Monday, October 29, 2007

Open Source, Open Education & Where to Put Instructional Materials

An interesting Open Source and Open Education presentation with some interesting details on the stats of publishing and the dilemma of finding/making usable content that is out there.

I'm currently editing/repurposing/mashing up some open source content, and am trying to decide where/how best to house and present it. Feel free to suggest some ideas. I'm looking at Connexions and considering a wiki, but am not convinced it's the best way to go. The target audience for the instruction (teachers new to developing online instruction) will likely be using Angel for the forseeable future, but Moodle is another good option.

I guess in evaluating my goals, I simultaneously wish to expose them to other options beside their current LMS, but in doing so I run the risk of confusing them more than helping them. There is, of course, also great value in teaching them to best utilize the tools that they have available to them--today.


Change Happens...Lessons Live On (hopefully)

A Fall weekend hike in the woods of beautiful central Pennsylvania with my family and my camera reminded me of some things about change:

  • Like the color of the leaves, change happens...
  • Like the seasons, change happens...
  • Like the technology of yesteryear, change happens...
  • Like our children, change happens...
  • Like the way we use things, change happens...
...but hopefully we learn valuable lessons along the way, and enjoy/embrace/relish the change. More often than not, it is a sign of growth.

(click on the slideshow to visit the album and view full-screen)


Monday, October 22, 2007

The problem with "2.0"

Ryan Bretag posted a great little gem on the potential confusion caused by the recent "2.0"craze. So many terms (even in education) are getting the 2.0 treatment with unfortunately too little explication.
I agree that there is a more-than-trivial danger in applying a versioning scheme to learning and educational practice.
This may quickly get out of hand with everyone upping the ante, supposedly indicating that they have superior, latest-greatest teaching and learning going on.
If you think it's a puzzle now, just wait till some institutions/technologists start hawking and presenting at conferences on their new Learning 5.0 wares and methods!
I'm with Ryan on his trend-setting suggestion--i.e. start a trend of NOT using 2.0 language if we can help ourselves. I find myself waaay too often invoking (and furthering) the silly title of an otherwise important and meaningful phenomenon. I just don't think it is possible to stop at 2.0, and am concerned about already having seen mention of "Learning 2.5 and 3.0".
-Joel G.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Is Learning is Changing?

An interesting video clip on how learning has changed. It is a bit negative, addressing the worst of large lecture classes, but interesting nontheless.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Of under-desk keyboard trays, Magellan, and Instructional Technologists

I'm in the (very) early stages of gathering ideas for a job talk or some other presentation on the role of instructional designer and technologist as educational innovator and explorer. More than this, it is about living a life continual innovation and exploration (learning?), and helping build a culture of innovation around you. It seems related to other notions on my mind of late:

  • Web 2.0
  • learner/student/user-generated content
  • democratic forms of teaching and learning
I was pleasantly struck by a recent post by a co-worker , Jin An. He solved a simple problem he had with the keyboard tray stuck under many of our desks--what to do with the thing if your don't use it?! The point is not his solution, but the fact that he first documented the problem, and then shared his solution with all of us on our office blog. Nothing earth-shattering, just a simple solution, shared easily and in a helpful way with his peers. The blog platform, easy access to a digital camera (phone?) and my RSS feed brought his solution to my door step (computer screen).

No staff meeting, no training, no manual...just a beautifully simple example continuous exploration and innovation that I hope we all exhibit no matter what sphere we work in, no matter what our job or tasks are.

A key point here is that Jin exhibits the profession of educational explorer/innovator. Finding and keeping the solution for himself would have been completely appropriate and would have served his needs no less. A traveler, for example, can enjoy his/her travels and gawk at the wonder of it all. But in charting new territory in the rapidly changing landscape of educational technology and learning, like the explorers of yore (Magellan, Lewis & Clark, Cook, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Zheng He), our job as instructional designers and technologists in the profession of educational explorer/innovator, is to document and share (publish) our discoveries.

I find myself too often selfish in my discoveries as I fail to share or adequately evaluate and document my personal discoveries for those that may follow. I may need to kick off another blog for my discoveries that don't quite fit the format and purpose of this blog. Hmmm. I'll give that some thought.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The future of elearning requires change in Tools, Processes AND Teachers

Funny how my thinking never seems to stray very far...and these are just out-loud thoughts right now.

I've been developing an online "course/workshop" with the goal of helping faculty who are new to online teaching and learning, navigate the waters of building their online courses. Quite honestly, I've been stumbling over myself on this project, and think it has something to do with what I see as inconsistencies in what I'm used to doing, and what I've come to value in recent months with regard to what online teaching/learning should be. I stumble in reconciling what "stuff" should be taught vs. what can be effectively learned without being experienced. In retrospect this is not completely new to me since I prefer learning through doing--both in my own teaching and in my own life.

Cole Camplese posted recently about what future elearning tools might (need to) look like. Cole says:

What I struggle with is the idea of what is a really good eLearning environment these days? In my mind, a handful of pages of content that link and embed objects that drive student and faculty to engage in conversations (on or off line) seems to be the goal. With that said, why not design those content pages in a blog so students and faculty (and maybe people from the outside) can have conversations in context? Why are we still struggling with what the right eLearning tool set looks like when we are sitting in a world with dozens of content creation tools? The model we are trying to avoid consists of tons of static text pages that prompt students to leave the content and jump into a discussion forum to interact — I’ve never liked that, but now the technology supports what I am after … the opportunity for conversation at every level of a course experience.
This is no trivial puzzle that has also occupied my thinking of late…I feel like the Grinch (who stole Christmas) in that he puzzled for hours "till his puzzler was sore"--how I feel on this particular issue.

The current model--or the way I've been trained to design instruction was largely content based, peppered with some online activities where possible. A lot of lip service is paid to active engagement and learning activities. Like Cole says, a host of disparate new tools exist out there that have a great deal of potential, but how to aggregate them, and how do you help teachers think differently about online teaching.

I and many others advocate some form of a 3-pronged attack--one that looks at:
  1. the enviroment (tools)
  2. the processes (learning activities)
  3. the people (both teachers AND students).
The environment/tools, processes and even students are coming along, but they are only 2/3 of the equation. The teachers and online teaching practice generally seems to lag a smidgen. These 3 areas have to move forward together to affect change, but too often the responsibilities for these 3 areas lie in different organizations and (try to) go forward uncoordinated.

-Joel G.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

That's "Dr. Galbraith" to you...

I just successfully defended my PhD thesis today. Yes, that's now Herr Professor, Sir, Dr. Galbraith to you ;-)

Boy do I feel the power! Actually, my wife and kids aren't that impressed, although they are delighted that Dad seems a little happier these days. As for me, I'm just glad to get out of college again before my oldest daughter starts college in a couple years (Graduation ceremony in December).

(Shortly after my successful defense at the Penn State Nittany Lion shrine)

It was a good experience. I had a wonderfully supportive and distinguished dissertation committee: Dr. Christopher Hoadley (chair), Dr. Barbara Grabowski, Dr. Katherine Augustine, and Dr. S. Shyam Sundar. I received some good feedback on my research, and felt they were genuinely interested. My dissertation title is:
The effects of Socially Relevant Representations on Learning, Social Presence and Interaction for students in Self-Directed Online Learning Settings
or in plain English...
The influence of warm and friendly instructional materials on students' learning and interaction when studying alone at the computer (not much better!)
I'll likely write more about my research here in the near future, but for now...I need a weekend break from it (comments and accolades welcome).
-Joel G.

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