Monday, August 28, 2006

Has TV changed education?

If teachers don't use television is the classroom, does that mean that television hasn't changed education? I have been thinking about the use of electronic technologies in the classroom. Detractors of the web and other recent innovations in technology often point to the fact that few of the tools that were to revolutionize education have really made much differenence. In short, most schooling today is much the same as it was 100 years ago. So what does this mean?

If a teacher doesn't use television in the classroom , does this mean that television hasn't changed how people learn? I have begun to think that whether or not a technology is used in the classroom is not an appropriate measure of the impact of a technology on learning. I would suggest that the source of most current adult learning is through television. This is not to say that what people learn is right or that the focus on television learning is appropriate, but clearly people are learning about the world, health, finances, and much more via television.

As educators we must stop thinking about education as something that only happens in classrooms. It seems to me that if we continue to focus only on classroom learning we will miss the real opportunities to teach.

Technology vs. Learning Approaches

I have been reading Richard Mayer's work on Multimedia Learning. In his introductory chapter Ihe reminds us of central problem with a lot of the work that is going on in regards to blogs, wikis, podcasting and the like. Too many of us (me included) are focused on the technology and not on the learning. Here is the difference that he captures with these two questions:

Technology-centered people ask: How can I use these capabilities in designing multimedia presentations?

Learner-centered people ask: How can we adapt multimedia to enhance human learning?

He asserts that if we focus on web or other technologies we will be disappointed by the outcome just as we have been disappointed by all the previous technologies that were going to revolutionize education-- radio, televsion, etc. See L. Cuban, 1986, Teachers and machines for a more elaborate story about the failures of technology.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Online education will not revolutionize education

Richard Mayer writes a very sensible article in eLearn Magazine that captures many of the problems surrounding the current buzz about online education. In a few sentences he reminds us that if online teaching and education is going to be successful, then it will need to fit the ways in which learning occurs. His answer to the question of whether "video" is better than "text" nicely illustrates the point that it is not the medium one uses that matters, but how the medium is used to support to learning. Online teaching and learning needs to be built on our theories and research about how people learn. There is much hype about today's students learning different than students in the past. Despite the talk there is relatively little to suggest that humans learn much different today than twenty years ago-- perhaps even a 1000 years ago.

The real opportunity afforded by online learning is that we can build more flexible, adaptive and robust learning environments for people. The sad part is that most of today's online teaching does not incorporate much of what we know about how people learn. It remains lecture and multiple choice testing. We can do better.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

eACES: Blogs, Wikis and Casts

In lecture I asserted that by the year 2010, College of ACES students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be primarily learning through elearning methods. I also suggested that this learning would be better than previous instructional methods.

What do you think?

Here are some other questions to consider:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an eACES curriculum?
2. How could blogs, wikis, and casts be used to improve learning?
3. Are blogs, wikis, and casts just a passing fad, why or why not?

Other Sources of information on eCommunities- Last Discussion Question

In the left-hand margin of this blog there is a list of eCommunity Resources I have found that provide information on communities of practice and web-based efforts to create virtual communities of practice. Look at these and tell me what you think about them? If you know of other resources, tell us.

What are the challenges of creating these virtual communities of practice?

What are some ideas about how we can overcome these challenges and build effective web-based communities of practice?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What about an ecommunity for leadership education?

Social computing…..the title on the cover of Newsweek (4/3/2006) reads “Putting the ‘we’ in Web.” One definition offered for this new stuff is “live web.” In short it is tools that allow lots of us to distribute our thoughts, pictures, video and to anyone else who is interested.

So what does this mean for “learning communities.” Is it possible to create an “e-learning community on leadership education?” What are some of the challenges of doing this?

Does anyone know of a community like this already exists that we could perhaps participate in?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Have you unlearned something today? Discussion Question # 8

Of all the statements in the Brown and Gray article, this one seems the most true to me: “We have not yet faced up to the imminent and gnarly challenge of “learning to unlearn.”

Yet, I don’t understand the examples they give and I don’t get the 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 procedure. Can anyone explain this to the rest of us?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Building a broader learning system-- Discussion Question # 7

“In schools, changing the learning theory is a much deeper transformation,” writes Wenger. “[S]chool is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world… but part of a broader learning system” (p. 5).

This sounds like Extension work at its best. Does this seem right?

How close do we get to this in our work in leadership education currently?

What else could we do to connect leadership education to a “broader learning system?”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Is learning changing? Discussion Question #6

“[T]he days when learning meant training, knowledge meant information, and “content was king” seem to be fading.”

Is this statement true about your work? The work of University of Illinois Extension?
When? Why or why not? Give an example?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Discussion Question #4-- Learning at work

4. “[A] different model of human work is emerging,” write Brown and Gray. “People need to be trusted; work and therefore decision making must be distributed. Relationships among workers—as learners—are key.”

If we decided to build a “learning community” around “leadership education” what are some things we would need to consider that would ensure we honor people as learners?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Current size of the Blogosphere--April 2006

Technorati recently reported that the blogosphere continues to grow at a very rapid rate.

Here is a quick summary of their findings:
  • Technorati now tracks over 35.3 Million blogs
  • The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months
  • It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
  • On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day
  • 19.4 million bloggers (55%) are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created
  • Technorati tracks about 1.2 Million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour

What is a "community of practice?"--Discussion Question # 3

3. In his introduction to "communities of practice,"

Wenger writes, “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”

Does this seem like the same idea as “learning to be?” Why or why not?

What are some of the typical activities of a community of practice?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Question 2--Is learning social?

2. The authors, Brown and Gray , state, “First, learning is fundamentally social and second, learning about is quite different than learning to be, which is a process of enculturation.”

Take these two ideas separately, what do they mean by “learning is social?”

Is a blog social? Is a classroom automatically “social”? Why or why not?

What is “learning to be?” Give me an example of a time when you were either teaching “others to be” or “being taught to be.”

Are you being “taught to be” in this activity? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Learning Communities: Leadership and Social Software

There are two purposes for this discussion—1) to learn more about the principles of learning communities and 2) to explore the tools of “social software” that may facilitate the creation of learning communities (or e-learning communities).


Brown, J. S. & Gray, E. S. (2003). Introduction: Creating a learning culture: Strategy, practice, and technology.

Wenger, E. Communities of practice: An introduction.

Assignment prior to Teleconference, April 28, 2006

Prior to our teleconference you are expected to read each of the above articles and consider the discussion questions that I have outlined for these readings. The discussion questions are posted at the blog, Open2Learn at:

In all there will be 10 discussion questions. I will post the first one today and post additional questions each day for two weeks. (Just a note about blogs—the most current posting is always at the top so you have to scroll down to see the material from previous days.)

Additionally, you are expected to write your thoughts about at least two questions about the readings and post these at Open2Learn. In writing your responses you should also respond to the comments and ideas of others participating in this discussion.

If you have difficulty gaining access to the blog or figuring out how to post a comment, please email me at: or call at 217-333-3790.

First Discussion Question

1. Brown and Gray suggest the challenge of becoming a learning organization means aspiring to do “double-loop” learning which involves the “ability to detect, determine, and perhaps even modify the organization’s underlying norms, policies, and objectives.”

Can you think of a time in an organization you have been involved with that was able to achieve “double-loop learning?” If not, why not?

What norms, policies and objectives within Extension need to be considered to make it a double-loop learning organization?

To comment on this topic-- click on the comment link below and write a response. You may also read comments from others and refer to those ideas as well. The purpose of this blog is to foster a discussion of "learning communities, leadership and social software."

Teleconference, April 28, 2006, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm.

The primary purpose of the teleconference is to continue the discussion that have been introduced in Open2Learn. Additionally, this will be a time to discuss your particular reactions to using “social software” as a learning tool and your thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of using this technology to foster learning communities.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A test of whether blogs improve learning

The teaching discussion at HighEdBlogCon continues today.

There is little empirical data about the effectiveness of blogging. Nicole Ellison reports on some research that she conducted regarding the use of blogs versus traditional writing assignments.

Roughly her findings indicate that students may actually spend less time writing when they use blogs when compared with paper assignments. Likewise, she also found that their comprehension of the material was also lower.

She notes there may be many reasons for this including the possibility that students were too new to blogging and might have been spending more time learning the technology than doing the assignment. Students also reported not being surre what "voice" to use in blogging.

Ellison notes that teachers need to be skepical about claims about the value of tech tools in learning.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mark Ott and short lectures

One of the worst parts of audio and video lectures is that most live events were never meant to be very effective presentations. At the HigherEdBlogCon this week Mart Ott (Jackson Comm College; gave a nice example of a better way to do this work. He describes a process of using PowerPoint slides or other visual aid along with a nonclassroom-recorded audio track.

He provides lots of reason why this is much better to listen to or watch.

I think the most important idea in this presentation is his point of breaking the lecture into smaller parts. He suggests that this mini-lectures are 5-15 minutes in length and cover one or two ideas. We have to remember that the classroom lecture was created to fit in a particular time and place-- a classroom, a place in which students move in large numbers from one physical location to another. Once that learning is taken out of the particular space and distributed in an asynchronous method, there is no reason to fill up any particular block of time. In fact, most audio and video learning needs to be broken up into small, more managable segments. It needs to have detailed descriptors so that learners can quickly figure out what to expect from a given piece. It probably also needs to be transcribed into print for those learners who would rather read something at their own pace rather than listen to someone else talk through the topic.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

HigherEdBlogcon Begins April 3, 2006

HigherEdBlogcon begins April 3, 2006. It will last throughut the month.

This week (April 3-7) there will be discussions of teaching in higher education via blogs and various other technologies. Participation is free.

This is a good chance to see what others are trying to do with these tools in higher education.

the "conversational era?"

In the closing paragraph in Naked Conversations, Scoble and Israel write, " Ulitimately, blogging has ended one era and ignited another. In this new era, companies don't win just by talking to people. They win by listening to people as well. We call it the Conversational Era" (p. 232)"

Good teachers will tell you and students who tell you about good teachers will say that "learning is a good conversation." It is not just about teachers "telling," but about listening thoughtfully and continuing the conversation.

Obviously, one of the reasons that a number of teachers have been drawn to blogging is because they understand that this tool allows them to continue to the thoughtful conversation outside of the classroom. Perhaps for those students who never had a chance to speak up in class, it is another opportunity to give their ideas, to reflect on class topics, to ask questions or to get feedback from their teacher and classmates.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Michael Bugeja's Interpersonal Divide is wrong

A recent book by Michael Bugeja, Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age is very disappointing.

The books begins by making a number of very strong statements that indicate the author is gravely concerned about the extent to which technology and media are harming interpersonal skill development and damaging our ability to create a “sense of community.”

The difficulty with these assertions is that these statements require some evidence. For example, the author says, “Historically, technology (in all its mechanical forms) precipitates displacement” (p. 14). He defines “displacement” as an “unfathomable feeling of isolation not only in our hometowns but also in our homes—connected, wired, and cabled to the outside world” (p. 13).

Taken as simple fact this assertion would essentially mean that civilization has only been in decline since the very earliest toolmaking. Surely this is too board a claim.

Another example of the terrible effects of technology is on our families. He writes, “Far from making life more convenient and work easier, media and technology have blurred the boundaries between home and work so that work intrudes on family and family on work to such an extent that many of us no longer know where we are—literally” (p. 16).

There are a couple of problems with this assertion. First, he provides no specific evidence that in fact, people can't tell when they are at work or at home. More importantly, he also doesn't provide any evidence that people find it problemmatic that work and family time is blurred.

The book is filled with many assertions and little evidence. This is dismaying especially since there is evidence about these issues. In general, the eivdence suggests that email and the Internet do not create an "interpersonal divide." Most people use cell phones and email to maintain contact and sustain relationships with people that they also see face-to-face. Technology is not a substitute for face-to-face relationships, but an addition.

There are some real reasons to be concerned about your interpersonal relationships are influenced and how web technology and the like influence the development of community and a sense of community, but our understanding will not be assisted by outrageous claims that the "Interpersonal divide is coming!"

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"Pulling learning" by John Seely Brown

I first bumped into John Seely Brown's work in the 1990s in a fascinating book called, Internet Dreams (1997) edited by Mark Stefik. Later I read The Social Life of Information, a book that I don't think I really understood, but I continued to be fascinated by Brown's thinking about the Internet, culture, technology, learning and community. These ideas get woven together in different ways that always lead to interesting insights.

His latest work From Push to Pull-- Emerging Models for Mobilizing Resources is directly reponsible for me trying out this blog idea.

Here is the kind of idea that he is exploring that is critical to how we need to be building online learning environments:

"Pull models treat people as networked creators (even when they are customers purchasing goods and services) who are uniquely positioned to transform uncertainty from a problem to an opportunity. Pull models are ultimately designed to accelerate capability building by participants, helping them learn as well as innovate, by pursuing trajectories of learning that are tailored to their specific needs."

He is thinking about businesses when he writes this, but I am thinking about students and anyone interested in learning.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Social ties online-- Pew Report

The Pew Internet & American Life Project today released a report describing how the internet improves Americans' capacity to maintain their social networks and how they gain a big payoff when they use the internet to activate those networks to solicit help.

The report is based on two surveys and finds that the internet and email expand and strengthen the social ties that people maintain in the offline world. The surveys show that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into their quest for information and advice as they seek help and make decisions.

Disputing concerns that heavy use of the internet might diminish people's social relations, the report finds that the internet fits seamlessly with Americans' in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live close to them.

The report, "The Strength of Internet Ties," highlights how email supplements, rather than replaces, the communication people have with others in their network.

is blogging the next big change in our lives?

Over the past two years there has been increasing buzz about the business of blogs. A host of books have been written recently that assert that blogging or two-way conversations across cyberspace will change our ways of living and doing business.

Here is the first chapter is naked conversations.

Tell me what you think about this? Is something really changing?

Are you blogging?

Is this more than the usual diary stuff?

Is there something here?

Not many blogs about the U of Illinois

I have continued to read Naked Conversations. Much of the book doesn't seem to apply at the moment to higher education. Much of their advice makes more sense for businesses, especially tech businesses that already have a lot of people who are online much of the time. I checked to see how the U of I was fairing in terms of mentions in blogs (roughly 25,000 posts that mention the U of I. (See table below from Technorati.) In recent weeks we have had more attention to an announcment about the development of a quantum computer (another tech item) and a controversy at the student newspaper over publication of the Muslim cartoons.

In short at the moment I don't think there are lots of students or others who are interested in following news about the U of I via blogs, but tech folks have often led the first wave and what was only a "geek" phenonmena at one time has frequently become common in several years.

Posts that contain "university Of Illinois" per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

HigherEdBlogcon scheduled in April 2006

Highedblogcon is scheduled to begin April 3, 2006. This blog event is designed to bring together higher education people around use of the social web for teaching, alumni relations, websites, and much more. Seems like this would be an interesting way to see what is going on.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Shel Israel thinks educators should have naked conversations

As a novice blogger I suppose the first big thrill is having your first comment (by somebody other than a relative or somebody you put up to it.... My mention of Dan Gillmour got the first comment now I got mentioned in Shel Israel's naked conversation blog. Israel responds to the question I posed which is "should educators have naked conversations?" As would be expected thinks that educators should be bloggers and that this would be good for universities. This is not a surprising response from the blogging community, but I am more curious about faculty and administrators in higher education.

We haven't been the quickest to adopt technology. I wouldn't be surprised in overhead projectors are still more commonly used on college campuses than any other form of technology.

Of course, there are the technology-leaders among our ranks, but what's the mainstream doing?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Open2Learn--a Wiki experiment

Today I decided I had better try out this wiki idea and see how these things work. So here it is.

The "Open2Learn" wiki. Apologies for the advertisements.
The Wikispaces software seems easy enough to use. I didn't have too much trouble getting a first and second page created. My goal is to put some of my longer articles here.

Wikis as an educational tool

According to the Wikipedia, a "wiki" is an Hawaiian word for "quick." Thus, a wikipedia is a "quick encyclopedia. " The main feature of a "wiki" is that the software allows for multiple users to creative a collaborative workspace. The Wikipedia is a collaborative encylopedia written by many users.

It allows people to build a shared knowledge space. Particularly for those educators who have been interested in contructivist-based approaches for teaching this ability to create a shared knowledge base allows educators to involve students in the construction of knowledge or information about an area of study and then provide feedback and elaboration of this information. (See How People Learn for a complete explanation of the current research on designing learning environments.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Can educators have naked conversations?

The new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, naked conversations, arrived on my door step today. They are unabashedly enthusiastic about blogging for businesses. Here is a sample of their Introduction.

"We envision a day in the future when companies that don't blog will be held suspect to some degree, wih people wondering whether those companies have something to hide or whether the owners are worried about what the people who work for them have to say" (p. 1).

Are universities and schools in this category? If principals, teachers, professors, college deans and presidents blogged, what would this do for our schools and universities? Is this a way to get in touch our students, potential students, parents, taxpayers, critics?

Scoble and Israel go on to write:
"If you choose to join the conversation , your company will be better for it, and your customers will be happier. You will develop better products and services by enjoying their collective wisdom, and you will save a ton of money by dumping expensive marketing tactics that not only don't work, but annoy the people they target" (p. 2).
Sounds good to me. Who wouldn't want to get in on this? Is this real? Can I really engage in deep and meaningful conversations with people online or is this just true in some aspects of the business world? Sure there are haters and lovers of Microsoft, but do people have the same passion about their schools or their universities.... I mean besides the sports teams?

More from Scoble and Israel:
"The revolution is about the way businesses communicate, not just with customers but with their entire constitiuencies-- partners, vendors, employees, prospects, investors and the media" (p. 3).
School and universities have all of the audiences as well as businesses. For the most part we have been more distant than many businesses from our students, investors (taxpayers), employees, and so forth. And we have never had the resources to effectively market our products and services. Shouldn't we be exploring a technology trend that promises to increase our ability to talk with those who care about our work?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Gillmor's failure a lesson for elearning bloggers

One of the early champions of blogging as a method of revolutionizing many aspects of society was Dan Gillmor, a tech columnist in the Bay area he has been a strong voice of citizen journalism.

This is roughly the idea of engaging lots of people in researching and writing stories about various topics in the news and world. In short, people working together to create their news and informaton business rather than relying on a few professionals. It's an interesting idea and there is certainly evidence that some elements of this idea are at work and may eventually evolve into interesting new media outlets, but Gillmor's project is over for now. In this letter to his readers he talks about why this didn't work. Some of the reasons he discusses such as his own interests, passions, and skills are worth reflecting on, but some of the reasons are important for others who are trying to develop various types of interactive participant-engaging communities. In particular, I am thinking of people who are attemping to develop robust elearning blogging enterprises.

He doesn't say this directly other than saying the site didn't take off as expected, but I think what he means is that there may not be that many people who are prepared to spend the time necessary to make significant news contributions in their spare time.

Here are some quotes from Gillmor's letter to the Bayosphere Community that I think we should reflect on:
Citizen journalists need and deserve active collaboration and assistance. They want some direction and a framework, including a clear understanding of what the site's purpose is and what tasks are required.
This is a reminder that there are reasons for editors and copy editors and others who pay attention to the structure and big picture of helping people accomplish their work and present their information in coherent packages.
The tools available today are interesting and surprisingly robust. But they remain largely aimed at people with serious technical skills -- which means too ornate and frequently incomprehensible to almost everyone else.
This is hard for many of the early tech developers to understand, but even the current relatively simple blogging tools require more sophistication that we realize.
Tools matter, but they're no substitute for community building. (This is a special skill that I'm only beginning to understand even now.)
This may be the most important point in the whole article. Just because you can create communities in cyberspace, it doesn't mean that you will. Creating community whether F2F or in cyberspace is a skill, process all its own that doesn't have anything to do with technology. It is also a skill that is considerably more difficult than learning how to create an elearning blog. All of us who are interested in creating participant-engaging learning environments need to spend more time thinking about the "community" aspect of this work.
Though not so much a lesson -- we were very clear on this going in -- it bears repeating that a business model can't say, "You do all the work and we'll take all the money, thank you very much." There must be clear incentives for participation, and genuine incentives require resources.
Although Gillmor here is I think referring to people being paid, it is one more reminder about the importance of community. People will participate in many different activities without monetary pay if there are other incentives or reasons for participating-- love of the activity, to help others, to reciprocate others who have helped them, etc. Again this is all about community-building.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Folding@Home--is this what elearning is all about?

At Stanford University a group of scientists has been involved in an interactive science experiment involving understanding proteins in various diseases.

Now I don't imagine they think of this work as teaching about biology and such, although I don't know. They need a lot of computing power so much of their effort has been to try to harness other's to help them by contributing computer power. This is an example of "distributed computing." Rather than them processing all the data, they have written a program that you can download and let your computer run. When your computer completes its analysis it returns the results to them. What to contribute to this interesting experiment-- download the software here.

If just the chance to "fold a protein" isn't engaging enough, read some of their results, participate in one of their communities, see a map of all the computer/people processing this data across the world. Getting intrigued now? They hope so.

My computer geek son found this work when he was a teen.... I kept finding the computer on all night long and was wondering what was happening. Despite my repeated insistence that he turn the computer off at night, it continued to run over a couple of weeks. Finally, he let on..... he was folding proteins..... he was interested in the distributed computing aspect more than the biology, but still one evening at dinner he described reading the latest results published in recent issues of Science. When some of the software had a problem on some types of computers, he wrote a simple fix to the problem. In the course of this work, he got feedback from other programmers who suggested ways to streamline his computer code. In short, he participated in an interesting learning environment that taught him some science and some computing.

This work seems like an interesting way to build elearning.

Clifford Stoll's challenge to elearning

Probably one of the most consistent voices to question the value of the Internet in the classroom is Clifford Stoll. Recently, he debated Carol Twigg, National Center for Academic Transformation about the value of computers in the classroom.

Here are a couple of excepts from Stoll's comments:

I'm a reactionary. Technology is fun to play with. There are lots of cool gizmos. But does it belong in the classroom? Are our students well served by it? Increasing I feel that the answer is no....

I want to see in students curiosity, enthusiasm, a yearning to work hard, a willingness to confront and grapple with interesting questions. If you want to destroy curiosity, you couldn't think of a better way to do it than hook somebody up to a fire hose of information, so that any question they could possibly have would be answered just by typing ""

So, what's the effect of computers in the classroom? They take our mind off what should be happening in a class. They point us at a cool-looking screen with flashy graphics and let us shop for sneakers while the teacher is speaking....

If you want a quality education, it's going to be expensive. The same thing applies to education as applies to food. You can have cheap food, you can have good food, you can have fast food. If you want fast education, and you treat your students as if they are items on a conveyor belt, you can do it. But your quality will suffer, however you measure that.

What I want to get out of a learning experience is inspiration. A sense of direction, a sense of, Hey, I'm connected to a human being.

I've yet to see one Web site that's inspiring. I was weaned on filmstrips in the 1960s, but I can't even remember the titles of three of them, while I remember every teacher that I had at Buffalo Public School 61. I remember every teacher I had at Millard Fillmore Junior High School. I remember my teaching assistant in introductory freshman English.

What's the most important thing in a classroom? It's a motivated student and a good teacher. Anything that comes between them — whether it's a filmstrip, an instructional movie, an educational video, a cool high-definition Web site, or an iPod — may seem like lots of fun to students. But will it be good for learning? Will it be good for inspiration? Will students remember it? (from the Chronicle of Higher Education, December 9, 2005, p. B12-14.)

It is easy to agree with many of these comments by Stoll. But haven't we all also seen really bad teaching? Stoll says that he has never seen an inspiring film strip or website, but is it possible to build a website that engages students in a topic and then build interaction tools that engage that student who are also interested in that same topic. Can you only be inspired by people? Can you name a movie that inspired you? A book? A research study? Lots of things inspire us besides people?

U of North Carolina Students on eLearning

The editorial board of the The Daily Tarheel wrote the following:

In today's high-speed society, online courses are comparable to Super Wal-Mart. Both offer low-priced goods and both are convenient for people from all walks of life.

And just like with Wal-Marts, we would like to see more and more of this service popping up.

With the help of that technology, people across the state - not just college students on campuses - can receive a high-quality education from distinguished universities without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Grab a comfy desk chair and a computer, and you're all set.

What do you think about this? Is elearning the wave of the future? Is elearning like a Super Walmart? What about quality? Will this matter? Can we provide the quality of education in a elearning format that is comparable to F2F?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Future of Higher Education

Ann Kirschner, Founder of Comma Internation, wrote this in a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

I predict that the day will come wihen the commitment to a four-year residential program will seem arachronisitic to students, and certainly to their tuition-weary parents. The most competetive students will veer away from the sychronized long march to graduation, in favor of more individualized and creative learning experiences that weave a tapestry of classroom, independent-study, distance-learning, internship, and other educational elements. Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec 9, 2005, p. B6.

In this quote Kirschner reminds us that the learners that may be most underserved by much of today's higher education programs are those students who can move past the basic course material and seek additional learning opportunities. At least in part our efforts at elearning should especially focus on developing learning environments that engage these self-directed, self-motivated learners.

Children online - What are they doing?

There are a lot of articles and rampant speculation about the coming changes in society and education due to children spending time on the Internet. In large part much of this talk is based on very little evidence about what young people are actually doing online.

Sonia Livingstone and her colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science has been doing some of the best research to see what children are actually doing online.

One of her key findings is that children are mostly using the Internet for communication with friends. Twenty-nine percent of children (ages 9-11) and 31% of childrne (18-19) are more likely to choose books to help with homework. This suggests that for many children the Internet is not necessarily a powerful "learning" tool.

Saturday, January 21, 2006 as a sample of my online teaching ideas

In about 2000 I was a major designer of the website, which was an effort to create a website for family members about important concerns that they have.

One of the strategies was to create short (50-100) word answers to questions that family members were likely to have. The idea was to provide a lot of short answers to specific questions and then organize these in ways that led to deeper and richer information on this same topic.

Here is a sample of what we did. One common question about divorce is-- what is the divorce rate in the United States? We provide the answer here and then at the bottom of this page is a link to a longer article on the demographics of divorce that provides more information on divorce statistics. On the page there are links to some of original U S Census Bureau data for those people who really want to learn more about divorce rates, trends, etc.

We know from watching how people naviagate through the site that the path that we created is followed by a number of users of the website. The other evidence we have of our success is that this particular page with the short answer quickly became one of the most popular pages found when people searched for "United States divorce rate." Today at least it continues to be the first or second item on a Google search.

A critical idea in our development of this website is that each "answer" to a question should be coherent, meaning unit of information and users would not have to follow the links to get the whole idea. They only had to follow the link if they wanted more information.

Student Faculty Partnerships in Higher Education

Yesterday I participated in a workshop about student-faculty parternships in learning that was conducted by Dr. Anna Ball and Dr. Neil Knobloch in the Department of Human and Community Development at UIUC. (See Ball and Knobloch's learner-center teaching website.)

There were a lot of good ideas, but I came away especially intrigued by the idea of involving more students in the teaching process. We constantly talk about the need to invovlve students actively in learning. Perhaps on the best ways is to re-think our notion of what it means to be a student. At present the rough the division of labor is generally the teacher provides educational experiences and the student receives these teaching experiences. What if we assumed that in every instance students would always be expected not only to learn from the teacher, but would always be expected to have some role in teaching. This teaching might be in the same classroom as they are enrolled for learning, but it might also be students in another setting outside of this specific classroom. The point is that sometime during any class or learning situation, students would be expected to convert some knowledge, skill or experience into a learning experience for others.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stephen Downes' ideas about education and blogging

One of the most interesting commentators on elearning is Stephen Downes. Recently, he wrote an article in eLearn Magazine in which he suggests that the "read-write" internet will completely transform education. He titles the article E-learning 2.0. This is article to read to get a feel for where elearning might be headed.
Another interesting article by Downes is in Educause Review (sept/oct 2004) titled Educational Blogging. In this article he describes some of the ways that teachers and students have been using blogs. Much of this is still happening in elementary and high schools and not in higher education.

Here is one nice quote from this article, "The process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life to learning."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

First Post

I thought I would try this blogging thing out. I have been creating various elearning websites, etc. for 10 years so it seemed like about time to try this version of elearning to see what happens.