Monday, December 6, 2010

Why I study education technology (Part II)

Don Tapscott recently wrote a follow up essay in response to the New York Times article by Richtel, "Growing up Digital: Wired for Distraction", where he criticizes the assumptions made by Richtel that are not based on strong evidence. Tapscott then goes on to write on empirical evidence that shows how this generation is not so much distracted, but are instead not in sync with the traditional education delivery methods.

Unfortunately, Tapscott removed the article from his blog (I had it saved in my Google reader). Out of respect, I will not post it on my blog or scribd it, but if anyone would like a copy, please leave a comment with an email address. You can find a similar train of thought from a series of articles he wrote for Business Week. The links are on his website.

What strikes me about his comments are how this debate is expanding from the Prensky non-evidence based Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants distinction, to one of where neuroscience is proving changes in cognition. The debate is not so much an either/or one, but one that screams that educators should rethink how information is delivered.

In my course writings on mobile learning, I have been trying capture what mobile learning means, and so find this debate and its outputs as verification to what I have been pondering. What this debate says to me is that we need to reconsider how we define learning from the perspective of the learner - someone who is mobile - and how knowledge is not always best packaged in a linear script, but can be attached to context and situations. Think geo-tagging or other AR technologies. Then think of how a clever student can mash this information together to form a knowledge base needed to solve a highly contextual problem.

There is a lot to learn from this research and the debate. Anyone who is involved in education technology should be thinking about it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Check this out...the future of books. For me, this means mobile based instruction that involves users interacting with some form of a mobile reading device to interact with and contribute to a pool of knowledge or some narrative. How does instructional design change in such a world, or is it more like instructional design contributing to make this world engaging and productive.

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why I study educational technology - its already happening

Have a look at this New York Time feature article and the accompanying videos on how technology is being integrated into classrooms.The videos are rather inspiring in what is and can be done when technologies are harnessed - all to promote learning unlike many would imagine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reflections on developing scholarly mobile learning outcomes

I am currently in the final stage of this semester, meaning that like most graduate students, papers are being outlined, drafted, and finalized. So the past couple of weeks have been rather busy. However, as I’m beginning to craft the final drafts of my papers, this is good time to reflect on emerging themes among my learning process.

Just for the record, my Fall 2010 courses are:
·      Dissertation Seminar – required for all doctoral students in my program
·      Design Based Research – my advisor teaches this course and also it is focused on the mobile learning project iAdvocate I have helped design
·      Planned Change – a change management course that uses Everett Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations text

Since mobile learning is my topic of focus, I have spent several months identifying and analyzing mobile learning literature and trying to figure out how to present my understanding of the topic in a cohesive form. For now, my thoughts on the topic have begun to gel into a ‘definition of mobile learning’ based on the literature, but its still a work in program. The most promising definition (based on peer feedback) is formed from the writings of Traxler. I write:

Traxler (2009) sees the potential of the technology in how it can support learning within a “mobile education” that is personalized (user-centered), authentic (relevant), and situated (p. 17). Of course, each of these aspects have also been examined independently of mobile learning, but when applied to the conception of mobility, they reveal a unique potential for matching teaching styles and learning styles with particular disciplines within a mobile education.

Getting to this point has been a challenge and so has writing my papers. What has struck me however are comments related to:
·      How my topic and problem presentation is ideologically biased since I am assuming that mobile learning is indeed the new wave of learning technologies
·      How my approach is overly broad and so I should focus research questions on specific pieces of mobile education
·      The challenge that the technology will change, so it might be futile to try to generalize from current mobile technological affordances

These are all valid concerns and definitely have influenced my analysis and writing. Below are the working titles of my papers
·      Planned Change course – Leveraging education change within a mobile learning context
·      Dissertation Seminar - Mobile Learning: Development of an instructional design model
·      Design Based Research – Applying Instructional Message Design Principles to a Mobile-based Learning Environment

Depending on which paper seems the best to me, I will post a copy in a later blog. 

Photo courtesy of Davide Restivo via Flickr:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Education Week Article on Mobile Learning

This week is rather busy for me (aren't they all) in that I am having to prepare drafts of two papers for my courses. One is for a course called Planned Change, where we discuss Roger's Diffusion Theory. In this course my paper is focused on ways to leverage mobile learning in a learning system. The idea I am contemplating involves ways to implement change from a systematic level. Mobile learning should not so much be about injecting an intervention into classroom, lesson, unit, or subject, but instead should be about broader.

This means designing mobile learning devices that work to guide learners in both formal and informal learning, or among and between classes in the K-12 context.

This article from Education Week's Digital Directions reports on some examples of systemic level change: thinking about infrastructure, policy, and the stakeholders.
But superintendents and technology directors must consider what students are learning about technology use when they reshape mobile-device policies, ed-tech experts say. They must reach out to teachers and parents to explain how those policies forward students’ learning. And, most importantly, they must revise their thinking about resources to conceive of school-owned hardware and student-owned hardware as one fleet.
 In response to the article I wrote:
We are living in the age of mobility, with these mobile technologies becoming more and more common. However, what has occurred in school policy is restriction of a the devices, justified by perceiving a lack of control.

One solution, of creating mobile based instruction, works to a certain extent, but what can work better is adapting our ideas of teaching and learning towards this concept of mobile learning. This means focusing on systemic change among all the stakeholders and having conversation that can address issues such as classroom control and misuse.

Its nice to read how schools are exploring mobile learning from this level.
Thanks to Ian Quillen for the article.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A career aligned with e-learning trends

Thanks to the blog posting by Anne Lucas: for posting this earlier:

What are the trends in e-learning? 

Over the past 2 years now, since I began my instructional design studies, I have had the opportunity to work with or at least study somewhat most of these trends. Most notable are:

  • Mobile technologies - for instance my work with the iAdvocate 'App'
  • Simulations in e-learning - work with my main client SRC here in Syracuse in developing training that simulates new employees learning the culture of working with secure information
  • Serious Gaming & Augmented Reality - I designed a prototype mobile AR app that teaches students campus safety
The other trends which I have been watching closely include:
  • Open source e-learning tools - more Moodle type programs
  • Blended learning - its not so much of an either/or debate, but both. Mobile learning defiantly has potential as a blended learning tool
  • The changes to LMS - these technologies are one really just an iteration in e-learning and will hopefully change to fit into better learning design
One last prediction that Anne Lucus doesnt mention which I would like to add is the notion of e-portfolios or personal learning environments. These kind of depositories of coursework, thoughts, and collaborative reflections are, in my opinion, emerging as viable e-learning tools.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A helpful video from one of the instructional design ‘greats’: Dr. David Merrill.

In this video Dr. Merrill reminds us that no matter what technology we use, we should always be asking the question: Is the instruction effective?

As he mentions, so much of web-based instruction has been designed into more of an information dump than actually instruction. He reiterates parts of his First Principles of Instruction to remind us that no matter what technological delivery method is used, the bottom line is about designing instruction.

Basically put the formula looks like this:

Demonstration + Application in a real context = motivated learners

I think that as I immerse myself in the mobile learning world, this video a relevant reminder in that when I design or am finding ways to influence the design of mobile learning interventions, I must remember that in the end it really is about instructional effectiveness. Determining effectiveness is more of an evaluative question than a design one, but the answer to that question should clearly feedback into the design.
  • How then can a mobile learning design – blended or independently used – be designed using these principles? 
  • And how do we evaluate the effectiveness?
Mobile learning is about designing for learning and not just for the sake of technology.

Thanks to

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thanks to John Traxler and Mark van't Hooft

These last couple of weeks have been rather busy and hectic for me. Its all a part of learning to be a doctoral student (constantly buzzing around to catch up yet eager to discover new).

During the course of my readings on mobile learning I have found two particular research scholars who are articulating the phenomenon with (in my opinion) the proper insight needed for the research field at this point.
I was able to contact them, which opened up some new insights into their thinking for me.

John Traxler - director of Learning Lab in the UK who as I write is jetting around the world to various conferences to present his insight into mobile learning research. He is examining practice from a cultural impact perspective and asking researchers to see the deeper implications of the field. See his abstract from the UNESCO conference here.

Mark van't Hooft - with Kent State's Research Center for Education Technology. He has been working with m-learning since 2001. Like John, he is trying to see the mobile learning phenomenon from a broader base. As he said an email:
"I think our work goes beyond the issue of "how to integrate them into the education system", and should focus more on how to integrate mobile devices in life in general so that we can take maximum advantage of the affordances such devices provide for learning."
I feel very fortunate to have contacted these gentlemen, and look forward to contributing to their ideas on how to better understand mobile learning.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Alan Kay, Dynabook and mobile learning

The Diamond Age.jpg An idea that has been driving my interest in mobile learning comes from the computer scientist, Alan Kay. Being credited for inventing such things as object-oriented program and the GUI, he is also know for conceptualizing a mobile laptop computer called the Dynabook. (See wikipedia). I was first introduced to this device in the book by Neil Stephenson called The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. See wiki here.

In the Encyclopedia of Information Technology Curriculum Integration, Mark van't Hooft and others (2008) evoke Kay as the first person to envision a handheld device to support learning. What is interesting is the concept of supporting learning, not teaching. Such a device would be quite different.

As I'm trying to wrap my head around the variety of literature on mobile learning, I need to remind myself of what I am studying - ways to improve learning through the use of technology. In such a world, people don't stare at machines to teach them something. Instead they interact with them, in turn learning how to solve problems. Better yet, the mobile device acts as a scaffold to assist a learner, whether through a game, narrative, or presentation of a novel problem.

I need to now ask, how does conceptualization of learning  influence the design of mobile learning materials?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A blogger asks what m-learning is all about.

Thanks to Michael M Grant for thinking critically about m-learning. 

He makes a comparison to e-learning in how it became an umbrella term involving too many dimensions. M-learning is running into the same situation.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Extended Description

As I was typing up the header, I realized that my description was a little too long. However, I think that it is important to post my rationale. Here is the extended description:

This blog is dedicated my doctoral studies in instructional design applied to mobile learning and e-learning design.

However, I am biased!

As with so many other educational based technological interventions, mobile learning is a solution seeking a problem and therefore needs close examination and empirical research.

As more and more learning ‘apps’ are being developed, it is important to ask if mobile learning just a fad, or the beginning of a movement?

My motivation to study mobile learning is based on the fact that:
1.     I think the technology is sexy, cutting-edge, and a wide-open niche ripe for research.
2.     I assume that people want to learn with mobile technologies and will do so more and more in the future.
3.     More learning will be mobile in the future so it is best to establish myself as an early adopter and pioneer.
4.     As with e-learning design, instructional design principles will play a role in mobile learning design, but they will also need to adapt.
5.     I believe that mobile learning is a catalyst for a learning paradigm shift towards a more 21st century educational philosophy.

In essence, this blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on ideas and intellectual challenges related to my studies in mobile learning design.

Please feel free to comment on my thoughts, biases, and beliefs. The challenge of a doctoral level education is about both focusing studies and also learning to be an objective researcher. No practitioner in the educational community benefits when ideas are purported without a proper critique and through analysis.

In other words: Less cheer-leaders and more research-leaders.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tapscott & Williams prevoke global education debate

In the EDUCAUSE review article: [
EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 1 (January/February 2010): 16-29]
Tapscott and Williams propose the idea of making education more as an open source mechanism. They bring some fresh articulate ideas to the table.
Tony Bates, an educator from BC, responds to the practicalities and realities of creating such a university system.
Further, on his blog Mr. Bates posts a response from a South African educator, Mandi Maodzwa-Taruvinga, who goes further into saying how web-accessibility within the collaborative university model is almost impossible in South Africa due to needed fundamental infrastructures.

As Mr. Bates concludes:
"I would be very interested to see if anyone is willing to take up Mandi Maodzwa-Taruvinga’s challenge of how best to strike ‘a balance between widening access and participation, acknowledging the potentialities and possibilities of ICTs and engaging in meaningful learning, knowledge production and dissemination outside the terms of the dominance of the networked higher education society.’

What kind or organizational model and pedagogy would that require?

Are there examples already in place that address this challenge?"
Part of Maodzwa-Taruvinga' argument is that the notion of a pedagogy of collaboration is another form of Northern oppression, meaning as much as Tapscott and Williams may argue for the universalization of higher ed learning, it is really only applicable and influenced by richer Northern society (Australia an NZ aside).
Its noble to talk of widening access, but how can this be done within a local context?

It makes me think of how poorer areas of upstate New York are facing similar challenges as South African. For one, they are not well 'wired' for broadband, which can pretty much cut them off from the networked higher education society. Sure, local community colleges or libraries can provide access, but if we are going to be serious about a global network, then investment should be made in areas that really need it to tap into the local and interface with the global. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Needs assessment

Project Title:
Assessing the needs of an international English language e-learning program

Assessing the instructional needs of a proprietary international English language e-learning program

Needs assessment design plan for an international English language e-learning program

Conducting a front end analysis of an international English language e-learning program: Assessing needs and analyzing the task

Students participate in a learning module and are assessed by a remotely located live teacher via VoIP

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Response to Oliver - thanks for the inspiration

These are my loose notes on how ID theory can be applied to a distance based ESL program. Its a private company that offers English lessons via the web with online instructors located in their native English speaking countries. They use VoiP to speak with students on particular lessons.
The company has two ID needs - one is the ESL curriculum, the other is the teacher training. 

ID Model Applied
Some things that I am interested in involve the sort of instructional design model this company uses. What's their design process, and how well does it work?
So much of ESL training schools that I have experienced (especially in China) have been about 'just teaching' or making money. This means that there is little instructional planning with the expectation that the class instructor has to both design and teach. Other times, they may be given a book and told to just figure something out. I would assume that this company being e-learning based, has a more focused set curriculum and provide their teachers with lots of direction, which may or may not work all the time.

My belief is that instruction should be designed with flexibility in mind because during the actual learning, different students master learning materials differently. What sort of planning occurs at this company?

Front-end Analysis
A way to plan is to do a front-end analysis, determining what level the students are at, their motivation, learning styles, and since this is a distance program, student's access to the appropriate technology and whether it can handle the school's software.

There is also a matter of looking at the curriculum itself. Since they are working with a linguistics professor and the expertise of people in the company, the curriculum is probably well thought out. ESL, fortunately, is a field that is always open to change and willing to try new things to help students meet the overall objective of being able 'to speak the language'. There has also been a push in ESL for standardization through tests such as IELTS and TOEFL. These tests have forced a lot of curriculum into a test prep direction, which can be detrimental to actually learning how to use the language.

I guess what I am getting at is to think about the curriculum objectives - what factors influence them?

Front-end analysis is about determining objectives based on the learner's knowledge, skills, attitude, or motivation. The process analyzes the knowledge against the student's ability to determine where the gap is between the two. So if curriculum is just thrown at students to 'pass a test', but doesn't focus on the learner (their motivation, skill level, and attitude), it will never really stick because it might not necessarily be filling the gap. So, the best designed lessons will be useless if they don't meet the needs of the learners.

Front-end analysis is about matching what's found in needs analysis (the learner's need) with what's determined in task analysis (the objective knowledge). The output of this process can create strong objectives that best help the learner.

Now, one may argue that there is no such thing as objective knowledge, only relative, but that's more of a postmodern philosophical debate. However, within the global multi-cultural learning experience, it is worth considering.

So, in the process of designing this company's instruction, is there a component that considers the learner's perspective? I think of how when I taught at a ESL Language School in Chicago, all the Korean students were just there for a year long language holiday. They really didnt want to learn English, only pass a test, or sit in a seat for a year to get credit and say they can 'speak English'. Many could care less about the curriculum and usually shut down or acted obnoxious. This means that the instruction was poorly designed. It did not meet the needs of students, because it never addressed how to motivate them to actually want to learn. The mission of the company was to make money first, and educate second, which is really demotivating for the teachers too.

Enough for now!

To be continued...