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!"