Thursday, April 16, 2009

ANGEL Tokens and Agents

I am once again stepping away from the conference to attend another Elluminate seminar, this one on

Tokens can be used in any text box in ANGEL, from email messages to announcements.
* Get a list of all available tokens in the Help area (question mark). Click on the plus sign next to the Instructor Reference Guide. Scroll down to Appendix IV and you'll see the different kinds of tokens. You can copy and paste the token you want to use.

Ok - the agent part was too complex to type as I was going. Fortunately, Andy has made little videos and the link available. I will edit this post when I get that info and I will also put it in the eLearning community in ANGEL.

You can view a recording of the session here

Challenges in creating open source textbooks

I decided to leave the TCC conference for a bit to attend an Elluminate session. The seminar is being delivered by a faculty member who teaches American Government.

It is important to remember that, although the session is titled Open Source Textbooks, the current term for it is "open educational resources" (OER). So he is actually talking about a collection of websites with good information, not really stuff that students are printing out and reading like a book. For example, he sends people to to see original source material that one cannot usually get in a textbook.

Problems to overcome:
* Risk: faculty are risk averse and not particularly willing to try this type of new thing.
* Faculty come from a book reading culture and feel like sending people to websites is undermining the book culture. The presenter argues that it does not diminish the reading, but rather changes the type of reading that the student does. He thinks that the websites do a good job of the "information dispensing" task of a textbook. If folks want to keep a book reading, one should have a topical or subject matter book rather than a textbook.
* Academic Freedom - His department is moving toward an e-text and some faculty feel that a department selection impinges on their academic freedom.
* Few Incentives - he didn't get a lot of support at his college, no weight for tenure or promotion
* may be an impression of less depth and richness in the material
* students might not value the content because it is free
* lack of teachers guides and test banks

Problems from the student perspective:
* Taking away their security blanket - students worry about what material they are responsible for, it removes certainty that students have relied upon.
* Website content changes - If you rely on materials created by others, they may not be there next week or next quarter.
* active and interactive learning does not happen automatically. Students may need some instruction on how to interpret and work with digital content.

The workshop raised more questions than it answered, but was still useful. I think I would like to have a summer institute or something similar on this topic in summer quarter.

Building and Promoting Online Faculty Communities

I've wanted to create an online community to support faculty, especially sharing ideas on best practices for teaching online. I have not had the time, but things might be opening up soon. I'd also like to create an atmosphere for collaboration on the eLearning space in ANGEL.

This workshop has reminded me of stuff I already knew and reminded me of how important it is that I actually make the time to create these communities.

The presenter was from Kaplan University and I used to teach there when I was a full time adjunct. I really felt more a part of that institution than any of the other colleges where I taught - even the places where I taught face to face! So there is something to be said for the faculty communities.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More on Twitter

I'm really not convinced that microblogging has a useful place in most courses. So, I've been attending several conferences presentations on this.

This workshop is a presentation by graduate students as part of a class. They needed to create a learning object using the web. Their end result is a 12 minute YouTube video (in 2 parts) and a blog, which lists several resources.
Tweets for Education-Part 1::

Tweets for Education-Part 2::

Twitter in Education :: Blog Post

This 8:30 PM session isn't even the last one - there are still two hours of sessions to go! I don't know if I'll make it until the end of the day. There is still another full day tomorrow.


Keynote: “Interacting to Learn and Learning to Interact
This was an interesting presentation by Barbara Dieu who teaches in Brazil. She talked about having students interact on the web and experience genuine interactions as opposed to those artificially created by the instructor.

Something that struck me from her presentation was a discussion about mistakes. Following on related comments at a workshop yesterday, my attention was drawn. She noted that we must accept mistakes as a part of learning, arguing that perfectionists never get anywhere for fear of failing.

At the same time, I was reading The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes and Posner. "Studies of the innovation process make the point:"success does not breed success. It breeds failure. It is failure which breeds success." (p. 214).

In my studies of why faculty do or don't adopt technology, one key comment is that faculty want to be seen as the expert and don't want to be seen by students as not being proficient in something. They don't want to be caught learning. They don't want to fail in front of their students.

I wonder, if more people knew about this welcoming culture of failure/mistakes in the online world, if people would be more willing to jump in? Or would they simply be more convinced that the online world has no place in academia?

Managing Stress in the Online Community

The description of this seminar talked about supporting the stress of online students and faculty. I guess I was hoping to hear something new and interesting, but that is not what we got. The entire workshop has been one big cliche (think happy thoughts and you'll be a happy person; take a bubble bath, listen to soothing music). Even the websites referenced were lame. However, this is the first lame workshop that I've been in, so I won't complain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Text Messaging and Implications for its Use in Education

Interesting ideas raised. This presenter saw text messaging and microblogging (Twitter) as the same thing. He seemed to argue that it was inevitable so we might as get on the bandwaggon.

Interesting observations

* Errors = spontenaity, urgency. Digital natives not critical of errors
* The faster you respond the more important you are to the person responding.

The presenter has a refereed paper available on the topic -
Have a look at the references at the end of the paper - good stuff there.

The Listserv Community: A Place for Sharing and Receiving Knowledge

This was an interesting presentation. Mostly the presenter was sharing thoughts about new communication tools and wondering whether we still needed the old ones. I think we do. I did get some good ideas on how to better use the Cascadia eLearning Twitter account ( Come follow me!

Virtual Communities for Educators: An Overview of Supports and Best Practices

This was an interesting workshop, but not quite what I was hoping for. I was hoping for ideas on how to create a well run virtual community - for example as a support for our eLearning faculty. This was more about some good existing virtual communities. Still useful stuff. . .

PBS Teachers Connect - community
TeacherTube - - good, safe community. Wide variety of channels, groups and videos
Flat classroom project - - good resource for how to use technology in the classroom, sharing best practices, supporting each other
Teaching every student in the digital age - focus on universal design for learning. Started as a book club but has evolved into sub groups blogs and discussions.
Workplace Learning 2.0 - - helps educators focus on long term professional development for themselves

Evaluating Social Networking Tools for Distance Learning

Good workshop so far. Take away ideas:
* Don't pick tools just because they are cool or the newest trend - what outcomes are you trying to achieve with the use of a tool.
* learning by reading is not very effective - it if were, we would not need schools, just libraries. Adding social networking moves away from pure reading to more interactive classes.
* Remember that all students are not familiar with or comfortable with this technology or they may know it but not how to use it for learning.
* Cons - privacy; who owns the data; permanence; advertising; structure
* how to choose: recommendations from other educators; conferences; test the tool yourself
* VLE Info Kit - way of evaluating Virtual Learning Environments
* If you are not completely comfortable with the technology, you can get a student assistant to help out.
* Jane's top tools for learning (I'm a big fan of this website) -
* Be sure to do formal evaluation to see what worked and what didn't work and improve next time.
* presenter successfully used Ning for one of her classes. She commented that it was possible to create a private space that was not open to the world. She also noted that the space was primarily for socialzing as opposed to learning. There were required activities at the beginning of the term (post profile, picture, etc.)But then she left it for the students to use to use or not. She found that it reduced the sense of lonliness that students sometimes had in online classes.

Tao of Online Facilitation

I am attending the TCC Worldwide online conference. The first session that I am attending is the Tao of Online Facilitation. It is talking about using an eastern approach to online instruction. Here are some of the concepts from the session that I thought were interesting.

Wu-wei - actionless action. This is not inaction - rather it takes discipline and active attention and waiting. It requires great restraint.

non judgment- suspending judgment to create space to allow the chi (energy) to flow - to step back and wait. By waiting, one can engage in more critical thinking and make better judgments. It contributes to a respectful learning environment.

detachment - releasing oneself from the outcome of the course. Take our ego from the center of the learning.