that’s awe-inspiring.

Week 10 post

During my entire time in high school, my class got to watch one video together—something to do with the Victorian era. Fast forward to 2012, and the scene has changed dramatically for high schoolers today. They don’t just consume more video in classroom settings, they produce them. And yes, the reason, like the article, “Video Use and Higher Education: Options for the Future” points out is that latest technologies have made it easier to make these videos.

Not too long ago, I was in a video class, and I remember the hassles I went through because I didn’t own a video recorder. Today, my cell phone and IPad can be used almost just as efficiently to create a video.

I am curious why the demand for video does not show the same levels of excitement in universities. Hmm, I am reminded of an incident that happened just last semester. In one of my blog posts, to support my point of view on the topic being discussed that week, I posted an online video of an author’s interview. My instructor was not satisfied till I included references from the author’s original paper in my post. Could it be that despite the rampant growth in video viewership, it is still not accepted as a credible source of information?

Findings from “The Audience for Online Video-Sharing Sites Shoots Up” do not surprise me. I think the day may not be too far away when our television sets become obsolete (gasp!). I know, but think about it. We, obviously seem to prefer multi-purpose devices (cell phones that also serves as a camera, tablets that are e-readers, and the list goes on), and the television has just one. So, we might just get rid of the “idiot box.” After all, how many times have you heard of something on the television go viral?

I have to add one thing here though—I love the convenience of watching television on my computer, but I definitely feel the eye strain more when I do so.

I had never heard of Blip before reading “Places to Go: Youtube.” And, so I watched a few clips with the intention to evaluate Blip as a learning tool. Here are a couple of things that stood out for me as I went through that exercise. The producers of the video don’t necessarily have the highest qualifications in the field. They just happen to know more than the average Joe about it. And, are willing to share that with the rest of the world. Also, the tone in most of these videos is very informal. Whether the subject was technical, such as this video: http://blip.tv/zedaxis/creating-layouts-with-css-6088111, or something on the lighter side of life like this one: http://blip.tv/japancast/japancast-hd-video-episode-076-6031288, they have an entertainment-y feel to them. Edutainment? How effective is the learning then? A point worth considering when we rely on this medium. That’s probably one of the reasons I loved reading “Teaching on Youtube,” and really glad that Alexandra Juhasz, not only went through the exercise, but shared her experiences with us afterward. It is good to know the factors to consider when coaxing your learners into a new source of learning. And, I couldn’t agree more with her on #5. While there’s nothing wrong in making learning fun and engaging, just because the culture around us is dumbing down, reducing our learning and teaching to match and/or imitate that is a dangerous path to take.

I also agree with Juhasz’s point that amateurs rule in an informal setting, such as youtube, and experts are reduced to an afterthought. Perhaps, Teachertube rectifies that issue to some extent?