Archive for September, 2007
Generation Y . . .
Most to nearly all of the literature I’ve read and conference sessions I’ve attended address the issue of “teaching millenials” as a matter of adapting to the changing learning styles that the current secondary to early college generation brings to the classroom. Characteristics and descriptors used to describe this generation of learners often include, in no particular order:
- engagement & experience
- visual & kinesthetic
- digitally literate
Consider these questions before reading any further . . . What are the most salient and enjoyable learning experiences you can recount from your high school, undergraduate or graduate studies? Take some time to describe one or more of those experiences. Also, which teacher(s) made an impression upon you and provided a particularly challenging learning experience?
Seriously. Stop and think for a minute. Describe that environment and what you remember about it. Get a mental picture. Consider and smile while you run through the experience in your head. Or, if someone’s available, share it with them.
Here’s several examples from my own education.
For High School Senior Math, I had Mr. Dean for a pre-Calculus type class. We used graphing calculators that were “way cool” to a math and gadget nerd. That year, he and I engaged in long discussions about different proofs – well beyond the work did in class. We talked about how much he enjoyed math, why he chose to teach it, and why he continued to teach even though he could have retired years earlier. We challenged one another. I continued to question, although naively, why 1/0 couldn’t actually be infinite. Sure, I understood the math, but I had logical reasons. We batted that one around for a long while. When I graduated he gave me a copy of an old calculus book that he personally enjoyed – complete with his autograph.
For a junior level, undergraduate literature class, I had Dr. Tom Hanks (no relation, of course) for “Chaucer.” Each of us in the class had to learn to repeat the Prologue in English as Chaucer wrote it; we listened to audio tapes from others who had recorded their readings of the same material. As I remember it, we were challenged to complete an original research project; we were advised to work and discuss our work with one another. We were introduced to library resources that provided audio recordings of the entire Canterbury Tales and asked to practice reading in middle English. There were extensive class discussions that included more than a few impromptu debates; to that point in my education, I had not worked harder on any research project before that one.
In graduate school, I had Dr. Lauren Cifuentes for an Advanced Instructional Design course and Dr. Jenny Sandlin for Adult Education and Learning Theory. In both instances, I worked with classmates and colleagues on a project or two; we communicated with one another in a variety of ways, email included. I also felt compelled in both instances to negotiate a different individual project than what was originally planned and was afforded the opportunity to pursue my ideas. Those two instances allowed me to truly discover my own unique learning identity – something I now understand I had begun with Dr. Hanks and Mr. Dean but for which I didn’t have many other opportunities earlier in my career.
Each of those experiences were quality learning experiences; I enjoyed them. They all provided something new – new content, new formats, new methods of and approaches to communicating with teachers and classmates. I worked harder than I had worked before; I felt like I was learning in a new and different way, and I firmly believe, without question that each experience pressed me to be:
- engagement & experience
- visual & kinesthetic
- digitally literate
But wait.. That can’t be. I’m certainly NOT a millenial; the first six years of my teaching career were spent teaching pre-millenials (or prior to 2000, at least). So, how can MY memorable learning experiences have exhibited characteristics of what’s supposed to be unique and new with millenials just now coming to secondary and early college classrooms?
Easy. Millenials are NOT different learners than those of us not-so-millenials trying to teach them. When given the opportunity, I reacted positively to engaging, social, experiential, visual, connected learning experiences, and I’m pretty confident most learners would have if they encountered those unique teachers. And, in each instance, my contemporaries and I were more “technology literate” than those before us – even if that did only mean we had become used to using graphing calculators and seeing them connected to overhead projectors.
Millenials are NOT different learners, but just like us not-so-millenials before them, Millenials have the opportunity to learn with grander and newer technologies than the those available to their teachers when their teachers were in secondary or undergraduate education.
Millenials are NOT different learners. Certainly, we’re witnessing an exponential growth in technologies, but the technology does not mean millenial learning styles are that much more evolved than our own when we were at the same point in our education.
Millenails are NOT different learners. There’s just more communication technologies around us that can be used to help them get the kind of learning experiences I – and likely everyone else – had, even if on a rarer occassion, with the Mr. Dean’s, Dr. Hanks’, Dr. Cifuentes’ and Dr. Sandlin’s of the world. There are additional communication technologies that we should be including in our learning strategies; but that’s a matter of using the tools that are at our disposal rather than adjusting to a new kind of learner.
All the new technology around us means we, as teachers, have more ways to to provide experiential learning activities, to use incredible visualizations, and to offer complex computer-based virtual simulations – all in an effort to communicate with them.
It’s all about the conversation and communication. Millenials are not different learners.
(list of characteristics/descriptors taken from: Educating the Net Generation, Oblinger & Oblinger Eds. http://tinyurl.com/zrawj)
I’m watching via LiveStreaming- “How much Learning is Taking Place via Technology in Today’s Classroom?” by Claire Bartlett – Associate Director of the Center for the Study of languages, and Director of the Language Resource Center at Rice University. The event is part of a Professional Lecture series hosted by Rice University’s Language Resource Center, the Technology Division of the Center for the Study of Languages and developed/coordinated by the Greater Houston Education Collaboration. The GHEC Group does live stream most, if not all, of their events.
I’m inserting my thoughts on this presentation in advance of my notes . . .
Certainly, the Rice language programs have dramatic advantages in comparison to programs not as rich in multimedia, but I asked if they had conducted and published research to quantify the extent to which their approach to language instruction improves language acquisition. Center for Studies of Languages is not a research center, but their faculty have done action research. One inquiry did show increased retention and performance in 60% of all cases. Given the systematic “immersion” in multimedia using a variety of learning strategies, tools and technology, there’s no question, in my opinion, that it’s likely highly effective instruction.
Of course, I was originally thinking, “Yeah, that’s good, but you have to have Rice’s financial resources for that; why or how does this presentation help everyone else? What’s the relevance to public Universities much less Community Colleges or K-12 institutions?”
Very near the end of the presenation, another participant asked the question, “What’s the budget to support the programs?” Of course, there’s substantial investment up front for the equipment, time and personnel to put many of the pieces in place: software, desktop hardware, streaming servers etc. However, the recurring support budgets Professor Bartlett described were not extravagant for a language center supporting as many languages as Rice does. I’m not suggesting a language teaching program like this one is inexpensive, but from what I gathered from this presentation, it’s not a King’s Ransom either. Most of that can be attributed to the number of open source or freely available tools included in the program.
Now.. on to the live blogging!
The presentation is an overview of the tools and technologies being used by teachers and learners in the Center for the Study of Languages. Be sure to visit the GHEC site and the recorded/saved stream of the event – particularly the “Reference” section of the stream which provides the powerpoint Professor Bartlett used; there’s a number of examples and links which I do not necessarily reference below.
Distribution of Audio/Video. Rice uses a variety of resources to distribute and make available multimedia related to language learning.
- Scola.org is “is a non-profit educational organization that receives and re-transmits television programming from around the world in native languages. These programs are available via satellite, cable TV and the Internet to students of language study, ethnic communities, and anyone seeking a global perspective.” Learners are able to download audio and video plus text of the broadcasts.
- Publisher provided streaming audio and video.
- Video letter exchanges. These are learner created videos and audio materials which are exchanged with learners abroad and made available via the internet. Two examples shown were an introduction to the Rice Campus and a study abroad video.
Question from the group. Does Rice have preference for the type of stream? Rice began streaming about 8 years ago. At the time, the quality of Real streams were higher, so they began with that format and have not considered changing. The Real Server allows streaming of windows and quicktime streams which makes it flexible enough.
Assessment & Learning Management Systems. Rice originally used WebCT but switched to Sakai. Neither of those products fully supported language learning; there were several
Developed ExTemplate in house to support more languages; they use Wimba.org embedded in ExTemplate.
- Rice use to use WebCT; has switched to Sakai, but For Language Learning, they’ve encountered a number of issues: recording students response, right to left languages.
- Rice makes ExTemplate available online at: http://lang.rice.edu/extemplate/index.htm; there is a template showcase available from that page.
Learner ePortfolios are posted via the public web, not within a LMS. The public availability of the portfolios has proven useful and beneficial. They use MS Word to compile and write text and save as HTML and then embed or link to audio of speaking.
Question from the group. Are learners able to use their ePortfolio for personal needs – interview portfolios – what about beyond their time at Rice?
LRC Wikis & Blogs. MediaWiki and LifeType Blog, both opensource projects are used by about 60% of the language classes. Rice customized both resources to enable Unicode encoding to handle right-to-left languages. They have found that many of their learners prefer individual blogs rather than collaborative wikis because “they are very competitive.” In addition to individual blogs and course blogs which allow comments, Rice also has “Open Blogs” to which anyone in the Rice community can post.
Question from the group. Are blogs productive? How are they being used? Learners are required to produce X amount of writing in a certain span of time, including comments; that writing occurs in blog space rather than traditional essays. Key difference between these spaces and those within LMS’ is that these blogs are public to the world. Will blogs work for High Schools? Yes, but privacy and safety concerns become an issue; I suggested www.21classes.com to the room as a possible solution for K-12 classrooms.
Cultural Documentaries are also produced by learners in an immersion, study-abroad type experience in which they visit the country of origin for the language being studied for a month or more. There are scholarships, grants, stipends etc to support these projects. All hardware and software necessary for the project is provided to learners by Rice University.
This past Friday, I attended the first Sloan-C Professional Development event for educators working in Second Life. The event was held in-world at Cybrary City and hosted by ShaunG Lynch. The question the event sought to answer was, “What can educators do in SL that can’t be done better using other platforms?” Two speakers offered examples of educational uses to the 25+ avatars in attendance: CDB Barkeley (RL: Alan Levine, NMC) and
Max Chatnoir (RL: Dr. Mary Ann Clark, Texas Wesleyan Univ).
CDB provided a high level overview and list of projects with which he’s familiar; given his position with the NMC and the weekly Teacher’s Buzz that he hosts, Alan’s familiar with a broad range of educational projects occurring in Second Life. Among the projects he mentioned:
- Ed Lamoureaux at Bradley University runs an entire course within Second Life; learners in his social research class perform research in-world to engage research techniques and methods.
- There’s been “burst of interesting projects that are reconstructions of real places or historical rebuilds” including: Morocco by Ann Enigma (RL: Hilary Mason), Sistene Chapel by Vassar College, plus virtual Egypt (pics), Dublin and Rome.
- Literature Alive! by Beth Ritter-Guth recently included a build of Dante’s Inferno; through that environment and others she has built, Beth’s learners are asked to engage activities focused on researching literature and contributing content.
- Timeline of Earth History by University of Arizona uses a 3D spiral to represent the 4.5 million years of earth history; undergraduate learners have researched information and built exhibits at various points on the timeline.
- Second Life in Education wiki by Jo Kay and Sean McDunnagh
During her time, Max Chatnoir offered a thorough sitting tour of Genome Island. Briefly, she described:
- Mendel’s Abbey used for teaching inheritance patterns,
- the Terrace which has a large model of a cell that links to other areas on the island with a few experiments for learning; a bunny hutch and bioinformatics kitchen are under develpoment,
- the Gene Pool will house experiments with population genetics and has a sandbox available for visitors and learners to create objects for the island,
- the Tower is a series of small labs, mostly for molecular genetics; it has about 25 modular sections which may be expanded; it includes what Max includes is a key part of the island: a human chromosome gallery with information about various human genes.
The island has a variety of experiments rooted in some concept or hypothesis and generates a set of data to notecards which can be exported to external software packages for further analysis. There are several games included for learners to play to learn various biological and genetic concepts: “The Mating Game” and “Genetics Trivial Pursuit.”
Certainly, Alan’s perspective and description of exciting educational projects in Second Life will always be useful given his level of immersion in the environment; in his role with the NMC and the Teacher’s Buzz event, he certainly provides an excellent list of resources and interesting projects. And, Max’s work with Genome Island is exciting and provides a fantastic in-world science resource. With that said, I believe there’s a long way to go to answer, “What can educators do in SL that can’t be done better using other platforms?” And, of course, as I’ve argued multiple times previously in this space, I believe that question is critical to developing quality learning environments in Second Life.
I believe the event answers the question, in part, as well. The type of professional development possible through Second Life, while uncreatively similar to RL conferences or seminars, are simply not possible via the web. The visual engagement of “seeing” colleagues at an event is perceptually different than seeing a name listed in a chat room or online discussion board. The opportunities to network with colleagues cannot be matched by other platforms, in my opinion.
With that said, I do not believe we explored during the event whether learning resources in Second Life that could not be accomplished equally well or better through other platforms. It does raise the “specter” of “comparative media” studies which last enjoyed popularity in the late 1990′s as distance learning via the internet surged in popularity.
Constitution Day – September 17 – Virtual Guantanomo Bay & Interrogation
Seton Hall Law School is offering a program in celebration of Constitution Day on September 17, 2007. The program will consider Interrogation as a Means of Intelligence Gathering. The Constitutional Day program will include input and insight from social sciences, including psychology and medicine, when considering the constitutionality, efficacy and reliability of intelligence gathering by interrogation. More information about the event and the full program is available at http://law.shu.edu/constitutionday/index.htm. For Second Life, the program will be webcast in a virtual Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Virtual Nuclear Reactor by University of Denver
Inside Higher Ed offers a more complete write up on the project. In short, Dr. Robert Amme at University of Denver and colleagues, under a grant from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, are developing a virtual nuclear reactor in Second Life to facilitate hands-on lab experiences for a Master’s degree in applied science with an emphasis on environmental impact assessment. Classes will be hosted on Sci Islands in Second Life and by The Science School.
Hall & Hord (1987) describe three types of change facilitators: initiators, managers and responders. While they focus on K-12 environments and specifically the leadership style of principals, I believe there’s insight in their definitions and research review relevant to educational technology or information technology departments.
I believe it may be important for Edtech/IT departments to consider which of the three leadership styles/philosophies they’re going to embrace. More specifically, I think it’s critical for educational technology departments to act as initiators within their institutions. Before explaining why, let me offer a short summary of each leadership style, per Hall & Hord – quoting and paraphrasing liberally (230-232)”
- Responders get as much input as possible to be sure that everyone has had a chance to weigh-in. They provide a great deal of autonomy to instructors and focuses on their own role as being primarily administrative; thus, they believe their primary role is to support changes and innovations by providing student and instructor access to requested or required resources.
- Managers focus on providing basic support to instructors; they make sure instructors are informed about decisions and a more keenly aware of instructor needs. One result of that awareness is an effort to protect instructors from excessive demands; if they believe a change could potentially be disruptive or unwelcomed, they’ll dampen its entry into the environment. A the same time, they’ll also work closely with faculty to implement a proposed or required change.
- Initiators focus on clear, decisive, long-range goals they hold for their institution. They listen to input from instructors involved in a particular innovation and then make decisions tied to the long-range goals and vision they hold for the institution. Initiators push; they have strong expectations and strive to ensure that everyone involved is moving in a goal-oriented direction. They are creative in interpreting policies and work to capture as many resources and as much capability for their schools.
Hall & Hord do suggest that these are stereotypes, so there are shades of gray between the various types. They also highlight research which shows a continuum spanning from Overt Resistors in the Responders group to overly Autocratic leaders within the Initiator group. Essentially, too much of a good thing can be bad.
With that in mind, which approach or posture does your local IT or Educational Technology group assume?
I do believe the stereotypes Hall & Hord describe can easily be applied to the personality of a technology service groups – whether infrastructure or instructional; although, I understand there may be argument in that assumption. Moving past that assumption however, I believe my local institution’s IT/ET groups currently lie somewhere between responder and manager. Of course, that is largely because initiators become more involved in instructionally related issues which many will ask, “What business do technologists have in instructionally-centered discussions?”
I’m not suggesting that technology groups should be or should become instructional leaders within institutions. However, I do believe technology support groups can and should take a more proactive, initiator-type role.
The most basic justification for that is simply that faculty have expertise in their particular fields which are often not related to the art/science of teaching much less the use of technology to support and facilitate learning. English faculty have degrees in English; History faculty have degrees in History and so on. Are they not expected to spend their professional development time keeping abreast of changes and developments in their field? If so, is it reasonable to also require them to keep pace with the changes in the technology industry – to know which new technologies can be applied to learning environments? I personally don’t think so. And, if that’s the case, who should be initiating the discovering and experimentation with new learning technologies? IMHO, I believe that’s the contribution to educational leadership for which educational technologists must assume responsibility.
Over in the Sloan-C SL Net Ning site, Caren / Claird Loon commented,
I am interested in compiling resources on facilitation skills that support educational experiences in Second Life. I have a number of articles and books regarding the facilitation of online learning in general, and although there is some overlap, SL (and 3D virtual environments in general) poses its own set of challenges and opportunities. If you have any favorite resources or tips, please feel free to post them.
My off the cuff response was,
I’d probably start with David Jonassen’s work in problem based learning or Charles Reigeluth’s elaboration theory.
A reply by Arlene (SL Roshanna Rives) came two days later.
One ‘aha’ moment actually happened during our tour of the Teacher Network Center with Pia Klaar. I watched Pia’s movements which were pretty distinctive as she guided the tour. Her movement cues helped me to find my way to the various buidings and areas. So I would consider that a ‘ facilitation skill’ in SL …..
That exchange alludes to the differences between effectively (a) designing, (b) developing and (c) delivering quality learning opportunities in Second Life. I discussed it previously back in July, but the different replies by Arlene and me very clearly highlights the difference between the three.
To begin the discussion from all three perspectives (noted previously, plus some). Skills & Knowledge necessary to . . .
DESIGN quality instruction via Second Life:
- establishing facilitator roles for teachers,
- embedding assessment within the learning process,
- creating and facilitating problem-based learning,
- creating multiple approaches for knowledge development,
- game, simulation and role-play design,
- creating collaborative, group-centric learning,
- embedding social interactions in learning activities,
- graphic, machinima/video, architectural/3D design, and
- others ? ? ?
DEVELOP quality instruction via Second Life:
- in-world photography tools, graphic editing, digital photography editing/production,
- screencasting, in-world video capture tools, digital video editing,
- 3D modeling,
- scripting and programming,
- web and database development applications,
- context specific building tools: native build tools, sculpties, texturing vendor developed in-world building/scripting tools, and
- others ? ? ?
DELIVER quality instruction via Second Life:
- general presentation and speaking skills,
- general/basic navigation of the virtual environment,
- virtual body language: gestures, animations, customizing Avatar behavior,
- media streaming into Second Life,
- general communication skills in the virtual environment (sharing landmarks, speech)
- facilitating virtual VOICE chat,
- managing and facilitating text chat discussions, and
- others ? ? ?
There’s a great deal of opportunity in exploring additional skills that should be added and the skills listed above in more depth. Perhaps by classifying skills in this manner, we can better organize and identify the skills needed. Also, this taxonomy may make it easier to manage a development project and ensure that all necessary skills are present within the team. Instructional Designers with Subject Matter Expert consultation should be DESIGNING; Multimedia Developers with Subject Matter Expert and Instructional Designer consultation should be DEVELOPING; and Subject Matter Expert with Instructional Designer and Multimedia Developer support should be DELIVERING.
In late July, I tagged my 1000th website using del.icio.us. It was interesting to hit that nice round number; for some reason, I’m easily entertained by passing semi-significant but mostly unimportant “milestones” like that one: my car’s odometer rolling a bunch of zero’s still catches my attention even though it was more “exciting” when it actually rolled rather than digitally changed (grin — rotary phones anyone?)
Looking at the number of sites I’ve bookmarked using del.icio.us though, I wonder what sort of utility there is in having that many sites saved. Reflecting on how I’m using del.icio.us, there are certain things I do not do that would probably make it a more useful tool.
- I do not spend any time organizing or maintaining my del.icio.us bookmarks.
- I do not use a consistent system to tag sites; whatever tags come to mind in the moment are the ones I use. There’s a few exceptions to that; I do consistently mark things I’d like other faculty to see or use with LX.
- I do not go back to del.icio.us to access links on a regular basis. The sites I visit regularly are in my links toolbar and faviconized in tabs in Firefox.
- I do not use the social features of del.icio.us a great deal. The only individual tagging sites for me and for whom I tag sites on an irregular basis is my wife. I’m not in anyone’s network and very few, if any are in mine.
- I do not use a bot that automatically posts sites I’ve tagged in a day to a blog. If there were a weekly posting, I’d consider using it.
To get more functional use out of del.icio.us, I should probably revisit those features. However, not all is lost. At the very least, del.icio.us does allow me to . . .
- Tag sites and republish/syndicate listings in other locations: this blog, muveforward.com and pageflakes. I do hope to syndicate certain tags in other areas as well; particularly, as new tools come online at work, I intend to make the LX tag feed available to faculty through intranet or training and professional development portal.
- Go back to and search for sites I *know* I’ve tagged at one point. Being able to search through my bookmarks is extremely valuable, particularly since I intently use the site description field on every site I tag. That does at least make del.icio.us more functional than a listing of page titles and links.
Now . . . If I could get Blackboard Scholar to play nice with del.icio.us or get del.icio.us to export JUST certain tags, I’d be much happier. That would allow me to export all of the aforementioned LX tagged sites to an RSS list which I could then import into my Bb Scholar account which is already more accessible to the faculty with whom I work.