Week 9 post

I’m going to start this post with something unusual. The origin of the term “Wikipedia” piqued my interest, and here’s what I read on the site: Wikipedia’s name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for stealing content from other websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning ‘thief’) and pedia meaning ‘children’; literally stealing content for perverting children’s brains. Did you know that? Ok, back to regular programming now…

For an IST class I took a couple of years ago, our final project required us to develop wikiverity pages on an instructional design related topic of our choice. When I first heard about the project, I almost wanted to drop out. Imagine becoming enough of an expert on a technical topic, such as this, and sharing your newly developed expertise with the rest of the world. As intimidating as it sounded, my classmates were able to do it successfully—thanks to collaborative writing.

Interestingly, my current workplace has asked me, the lone tech. writer in the company to look into the possibilities of developing an internal wiki site to share information about our product’s latest developments. While I haven’t begun my research on yet, I can already visualize some of the benefits of launching a wiki site for the company. It means subject matter experts on a specific topic need to only share the info they are masters of with the rest of the company—without worrying about the big picture. With so many “artists,” each bringing their own contribution to the table, the big picture takes shape on its own. For me, it saves time in my research gathering phase. I can read the data that’s available, and need to contact the SMEs only for follow-up questions. And, in some cases, I might only required to edit the content, rather than write from scratch—far bigger scope because I’m usually not an expert on what I’m writing about.

I have to admit that I use Wikipedia a lot as my first go-to point. And, I am usually pretty satisfied with the level of writing. That’s why it surprised me a little when I read “ A Window on Wikibookians: Surveying their Statuses, Successes, Satisfactions, and Sociocultural Experiences” that most wikibookians contributors do not have a college degree (assuming that’s true for Wikipedia too) It also surprised me that wikibookians find maintaining their contributions a challenge more for social reasons than any other reasons.

Apparently, I’m not the only who uses Wikipedia the way I do. J According to “How Today’s College Students Use Wikipedia for Course-related Research,” collecting background information is the number one reason students use it for. Once they have a sufficient idea about the subject, it’s easier to dive deeper. Here’s another similar site that has me excited:technopedia.com.

The authors of “Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of Participation in a Collaborative Online Encyclopedia” would probably categorize me as a Limited

Only one tidbit for the week, but boy, was it incredibly exciting! Will crowd science and crowd sourcing help solve some of the problems haunting man for ages? The future, as they say, is full of possibilities. Here’s a related article hot off the presses: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/health/research/crowd-sourcing-brain-research-leads-to-breakthrough.html

Week 8 post

One of the exciting developments I have seen happening as a result of the growth of participatory cultures in the corporate learning space is higher problem-solving. At my previous workplace—a telecommunication manufacturing company—the Customer Support team launched a community forum a year ago. Customers with specific issues (that could not be replicated in the company’s test environment) would post the question on the community forum so that other customers or the tech support team in the company could respond. It was interesting to see other customers offer solutions based on their experiences. Of course, since it is an informal setting, the company had to be very careful in monitoring the posts (or you would have entire computer networks down!), but based on an individual’s right solutions, he would be “promoted” to expert status—giving his solutions more credibility.

While promoting participatory culture has its advantages, I can see why we need to confront the challenges it poses as well. That’s why I am glad that the authors of the “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” are against the laissez faire approach to acquiring media literacy skills. Shrier’s experience quoted in this article that students assumed the information represented in the game is sadly not an exception. I fully agree with the authors that teaching students media literacy skills is important if students are to benefit from this new shift in culture. Also, if we can keep textbooks free of advertising, I think it’s possible to do the same for websites geared toward student learning.

Sadly, participatory cultures make children vulnerable to more scrutiny—the flip side of having what you produce available to the rest of the world to critique.

Yet, another challenge of this shift is pointed out to us by the authors of the Social Media

for Learning by Means of ICT. Social media tend to encourage students in building their social networking and interactions—at the cost of real learning happening. In this article– http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/the-pros-and-cons-of-social-media-classrooms/15132,

the author underlines the fact that unless social media sites are being used with a specific learning objective in mind, they end up being a distraction and a waste of time. That’s why I think a certain level of policing is not a bad idea.

Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media

Out of the tidbits to read for this week, the 18 web 2.0 Tools for Instruction caught my eye the most. After spending a little bit of time on the tools listed here, I feel like some of these tools are still in their infancy. Mag.ma, for example, just kept hanging. On the other hand, I found Del.icio.us a good way to collect, save, and share your repository of good resources. I might use it if I were an instructor some day. Gotta say that I really love that most of these apps are free.

I ended this week’s reading on a tad sad note because I chose to peruse “Is true friendship dying away?” I do sense that our “friendships” are getting shallower with the onslaught of social media. After all, how many of my FB friends and Twitter followers could I depend on if I were in a pickle—not forgetting the fact that a majority of them live far away. And, how many of these people would call me to be their shoulder to cry on?

The author ends his article with his observation that we learn to make friends in our childhood. So, does that bode well for the current generation of kids whose understanding of friendship is altered because of social networking? Only time will tell.

Week 7 post

Of all the weeks’ readings, week 7 was probably the one that left my heartstrings pulled in two opposite directions. On the one hand, I would love to see massive open online courses (MOOCs) flourish. On the other, I am not sure if it’s necessarily the right solution. As the authors of “A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses” point out, MOOCs inevitably expect learners to take on the responsibility of gathering information and also validating that information. And, it requires that learners have advanced analytical skills to correctly discern what they are learning. While I have seen the benefits of instructors imposing lesser control over my learning experience, I would still love to have some hand holding going on.

In an age that seems to be steeped in social networking, this article’s emphasis on social presence in learning environments makes absolute sense. But, is it absolutely essential? After all, isn’t quasi-anonymity one of the benefits offered by virtual environments? Can the lone “learning” ranger not have an equally valuable learning experience?

This article also introduced me to the new world of connectivism. My google search led me to this article: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

In my own experience, I have definitely seen the half-life of knowledge. What was hot yesterday is no longer the next week. Also, in my career as a technical writer, I have seen computer technology drive innovation in various industries so fast that I’ve had a hard time keeping up with the latest. Oh, and I KNOW my brain is getting re-wired by all this information and new technology. I now have the attention span of a goldfish—thanks to all the gadgets that surround me.

I was particularly intrigued by the MOOC findings on participation. While the registrations were considerably high, active participation seemed to have been much more limited. Because there’s no one pushing to reach higher than you want to. Doesn’t that affect the participatory nature of the class then?

I have to ask—what happens to instructors, professors, and lecturers if MOOC is the way to go in the future? Further job shrinking perhaps? Or, do they have to come up with innovative to remain in the profession?

Having said that, I liked some of the points highlighted in “The Importance of Open Educational Resources.” For example, what’s the point in conducting research if you don’t plan to share it with more people? And, why limit what is considered an educational research?

Even the biggest fans of open educational resources have to contend with the fact that it does cost to create and distribute these resources. If we then decide to be so charitable with educational materials, aren’t we reducing its sustainability in the long run? Instead of making it completely free, can we subsidize costs, and make it work long term?

My biggest source of delight in this class has been the introduction to the Khan Academy and the work of Salman Khan. Imagine reaching a viewership of 56 million people in such a short time! No wonder he is Bill Gates’s favorite tutor.

Week 6 post

Adventure learning. It just sounds more fun than any other name I’ve come across for learning types so far.  

I think it’s great that Aaron Doering in his article, “Adventure Learning: Transformative hybrid online education” underlines the importance of having specific learning goals when designing adventure learning. I also like that adventure learning aims to remove some of the internet isolation that can happen with online learning environments. And yes, let’s bring in experts from the field. Not just teachers facilitating and sharing. I can see how students get work-force ready with experts aiding their learning process. And, it’s definitely a pressure reliever for teachers. My one concern, though, is prepping up for AL can be time consuming. And, even though the benefits are huge, the work required to set up an AL experience may deter teachers from attempting it. I see this happen in my line of work a lot. When putting together training content for the company’s products, many a times, we go with the time-saving manual rather than doing an online video or simulation. We know the latter is better, but the time and cost factor do come into play sometimes.

Another aspect of AL that I like is its focus on problem-solving. When students get to work toward formulating a solution, their question “why are we learning this again” is answered, and keeps them motivated to learn more.

I think immersionlearning.com has done a fantastic job of this type of learning. I dabbled in the “Make your Own Titanic movie” task. Not going to win any Oscars, but it was such a fun experience, and I did walk feeling I want to do more research on the Titanic.

 My google search on Aaron Doering, the pioneer in AL led me to this article: http://www.mndaily.com/2012/02/16/u-researchers-study-sustainability-all-7-continents

 I love how people from across the continents are involved in this project. Of course, it’s time consuming (study ends in 2014), but it just might be worth the effort.

My next stop for week 6 was “No Such Thing as Failure, Only Feedback: Designing Innovative Opportunities for E-assessment and Technology-mediated Feedback.” I find formative feedback approach to be encouraging and uplifting. And—being an instructional designer wannabe—this article served as an important reminder to not blindly ape existing practices. I had never even wondered why assessments in online learning environments are placed at the end of the module/lesson, just like in a traditional setting. My key takeaway from this read was to align feedback with the task, and to ask the “what, why, and when” of feedback. And, I find the idea of self-assessment appealing. This truly puts the learner even more in control of his/her learning—to determine whether mastery over the content has occurred or not. I know it’s not practical for all types of learning. But, for the ASL learning discussed here, I think it’s a great idea for students to record themselves when practicing it, and then compare their signs to those of experts. Of course, this means you should be keenly aware of your own body language. I am reminded of my experience with my PT, who kept correcting my posture when doing an exercise, which I thought I was doing perfectly. Then, he had me stand next to the mirror to show me the “before” and “after,” and I got it instantly.

 An AL experience is definitely a tall order to construct and deliver. Affordances in educational, social, and technological aspects have to be considered. And, since it is rare to find people possessing expertise in all three, it really would take a village to educate this child.


Week 5 post

I know. It’s been a long time since I posted anything on my blog. Although I’ve been MIA, believe it or not, I have been reflecting a lot about learning in the meantime. Only thing, it was not 685-induced. I took up a new job a couple of weeks ago, and I have had to ramp up on my knowledge of e-commerce, software as a serve (SaaS), the company’s products. My mind was exhausted.

Throughout this process, I made it a point to be consciously aware of all the different types of resources I was using to learn. I used a few books, tons of web sites, and fellow co-workers as my top 3 “sources of knowledge.”  Out of these, nearly 60% of my learning took place online. Goes to show you the impact of online learning has.

I found the article, “Trends in Instructional Tool Usage in Online Education Programs” informative and engaging. Despite the increase in use of computer technology and the web, its usage is still mostly basic in nature. We are still working out how best to integrate Web 2.0 for educational purposes.

I love the idea of using simulations in learning. Isn’t it cool how students at University of Kansas Medical Center get to use this technology effectively? I think simulations give students the opportunity to practice in a stress-free environment. After all, an error would not cost as much in the real world. Plus, the idea of unlimited practice sessions with valuable feedback sounds promising. Having said that, would a medical student be able to transition seamlessly from a simulated operation room to a real one?

When I was in high school, I passed notes to fellow students using the old-fashioned pencil and scrap paper. Fast forward to 2012, it’s tweets on your mobile phones. With a professor making it all legit! But, you do have to wonder, how much of that texting and tweeting is actually about the content being taught in class. If not, then I believe it hinders learning, and not helping students.

From the use of one technology to an integrated mix of technologies—that’s where we are headed. In my learning experience at work last month, I was on skype with my co-worker who used Gotomeeting as the screen-sharing software to show me what she was doing. While the intent was good, these two tools did not necessarily play well with each other. And, I ended up getting pretty frustrated trying to figure out how things work in tandem. Definitely made my learning harder than easier. Some day, hopefully, tool makers will find a way to make their products more compatible with each other.

I was intrigued by some of the findings in the article “Learning in the 21st century: 2011 Trends Update.” I am encouraged that online learning is increasing because teachers and administrators are absorbing it more than before. But, teachers also still seem to be less interested in teaching an online class. After talking to a friend who serves as a mentor for Apex learning, an elearning solution provider, I think I understand more about the reasons for hesitation. As a mentor online, my friend feels that her workday is no longer confinable to a 9-5 shift. That’s the price she pays for learners having more personalized learning. And, as much as she likes the new, cooler technologies, keeping up with it takes more of her time. Perhaps, the next generation of teachers will not have this problem because they are already growing up with so much web 2.0 stuff.

For the past four years, being a student of the 100% online IST program was a great experience for me. But, I must admit that in hindsight, I would have preferred blended learning even more. Meeting my professors and fellow classmates (especially while working with them on projects collaboratively).

Coming to the report “Keeping pace with K-12 online learning, let me begin with a full disclosure here. I did not read the entire report. But, skimmed through those parts that I found appealing. I was very surprised that 27 states have at least one full-time online school. I’m curious why parents would enroll their children in a 100% virtual school. What are they doing different to ensure that their children’s social development as well? And if they have cracked that code, does that mean their children have to spend additional time for it?

I liked that the authors of this article emphasize the importance of not making technology the main player in online schools. It’s still about the learners (with the help of the instructors and parents, of course.) So glad we are not losing the human touch…yet.

I found myself re-reading the section on whether online and face-to-face instructions require significantly different instructional practices and strategies. I like that online allows students more opportunity to gain mastery.

Ah, coming to mobile learning. This is one technology advancement that I’m not sure about. Learning using that itty-bitty screen, to me, seems uncomfortable. Now, tablets I’m perfectly ok with. Unless I’m learning to a lecture using my mobile device, I find my learning experience unsatisfactory usually. Everything else about online and blended learning, melikey.

Week 2 post

For centuries, education was “done” pretty much the same way it has been done in the past. But, in the 21st century, with the outbreak of technology and its availability to the masses, learning and education is now being rethought, redesigned.

 I agree wholeheartedly with the statement in Learning in the 21st century that students are woefully unprepared in facing the challenges of the job market when they leave school. So, I’m really glad to hear that the Partnership for 21st century skills is working towards bridge that gap.

 As I went through the list of six key elements of 21st century learning, I particularly appreciated the emphasis on instilling learning skills in students. Knowledge that is now available to students is exploding that it might not always be possible for educators to actually teach them everything they need to know. But, ensuring that students know how to learn on their own ensures that they can keep up with the latest.       

I also love #4—teach and learn in a 21st century context. Although this seems like a no-brainer, right now, it seems liked educators need to play catch-up in the instructional methods and strategies they are using. If your students prefer using e-readers to books, or using the internet, instead of objecting to it, ensure they do it right.

I hadn’t quite realized that all these changes in how learning is done means that measuring students’ skills also needs to change. 

In Part 1—The need for Change, the authors highlight the importance of lifelong skills development. As I was re-doing my resume recently, I just realized something. In each of the past 4 jobs (spanning over 61/2 years), I’ve used a different software to get the same kind of job done. No wonder my head hurts sometimes.

So far, I agreed with most things in the report. But, I must admit I’m a little disappointed to read that standardized tests are here to stay (even though they may look very different from previous avatars). But, it’s a relief that more study is being done to evaluate their effectiveness.

From the report, the most encouraging bit of news is that going forward, education is going to be a collaborative effort that includes partners from outside the field of education.

Onto the three E’s of education article–the section on mobile learning trends piqued my interest. I can see why teachers might  think of handheld-devices as a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, students are more engaged, and can benefit from personalized learning. On the other hand, these gadgets can be used to cheat on tests.

Hmm, so BYOT bombed? Can’t say I’m surprised. After all there’s no way the teacher would be well-versed in every device available out there. But, I can’t help wonder whether this program could have been saved with a few modifications. How about using it for self-learning segment of the course? And, just show the instructor the final product—don’t involve him or her in the process at all.

 Ok, I end with a question. Why is the extension of the learning day a benefit of learning using digital content? If we are being more effective in our learning, shouldn’t we also focus on efficiency and speed? Just saying.

Week 4 post

Last year, on a plane ride from San Jose to Raleigh-Durham, NC, I noticed a young medical student medical putting her time on the plane to very good use. She was glued to her Ipad, trying to memorize the names of all the muscles in the human body. I don’t know what application she was using, but it was really neat to see her touch on different parts of the image of a human body, and then pick the right name for the muscle from a list of choices given. Now, that is knowledge at your fingertips.

I began this week’s reading with McCarthy’s article. And, the first thing that struck me as interesting was his comment that digital books, unlike digital music, forces people to interact with the content differently, thereby making it a more complicated process. I hadn’t quite thought along those lines till now. So, I decided to spend some “quality time” with my Kindle to make a conscious note of the differences between reading an e-book and a regular one.

Right off the bat, I realized that when I sit down with my Kindle, I’m no longer sitting down with just one book! I am instead sitting down with my entire e-library! So, now I can leap from fiction to non-fiction, or from magazines to newspapers. Also, once inside a book, the TOC is no longer at the beginning, and neither is the Index at the back. You can pull it up anytime you like no matter which page you are on. I also have an instant dictionary/thesaurus at my disposal. And, if I wanted more in-depth information on a topic, I can simply jump to another e-book, and find more there.

So far, so good. But, McCarthy points out college students love dog-earing their textbooks, highlighting what’s relevant, and adding notes. Guess what! You can do that on your e-readers too (not on all e-readers perhaps, but the more recent ones do have these features). Granted it’s not exactly the same, but serves the same purpose quite well. So, I can’t say I agree with McCarthy’s opinion that e-readers don’t serve students quite as well as they ought to. Am I missing something?

Having said that, I do agree with McCarthy that the e-books (not just the textbooks) available right now lack fizz, and are flat. Perhaps with further advances in technology, the day will soon come when e-books are richer in interactive capabilities.

And, that’s one of the main points in the article, “Digital Texts and the Future of Education: Why Books?” The study conducted on students who used Statistics1 indicates that the users preferred this application to learn statistics because it provided them with a new learning experience. And it’s nice to know that the students appreciated the pedagogical designing that went into building the app.

While richer interactivity is one advantage, I think that lower costs of e-books is another attracting factor, especially students with tuition to pay. I was shocked to read in “A Campus-Wide E-textbook Initiative” that many students don’t even buy textbooks because it’s so expensive.

I was also surprised by some of the findings from the feasibility study conducted at Northwest U. Why are e-readers attention getters, but not attention keepers (Phase 1 result)? And, in Phase 2, even with the better e-reading options, students claim to have read more when using old-fashioned textbooks.

I agree with the authors of this article though that it will take time to switch students over to e-reading. And, it’s heartening to see the huge technological strides in this field. Imagine every person having access to every book, journal, or article ever written in their hands!