Thursday, December 30, 2010

Orbis Pictus: The earliest picture textbook for children

Johan Amos Comenius (1592-1671) Källa: Aug. Sc...Image via WikipediaI have been ranting all holiday about John Comenius' textbook, Orbis Pictus, from 1658. It is the first known illustrated text book for children. It has 240 short chapters with an illustration and text that corresponds to the picture with letters or numbers. I have been looking at the English translation by Hoole from the 1659 from Gutenberg's copy of the Orbis Pictus.

"Comenius advocated relating education to everyday life by emphasizing contact with objects in the environment and systematizing all knowledge. He did not regard religion and science as incompatible. Teaching was to be in the vernacular rather than in Latin, and languages were to be learned by the conversational method. He worked for a universal system of education offering equal opportunities to women." - The Free Dictionary

We are familiar with that teaching method in the K-12 schools where the instructor asks the students questions about a picture and the text gives the students the vocabulary and images to refer to and answer the questions. It is a very effective technique and it is amazing that with all of our technological advances this level of interaction is still missing from much of online learning (and our face-to-face classes!).

What is interesting about the book is the visual learning aspect and also the fact that it is a good review of Latin. It also provides interesting insights into the society and time that produced the book, and what Comenius' and educators must have thought of children and society. Each chapter gives a picture of some aspect of the world or a description of an occupation. The first chapters deal with creation and the natural world and moves on to farming, hunting, religion, etc. A student in the 1650s (and for nearly 200 years after) would be introduced to the world and society including "The tormenting of malefactors." The description of Islam is particularly interesting, but they sum up the religion of the Native Americans as devil worship. In 1727 the book was put into the two-column format with English and Latin.

"The most eminent educator of the seventeenth century, however, was John Amos Comenius . . . . . . His Orbis Sensualium Pictus, published in 1657, enjoyed a still higher renown. The text was much the same with the Janua [a text he also wrote], being intended as a kind of elementary encyclopædia; but it differed from all previous text-books, in being illustrated with pictures, on copper and wood, of the various topics discussed in it. This book was universally popular. In those portions of Germany where the schools had been broken up by the “Thirty years’ war,” mothers taught their children from its pages. Corrected and amended by later editors, it continued for nearly two hundred years, to be a text-book of the German schools." (History and Progress of Education, by Philobiblius, N.Y., 1860, p. 210.) The English translation was a standard textbook in English and American schools and Comenius was so respected as an educator that he was invited to become the president of Harvard. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, December 20, 2010

Instructional Design: Beyond the Formulas

A social network diagramImage via WikipediaI am reviewing ID literature and textbooks, and I am dissatisfied with the formulaic approaches that assume things like uniform standards, that the stake-holders know what the standards are, all the students will meet the same outcomes the same way, etc. You can read many of these books and articles and actually pretend that the Internet never happened. There has not been much progression beyond ADDIE. Instructional design, seen from the standard literature, feels mechanistic and trapped in a behaviorist input-output model. The huge holes in current thinking on instructional design include the Internet, social networks, and new media. The other missing piece is the social milieu of the individual schools and programs: each school has a different student population, different teachers with different backgrounds and experiences. I am still having conversations with teachers and other ID folks on constructivist (student-centered) approaches to teaching and learning versus behavioralist (carrot and stick). Meanwhile, current instructional design models and their proponents are all looking at what is happening online and trying desperately to hammer it into our conceptions of pedagogy that were not just created before social networks but before the internet. I read about a model that was being proposed in a copy of "eCampus" a while back and it included all of these great interlocking circles and arrows about content and visual pedagogy (on top of the usual behaviorist model) and no where in the model was there a connection between the students and teachers.

We have an opportunity in course design, to bring all of the stake-holders to the table. Course design should not just be up to a dept. or a single teacher. Course development can be an opportunity to bring in a librarian, someone from student advising, disabled student services and programs, and developmental education. A course design process can show an instructor how to connect their classroom with other students, instructors, and experts in the field. It can be an opportunity to connect students with professional networks as well as other colleges and schools.  What I have been finding is that when you bring everyone to the table to talk about a course, you can discover many different ways to connect your course to the community than you would have ever thought of yourself.

I would like to write (or facilitate) a course development guide that will incorporate open education resources and social networks and connectivism. This project will be hosted in Google Docs or on a wiki. If you are interested in participating, leave a comment below and I will include you on the list.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Open Textbooks: A Diversity of Voices in Open Learning

Creative Commons SemaforoaImage via WikipediaOpen textbooks are textbooks that are released with an open license, preferably with a Creative Commons "attribution" license. The textbooks under that license should be free to students and free to instructors to download, reuse, and remix. In other words, the least restrictive license possible. If an author spends years of hard work developing  ideas, why should he or she just give them away? There are a lot of reasons why , but they do not have to just give it away. There are a number of compensation models including grants, stipends, release time, tenure, etc. There is still a paradigm in this culture where corporations will be happy to pay for your ideas, repackage them, and sell them to others for a high price, and yes, you may even see some of that money. The problem is that the corporate business model is no longer sustainable. It will be for a while, but at one point, you have to accept that fact that by participating in that model, we are participating in a model that is more and more exclusive. Students have to walk away from the table because of the costs of education in general and the cost of textbooks in particular. There are ways to compensate authors for their work and cutting out most of the middle-man. There are commercial models for open textbooks but unless they are, in the words of the Open Textbook bill "made available free of charge to, and may be downloaded, redistributed, changed, revised, or otherwise altered by, any member of the general public" then they are only kind of open. Commercial corporations will still be screening the content, screening the authors, controlling the access, and setting the price. Why should an academic community give that much power to the book trade? There is too much concern about making the model sustainable for corporations and not enough concern for making education open for students

I can give you numerous examples of people embracing a new idea but attempting to solve a problem using the old paradigm. My favorite is a boss I used to have who would ask me to post information on the internet and then look at the webpage and say, "that is great, now print off 60 copies and distribute it out to the other departments." And we are this kind of cross-roads - we have a perfect storm of technology, ideas, and people, and we are ready for a change. As an instructional designer, I am interested in bringing instructors together to share their work and experiences and letting "textbooks" or OERs be the natural outcome of those communities. Instead of working on a single expensive book that benefits one person (the book publisher), lets foster a community of open scholarship that sustains the on-going work. Maybe we can even mentor students into the process.

The real value to the authors of open texts is that they are not drawing on their own work alone but they are getting access to a community of authors, revisers, practitioners, researchers, and adapters; a community of scholarship that will support the work of the textbook. A commercial textbook cannot take into account the social conditions of your community. A traditional commercial college textbook cannot be adapted to the deficiencies or advantages of the local high school. You can, for a price, however, buy "supplements" which is the commercial publisher of not-quite-entirely-unlike open textbooks hole card. Why let book printers in another state determine the needs of your community? I believe that a community of scholars can support an online English grammar better than any book publisher trapped in the two-year publishing cycle model. These conversations and decisions should be happening in colleges, not corporate boardrooms. Grammar, for instance, should not depend on a single authority, but should be recognized as the dynamic and living voice of the language. A community of open scholarship can take into account the evolution of language that is always going on around us. 

We need to recognize the value of having a diversity of opinions working on these problems. Characterizing these kinds of discussions as "bickering about licensesis just the kind of attitude that does not foster critical academic inquiry which is exactly what is needed for the sustainability and credibility of open textbooks. Critical thinking, apparently, is bad for business. I am not interested in stopping businesses or starting some revolution, but I think this is a great time to bring teachers together as communities of open scholarship (we have the technology, grants, and people) and not allow ourselves to be blinded by the pittance that corporations will offer us to look backwards. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

EduStream at College of the Redwoods

RedwoodsImage by Brain Toad FlickrOver the last few days here at College of the Redwoods we have been working with EduStream. This is a very remarkable group. I would love to see more services work this way. College of the Redwoods is now a member institution of EduStream (at no cost to the school because it is grant-funded), a free video hosting service and educational video and learning object library created by San Bernardino Community College and Seattle Community College Educational Television. It includes space for instructors to upload their own content. This is similar to Youtube except that it is protected, advertising free, and will accept almost any kind of file. Instructors can create an account, upload video, audio, image, or any other kind document and link the materials to online classes. Instructors can also add video to their course from Edustream’s online library of educational video from Dallas Telelearning and other sources. Edustream will be expanding their video collection and services next year. They are also providing free training. Osman Parada provided admin training yesterday and then there will be faculty training next week. Osman is an excellent facilitator - he had us up and going with creating accounts and linking content into Sakai within 40 minutes.

From their website:
" was initially conceptualized as a means of addressing the increasing concerns of academic rigor with traditional television courses. Today, is poised to help educational institutions embed educational videos into their online content, expand staff and professional development programs, increase the reach of their workforce and economic development programs..."

What is really interesting to me about this is that it did not arise out of a commercial corporation creating a problem and then coming up with a service to solve it. Educational institutions have brought together their resources and abilities to create a service by educators for educators. There are services that one can buy from EduStream but the services that they provide out of the gate have to potential to save us thousands of dollars already. In some ways, the Sakai foundation is like this; those with the highest stakes will be willing to provide the most support. Also, small colleges like College of the Redwoods has a lot to gain by investing in such partnerships.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Concept Maps & Visual Pedagogy

This was the presentation for the Global Education Conference.: "This presentation will explore concept mapping and brainstorming tools for classroom discussion, discovering knowledge, and problem-solving. I will present a brief history of visual pedagogy from different cultures to show how concept maps work. We will explore teaching techniques using these methods. The tools we will look at will include everything from pencil and paper, free mind mapping software, online collaborative concept mapping, and 3-d concept mapping in virtual worlds like Second Life." It was a good session but I think that I need to work on developing presentations that encourage more feedback from the participants. I love this conference though. I have met a lot of people from around the world that I would not have had a chance to meet otherwise. Diversity of viewpoints is what it should be all about.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Here is the same presentation in a less linear form as a concept map.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Farewell, Drop.Io: Too fast to live, too young to die...

The Open Source Initiative keyhole.Image via WikipediaI have often heard that one of the weaknesses of open source is that is that it is an unstable model. Somehow, open source software is supposedly more buggy, not as robust, not enough people supporting it, or too many people involved, etc. And yet, commercial programs drop like flies as the forces of an unbridled lassez-faire tech economy steam-roll through cyberspace like a nuclear tractor load of mixed metaphors and rampant hyperbole. Last week, I had to say goodbye to a favorite tool: Drop.Io. Free file storage, gave an embed code for what ever you stored up there, and a phone number where you could call in and it would record your message and host it as an embeddable MP3 file. Completely brilliant. As an online instructor, this was an extremely useful tool. They were not open source, but I didn't think they had a plan for making money - until Facebook bought them out. And good for them for getting bought out - the service was so good at the ground level right out of the gate that it was not clear how they would have turned it into "premium ware." So the service goes away and the programmers get absorbed by Facebook's production team.
This happened to Angel Learning and is now happening to Elluminate (quel dommage!) and Wimba Voice Tools (good riddance!). Ironically, the most stable model is going to turn out to be foundation-supported open source tools like Sakai. Sakai will continue to grow and change in some really interesting directions: it is one of the few players in online learning that can't get sued or bought out of existence by Blackboard. Goodbye, Drop.Io, you were the James Dean of free file sharing services.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

An Open Textbook as an Open Community

A segment of a social networkImage via WikipediaOpen textbooks can sustain a community of practitioners in a given field. With commercial texts, and texts that are not truly openly licensed, English instructors can't get together, make decisions about the needs of their students, and change the text. They are often stuck with the text written by the subject matter expert far from the experiences, needs, and location of that community. The instructors then have to create "supplemental materials" to address those needs. And what do we do about fields where information is rapidly changing? For instance, there are too many things happening in instructional design for us to rely on one text; the view point of a single author in a book that is infrequently updated is not enough. The whole idea of a book, a single container of vetted knowledge is nearly useless in an environment where information constantly changes and networks expand at an exponential rate. Instructional designers, and professionals in other fields, need to replace the text with a community. We need a participatory textbook. For that to happen, one needs an open-licensed "text" as defined by  the DOE's Notice of Proposed Priorities (also used in a recent Creative Commons blog post):

"Open educational resources (OER) means teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others."

and from the original, 2002 UNESCO definition:

"The open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for noncommercial purposes."

That is my dream for instructional design  - that we are light and adaptable - we can repurpose information according to the diverse needs of students and teachers; that we can adapt to our networks quickly and efficiently because we are not stuck with merely. And from the UNESCO definition that we become a community of users, enabled by information and communication technologies for consultation.

This sounds like a community of users built around a wiki to me. Stay tuned for a different kind of request for articles/chapter/proposal.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lecture Capture Resources

These are the resources for the lecture capture presentation at College of the Redwoods. At CR we can help instructors with video taping lectures and consult with them on how to use cameras and recording equipment in the classroom. We also have close captioning of video available through a grant through-out the California community college system.

How are instructors using lecture capture and why?


  • Youtube - Instructors can create their own channels. These videos are now being close-captioned.
  • iTunes U - Most students tend to watch educational content from iTunes U on their computer.
  • Edustream - This is an educators version of YouTube; gives educators more control over content.

Software & Local Server

  • Articulate - Builds interactive content from Powerpoint. Preserves animations. $$$
  • Lecshare - Builds interactive content and ensures ADA compliance. $


Enterprise-Wide Solutions

  • Elluminate - Webinar/synchronous meeting software. CCC Confer has a state-wide license for Elluminate.
  • Matterhorn is an open source alternative. We will need to explore this one closely. A lot will depend on how much in-house support we can afford to provide - a common issue with open source solutions.
  • Echo360 - This is an appliance based solution. A blade server in every classroom. $$$
  • Tegrity - This is a "cloud"-based solution. They have a showcase of example recorded lectures. $$

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Open Education Resources Require Open Teaching

A Wikiversity Logo for Open Educational Resour...Image via WikipediaI have been reading though the Open eLearning Content Observatory Services "Roadmap 2012" and there are some very important points made in the report:

"OER are understood to be an important element of policies that want to leverage education and lifelong learning for the knowledge economy and society. However, OLCOS emphasises that it is crucial to also promote innovation and change in educational practices."

This is a very important distinction - we are doing more than just changing the medium from commercial textbooks to open textbooks. We are changing the way we teach. When we begin to decentralize the information, we have to adapt teaching strategies to decentralized learning.  For example, our math department has an face-to-face classroom but it uses a free, open textbook that they wrote, a video feed to a website that also streams to two television outlets, a phone number for students to call in questions. How does this not change the way one teaches? I have sometimes heard teachers talk about concerns with quality with open textbooks or of being uncertain about being able to teach with them. This is because teaching often becomes dependent on publisher's resources which can also be of questionable quality. What the instructors often need is the learning support materials that come with commercial textbooks. This too can be created in an open way. 

"In particular, OLCOS warns that delivering OER to the still dominant model of teacher-centred knowledge transfer will have little effect on equipping teachers, students and workers with the competences, knowledge and skills to participate successfully in the knowledge economy and society."

In other words, the same skills that the teachers are using to gather, evaluate, and share open education resources are the same skills that the students are going to need to get on in a world of networked information. This happens a lot already - the research of graduate students often goes into the textbook of the professor. Why not cut out the middle-man? Why teach someone how to write with a word processor and then ask them to turn in wax tablets? Or worse yet, evaluate them that way?

"This report emphasises the need to foster open practices of teaching and learning that are informed by a competency-based educational framework. However, it is understood that a shift towards such practices will only happen in the longer term in a step-by-step process. Bringing about this shift will require targeted and sustained efforts by educational leaders at all levels."

If you have not read this report, I highly recommend it. We need to start thinking about the cultural shifts that are evolving around us; the culture that is giving birth to OERs is already redefining teaching and scholarship. What if instead of passing tests, a student was evaluated on his or her contributions to the knowledge culture through an online "textbook" like WikiEducator? It is important to follow what is happening in other countries because the OER community is an international community and they are solving problems in Africa and Europe that we are only really beginning to look at here in the U.S.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Of Concept Maps and Crucifixions

I visited the National Gallery earlier this year and I spent a lot of time looking at a few paintings of crucifixion or passion paintings. I was particularly interested in a few early renaissance paintings. These paintings come from a time when art served a teaching and learning function; they had a didactic purpose and not just decorative or expressive one. Paintings that fit this bill will have the crucified Christ at the center and in the landscape behind him, arranged radially, will be scenes that illustrate the life of Christ or the events of the Passion. One example that is in Wikimedia is Hans Memling's "Tafel mit Szenen der Passion Christi"

This is a painting of Jerusalem and at the center of the painting is the scourging of Christ. All of the scenes around it, in various parts of the city represent different events in the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus. There are even two scenes representing the crucifixion; one with him dying on the cross and another on the next hill, of him being taken off the cross. There is even a resurrected Christ in the lower right corner about to harrow hell. This is all typical of Flemish painting especially.In the extreme lower right and left corners, I believe we have the devout patrons of this painting.

The point of all this is that the painting represents a central idea, The Passion of the Christ. It has a series of connected stories that are all related to that central idea - spatially and temporally. This painting represents a concept map of that narrative. Concept maps allow us to see connections to different ideas in new ways, but they also help us describe knowledge in a way so that we see how all of the pieces are connected. There are many examples of this throughout history and the world. Art is used to share ideas and their connections in the tangka paintings of Tibet and the Navaho sand paintings. Concept maps and "mind mapping" are not something new, they are an integral method of sharing knowledge and ideas.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 15, 2010

Herzogian Pedagogy: A New Order in Education

I was meditating on the pedagogy of online learning and personal learning networks, and I could not get Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School out of my mind.  I love the spirit of this, and I can't believe that I have not written on this before. Reading about his idea of the film school has the potential to totally transform ideas about professional development. The goal of our education workshops can be to push the participants to their utter-most physical and emotional limits so that they realize Ecstatic Truth (or they are eaten by a bear, which can also happen).
Seriously though, I have been skirting around the edges of this course on personal learning networks and the nature of learning in classrooms and online. There is a big difference between what happens in a learning management system and in a personal learning network. I like the idea of seminars over formal classes. I have learned a lot on my own and I think I have created some courses that allow for the participation of the odd autodidact (my learning style). In a Health Information Management course that I co-designed with the brilliant and plucky Char Gore, we took the 23 Things model which is like a Web 2.0 version of Abbey Hoffman's "Steal This Book." We utilized a learning management system only has a content repository of training materials for communication, connectivity tools, and collaboration. And whether you position yourself as a constructivist or connectivist, one still has to account for the solitary act of thinking critically and deeply.
The pedagogy implied by his film school creates a useful guide for any kind of creating and learning. I weeded out things that are only important to iconoclastic ego maniacs and when you take out the celebrity factor, one is left with a surprisingly lucid template. Here are 12 of the things I learned from Werner Herzog:
  1.  Seminars are held at infrequent intervals in varying locations. Learning has its own rhythm and the "typical" student may work or have other scheduling issues. Does learning really happen EVERY morning at 8:00 AM? Why can't courses be flexible with a multimodal delivery? One day a student should be able to participate online or go to a class.
  2. The number of participants will be limited to a maximum of 65. This a an artificial restriction. I have been in courses where there were 300 students - massive open courses - where the teacher eventually became irrelevant. Teachers often suffer from the "sage-on-the-stage" syndrome. Even in open courses. But there comes a point where one has to ask as an instructional designer, what is the effective learning space for this class? For whatever arbitrary number is chosen, how does this course accommodate the engagement and interactivity needed for successful learning?
  3. "Locations and dates will be announced on this website..." The seminar uses a central hub of communication. This is not a restriction, but an organizational issue. Classes, organizations, and seminars flounder when there are too many places to get information and no central space to retrieve it. It is a classic way to keep people in the dark if you are not interested in sharing power or information btw.
  4. Do not teach anything technical. What this says to me is that the discussion of how your work reveals truth in the everyday world will be more important than discussions about the theories that led to a truth. An example might be critical thinking. There are a lot of technical and neurological discussions about what thinking might be but nothing replaces a demonstration of critical thinking using the day's news.
  5. Learning is not about a subject but about a way of life; it is about creating a climate that makes learning possibleWe have to teach students how to learn. But it is more than that; there has to be some point to their learning. Kenneth Rexroth said this best in Classics Revisited: "He [Plato] defined education as we would: as training of personality to absorb the greatest possible scope and intensity of meaning and value from experience."
  6. The focus of the seminars will be about a dialog in which the participants will have their voice in their projects, questions, and aspirations. This was where Herzog placed himself at the center of the seminars. What I find is that the students learn as much or more from their interactions with one another as they do from the information you provide as a teacher. Facilitating this interaction becomes vitally important.
  7. Student work will be presented. Depending on the materials, the attention will revolve around essential questions:...How do you create illumination and an ecstasy of truth? The most important phrase here is "essential questions." What are the essential questions for work in your discipline? Are they already decided? What would happen if you and your students negotiated and argued for those essential questions? Maybe the work of education is to look for those questions.
  8. Related, but more practical subjects, will be the art of lockpicking. Traveling on foot. The exhilaration of being shot at unsuccessfully. The athletic side of filmmaking. The creation of your own shooting permits. The neutralization of bureaucracy. Guerrilla tactics. Self reliance." This one needed to remain whole as a quote. In an atmosphere of open research and open textbooks, there has never been a better climate for rogue scholars. All of the great ideas started out on the fringe and the institutions of education are designed to keep them there for as long as possible.
  9. "Censorship will be enforced. There will be no talk of shamans, of yoga classes, nutritional values, herbal teas, discovering your Boundaries, and Inner Growth." Again, I think classes have to decide what the focus of the class will be and what is appropriate or not. I find "censorship" a little fascistic but I have also been in classes that became therapy sessions instead of literature courses.
  10. Related, but more reflective, will be a reading list. Required reading: Virgil’s “Georgics”...The Warren Commission Report...Bernal Diaz del Castillo “True History of the Conquest of New Spain." At first I thought this was a bit a a joke. And then I began to think about the works listed. Reading the books he requires take patience, reflection, attention, and focus. This is something we do not teach anymore - sustained attention.
  11. "Required film viewing list.." One should always use a wide variety of media; this accounts for different learning modalities but also provides a fresh perspective on old problems. Again, this list should be negotiated but the seminar respects solitary focused learning and the social dimension of a shared experience which can provide a shared language and critical tools.
  12.  "Follow your vision. Form secretive Rogue Cells everywhere. At the same time, be not afraid of solitude." And this last one needs no comment.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 08, 2010

Open Access Week

Open Access logo, converted into svg, designed...Image via WikipediOPen 
Open Access Week is happening  Oct. 18 - 22. I am particularly interested in it because it is a chance to hear leaders in the field of open education resources, such as Wayne Mackintosh, the director of the OER Foundation, facilitate free webinars. It looks like an interesting schedule.

"Open Access Week, a global event now entering its fourth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.

“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.

Open Access (OA) has the potential to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship. Research funding agencies, academic institutions, researchers and scientists, teachers, students, and members of the general public are supporting a move towards Open Access in increasing numbers every year. Open Access Week is a key opportunity for all members of the community to take action to keep this momentum moving forward."
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 01, 2010

New OER Guide for Higher Education Leaders

Open Textbook billImage by opensourceway via FlickrFrom Cable Green: An Open Educational Resources guide for higher education governance officials written by long-time OER advocate Hal Plotkin has been released by Creative Commons. Free to Learn: An Open Educational Resources Policy Development Guidebook for Community College Governance Officials provides an introduction to the basics of OER, an OER resource guide and insights from OER providers and institutions who have implemented supportive OER policies.
“Open Educational Resources (OER) offer higher education governance leaders a cost-efficient method of improving the quality of teaching and learning while at the same time reducing costs imposed on students related to the purchase of expensive commercial textbooks and learning materials,” says Plotkin. “Higher education governance officials, particularly boards of trustees and senior academic governance leaders, have a tremendous opportunity to harness the advantages of OER for their institutions.”
A living version of this document, which you may iteratively improve, and a PDF version available for download, can be found at
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Connectivism and the Evolution of Pedagogy

Trotsky, Lenin, and Kamenev (from left to righ...Image via WikipediaIn some recent postings on connectivism and constructivism (see links below), educators and researchers write as if these models are oppositions; as if constructivism is early Bolshevist and connectivism is free market socialism. Pedagogy does not come from research and theorizing but from practice. The learning landscape changes over time and as the technology changes, we need new models to describe how people are learning. Connectivism is the next step in understanding how people learn in the digital age. Behaviorist and constructivist pedagogies describe a certain kind of learning that takes place in a particular milieu. Networks have changed a lot about the learning landscape, but on the other hand, much of how humans communicate and engage with one another has not. It happens faster, more often and over a wider population. I am talking to educators in India, China, and South America. I would not be talking to as many people around the world without the internet. There is a synergistic aspect to networks - we are smarter together than we are individually. There are network behaviors that are very different than purely social behaviors. Constructivist teaching is also occurring in networks. Connectivist learning is also happening. Will constructivist teaching fade away like feudal economies of old Europe?
An important point that should be made is that the social dimension of learning in constructivism isn't negated by connectivism. There is much that is complementary. To over-simplify, Connectivism accounts for the networks and learning in networks; constructivism accounts for what happens in them. Networks are only a means. Communication, interaction, and engagement all have to take place before anyone learns anything. Information itself is not knowledge. Forming a connection does not mean that any kind of engagement must or will take place.

In some of the online classes I have experienced with George Siemens (which I highly recommend), I see much of the constructivist pedagogies at work:
  • students are actively involved, rather than passively absorbing information;
  • the learning environment is democratic,the teacher is not seen as an authority figure as much as a learning guide;
  • the activities are interactive and student-centered instead of being lesson-centered;
  • a teacher facilitates activities in which students are responsible for their own learning and are autonomous from one another.
All of these are classic characteristics of the constructivist classroom (as opposed to the "sage on the stage" students-as-empty-vessel model). But I also learned as much or more from the connectivist aspects of his classes - the networks. My teaching, learning, and professional life have been immeasurably enriched by the people, communities, and networks I discovered through his classes.
All of the conversations about tools and personal learning networks presuppose an individual with some technical skills, facility with managing information and networks, the critical thinking skills to interpret that information, and a fairly high degree of motivation. All of these seem to be taken for granted - in the community college system (at least here in Humboldt Co.) and in less developed countries, one cannot make the assumption that networks in themselves will lead to learning. I am going to have to use all of the techniques of constructivist learning to show the value and purpose of these networks. I need to bring in the students prior knowledge and experience and guide them in applying that to new information and skills.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, September 13, 2010

Danah Boyd& Internet Myths

danah boyd at the Writers on Writing about Tec...Image via WikipediaI was just reading about how Harrisburg University was going to block social media from campus as an experiment. The premise of the experiment seems to be that students connected to one another, other researchers around the world, their friends and family is a a bad thing. I was just going to skip it because I realize that I use this space to report a lot of bad news and ignorance and I thought just for today I would not engage in my usual curmudgeonry and report on something positive, something I am excited about that answers the questions I think Harrisburg is trying to address, and that is Danah Boyd's work. I can't recommend her blog enough. I don't always agree with what she says but she is asking questions that no one else is and her research and writing are well worth following. A good education blog is not just about writing but engagement. One of her latest postings is a great example of that.

Danah Boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England (yes, something good can come from Nazareth) and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. I don't trot out people's credentials here very often. They don't mean very much to me, but I do so here because her approach is not what I would have expected from someone from MS or Harvard. There are a lot of researchers, CEOs, and administrators who are very concerned about controlling social media. What we can't control, we fear; and we make myths about what we fear. We try to contain our fears with our imagination. We attempt to reduce our understanding of what we fear into terms that we can control whether or not there is any justification or truth to that reduction (e.g. gay marriage will destroy heterosexual marriage; comic books, beat poetry, or dancing will lead to communism, etc.).

Dr. Boyd is writing a book about internet myths. She posted a question to her blog:

"What are your favorite news articles that reinforce these widespread beliefs?
  • Myth #1: The digital is separate from the “real” world.
  • Myth #2: Social media makes kids deceptive.
  • Myth #3: Social media is addictive.
  • Myth #4: Kids don’t care about privacy.
  • Myth #5: The Internet is a dangerous, dangerous place.
  • Myth #6: There’s nothing educational about social media.
  • Myth #7: Kids are digital natives.
  • Myth #8: The Internet is the great equalizer."
And she is getting answers back from those who read her blog. I think this is a great way to research a book - use the medium and networks you are writing about to crowd-source the research. I love her list of myths. There is far too much fear mongering from the media, academics and administrators about social networking and the internet. I am looking forward to reading this book.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Utah State's Open Courseware

Utah State UniversityImage via WikipediaUtah State University has an excellent collection of open courseware. This is a really exciting time to be involved in education because more and more institutions and instructors are making their teaching materials available to a wider audience. I was particularly interested in their instructional design course (I am a director of instructional design). I am working with staff who are new to the instructional design world and have been looking for materials to introduce them to the arcane and mysterious world of ID. Dr. Joanne Bently is the instructor and author of this course. It is from 2005 and based on the ADDIE model of instructional design. Though there is criticism out there of the ADDIE model as sometimes to rigid and formulaic, I think it is a good foundation to help new instructional designers to think about design as a process and teaching and learning as a collaborative project. The course is open for anyone to use, explore, or download.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, September 03, 2010

Resources for New Adjuncts

computer teacher for adultsImage via WikipediaA new instructor came into my office yesterday. She has been asked to teach online with no teaching experience. This is not unusual. It happens in grad school all the time. It is a bit more harrowing at the community colleges because a new adjunct may or may not have any support. When I first started teaching, I had the benefit of a couple of years as a lab teaching assistant in writing centers, developmental English classes, and ESL labs. I also met Laura Perkins, a great adjunct English teacher who believes in the principles of collegiality and openness. That meant that she shared her syllabi and assignments with her peers. She believed that her value as a teacher was in what she did, not in the documents and assignments.

I asked on twitter today "What would you like to have known before you began teaching?" and got some great responses from Jason B. Jones of the Chronicle's blog ProfHacker, which he says is essential reading for adjuncts especially the posts on applying for jobs and the six ways to make adjuncting more effective and fulfilling.

Stephanie Cheney responded generously with a link to her delicious book marks tag for an education class she is teaching. So I of course, immediately clicked on "Add to network" and will be following her work in delicious bookmarks.

Some websites & resources that I have found invaluable for online teachers include:
I found that searching for the assigned textbook title in quotes and then adding the word "syllabus" gave me a good idea about how teachers were using a particular textbook.

Lady of the Lake added: Geoff, you might like to know about a 6-week Online Instructor Certification course offered by Educational Teleconsortium of Michigan. S

Do you have articles or resources that you would give to new teachers? Post them in the comments below. Thanks!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pardon my Metaphor

Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System T...Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr"Because we do not understand the brain very well we are constantly tempted to use the latest technology as a model for trying to understand it. In my childhood we were always assured that the brain was a telephone switchboard. ('What else could it be?') I was amused to see that Sherrington, the great British neuroscientist, thought that the brain worked like a telegraph system. Freud often compared the brain to hydraulic and electro-magnetic systems. Leibniz compared it to a mill, and I am told some of the ancient Greeks thought the brain functions like a catapult. At present, obviously, the metaphor is the digital computer." — John R. Searls.

I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with this. Humans connect with the world using language, and language is not about facts. Language really isn't information. Language describes. We understand the world through metaphors. Our metaphors are about as accurate as poetry, not geometry. Although as far as language goes, poetry is often a more complete description of a thing than the measurements of it.

I think we are moving on in our metaphors to networks. This metaphor suits me fine - it is as good as any of the other metaphors. A metaphor becomes a tool that allows us to talk about phenomena that we really have little understanding of. We know a lot more about the mechanics of the brain - we have gotten better at measuring parts of it. We see networks in the brain because that is how we understand modern communication and language.

We see the world through a complex of metaphors - through a shifting lens of definition. MRIs of brain events show that memories, sensation, and learning are all non-local events. Various sections of the brain light up and pulse like the shifting colors of a cuttlefish. I am always amazed that there are researchers that feel that they can take a limited model of how the brain supposedly works and then leap out to how we should therefore learn. I am thinking here of "Brain-Based Learning" theories where the fundamental principle is that the brain is a "parallel processor." Social cognitive theories and psychology are a little more useful because they examine interactions between people which, ideally, is something that happens in education.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How Open Source Changes Business Models

The Paragon Press, 1829 woodcutImage via WikipediaOne great thing that open source does is change how businesses work. Open textbooks are a great example. The publishers are doing a little too late in their attempt to fix the financial issues around textbook costs and the high cost of education. The New York Times reported earlier this year that trade and textbook publisher Macmillan is following the lead of open source publishers like Wikibooks, and is offering lower cost, editable textbooks online through their service DynamicBooks. They have disguised themselves well as an open source publisher. There is nothing on the website that would lead one to believe they are connected with Macmillan. There is the press release section in the "About us" menu item where you will find press releases and stories touting their idea as "ground-breaking" and "innovative" as if following the lead of open source is somehow a new idea. They are not really an open source option, of course: "Ms. Clancy of Macmillan said the publisher reserved the right to 'remove anything that is considered offensive or plagiarism,' and would rely on students, parents and other instructors to help monitor changes." That is really big of them to watch over us like that - in open source texts it is called "peer review" and instructors/authors are pretty good at citing their sources and not being concerned about offending others (that is called "academic freedom" for the instructors and "cognitive dissonance" for the students). On the plus side, Macmillan gets to take advantage of one part of the open source model and that is breaking out of the two year cycle for correcting mistakes in textbooks. In the end, book publishers need to make profits; educators facilitate learning. With the economy in the state that it is in, those are two diametrically opposed goals.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, August 13, 2010

Good Teaching is Accessible and Open

2nd half of 14th centuryImage via WikipediaI don't think Dave Arnold planned on being an innovator in education. The way I understand his work is that he had problems to solve with his math department and they are using every tool at their disposal to solve them. Not math problems, but teaching and learning problems; some that are unique to our area (connecting to people in remote areas) and problems that everyone face (the cost and quality of education). The textbooks did not seem sufficient and they were too expensive, so Dave Arnold, Bruce Wagner and others in the dept. wrote their own textbooks that include online help and examples and quiz banks. I had the pleasure of seeing one of these textbooks in a meeting yesterday. They are written by "The College of the Redwoods Mathematics Department" and they are available at This 612 page Pre-Algebra textbook is available for $14.52. That is a physical book, not an ebook.

Beyond multimodal teaching
We met yesterday to talk about some logistical issues with his class. There is something about this class that transcends all the discussions about online, face-to-face and hybrid teaching modalities. The Math 50 Calculus course that Dave is teaching in the Fall is offered live in the face-to-face classroom, as live interactive teleconference being sent out to two off campus sites, as a webstream from a web page, via cable television and "on-the-air" (yes, they still do that here) through Access Humboldt and KEET (a local public television station). All of these options have a phone number and email address for students to ask questions live. These broadcasts are being archived and close-captioned with a copy going to the library. If that wasn't enough, Dave is offering three office hours a week through CCC Confer (Elluminate) which is web conferencing software to connect with students and answer questions.

How innovation happens
All of this has evolved over time. My point here is that technology was not the solution in itself. What happened was that over the years, a dept and a teacher was presented with very particular problems and engaged the campus and community to create opportunities and solutions. The local high schools have cut back on Calculus. More and more k-12 districts are relying on the local community colleges to step in.

All of the solutions and opportunities that Dave Arnold has decided to use in his course not only solve the problems he and the dept. were looking to solve, but it just so happens to make the course more accessible and open to a wide variety of students. This is why I am so excited about his courses; I got involved in education in the first place to see this happen. We have to be the ones who open the doors.

College of the Redwoods offers three semester calculus sequence
This press release went out yesterday announcing the class.
I am expecting that we are going to see enrollments from high school students, local engineering firms, and others.

Links to the textbooks
Oh, yes - the textbooks are also available for free to students online. They can get a hard copy or a CD at the bookstore
Enhanced by Zemanta