Archive for September, 2007

Value Added From Video, Take 2

September 30th, 2007

A few days ago I asked this question among others:

Value Added From Video
Obviously I think this is a GOOD application. Why do I think that?

Because the video is critical to understanding the relationship between the pictures. You could have described it, but without the video showing the speed and relationships, you never would grasp the way it was working from a description — either in text or pictures. Video shines showing movement over time and that’s EXACTLY what was required. The speaker’s presence was required but not for what he was saying — rather for the performance. His being there gave the time track. He was manipulating it in real time. While it was possible that the video was editted to make it *appear* so, the audience responses, his actions, and the whole *performance* is what gave that piece power.

It wasn’t the software. While the software is, indeed, amazing, the fact that it was the subject matter of the video wasn’t what made the video good. They could have made a bad video with the same subject matter.

It wasn’t the information the the speaker gave in the video. Most of his words were largely referential to the happenings on the screen, or “stage setting” commentary that set up the contexts of the presentation he launched into. He was necessary as performer but NOT as information source. We needed to see him manipulating the system in order to solidify the time-track.

This is a ‘literacy’ skill — the ability to look at how the medium is used to deliver a message — and it’s a critical skill you need to learn in order to teach your students in the future.

Design and Development – or Is it soup yet?

September 29th, 2007

Nice post and I’d like to amplify some of these points.

Design and Development – or Is it soup yet?
According to what I think I have learned about designing online courses and teaching in general, three types of interaction, student-student, student-teacher, and student-content, are the focal points for developing instruction.

There are actually two more — teacher-environment, and student-environment. We tend to ignore the environmental issues when dealing with the classroom based courses because we’re so famliar with them. Automaticity makes it seem invisible most of the time, but it’s obvious in the beginning of the year or when there have been changes in the building from semester to semester. People are wandering around lost and not knowing what’s going on. The environmental interactions online are more apparent when you move into environments that are not familiar — like a new school, or online. If the affordances of the environment are not the same as what you’re used to, then that interaction becomes visible — largely thru frustration.

And that leads into this part of the post:

Something to bear in mind is students’ level of expertise with technology and specific applications being used for the course. In our textbook, Online Education, Kearsley reminds us that, “Teaching a particular lesson or topic may take longer than in a traditional classroom because some students may take longer on their own to acquire skills or knowledge desired.” Just like in a regular classroom, teachers need to be aware of individual students’ needs.

If the student is “on their own” then the teacher has abrogated responsibility by leaving the student alone. This happens in the classroom as well when the teacher sends the worksheet home and then doesn’t follow up. This seems to be a common misconception about the presence of teacher in an online environment — if it’s online then the teacher isn’t “there.”

While it’s true that you don’t see me once a week in a room for three hours, I defy any of you to assert that I’m not “here” and a constant presence in your educational experience this semester. From the emails, to the postings, to the comments, to the IMs — there is seldom a day when you don’t hear from me somehow and I know that at least once every day one or more of you will talk to me on IM. The simple fact is that there’s nothing inherently isolating about online courses, although they are often designed to isolate students and to minimize teacher-student interaction. That’s a design decision and not an immutable facet of online educational environments.


September 29th, 2007

When we talk about design we often just think about designing the lesson and we seldom think about the implications of what we design on the execution. You can design the most engaging, intriguing, and effective lesson in the world, but if it involves your flying to Zanzibar with the student, it’s probably not going to be effective.

Designing with Teachers in Mind
he thing I’m constantly amazed by is the willingness for teachers to create environments that they can’t manage. This is true in the room as well as online. If you have 5 classes with 20 students, that’s 100 grades. If you assign one thing a week for grade, then that’s 100 grades a week. What you assign is set up in what you design.

Many teachers complain that online courses are more work than classroom based courses. Do you think that’s really true?

Value Added From Video

September 28th, 2007

We’ve talked a lot in the last few days about the less-than-useful application of video. Seems like we ought to offer an example of appropriate use:

TED | Talks | Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo (video)
Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (like Notre Dame) scraped from around the Web, Photosynth (based on Seadragon technology) creates breathtaking multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation.

Go watch this and notice a few things.

Is the value of this the fact that you can see and hear Aguera y Arcas?
How does the video contribute to the experience?
Could this be done in any kind of simpler medium?
Did you have any issues getting it to play?
Obviously I think this is a GOOD application. Why do I think that?

Fostering Engagement, Take Two

September 27th, 2007

Last year I wrote about the difficulties teachers have in getting students engaged:

Fostering Engagement
ne of the initial problems a distance designer faces is how to get students engaged. The reason that this is such a problem is that people who are new to the process assume engagement while designing instead of building engagement into the design.

Engagement is one of the enduring themes in this class. What does it mean? How do we get it? How do we keep it?

I’ve suggested that a lot of what games do to engage people should be built into classwork. I’ve asked all of you to think about that those things might be. When you strip away the interface, the flashy graphics, and the gore splatter, what’s left in a popular game? Can you evaluate that without getting caught up in the specifics of a particular game?

Video Camera Off; Teaching On

September 25th, 2007

Chris Lott echoes my feeling about lectureware.

Video Camera Off; Teaching On
I’ve yet to see even a single example of a live distance learning event– teaching session, presentation, panel– where the video of the speaker(s) that was piped through alongside the web page activity, visuals, or even bulleted-list PowerPoint slides made an iota of positive contribution to the experience. I don’t care if it’s the Elluminate Video window, Adobe Connect, IM video, or a highly polished and produced second stream… it adds up to nothing.

Go read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

Recipe is a Bad Metaphor

September 25th, 2007

One of the enduring metaphors used to describe education is that it’s a recipe for instilling knowledge. I use it in this post:

Design and Development
The problem with designing and developing distance courses is embodied in Equivalency Theory. According to Equivalency you need to account for everything in the classroom and make sure there’s some equivalent function in the distance course.

The problem is that, unlike a recipe where you *expect* that if you follow the recipe you’ll get consistent results, with instruction you have no such guarantee. If you’re a connosieur of bread baking, you know how variations as disparate as humidity, flour quality, and altitude can change your outcomes. Some of them you can compensate for, if you’re aware of them. Others? It’s just dumb luck.

Please read this posting and write a post about Design and Development.

Making the Transition

September 25th, 2007

Go read this whole thing if you haven’t yet:

Transition Day
We’ve been focused for the last couple of weeks on the detail of the communications affordances required to communicate when we’re not all in the same room. We’ve been experimenting with using some of the most powerful of these tools since the first day and this past week has provided an opportunity for you to consider and examine some more exotic tools. Now we’re going to transition into how we design courses using these tools.

We’re going to be leaving nuts and bolts behind as we begin to ‘zoom out’ in our virtual window. Please read this posting from last year to get a bit of perspective.

Not Working on MY Problems …

September 23rd, 2007

This is a perfect lead in to next week’s unit on design. This closing paragraph is the crux of the problem with Education:

MUD, MUSH, MOO – Oh, Which Will I Choose?

I get very aggervated with them when they are on games instead of doing the work I assigned them to do; I must admit, that on many occassions, that the games they are playing are requiring them to utilize problem solving skills along with communciation skills through these on-line multi-user games but that doesn’t eliminate the problem that they are not problem-solving for me, as a teacher, they are problem solving for WOW (World of Warcraft). As a teacher, should I take this personally or just be happy they are using their brains for something?

Yes! Take it personally! Why are they willing to invest hours and hours in these games and environments but they won’t take more than the minimum amount of time (or a bit less) to just squeek through on the assignments you give them in class? You know the answer as well as I do. The assignments you give are boring, time consuming, and carry no gratification for successful completion. The kid doesn’t get a nifty new sword or a great spell at the end of the campaign, altho they MAY advance to the next level if they string together enough of these activities.

So, yes! Take it personally, but take it as a lesson. Don’t condemn the environments that are engaging the students. Find ways to take advantage of them! Why are they engaging? What are the students doing? How can you adopt/adapt/use those functions and features? I’m not talking about the interfaces and implementations here, but the actual game functions and features.

Myths and Superstitions

September 20th, 2007

After nearly five weeks of the class writings, it’s time I collected some of your myths and superstitions into one place. In no particular order of importance here are five of the myths and superstitions you’ve written about since the beginning of the semester. I’m not singling anybody out. Many of these have been pronounced by more than one student on more than one occasion.

Myth 1. “The internet is dangerous.”

I left a comment tonight about this and we’ve talked about it before but it’s worth repeating. The internet is not any where near as dangerous as your kids’ ride home on the school bus. There is an immense amount of mis-information being passed around out there. Most of it has to do with the danger of sexual solicitation. One of the early studies reported that one in five kids between 10 and 17 were sexually solicited online. What was NOT revealed in the rush to publication was that over 3/4s of the solitications came from classmates they knew from school.

Yes, kids talk about sex. The internet is the modern equivalent of “out behind the barn.” We need to be as aware of the dangers, risks, and liabilities of the internet today as our parents were in another time. We also need to be aware that the incidence of problem is very low and that in trying to control it and protect children, we may, in fact, be doing more harm than good. Protecting kids “at any cost” means something very, very bad when protection becomes prison.

Here’s a little statistic to consider while you’re pondering the dangers of online solicitation. While 1 in 5 may have been solicited online by the time they’re 17, nine out of ten high school senior girls have been sexually solicited, inappropriately touched, or otherwise assaulted by a classmate while at school. Which is more dangerous? MySpace or Prom Night?

Myth 2. “My students are visual learners.”

No, they’re not. I know you believe it. I know you’ve been taught to pander to superstitious belief. Some of you even categorize yourself one way or another. Sorry. Superstition. There is no credible evidence that a) learning styles exist or b) catering to them effects learning outcomes. On the contrary, some work done by Gavriel Solomon in the 70’s indicates that presenting content in a mode that is perceived by the student to be difficult (that is, not in their favored or familiar mode) results in greater effort on the part of the student and that the greater effort actually does produce improved results.

According to Solomon’s work, if you really think you have visual learners, then don’t give them pictures if you want them to learn something. Make them read it in a book.

Myth 3. “Boys are better at … “

This one came up early in the semester and I produced the refutation. There has been some more gender-learning research done just lately that also debunks the myth. The problem is that the UK studies that are often cited as justification for this are actually valid studies on gender outcomes but the studies themselves show that the differences in educational outcomes are based on differences on the way teachers treat boys and girls. This one isn’t so much myth or superstition as self-fulfilling prophecy.

When you only teach math to boys, and only let girls do literature, you shouldn’t be surprised when the boys do better in math and the girls do better in reading. Ashamed, maybe, but not surprised.

Myth 4. “I’m too old to learn…”

Adults have this funny idea that they should know everything. Anything they don’t know, they’re “too old to learn.” The fastest growing segment of internet adoption according to a Pew study is the population over 55. You are not too old to learn. You just need to get over it. You maybe impatient. I know I am. But you’re not too old. You don’t have to work any harder than anybody else. What you need to allow yourself to do is be a novice and learn. Remember my personal motto:

“Age and treachery will beat youth and speed every time.”

Myth 5. “Online students have to be more self-directed”

This may be the least ‘mythical’ of the five, but it’s still not true. It is true that most online students have a liability that classroom students don’t have. Novice teachers. The majority of online courses are dreadful. It’s not the teachers’ fault. The majority of online teachers have no training, skill, or experience in the use of online tools. They are given a “hammer” in the form of Blackboard or WebCT and told that everything is a nail. It’s no wonder they do so badly.

If online students need to be more self-directed than classroom based students, then it’s to counter the ineptitude of the teachers.

The reality is that any self-directed, motivated student will outperform anybody who isn’t. It does’t matter what the environment is. What matters is the student. When we start comparing students, let’s keep in mind that if a student needs an extraordinary skill to do well in a class, then it’s not the student body that’s the problem. It’s the class. As teachers, you know this, so don’t fall into the novice error of thinking that it’s different online.