Does your institution standardize on a single internet browser? Are other browsers allowed or supported? Educationally, is that a problem?
My institution deploys on all College PC’s Internet Explorer although I’m not sure which version. I’m not sure which version because I don’t use IE. I’ve been using Firefox for the better part of the past year because I finally discovered the add-ons and how much the development community is able to enhance and tweak the browsing experience through those freely available morsels of technological candy (grin).
I’ve gone one step further though. About 2-3 months ago, I began suggesting to our Technology Services group (in which I work) that we need to begin supporting Firefox simply because of the enhancements and tweaks that are relevant to the classroom. First and foremost among the educationally relevant add-ons, in my opinion, is Zotero: a browser based research manager. If you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage any (a) instructor that does any research assignments or requires notecards, “bib” cards etc or (b) student that must do those assignments. I’m personally using it to manage all of my dissertation research; quite frankly, it does everything I’ve wished in the past that other tools could do.
Now, Firefox has launched Firefox Campus Edition which comes with the Zotero, StumbleUpon and FoxyTunes add-ons already added on.
I’ll do (actually, finish) a more complete post on Zotero in the next couple of days.
I’ve spent my 8-year graduate school career (yes, I know that’s too long ;-) studying educational technologies and their impact on the teaching and learning process, and I’m planning to spend a 20+ year career working with faculty to continuously evolve and improve the teaching and learning process by engaging appropriate technologies.
Since I first engaged the educational technology field almost 8 years ago, I’ve been amazed by the complex depth and breadth of the field; that’s true of any discipline, but educational technology has undergone tremendous growth as a discipline over the last 25-30 years (since the introduction of the PC to the consumer market). While we, as educational technologists, have worked hard to develop our field and the contributions we may make to the quality of teaching and learning in educational institutions, I believe we may have “missed the boat” in one regard.
If we’ve truly done our job as change agents, how is it possible for a colleague in a “more traditional” humanities/behavioral sciences discipline believe it was correct and appropriate to classify and dismiss untold hours worth of instructional design and instructional media development services provided to him/her to develop digital resources for her/his online course as nothing more than, “Oh… that’s just tech support?”
The simple answer I offer is, “Educational Technology, as a field and discipline, is STILL in the library.” That’s at least true in a couple of institutions with which I’m familiar, and I suspect that it’s true in many other institutions as well. What does that mean? What are the implications?
Technology’s impact on the learning environment has changed . . . Educational technology had simple beginnings as a small department consisting mostly of equipment and part-time staff holed up in whatever dark, dank closet in the back corner of the library begrudgingly offered to them by the librarian. The early educational technologies were filmstrips, audio cassettes, and overhead projectors. The training and knowledge required to use the devices focused, and rightly so, on the mechanical use of the system. Effectively using those devices in the classroom required faculty to engage short, how-to, push-button type training sessions before “doing their voodoo” of wrapping instruction and pedagogy around the technology. The pedagogy surrounded the use of those learning technologies in the classroom and relied upon theories of teaching and learning with which faculty were mostly familiar. However, as educational technologies have progressed, the pedagogy pervades the use of learning technologies in the classroom and relies upon theories of teaching and learning with which faculty are rarely familiar. Technology and pedagogy have become inextricably intertwined, but being able to use a technology is vastly different from being able to teach effectively with it in the classroom. Knowing how to set up a discussion forum in an LMS, post a message to students, and reply to their comments is dramatically different from the skill of facilitating an effective online discussion as a learner-centered, constructivist learning experience. Teaching in the online learning environment effectively requires much more than just knowing how to use the proper points and clicks to add an item to the learning management system, and there now exists 25+ years of in depth literature surrounding the use of digital technologies in learning environments that justifies that claim.
Faculty and instructional leadership perception of learning technology has not . . . Despite the growth of educational technology into an entire discipline worthy of career-long dedication, I believe many administrators and faculty formed an understanding of educational technology from the early beginnings, and their perception of what educational technology is has not evolved with the discipline. If it had, my colleague would have known how ridiculous his classification of my discipline as “tech support” was before I explained it to him. If it had, there wouldn’t be entire community college campuses or even systems without a hint of instructional design or technology resources to support faculty. If it had, online courses wouldn’t begin with learners after merely ten hours of preliminary design and development work. Ultimately, if we were to ask a broad number of faculty and instructional leadership to describe what an educational technologist is and does, would the most frequent definition more correctly define what educational technology was 25+ years ago?
What are the potential implications?
Inaccurate institutional understanding regarding the depth and breadth of the educational technology field potentially results in several inefficient or undesirable outcomes.
- Learners do not receive instruction utilizing appropriate contemporary technologies and approaches to teaching and learning. Intuitively, an institution that does not understand the complexity of educational technology and the underlying, constructivist learning theories will not adapt quickly to the needs of digital learners.
- Unreasonable burdens are placed on faculty. Faculty with terminal degrees in other disciplines are expected to produce instructional materials – online or otherwise – that often require skills and a knowledge base tantamount to another Master’s degree (in educational technology).
- Technology drives instruction rather than instruction driving technology – the tail wags the dog. Absent strong educational technology leadership, the future direction of technology in a learning institution will be guided by trends in the IT industry rather than trends in teaching and learning with technology. (I’m not suggesting that IT professionals have less value in educational institutions. I’m suggesting IT’s leading educational technology efforts is as inefficient an undesirable as an educational technologist ensuring the network or data warehouse remains functional and secure.)
- Institutions do not employ educational technologists to serve as change agents. Underestimating the value of instructional designers and educational technologists leads many institutions to underemploy or to not employ experts in the field.
- Training programs are too narrow. Many professional development or technology training programs for faculty focus more on how to use a technology rather than an in depth treatment of how to teach with a technology.
- Training programs are to shallow. Even if a training program explores pedagogical issues, they often do not do so in enough depth across a sustained period of time. For example, many distance learning certification programs offered by institutions to their faculty require as few as 16 and no more than 48 hours of focused professional development.
I’m certainly interested in the community’s thoughts regarding the accuracy of my perspective, and while I have my own ideas, does the community believe there’s a remedy to the issue?
I’ve been reading Indexed for a while now; it’s an entertaining distraction and break among the volume of learning technology blogs that I attempt to keep up with.
With the full-time job being at its busiest time of the year, the part-time job(s) bearing down with deadlines, and the need to work on the dissertation being…. well… the need to work on the dissertation. This image/post caught my attention and I felt compelled to share it here despite the memories it stirred of a college-level Grammar class to which I subjected myself during undergrad ;-)
Check out Indexed; it’s a worthwhile read and distraction.
I disappeared for a week (boooo!), but I’ve been quite focused on my dissertation proposal. That work does raise a question for the edtech community, however. Reading Everett Rogers’ (2003) Diffusion of Innovation, what methods and approaches do different institutions engage to facilitate the diffusion and adoption by faculty of new learning technologies? Does anyone engage a defined, systematic process for integrating a new technology? This may be a round about way of getting nowhere, but take the white pill and follow me into the rabbit hole . . .
Rogers describes three types of innovation-decisions by organizations: optional, collective and authority. For optional innovation-decisions, individuals may make a decision to adopt or not independent of the organization. Collective decisions to integrate new technologies are consensus drive, and of course, authority decisions are those dictated to individuals within the organization.
I think the difficulty for educational institutions – higher education rather than or perhaps much more so than K-12 – lies in the inability and necessary lack of desire by academic leadership to make consensus or authority based decisions to integrate new technologies into the classroom: neither work well within the context of academic freedom. Higher education organizations can not and should not be in the business of forcing or precluding a learning technology’s use in the classroom. Unfortunately, that does not change the desperate need within higher education to organizationally pursue innovative learning technologies and pedagogical methods.
The diffusion of innovation field of research, however, seems to ignore the unique position of educational organizations. Rogers’ treatment of the individual’s innovation-decision process is quite thorough; his influence is apparent, although not explicit, in much of the technology integration literature. However, Rogers’ explanation of the organizational innovation-decision process admittedly “deals mainly with collective and authority innovation-decisions” (402). He “chalks” that up to the fact that those are the two types of innovation-decisions in which the organization is the agent of change.
The challenge for higher education is to organizationally facilitate optional innovation-decisions by faculty. The individual decision process is well defined by the body of diffusion research literature. The literature seems to be devoid of models and methods by which an organization can facilitate the individual innovation-decision process: the exact task with which all higher education institutions are currently faced.
So, back to my original question. What methods and approaches do different institutions engage to facilitate the diffusion and adoption by faculty of new learning technologies? Does anyone engage a defined, systematic process for integrating a new technology? Surrey et al (2005) suggest not but offer a model of factors (RIPPLES) that influence how effectively learning technology may be diffused through an educational organization.
Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.
Surry, D.W., Ensminger, D.C., & Haab, M. (2005). A model for integrating instructional technology into higher education (Electronic Version). British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 327-329.
My current research direction is this . . .
I’m considering a multi-case study of 4-5 institutions at varying stages of implementing Second Life; the study of each institution will be conducted concurrently over a six month period. The purpose of the study will be to explore three questions:
- What is the current state of institutional engagement of Second Life? To what extent are institutions facilitating the use of Second Life? How might institutional integration of Second Life be accomplished more efficiently, particularly in light of existing literature regarding models for the diffusion of learning technologies?
- Do current practices by institutions in the process of integrating educational technologies (Second Life, in this instance) confirm the RIPPLES model described by Surry et al (2005)? Is adoption more successful and widespread within institutions engaging all elements of that model? Do successful instances of technology integration further clarify the RIPPLES model by suggesting specific procedures or systematic approaches to the diffusion and integration of new learning technologies?
- Are there elements of the innovation-decision process that may be further clarified by conducting (a) a qualitative study, (b) over a period of time, (c) nearer to the initial point of adoption (Meyer, 2004; Rogers, 2003)? Those three design study elements address weaknesses within the diffusion of innovation research literature identified by both Meyer and Rogers.
Meyer, G. (2004). Diffusion Methodology: Time to Innovate? Journal of Health Communication, 9(1), 59-69.
Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.
Surry, D.W., Ensminger, D.C., & Haab, M. (2005). A model for integrating instructional technology into higher education (Electronic Version). British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 327-329.
This last week, I have been working on my dissertation proposal which, as currently planned, will include some of the data from the survey completed earlier this summer: Engagement of Second Life by Educational Institutions.
Naturally, the response rate was lower than hoped with only 57 total respondents; given that limited response, however, the most interesting result was that of the 19 respondents indicating they were currently using Second Life with learners:
- Roughly half of those are using locations not affiliated with their institution.
- Better than 75% are funding their instructional use of Second Life.
- More than 30% suggest their instructional leaders are not aware of or have not taken a specific position regarding the instructional use of Second Life.
- More than 40% indicate the information technology services group within their institution is not aware of or has not taken a specific position regarding instructional use of Second Life.
- More than 40% are not aware of their institution having begun developing a strategic/organizational plan regarding the use of Second Life.
- More than 55% are not aware of any effort by their institution to develop standards regarding the quality of instruction via Second Life.
I recognize that this is a very small sample size; these numbers may not be representative of all institutions in which Second Life is being used by faculty. Also, I fully understand that those currently using Second Life in learning spaces are professionals that Rogers (2003) labeled innovators and early adopters, and many of them are “lone rangers” as described by Bates (2000). And, I know that early uses of technology must begin in small pockets in a decentralized fashion.
With all of that said, I do believe the increasingly rapid, evolutionary pace of technology (Kurzweil, 2005) requires that organizations be more cognizant of leading edge technology. At the very least, the innovators, early adopters or “lone rangers” should be sought out and leveraged as a resource for organizational decisions regarding the technology. If that’s not necessary for every technology, I believe it is, at the very least, true for a potentially disruptive, educationally relevant technology like Second Life. It is not beneficial for innovations to remain in relative obscurity within an organization.
If you’re an administrator or educational technologist, are there technologies your faculty are using of which you are unaware? Would those technologies benefit the broader institutional audience? Are there mechanisms by which technology support personnel are systematically able to discover within and to support the diffusion of innovations throughout the institution?
Bates, A. (2000). Managing technological change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Rogers, E.M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th Ed.). New York: Free Press.
Kurzweil, R. (2005). How technology’s accelerating power will transform us. Retrieved August 12, 2007, from http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/38.
to see how well you can sell yourself in four (4) picture-only slides. No audio, no video, no hyperlinks, no multimedia miscellany. Just pictures and text. Make us want you. You have a week.
My thought is, “Why take four slides to say what could be said in one?” My contribution to define what I am and what I do . . . (the terms Daddy and cakedecorator explain the icing-dyed tongue ;-)
I’ve been reading your blog for several weeks now – not too long ago, I became interested in the field of education and education technology. I recently graduated from college with an undergrad degree in Public and Community Health and I’ve been working in health communications for about 2 years. Now I’m 25 and I’m really putting alot of thought into my career direction.
How did you get into this line of work and what would you suggest I do in this situation to get more familiar with the field? I’m a tech fan and I love how social media as well as “hard” technology can be used to educate and spread knowledge.
Miguel asked, “What would your response to Andre be?” So, my answer to Andre is/would be . . .
Certainly, there’s more than one path into this field career ranging from establishing expertise through a professionally related blog to completing a formal graduate degree. I’ll describe my path which I believe is the most structured and, perhaps, most direct.
There are graduate programs – Master’s and Doctorate – focused on educational technology; those programs could be labeled in many different ways: instructional design, instructional technology, educational technology, e-learning, new media, or distance learning. I’ve encountered a number of even more subtle names like educational psychology, cognitive psychology, curriculum & instruction, curriculum development or adult education with a noted “specialization in learning and technology.” Each label may suggest a slightly different philosophical approach to the field; for example, a cognitive psychology program could perahps focus on learning and technology with a slant toward understanding the biological characteristics of the human brain that impact how learning occurs and how technology may facilitate learning given that information. I’m sure there are many other possible labels as well.
If I were exploring the field to determine my level of interest, I would read several online and print resources describing the field or explaining concepts within the field and begin looking at course descriptions from graduate programs in the field. “Shooting from the hip” – consider reviewing:
- Educational technology per Wikipedia
- Encyclopedia of Educational Technology maintained by San Diego State University
- How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School by Bransford et al
- A Primer on the Latest in the Field of Instructional Design by the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.
- A snapshot of everything I’m reading and writing on the web via an Educational Technology PageFlakes pagecast.
Also, I’ve recently jumped off into the literature focused on the Diffusion of Innovation(s); Everett Rogers (2003) has written prolifically about the general field of diffusion research; that may be of interest to Andre as well. The 5th edition of his book summarizes a great deal of research. There are several researchers in educational technology working to apply those principles more systematically to the integration of technology in learning spaces.
Most universities will have a graduate program in instructional technology, in some flavor; the focus of the program will be the key. Also, many of the relevant graduate programs are available 100% online. The two programs I’ve attended, I believe, are both available entirely online; the direct links to the specific educational technology program websites are Texas A&M University and University of Houston Clear Lake. Some of the more prominent instructional design and technology graduate programs in the country are (again, these are direct links to the program websites): Florida State, Indiana, Penn State, Penn State Online, and Utah State.
Those are the materials I’d review if I were 25 and considering a career related to educational technology; when I was 25, though, the internet was not widely available (gulp/grin). Of course, this is only a beginning; I’m more than willing to field additional questions about where to find information about the educational technology field.
I encountered an activity similar to this one at the NMC Summer Conference: People Tagging. The ice-breaker activity at the conference’s opening reception, attendees were asked, optionally in exchange for a chance to win free “stuff,” to list several tags describing themselves and then find others who had used the tag. It was an enjoyable activity that created a lot of conversation about the terms different people were using. In this instance . . .
I’ve been tagged by Stephanie Sandifer for this “8 Random Things About Me” meme.
The rules are:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged
Here are my “random facts”:
1. I’ve played fantasy baseball for more than 10 years.
2. A banana shake is my favorite dessert.
3. I grew up in one school system, kindergarten through graduation.
4. I rewind on the Tivo to watch Sonic commercials.
5. I follow the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and mixed-martial arts.
6. My wife, two daughters and I like to go geocaching as TheGreatFinders.
7. I learned all the skills I’ve needed in competitive academic speech & debate (HS & College).
8. My wife and I met on a blind date.
Alrighty — enough about me… let’s hear from:
The Sloan-C group I mentioned yesterday represented the first group meeting I’ve attended since voice was implemented in the standard Second Life viewer. Now that voice is really, truly here and I’ve had a chance to experience it in a group setting, I have a few thoughts and reactions.
For now at least, voice presents some interesting difficulties for group communications in terms of hardware. Not everyone may have the equipment available to participate. That’s what happened with the Sloan-C group; some had the requisite mic; others did not. That left us trying to communicate via audio and text – splitting the conversation(s). Ultimately, the solution was to do everything through text to allow inclusive participation, but that certainly slowed things down a bit.
I know several individuals which have said they prefer to continue using text. I’m not entirely sure that’s going to be possible. Even for this meeting – only a few days after voice became a feature of the standard viewer – there was an expectation for voice participation. Will the education community be understanding and accepting of those that choose not to participate via voice? Will individuals truly have a choice? What will the community’s perception of those individuals be?
I believe there’s no question that voice creates an additional level of complexity which makes technical difficulties more likely and/or adds another learning curve for new users as they begin participating in Second Life. At the very least, voice adds another “moving part” that can break or cause problems on the grid; will the benefit of voice outweigh the distractions it may cause? I’m an experienced SL user, and I consider myself fairly tech savvy; I can learn new applications quickly by trial and error. Exactly how difficult will the voice setup be for users that are new to SL or are not very tech savvy? How is a new SL’er supposed to understand what “hear audio from: camera position or avatar position” actually means and be able to make a choice between the two?
And speaking of hearing from camera or avatar position, what does that option do to privacy in world? Do we not carry certain meatspace expectations into Second Life with us? If a friend and I choose to walk away from a face-to-face group for a private exchange, because the risk of us being covertly surveilled is terribly low, we know there’s no “flies on the wall” listening to our conversation. In Second Life, flies can be on every wall. Using the “hear from camera position” option and the delimited camera options, it’s possible to listen to conversations from half a sim away. Is everyone aware of that? How long will it take for SL’ers to adjust their conceptions of privacy regarding their spoken word? While it’s likely to never happen in the physical world, in Second Life, my neighbor can sit in his house and very easily listen to what is being said in mine – without ever being seen. Imagine the implications for education. Will a faculty member needing to have a private conversation with a learner know or remember to switch to private conversations and/or text rather than simply walking away from the group?
Everyone speculated or knew voice would bring entirely new pedagogical concerns to Second Life. I experienced two of these concerns in the Sloan-C group. Small groups may need to be smaller than they’ve ever been face-to-face, online or in Second Life. A group of 8-10 can function via text chat; we’ve accomplished that in synchronous and asynchronous communication for some time now; plus the ability to track back through the conversation log makes it easy to catch up when behind. When communicating by voice in a face-to-face environment, it’s possible to work with groups of 8-10 as well; we have a number of established conventions and non-verbal communications that facilitate smooth transitions between individual participation in the conversation. However, in a virtual environment, those conventions don’t exist and the non-verbal signals to indicate one’s interest in speaking are unavailable. To reduce the confusion, Second Life groups using voice to communicate may need to be as small as 3-5 people. And, I’m not confident that we’ll ever get use to the lack of those smooth, non-verbal cues; when’s the last time you and a colleague/friend stumbled through that transition on the phone – unintentionally speaking over one another, both of you stopping for silence, both of you starting again at the same time and then both saying “Go ahead” at the same time? Ever have the same experience in a videoconference when you can actually see each other?
The second pedagogical concern focuses on the lack of a text-based log of the conversation. Voice communication in Second Life is more synchronous than the text is. I enjoy the flexibility of text-based chat, of being able to walk away for a few moments if needed but not missing anything because I can track back through the conversation. In terms of distance learning, Second Life with voice is a little less flexible than it used to be.
Finally, and I’ll only cover this one with a question and a short comment. Does voice in Second Life re-establish all of the social inhibitions and heirarchies of the physical world? I found that I was hesitant to speak in this group – just like I am when in similar situations in the physical world.
With all of those regarding voice in Second Life, I have to admit that voice is still an incredibly powerful tool within Second Life for one-to-one networking and conversations. While trying to capture the picture/icon for this blog post, I stumbled upon Thursday and had a conversation about the work he’s doing on his thesis which is directly related to what I do on a day-to-day basis. Fantastic opportunities loom in spite more than a few concerns . . .