Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Second Language Acquisition

I was fascinated by the discussion we had yesterday about second language acquisition.  So much so, that I just wasted about 30 minutes messing around on Livemocha taking Spanish lessons.  Even in that short amount of time I feel like I learned more than most kids learn in an entire week in a junior high or high school spanish class.  

I've been trying to analyze what it was about Livemocha that kept me engaged and led to learning.  Part of it could be that I am a little competitive so things like questions with right and wrong answers, gaining points, etc. are things that motivate me.  That makes me wonder what a non-competitive person might think about those aspects of the livemocha experience.  It was also nice that I could do a variety of things (listen, read, write, speak).  It seems like engaging a variety of ther learner's senses is effective in promoting learning.  The other nice thing was that I could learn at my own pace and make mistakes without it being public (like what happens in a classroom).  It was also effective to receive immediate feedback regarding my answers.  

I was prompted a number of times to "find a friend" or to provide feedback on someone else's learning which I thought was an interesting concept.  I think that online or distance education often gets a bad rap for being "anti-social".  While that may be true in some cases, there are ways to make livemocha a little more collaborative and social and to capitalize on the power of social negotiation or collaboration.  I wish that I had the time to take one of these courses.  It seems like an interesting way to approach language acquisition--almost a melding of online education with social networking.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Web 2.0 and the Future of Education

This is an interesting video clip that was produced by Michael Wesch and a class of anthropology students at Kansas State.  Wesch was just named as one of four professors of the year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.  

It's short but raises some interesting questions about education and what it could or should look like in the near future. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fear of Technology

The first part of our discussion in class today about Web 2.0 and the almost illogical fear of web 2.0 technologies that some people have was interesting to me because I think that it is a common problem.  It was obvious from the quotes shared by Matt and Neil in their presentation that these fears are generally the result of a misunderstanding of new technologies and their capabilities.  It raised the question in my mind of what our responsibility might be to educate people about the technologies that are emerging and what they can contribute to learning.  

It can be frustrating when we discover a new technology or application and want to make use of it but those we work for and with don't see its value.  But, we shouldn't be overly surprised when something new (or at least new to the user) isn't accepted readily because it's only human nature to be a little hesitant when dealing with new and unfamiliar things.  I think that we might shoot ourselves in the feet at times by trying to implement the use of new technology before we have helped stakeholders really understand its functionality and capabilities.  So, my argument is that, when faced with a new technology, we should not only ask "How can I use this to enhance learning?", but also "How can I enhance others understanding of this technology so that they will use it to enhance learning?".

I saw an example of this two summers ago when we were discussing the possibility of using Facebook to connect new students with each other and the University.  We made this proposal in a meeting and it was almost immediately shot down by a number of the committee members.  They were very unfamiliar with Facebook and had only read negative things about its misuse--I doubt that any of them had actually ever used it personally.  Consequently, it has taken almost two years to restart those conversations because of the knee-jerk reaction that the mention of "Facebook" elicits.  Looking back on that experience, I think we would have been much better off to have introduced the tool (Facebook) in an interactive way and demonstrated some of its uses.  That's not to say that it would have been warmly received immediately, but I do think that helping others see the value in technology and giving them time to become familiar with it goes a long way in gaining acceptance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gaming in Education

I really enjoyed our discussion on gaming in education yesterday.  One of the things that I found interesting were the comments that were made regarding "hiding the learning" from the learner.  I can see how a game that feels like school would be a complete turn off (and not much of a game at all).  So, designing a learning experience that feels like a game seems critical.  One of the questions that this raised in my mind, however, was how "hiding the learning" impacts transfer and retention of learning.  And, maybe the deeper question is can we learn something without being aware that we have learned?  I don't have good answers to those questions; it is something that I need to spend some more time thinking about.  

Yesterday's discussion also brought to mind a book that I read a couple of years ago (Flow, Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi).  In Flow, the author talks about the "psychology of optimal experience" and how when we are in one of these "flow" experiences we become completely immersed in the activity, time seems to stop, and we experience pure satisfaction and fulfillment.  He then talks about the conditions necessary to achieving this type of experience.  I think that a lot of the things that he shared in his book apply to instructional design and are the same things we see in gaming experiences that make them so engaging (e.g. clear goals/outcome, feedback that lets the participant know how they are doing, challenge equal to the participants ability, etc.).  

I think that Dr. Graham's question about learning/work being intrinsically motivating has a relationship to this concept of "flow".  I don't know that all work or learning is instrinsically motivating but I do think that certain conditions can lead to learning/work experiences that are.  I think that when the Doctrine Covenants talks about instances when "he that preacheth and he that receiveth understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together" it is referring to these types of learning experiences.  So, I think the big question that we should be asking ourselves as designers is "how do we create these types of learning experiences?"  because I don't think that all learning or work is "created equal".   

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Professional Journal Reports--Part 2

TechTrends:  Linking research and practice to improve learning
  • Association of Educational Communication & Technology
  • Is designed for practitioners--How to apply instructional technology principles
  • Short articles (more like a Trade Magazine than a research journal)
New Directions for Evaluation
  • Published by AEA (American Evaluation Association)
  • Available in HBLL
  • Focuses on Technology rather than Science (Technology is not an applied science--they are two different fields and ask different questions--like Gibbons argument)
Open Learning:  The journal of open and distance learning
  • What is the "Open University"?
  • Contains both scholarly (research) and practical (case studies, etc.) articles
  • "Predicting Success among Distance Learners"
Is this a different group than those that would not be successful in a traditional setting?

American Journal of Evaluation
  • Mostly practical articles, often aimed at new evaluators
  • Preparing students in graduate programs to make a meaningful contribution to the field
Computer Assisted Language Learning
  • Very broad sampling of topics & articles
  • Can be hard to navigate because of the wide variety of topics addressed
Educause Review
  • Richard Light--Learning happens when the learner participates in the process (group learning)
  • Decameron Web Project
  • Bug Scope Project (students send bug to U. of Illinois and then can login to a site and view real time miscrope images of the bug they sent in to the lab

Monday, November 10, 2008

Professional Journal Reports

Educational Media International:  
What is e-learning?

Journal of Distance Learning Administration:  

The International Journal for Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning:
How is CSCL used in business settings? I would like to hear about examples of that from the corporate world because most of my experience with collaborative learning has been in formal educational settings.
I would be interested in reading articles about the "barriers in online learning".
Another question that this presentation raised in my mind was the impact of distance upon decorum among learners in an online collaborative environment. Are people less civil because of the distance that is created by the technology?

Australasian Journal of Educationl Technology:
It was interesting to me to hear that Japanese schools do not integrate technology into their
educational systems very often. That surprised me because I kind of associate Japan with
technology (think t. v.'s gaming systems, etc.). Is it cultural values that lead to this
hesitancy to use technology to promote learning?

Journal of Teacher Education:
  • Who reads this journal? Is it just faculty in teacher education departments or do practitioners read it
Journal of Technology
  • Do focused study guides limit the learning that students experience? Do they really study content outside of what they see on the guide?
Religious Educator
  • What does it mean to be an "academic journal"?  
  • Is The Religious Educator "peer reviewed?"
  • Outside of formal religious educators at CES schools, who reads it?
  • It was interesting to hear about CES' "teaching emphasis".  I would be interested to know what brought about that change
Digital Creativity

Performance Improvement Quarterly

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Distance Education


This is an interesting essay written by a faculty member at Elon.  She talks about her first experience teaching an online course and the challenges and benefits that came with it.  She addresses a lot of the issues that are common to discussions surrounding distance ed and helped me see that not everything I believed about online courses is true.  

One of the most interesting things that she mentioned is that "students can learn just as effectively online as in a traditional classroom, with some tweaks."  She mentions a few of those "tweaks", but I was left wondering what the key factors are that make an online course meaningful.  I have never taken an online course or taught one, but I can imagine that there is potential for that sort of class to be something less than desirable (but I guess the same could be said for traditional courses as well).  

Might "blended" learning environments be a good hybrid?  It seems like this allows for elements of both types of learning environments to be capitalized on and maximized.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Online Assessments

It was interesting today to see how the MTC is using technology to improve the learning of their missionaries and to generate data that can be used to make well-informed decisions.  

I agree with all of the advantages that were mentioned in class today--accessability, collection of data, conserving of resources, etc.  Some disadvantages that I would cite are the possibility for oversampling (because it is easy to build online assessments we are more likely to use (or abuse) them) as well as the creation of assessments in a rushed, unthoughtful way (again, because we can hammer out a survey on survey monkey in a few minutes we may not be as thoughful as we build the assessment).  

As far as my work goes, online assessments are very useful (but also susceptible to the tendencies I mentioned above).  I coordinate new student programs on campus (e.g. new student orientation, freshman seminar courses, etc.) and we use surveys quite often.  One thing that I would like to improve upon is the use of assessments that also provide feedback or promote learning for the student.  We have started to do that with our assessments, but it is something that I would like to keep working on.  One assessment instrument that I have just started to explore is Qualtrics which is a 360 degree survey tool that can lead to a lot of learning and improvement for those that are surveyed or assessed.  It is used heavily in corporate settings, but is also employed by a number of universities including some big names like Harvard and Carnegie Mellon.  BYU has just started to use it a little bit (it was actually created by a BYU faculty member and we are able to use if for free!).  It looks like it will give us the ability to improve our assessments tremendously.  I'm excited to learn more about it and use it in the future.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ghosts, Skylines, & Shuri's Ph. D

So, this is just a random assortment of clips and photos.

The video clip will show the school (Gypsy Rose) that I would like Shuri to attend for her Ph. D.  

The "ghost" can be seen in the picture with the round ball of light (for those of you that are not familiar with the paranormal, this is called an "orb" and (according to the crazy drunk man that led our ghost tour in Jacksonville, FL) is evidence of the presence of "paranormal beings".  So, it turns out that my hotel room is haunted.  

The picture of the Skyline isn't great, but is a picture of the sunrise this morning from my hotel window.

The Boston Sports Scene

So, within the last 24 hours I have visited two of the most historic sports venues in the world--the Boston Garden (now known as the TD Banknorth Garden) and Fenway park.  I thought I would post a couple of pictures so you could see a little bit of what I saw.  The Garden was amazing.  I've never been at a sporting event with more energy and this was a regular season game that was never even very close.  Boston was up 5-1 late in the 3rd Period but the fans stuck around and were as loud then as at any point in the game.  I felt like it was an "experience" rather than just watching a game.  I also sat next to some season ticket holders which gave everything a very authentic feel (I think I heard more f-bombs in those 3 hours than I probably have my whole life).

Fenway was just about as cool.  We got a personal tour and then got to have dinner up in one of the lounge areas (all we could eat dogs, sliders, fried mozarella, and dessert, plus drinks).  They were doing some renovation of the seats in the infield area so we didn't get to see much down there and they didn't have the field lights on, but I managed to sneak down onto the infield area and stood right behind home plate which was pretty cool.  Both the Garden & Fenway were much smaller than I expected.  It gives a really intimate feel to being there, like you're part of an elite club that most people never really get to experience.  

Hope you enjoy the pictures

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trip to Boston

After one mishap after another I finally got to Boston safe and sound last night (Halloween).  I'm staying at the Park Plaza Hotel & Towers on Park St. which is right across the street from Boston Commons if you're familiar with the area.  The conference hasn't been all that great, but Boston is a great city and I've had a good time wandering around for the last day.  Today I ate lunch at the original Cheer's pub which was kind of fun and tonight I went to a Boston Bruins game (I have been a lifelong hockey fan and this was my first ever NHL game which was fun).  

I have posted a few pictures of the game as well as a video clip or two (but I'm not sure if they'll work).  Enjoy!