Wednesday, December 30, 2009

World is Open-- Not your parent's education--1

Today I began reading Curt Bonk's, The World is Open. There is much to learn from this book, but it is important to take a thoughtful look at Bonk's characterization of the the promise of the web for learning.
"If we could travel back in time with him [his grandfather], we would see that the educational opportunities of a century ago were phenomenally different from what we have today" (p. 13).
Bonk then lists the things that were not available to his grandfather, they include:

1. podcasts made of his school lessons in case he missed class;
2. instructors who waxed eloquently in their blogs about how a particular class was going or supplemental course links.
3. email messages that linked him to wondrous electronic course resources.
4. no virtual worlds to explore for hours on end.

He sums up this paragraph with
"Grandpa George and his classmates could not move about to computer labs and media rooms in accordance with their interests and learning pursuits or think about entering and exiting a course at any time of the day" (p. 13).
Of course, most students today don't have this experience either. In fact, very few students at any level of learning routinely have the experience that Bonk is describing. There are certainly examples of teachers who are providing this type of experience, but few students regularly have this opportunity.

This doesn't mean that this experience should not exist or could not exist (and Bonk wants us to catch this possible future), but at present today's student is mostly having the same experience as his grandfather. One of the questions we should be asking is why are more students not having this experience?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Evaluating Digital Scholarship: New Resource

The Modern Language Association continues to develop resources to assist faculty and others in evaluating the quality of digital materials for faculty. The newly produced Evaluation wiki is especially helpful because it allows many of us to contribute ideas and resources.

This short guide to the evaluation of digital works is an especially good resource to help faculty members think through their material.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Example of "Words as Video"

Here is an interesting way to use only "printed words" as a way to do video/audio. Would this be better than our usual slides or is this just the usual slides done in a slightly more animated way?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Streams of Learning: Courses as Conversations

I have borrowed the title of danah boyd's recent talk at the Web 2.0 Expo, "Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media" to express an idea that seems increasingly obvious to me which is that we can begin to build learning structures that are "streams of learning" rather than discrete chunks of learning. This past week I was busy trying to reorganize courses in our curriculum and this included a discussion of whether to organize the courses into two 8-week courses or one 16-week course.

There were persuasive arguments on both sides, but if you suddenly step back and think about this you realize that this structure is a function of how to organize a sequence of F2F courses over a four-year instructional time period... that has nothing to do with the content or learning itself. No particular body of knowledge fits neatly into 8 or 16-week segments. It is an artifact of our overall institutional design for learning.

We need to begin designing new institutional structures that allow us to create streams of learning, courses that are continuous conversations into which we can add new members over time. Although I am not a fan of most ideas about "personal learning environments" I do think that Stephen Downes has captured some important ideas in a recent talk titled, New Tools for Personal Learning." I particularly like the final part of the talk (slide 57-62) in which I think he captures the connectedness of learning. In this talk he also describes and demonstrates some tools that allow us to begin to understand how an institutional design for learning might be built that takes advantage of social and web-based media.