Posts in Category "Online Curriculum"

February 10, 2014

Reaching Critical MASS: Promoting and Leveraging a Diverse Learning Ecosystem in Foundation Art and Design

INTRODUCTION:

As part of our Foundation Art and Design program review—initiated in the Fall of 2013—we have been considering the status of each of our course offerings and ensuring compliance with provinical ministry program guidelines and addressing gaps identified in the programming through student feedback questionnaires (SFQs). We are also undergoing a process of rationalization to the provincial government in order to help them identify areas of excellence and/or duplication. It is important that our program stand over and above the other foundation programs offered in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in order to ensure our place in the mix of offerings.

As part of that process of defining just how our foundation programming is different, I have been striving to create a student experience that sets itself apart from offerings at other schools. The vision looks at promoting and developing a set of essential qualities in the teaching and learning experience and the systems that we engage our faculty and students with.

I can’t understate the importance of drawing on timeless and essential soft skills to ensure a positive student experience. There is no technology solution that can even approximate the worth of an enthusiastic, caring and engaged faculty member. One aspect of what we will be promoting in the teaching and learning experience will be engagement with new digital tools and environments that will prepare both faculty and students for the emerging workplace of the 21st Century. In no way do I wish to suggest that the integration of technologies into the teaching and learning mix will supplant the soft skills that were alluded to earlier, rather, they should augment and enhance that experience in some meaningful and substantial way.

The recommendations that are being proposed here are the product of testing and consultation with third year design students in our Knowledge Design-I elective course. These students engaged with a variety of emerging technologies and were asked to envision and weigh in on their potential for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.

In addition to the specific skills developed within each course and the Essential Employability Skills (EES) stated in the course outlines, we are striving to transform this experience in ways that recognize the shifting and emerging competency requirements for the 21st Century workplace.

Collaborative_relations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: The turbulence caused by rapid advances and declines in technologies are not only posing significant challenges for large institutions like schools, they are rapidly imposing new relationships on us. Being agile enough to bend and sway with these changes will be a significant predicate for success. On much reflection, I am convinced that the only way to effectively deal with this turbulence is to develop much deeper relationships with innovation drivers like software and hardware development companies. We should seek to  deepen relationships with these companies such that the culture and processes that define these agile development communities are inculcated in an institution’s own culture and workflows. This, of course, will require a radical re-configuration of that institution’s conception of its own organizational structure and culture.
Collaborative organizational, methodological and economic models that define the innovation economy are antithetical to the traditional, linear, hierarchal and authoritative models that define most institutions today. Deeper, strategic alignment with innovation companies will help to strengthen an institution’s understanding of the structural and procedural transformations required to inhabit the innovation space. In this way, institutions can move from being relatively slow and unresponsive “reactors” to change to becoming proactive “drivers” of change. Much like a software or hardware company, an educational institution becomes a “lifeware” or “peopleware” commited to providing meaningful, relevant and powerful “upgrade” paths for their client base.

For more on my background views on innovation in the applied learning space you can access my related posts by CLICKING on the blue links below:
Perpetual Beta: 21st Centrury Course Structure Rationale
RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Model of Teaching
Worth vs. Work: Transforming People and Organizations for the Knowledge Economy
On Demand Amnesia at the Self-serve Window of Education
Deck the Halls with Boughs of Knowledge: Exploring the use of Augmented Reality in Education
Goin’ Down the Road: My Teaching Philosophy

I am confident that an emphasis on engaging our students with a blend of solid, traditional pedagogy with a new ecosystem of technologies and their related protocols will help to nurture the following qualities:

Our Learners will be:
Reflexive, collaborative, agile, knowledge producers and knowledge sharers. They will be effective and responsible digital citizens with the skills and knowledge to build and promote a strong personal, digital brand in a global context.

Our faculty will be:
Creative, caring, sharing, professionals who are current, collaborative, reflexive, agile, and committed to life-long learning and  the success of all our students and fellow faculty members.

Our School/Program will:
Offer flexible delivery of information and learning (Blackboard, ON, HARVEST for supporting student online experience)
Offer content that is universally accessible. Provide an opportunity  to experience a variety of digital environments and tools and to develop an agility and facility in their use. Teach the skills necessary for successful student collaboration with their peers.

The “thing” that will set us apart from other similar program hinges on developing AGILITY, ADAPTABILITY, COLLABORATIVE CAPACITY, SHARING, STORYTELLING, PERSONAL DIGITAL BRANDING and DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP in both our students and our faculty.

I am in the process of developing a plan called Critical MASS that is aimed at ensuring that all of our students will have had the benefit of coaching on team-building and collaboration strategies (not only an Essential Employ-ability Skill but also a requirement of being effective in virtual work environments too).
Once students know how to function as a team, this team will serve as an ongoing peer-resource not only explicitly for group projects but as a support and mentoring mechanism aimed at Mutually Assured Student Success (hence, Critical MASS). This will serve to promote a stronger sense of community while ensuring higher levels of engagement and retention. Forming students into effective groups is determined in accordance with a skills and infrastructure readiness survey that I have developed in order to identify  the distribution of competency and access to technology for our students. Data is used to build balanced teams. Other data, from Diana McIntyre at Student Success, shows that the nature of student commuting, hours of work and other life commitments are such that it is exceedingly difficult for student groups to physically meet before or after classes. To that end, with our Dean’s encouragement, We have built prototype infrastructure to support virtual/remote teaching, learning and collaboration capacity here at the school. The infrastructure forms an ecosystem with many overlapping parts some of which have particular strengths and limitations. There are plenty of options available to faculty and students from using a mixed bag of technologies to using a one-top-shopping approach. Each of which offers particular advantages.

Much has been made over the confusion of having so many systems and, on the face of it, I feel that this is a valid consideration; however I also strongly feel that it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that the technology ecosystem outside of our doors is infinitely more complex and confusing. It is ever-changing and expanding at an exponential rate: software titles become more complex and feature rich, more titles are published, we are now into tablet computing and mobile data, the app universe is nearing 1 Million apps and growing, browsers are becoming increasingly modular, programmable and complex, and the list goes on. We are all affected by the consequences of this turbulence and I am sure we have entertained the fantasy of being free of technology altogether but I don’t think that it is going to happen in our lifetime. The point being that we cannot avoid it and we ignore it at our own peril.
It behooves us, then, to help both ourselves AND our students negotiate this chaos in some meaningful and effective manner.

Yes. It is chaotic and complex but I feel that the technology infrastructure that we currently have in place is considerably pared down by comparison. The idea is to get all of the stakeholders to develop a degree of comfort and agility—an understanding  for why and how to inhabit and move through these environments and to do so in a more purposeful fashion. In my estimation, the benefits outweigh the risks, and, if we can make this ecosystem an integral part of of how we do business here at the School of Design, this will provide a value added experience for our graduates that goes beyond the pale of a standard design curriculum. THIS is what will set us apart.

The biggest challenge, of course, will be developing an understanding, fluency and ease of use for faculty. It has been my experience, that my students use these environments very effectively for the most part—so much so that, where faculty have not been using virtual environments, they simply create their own Facebook pages. The issue with this, of course, is that if there is a systemic issue with the students, you remain blissfully unaware until it shows up in your SFQ several weeks after your class is finished! Being able to monitor the pulse of your class at a glance is a very powerful way of ensuring quality and consistency in the student experience and provides invaluable data for informing iterative designs of your course.

Of course it is never quite as simple as throwing a switch. Using this ecosystem, combined with the power of the internet, requires new protocols and new forms of pedagogy that allow us to leverage its full potential. For example, having access to thousands of authoritative resources on a subject via an instant internet search shifts the balance of authoritative power away from the traditional professor in the traditional classroom setting—the roles in the classroom change dramatically. At worst, the instructor’s authority is undermined as students seek alternative sources for their information. At best, professors are valued, knowledgeable guides who can help the student leverage the maximum potential of the resources that they have at their fingertips.

Currently, we are in a situation where it is reasonable to expect students to research and present on a topic that, traditionally, might have been covered by their professor—that they should access knowledge outside of class and come to class for an experience other than information dissemination. The natural outcome of the fact that students have 24/7 instantaneous access to knowledge that we have traditionally dispensed has created a gradual drift towards “flipped” models of teaching where the students are actively encouraged to be researchers, presenters and content creators instead of content consumers. In this scenario, they need to develop a crucial set of ancillary skills in research, writing, documentation, presentation, visualization, storytelling, etc.

Digital storytelling of one’s know-how on a global stage forms the new basis on which students and professionals are starting to build their value. For example, trillions of images are searchable and available on the internet for free. Few people are willing to pay for them—even designers! So, the value proposition does not lie in the production of yet another image, rather, the value inheres in building a following in a social media platform by sharing know-how. It is no longer good enough to simply show one’s work, it is critical that they be able to tell cogent stories about how said work came to fruition—sharing insights into creative processes as well as technical how-to-s. THIS is the new currency that will help to build a person’s brand. This brand building and story-telling is an important dimension of how faculty add worth to the teaching and learning experience and build and promote their own personal brand by sharing their own know-how, not only with their immediate students but with the world at large. Both students and teachers are increasingly becoming active participants in this expanding circle. Some examples of how these stories can be curated and shared are shown below (This very BLOG is one such mechanism whereby a student or faculty member can share their insights):

FACULTY

Faculty Reflections
History of Game Design Student Research Project Summary
Faculty Curated Student Work (by Program—Course—Project, respectively)
Foundation Art and Design Homepage (Generic, program landing page)
ART1029: Digital Art and Design Homepage (Course Specific Landing Page)
Digital Art and Design Gallery (Project Specific Landing Page)

STUDENTS

Student Profile:
Public Profile Page
Student Reflections:
Student Learning Narrative: BLOG
Student Portfolios:
BEHANCE Portfolio

Of course, none of this would be possible without a very powerful, interoperable infrastructure. Some of this infrastructure is a college resource and others lie outside of the college domain. Some of the elements are large enterprise level systems and others are small, niche apps. My personal preference is to cobble together an aggregation of technologies in a way that allows for greater independence, flexibility and agility. The fact that many commercial level tools offer freebie versions makes it very enticing. Also, the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. as output conduits allows most, if not all of these resources to be interoperable on some level. This allows for an unprecedented level of freedom of choice in configuring a network of enabling technologies.

Let me introduce you some of the tools and spaces that comprise our ecosystem and explain what their core strengths/use case scenarios are (Keep in mind that there is a significant amount of overlap and that not all of these tools are used all of the time but they have all been introduced at one point or another over the past several years in an attempt to gauge their roles and impact for later integration).

ECOSYSTEM:

BLACKBOARD:

http://bb-gbc.blackboard.com

Above: This is the college standard default for online/blended online learning delivery. You can fully expect a greater push to utilize this resource. It is feature dense and the user interface is far from being comprehensible and user-friendly. It is like the COSCO of online. It has everything and you can wear yourself out trying to find it! It is a bit like taking someone up in a Jumbo Jet to teach them how to fly a plane.

STRENGTHS:
Fully supported by Blackboard under contract; We have a small team of experts over in ELTI, Rubrics allow for quick, automated marking; Tests are automated and marked, Grades are calculated automatically; Grades instantly available to students if you want. Mobile compatible.

WEAKNESSES:
We have a small team of experts; Tries to do too much. Non-intuitive—Not a very friendly User Interface. Low adoption rate by faculty. Low function use by faculty if they are using it. Difficult to learn for both faculty and students and requires dedication of scarce time and resources to train for use.
I am fully committed to mentoring each and every one of you through this process of getting to know and acclimatizing to these environments and will gladly make time to assist you with the transition. Perceived as “extra work.” Limited mobile functionality. Online collaborative environments (collaborate) are difficult to use and prone to gltiching (Fall of 2013). Very costly.

HARVEST.GEORGEBROWN.CA

WIKIS (Click BLUE LINK to view page)

http://harvest.georgebrown.ca

Above: This is a WIKI/BLOG/VIDEO server that we have here at the SOD. This VERY simple and stable platform can be used for making course materials available online. Each course is identified with unique branding and icons that are part of a cohesive branding program. Permission levels can allow for private, semi-private or public levels of access.

You can explore some of this infrastructure by clcking on the BLUE LINKS to view additional content such as the Digital Art and Design course. It also allows students to create profiles and to BLOG on their weekly learning. It is also great for curating work and for telling the stories of what you did with your class in any given semester (this reflexive practice is very prevalent in US schools and US educators are establishing clear leadership roles and setting the agenda for online education. Some examples of how we are using the environment are accessible below:
Student BLOG
Art of Wine and Cheese
Hawaiian Shirt Project
Director’s Design Competition (Daniel’s Spectrum, SPRING 2013)

STRENGTHS:
Extremely simple and easy to learn (takes about 10 minutes and works pretty much like a simplified word processor); Faculty can create/post content there; Secure (Only registered faculty and students can author in it). Students and faculty can create profiles and post blogs about what they are learning; Unlike Blackboard, the material posted there is persistent and is always accessible (don’t have to worry about content importing every semester as in an LMS); Great resource for holding and presenting video; No ads or ownership issues as with Facebook and YouTube.

WEAKNESSES:
Limited layout potential (uses basic templates). Does not allow simultaneous co-authoring of pages. People outside of the college system can be allowed to SEE the material but they cannot author with it. Perceived as “extra work.”

ON.GEORGEBROWN.CA

on.georgebrown.ca

Above: This is an Open Source version of Facebook. It has all of the same functionality: Create Special Interest, Group or Course pages and set membership privileges for them. You can create and promote events. You can Poll users, send public or private messages, post video, audio, create threaded discussions, blogs and more.

STRENGTHS:
Leverages student familiarity with Facebook so no training is required. It is a popular social media platform with most students. Very secure environment hosted behind the college firewall. There is no data collection as there is in Facebook and other Social Media Tools. Can monitor and track user engagement data and feature student leaders within the community in order to promote greater participation and development of knowledge sharing, storytelling skills in the service of building a strong personal brand and good digital citizenship. Has potential for introducing “badging” to recognize student accomplishments.

WEAKNESSES:
Lower level of uptake than anticipated. There is a need to promote the benefits of the environment to key faculty and students. Perceived as “extra work.”  The environment is “by invitation only” and requires professors to have students input their email to generate an invite. There are some bugs but they don’t impare usability they are just minor annoyances. We are upgrading this by the end of January, 2014 to address this issue.

ACROBAT.COM/CREATIVE CLOUD

acrobat.com
Adobe provides a wide range of collaborative tools for virtual collaboration that includes application and screen sharing and video conferencing (Connect) as well as document co-authoring, document signing and security and file sharing (acrobat.com, work spaces) that integrate with their universal PDF workflow. This is an important workflow for the 21st century skillset. The creative cloud brings together creative tools and collaborative spaces that duplicates some of the functionality such as file sharing and collaboration that is found in Acrobat.com.

Above: The workspaces interface allows for the creation of teams and the sharing of files with its members.  

Above: The Creative Cloud interface allows for file storage and sharing as well as a mobile workflow and social media capacity. This is an important environment for anyone using 21st Century digital authoring tools and, particularly, for creative industry workers and teaching professionals.

BEHANCE: Professional Creative Community and Portfolio Site

behance.net

Above: This is an online community of professional creatives that allows for portfolio curating, sharing, commenting, collecting, collaborating as well as a job market board. It is useful to follow influential creative types for the industry or field that you may be interested in becoming a part of in the future. 

STRENGTHS:
Industry leading. Global community. Connected to industry professionals and leaders. Costs the college nothing. Powerful curating tools. Can socialize and promote work or follow community professionals. Can create feedback groups. Easy to organize and catalog student work. Helps promote the notion of building a global professional brand and participating in a community of practice. Owned by industry leader Adobe Systems.WEAKNESSES:
Currently follows the two-tiered membership model of most social spaces. Free membership for a limited array of functionality and a pro-level (could revert to entirely subscription based in future). Perceived as “extra work.”

EVERNOTE

www.evernote.com
This cloud-based note-taking software allows for the creation of custom notebooks (for each course, project, etc.) and can record text, images, web pages, audio and video. Notebooks or individual notes can be socialized or shared with individuals via email or via a public URL.
Go to EVERNOTE by CLICKING on the BLUE link and download Evernote, Skitch and Web Clipper.  (Feel free to try others) these are great tools for capturing, representing and organizing information.

Above: In order are icons for Evernote (note-taking), Skitch (annotating web pages or screen captures) and Web Clipper (Capturing web pages). If you are a visual thinker CLICKING on the BLUE MohioMap link to download this visual notes organizer for Evernote.

STRENGTHS:
Promotes a group-based, collective strategy to capturing information. Two students per class are assigned to take notes on an iPad or laptop or workstation (one at the first half and another after the break). The link to the notebook is shared in common so all students can draw on it. It eliminates duplication of effort and spreads the workload out across the entire class. It costs the college nothing (no note-takers required). It is available on any browser on any platform including mobile. Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Notes can be downloaded and printed if desired.

WEAKNESSES:
Not all students are adept at this and the focus, style and veracity may vary considerably. Perceived as “extra work.”

TWITTER

I have my students follow my Twitter handle @prof2go. Not all students use Twitter and even fewer faculty do. This form of instantaneous communication platform is variously used and abused and, for many, it represents the most invasive form of communications tools—commanding a great deal of moment-to-moment attention. It demands brevity and clarity in messaging and allows for deep socialization.

STRENGTHS:
Excellent research tool. Students can “follow” seminal thinkers and industry leaders to gain insight into the things that they are driven by and can, on occasion, establish dialogue and ongoing relationships with those who share their passions. It keeps messages short and to the point. Potentially, you have a global audience. You can create and follow trends using metadata #hashtags. Feeds can be aggregated from multiple sources using tools such as Paper.Li, HootSuite, etc. Fast method for generating alerts or sharing links.
WEAKNESSES:
Limited message length. Not good for detail-oriented communications. Aggressive and demanding media that is constantly “on.” Can be distracting and, some claim, addictive. Large volumes of noise (useless, whimsical data). Perceived as “extra work.”

VISUAL UNDERSTANDING ENVIRONMENTS
(Tufts VUE, SimpleMind MapWebspiration, Inspiration, ):

These tools are for visualizing complex concepts such as processes, workflows, ideas, etc. and making connections between them. Webspiration and Inspiration are cloud-based and desktop mapping software, respectively and come from the same company. These tools were sponsored by the distributor. They aid in making complexity less intractable by visualizing and simplifying. Elements in these maps can be connected to rich media assets such as video, audio, PDF and text documents as well as URLs and other maps. The tool from TUFTS University is a research-based tool that is capable of powerful data modelling and semantic analysis.

STRENGTHS:
Helps to organize thoughts. Simplifies complex scenarios. Great for visual thinkers and different learning styles. Can link to various media. Webspiration and SimpleMind Map have a cloud function that allows for sharing and collaboration. SimpleMind Map offers limited free version and TUFTS VUE is free. SimpleMind and Webspiration have tablet enabled Apps.
WEAKNESSES:
Often proprietary formats with poor translation into HTML5 or PDF structures. Webspiration co-authoring is buggy. Webspiration is subscription based. Perceived as “extra work.”

BIT.LY

This is a handy little tool for shortening incredibly long and difficult to recall URLs. There is no downside to this. You can curate collections of your URLs too.

ZOTERO

This plug-in gives your browsers the ability to access the Zotero collaborative Research cloud to form research teams, collect, catalogue, cite and share every sort of media source imaginable.

STRENGTHS:
Provides a structured approach to research. Allows sharing and socializing. Provides collaborative research infrastructure. Works inside the browser. Accessible on both your computer and in the cloud. Well documented.

WEAKNESSES:
Could use a live social function. Not entirely self-evident use. Potential for browser upgrade issues. Too much horsepower for what a Foundaton program would need. Focused more on academic research at the university. Perceived as “extra work.”

PAPER.LI

paper.li

Above: One of a few publications that Professor Jim Kinney compiles on Augmented Reality.

STRENGTHS:
Socialization capacity. Global reach. Great research tool. Great for personal brand building.

WEAKNESSES:
Everyone can do it It will be difficult to stand out as a truly original piece. Little original content connected to the syndication publisher. Perceived as “extra work.”

HOOTSUITE

www.hootsuite.com

This lets you manage your social media for information blitzes, campaigns and promotions and tracks the recognition of your personal brand in social media circles. You can monitor trending and use analytics to  understand traffic patterns and trends.

STRENGTHS:
Robust and deep functionality. Allows you to aggressively promote your message and monitor its effectiveness. A pretty good free trial version. Great tool for faculty who are active members making contributions to professional discussions and events.WEAKNESSES:
Limited user base for free. More horsepower than is necessary for student needs unless they are focused on advertizing and social media design. Perceived as “extra work.”

DOODLE

doodle.com

This is a very simple, free polling tool that is useful for determining meeting schedules.

STRENGTHS:
Simplicity. Free. Aids group collaboration efforts.

WEAKNESSES:
No additional project management functions. Perceived as “extra work.”

SURVEY MONKEY

www.surveymonkey.com

This survey tool has a free version that allows students and faculty to gather data from a broad range of sources on a broad range of topics.

STRENGTHS:
Simplicity, unlimited global reach potential. Great research tool for gathering user experience data. Great for getting timely student feedback on issues.

WEAKNESSES:
Need to pay to expand sample size and analytics. User should be knowledgeable in asking the right sorts of questions to avoid inherent biases and leading questions. Perceived as “extra work.”

AURASMA/LAYAR

www.aurasma.com
www.layar.com

These environments were explored in the winter term of 2013 for their ability to augment the teaching and learning environment by delivering access to on-demand knowledge in situ. My students and I built a permanent installation in our new game design school on the history of game design. Students can now access short documentaries and interviews by designers that relate to seminal digital video games simply by pointing a smart phone or tablet at trigger images throughout the school. Later experiments were done with select faculty on using AR to deliver tutorials, room greetings and schedule and web site access from one’s smart device. For more on this follow the blue links below:
The Virtual Academy Emerges
Research Synopsis
Faculty Knowledge Transfer

PROTOCOLS:

Here we look at how classroom culture and rolls can be transformed in order to promote a more profound use of the ecosystem and how to prepare the learners of tomorrow with 21st century skill sets.

CRITICAL MASS:
Working collaboratively is an essential skill. Organizing students into groups and arming them with the tools and techniques to work effectively in groups will be the key to ensuring their success not only in project work but throughout their tenure at the school. We will develop a shared sense of responsibility for the success of one another that will build a more cohesive and caring learning community. Peer groups will act like a family support mechanism throughout the year.

INVESTING STUDENTS WITH A DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY FOR LEARNING:
We will promote the notion of the student as a capable researcher, scribe, presenter/storyteller, teacher and allow them to directly participate in unearthing and presenting subject knowledge. They will construct and share knowledge with their groups, their class, the school and the broader global community through participation in professional online communities of practice.

FLIPPING:
We are moving, in some instances, towards a flipped model of learning where students participate in knowledge creation and sharing as above. Faculty, will make content available prior to class and predicate class activity on prior engagement with any posted materials in order to reserve face time for deeper levels of interaction that transcend mere information dispensing.
I recall a time in my undergraduate years at the University of Waterloo where I sat in the Engineering Lecture Hall at 8am alongside 200 other very groggy students only to watch our professor put acetate copies of the textbook on an overhead and read from it verbatim. It was by far the worst experience that I ever had as a student and it stuck with me. In light of unprecedented access to information on the internet, standing in front of a class and dispensing facts is somewhat akin to the professor reading from a textbook. It is incumbent upon us to create more engaging experiences with important content and having the students researching and presenting is one such way that provides the added benefit of learning how to work as a group and present.

NOTE-TAKING
I have been introducing Evenote to classes and rotating the responsibility through the student body. This is just another example of working smarter in a collective and collaborative manner. Each day two students take responsibility for recording audio, video and text and for sharing public URLs that connect everyone to the notes. Each student is responsible for taking notes for only one half of a class all semester (provided there is a class of at least 30 students). This also has the potential of saving the college considerable expense for note-taking.

COMMUNITY/COMMUNICATION
Students are expected to participate directly in the life of their learning community and can do so by reading, liking, commenting, posting in the Open Network community on a regular and ongoing basis. Highly active students who are showing leadership can be promoted and potentially rewarded (praise and recognition from their professors, recommendations for student awards, being featured in the blogs/social platforms, etc.
Faculty, too, will be encouraged to leverage these community forums to ensure direct participation in the development of programming. Like our students, our faculty have diverse interests that make face-to-face contact difficult most of the time and this reduces opportunities for part-time and sessional faculty to add their voices and ideas to the conversation. This underscores the need for leveraging these environments to allow everyone to participate.

REFLEXIVE LEARNING
Students (and faculty too) are encouraged to reflect on their learning in the Harvest network personal blogs (blogs are also available in the Open Network too) This promotes meta-cognition and promotes awareness of what one is learning by incorporating weekly reviews of learning.

HEALTH CHECK
At the midterm break and at the end of the semester indiividuals and the groups to which they belong will be evaluated on the level and quality of their participation. This will be directly reflected by a grade that measures aspects of this participation. They will be evaluated by the professor as well as by their group members.

DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP
Faculty and students will work to build their online presence through direct participation in key online communities of practice. Through sharing their work, know-how, creative insights, commentary and critiques both faculty and students will build personal brand recognition in key online communities like BEHANCE.NET Building a strong brand of leadership will be the cornerstone of what sets us and our students apart from our competitors.

MENTORING
Through the Critical MASS initiative and participation in online communities we will continue to promote mentoring between students and faculty alike and will develop opportunities for sharing best practices with one another through online training, discussion forums and face-to-face meetings where possible.

CONCLUSION

There is a considerable amount  of information put forward here and it may be difficult to understand all or parts of it and how it impacts both the faculty and your students. I have created discussion groups within the Open Network, Foundation Faculty Page where faculty can contribute ideas, voice opinions, etc. Discussion boards are created for each course and are used to share best practices and ideas for course changes with the faculty members who share courses. There are also pages dedicated to the technologies introduced above that allow technology-specific Q and As.
Participants accept their invitations to join the Open Network and create a profile (including head shot) . All future communication regarding our programming will happen inside of that community resource. Ultimately, the success of this venture will hinge on faculty participation and, already, I am starting to see a real community of learning and practice emerge and stakeholders, that were initially overwhelmed, navigate the ecosystem like ducks in water.

9:22 PM Permalink
January 23, 2013

Interesting Developments on the WordPress Front

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbWith so many of us working on collaborative projects like the Gamified Curriculum Delivery System that Mike Skocko’s Mega Students of the Mac Lab developed, many of us are looking at getting a more global presence with our course materials. Others of us just lose every sheet of paper that hits our desks (myself a prime example) and want to eliminate paper from the classroom and have the curriculum available 24 hours to our students. For many of us, WordPress has proven itself a great solution. In fact, here at the educationleaders blog, we’re running a wordpress back end also.

 

WordPress is amazing. Take a look at this list of benefits:

  • It’s free, So it fits a teacher’s budget
  • It’s easy, so we have time to focus on content rather than the construction of our sites
  • It’s scalable, so we can ramp it up to a school wide or even district wide enterprise
  • It’s extensible, so you can add cool features easily, like Skocko’s students
  • It’s popular, so there’s a TON of help, lots of free plugins (add features) and themes (the layout and look)

 

What’s been missing is a great plugin that does all the classroomy, traditional stuff that we’re used to… traditional assessments for pre- and post-tests, monitoring of student access to the site, gradebook incorporated online, etc. I used to run a moodle install alongside my WordPress install for assessment and tracking of student work, but I found it cumbersome to have to manage 2 sites that acted like one.

A screenshot of my class site running on WordPress with Skocko's Plugins

A screenshot of my class site running on WordPress with Skocko’s Plugins

Finally, there’s a solution that is looking pretty good and it’s exiting beta soon. Don’t have details on prices yet, but it may be a great all-in-one solution for the classroom. I’m mainly looking for something that can track the users and provide pre-and post tests to help find where the kids are not completely comfortable with the content yet… I use tests not to see where the kids failed, but where I’ve failed the kids. If everyone’s missing a certain question, then it’s feedback to me that I haven’t covered this concept well enough yet or they’re still not comfortable with the terminology (and let’s face it… our industry LOVES it’s terminology and acronyms!).

I’ve been keeping an eye on this LMS plugin to replace my missing moodle functionality. I really want an online gradebook so that the kids can monitor themselves… Whether it’s self-reported (easy to do with a test) or actual, traditional testing and assessment, this plugin seems to fit the bill without sideloading moodle in my sites.

LearnDash is the plugin and the plugin’s author, Justin, has been very helpful and responsive- which is great for a plugin that is running your classes! Don’t have to worry about no support at all (which is common with wordpress plugs… you get what you pay for.) I encourage you to sign up for his newsletter and grab a copy when it’s time to test out on your wordpress site for class.

And if you HAVEN’T yet set up yourself with a wordpress blog for class yet… what are you waiting for? Even signing up with a free wordpress.com blog is a great way to get started in sharing your content with other educators across the globe.

And don’t forget to cross post your stuff at the Adobe Ed Exchange!!! It gives you great visibility to teachers that might not find your site elsewhere… but posting to your own blog ensures that all your students and parents can access your classroom resources easily.

Keep your eyes open for a series of blog posts here on setting up wordpress for your classroom and helpful plugins, themes, and tips for keeping it innovative and awesome!

6:56 PM Permalink
September 15, 2012

Adobe Education Leader Summit 2012 Sydney

 

 

Day 1 (Orientation and Presentations)

iphone 6×6 panorama

The first AEL Summit to be held in Australia took place at the Kirribilli Club in Sydney over the 12th, 13th and 14th of September. It was an extraordinary gathering of new and existing AEL’s from across the country and included identified leaders drawn from the ranks of Teachers, Principals, Deputy Principals, ICT Co-Ordinators, Regional Advisers and Project Officers.

For me this truly became the most significant and valuable Professional Development event of my teaching career.  The opportunity to focus completely on the planning and development of curriculum support material aligned to the emerging standards for the National Curriculum and develop strategies and projects to support professional development for a range of identified stakeholders within the teaching profession with such an incredibly dedicated and talented group of people was a paradigm shifting experience.

Firstly a big vote of thanks to Matt Niemitz, Donna Magauran, Anna Mascarello, Peter McAlpine, Michael Stoddart, Paul Burnett and the ever-effervescent Brian Chau for the quality of support and/or organisation provided over the three days of the Summit.

To the AEL’s (Vincent Albanese, Susan Bell, Daniel Rattigan, Megan Townes, Jason Carthew, Brett Kent and Pipp Cleaves) who presented at the Summit, what more can be said?  Inspiring and accomplished; it was an honour to present alongside you.

Not much spare time in my day. Just wanted to put this up to acknowledge the quality and commitment of the new AEL Australian team. It’s not often that being a part of an organisation or team inspires a sense of pride for me, but it certainly has in this case.

And so……

Some of the impressive new stuff for me that’s not under NDA was Adobe Tutorial Builder for Photoshop. Very impressed with this plugin from Adobe Labs. I’ve downloaded it already and will be adding this to the tutorial work-flow as of now. Also taking a closer look at Edge Preview; some nice developments on the horizon here as well.

Adobe Configurator was another tool that has slipped my attention. Hiding in Adobe labs this little gem will enable me to configure workspaces for Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign with unbelievable ease.

There are some real surprises in store for Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements users on the horizon. Keep your ears to the ground for version eleven releases. Nice work Adobe.

See more here

 

 

 

2:07 AM Permalink
April 25, 2012

Adobe CS6 content on the Education Exchange

With the announcement of Adobe Creative Suite 6 and the Creative Cloud, the Adobe Education Exchange is brimming with great new content produced by Adobe, Adobe Education Leaders, and other contributors. Much of this content is featured on a special page dedicated to CS6 for easy access. With CS6 and the supporting resources, you can be fully equipped to engage students in learning, unleash creativity, and prepare them for career success.

The materials cover an assortment of CS6 products and topics. For example, here is a video overview of the Flash Professional CS6 Mobile Content Simulator:

Rich, topical content like this is typical of what you will find in the Education Exchange. Here are some others:

 
There are also a variety of product-focused  technical guides to quickly get up to speed on how to use CS6 and links to other great content surrounding this new collection of professional software.

All you need to join the Education Exchange is a free Adobe ID. Anyone can contribute. Let’s go!

 

2:53 AM Permalink
March 20, 2012

ON-DEMAND AMNESIA AT THE SELF-SERVE WINDOW OF EDUCATION

Plato, the smartest man I know, is often credited with having said something to the effects that “if I know anything, it’s that I know nothing at all.
Was he alluding to his own philosophy of ideal form and the fact that he considered himself a perpetual student of life-unformed, unperfected and still in the processs of attaining to perfection-perhaps. Could it be that he was genuinely suffering from some sort of senile dementia that had robbed him of his intrinsic capacity for memorization?
I think that it was a little of both. To understand this we need to re-visit history- both Plato’s history and the phenomenon of history itself.
The historical narrative as we know it in the west today underwent tectonic changes in the period leading up to and beyond the time of Plato.
Traditionally, a people’s history, it’s myths, customs and secrets to survival were encoded and transmitted through a rich mix of media forms that included image, song, dance, story and elaborate eulogies and rituals. This mix of media was used as a mnemonic device to facilitate burning the shared narrative into the collective conscious.
Attending to this legacy of collective wisdom required a collective response and all members of early societies were compelled to bear the burden of the cognitive load of their history by committing some or all of it to memory. This titanic feat of memorization was facilitated through their participation in rituals designed to replicate the DNA of their narrative. This form of the shared burden of memory was highly codified and participatory in nature and constituted a significant drain on the resources of early people’s and may well have been the impetus behind the shift from hunter gatherer societies to sedentary agrarian modes.
The birth of the sign, be it a hand on a cave wall, a hieroglyph or cuneiform impression in clay, “marks” a major shift in media that allowed history, narrative and collective memory to be externalized. According to seminal theorists like Harold Innis, Erik Havelock, Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, the shift to writing revolutionized the manner in which we were able to organize ourselves and, in the end, our systems of thought. With the embrace of writing, ideas could be disembodied and travel through time and space to reshape the power constructs that shaped our social contract and its associated value systems.
The move to embrace the technology of writing, for all it’s promise, was hotly contested by the Greeks of Plato’s time (It has been contended that Homer and the Iliad was a collection of oral stories that were shaped into a collectively celebrated and performed oral chorus that were eventually canonized into an official text under the aegis of a single author) An early Egyptian account of Pharaoh’s rebuff of the god Toth’s gift of writing also speaks to this issue. Pharaoh contended that writing one’s history would invite sloth and forgetfulness in his subjects. Aristotle pushed writing as a means to establishing standards, verifiable facts and officially sanctioned versions of events-a singular perspective over a mosaic-the very things that make empires and institutions possible. Historical narrative and identity went from being a living, shared legacy to a lifeless, static disembodied archive that had to be retrieved and reconstituted, often without the crucial keys of context. The complex data set of living history was no longer participated in by those who had lived it. If one’s experience was deemed to be valid, it would then be recorded, re-framed and redacted by a singular author. This created a world view that had shifted from composite view to a one point perspective.
The advent of the internet and social media has once again invited a composite and participatory narrative where we can upload testimonials to the banal and the sublime dimensions of our existence. What is interesting to note is that while we are immersed in this participatory narrative, the repository of our experience no longer exists embodied within us in the same way as it did in pre-literate societies. In our state of what Walter Ong refers to as “secondary orality” we have dispensed with the burden of memory. The fact that we use the cloud as a mass-repository of our collective data set allows us to forget. With a simple Google search (Scholars portals for the more academically rigorous) we can conjure up that entire data set on a whim. In short, technology—like spellcheck—has rendered memorization culturally obsolete!
I have observed this phenomenon first-hand in the classroom. Often, when I give a lecture or demonstration, it is painfully obvious to me that few students are paying attention to what I am saying or doing. Performance aside, the fact is that they have access to multiple channels of information through the internet, cell phones, neighbours, etc. and despite prefacing my musings with “THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT IGNORE AT YOUR PERIL!” They continue to push and pull information on demand from these sources. Clearly, I am in direct competition with a staggering array of alternative channels of information. It is not that my students are neglecting to pay attention, they are opting to attend to other priorities at that particular time. It is not that they don’t value what I have to offer either. Invariably, after providing my demos a student will ask a question that I had directly addressed in my presentation. On repeating the demonstration the process frustratingly repeats itself until each student in their own time and on their own terms has what they need from me. At times it feels like I am working the drive-thru window at a burger joint!

What has become obvious to me is,  given that I podcast many of my lectures and that so many similar podcasts abound in places like Youtube, a student can gain access to information if an when THEY need it, NOT when I think they need it. It is truly an ON-DEMAND phenomenon that challenges our assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning. So, despite my frustration at their seeming inattentiveness or inability to memorize I have to remind myself of the environments that they inhabit and the rules of engagement that those environments tend to promote or curtail.
Like it or not we have entered an age of a technologically-induced culture of amnesia and instant gratification. To argue whether or not this is culture has validity vis-a-vis our old teaching and learning ecosystems and their associated methods is not a profitable one, rather, we should be exploring how can we reshape the arena and methods of discourse to facilitate deep and meaningful activity for those who have assumed these new technological milieus as the ground conditions of how they access and use information.

I am still working on the answer to that question!

9:18 PM Permalink
December 28, 2011

Introduction and ponderings on James’ Tar Pit

Hello James et al.  A very interesting and thought provoking commentary on our ever changing quest for knowledge, albeit Canadian.  I suspect that most teachers in western countries feel much the same. I pondered responding directly to your Tar Pit piece James but thought that an introduction was in order.

Before commenting, I would like to first introduce myself, mainly to contextualise my response.

My name is Deb Whittington and I am a Lecturer in vocational studies in the Printing & Graphic Arts Training Package at Central Institute of Technology in Western Australia.  Training Packages have been created for all core industry groups at a National level in Australia in a partnership between Learning Providers, Industry and the Federal Government, and constitute minimum knowledge and skills required by industry.

They are at once both simpler and harder than traditional curriculum, and contain units of competence, each with their own elements of competence with criteria.  Students are assessed both on-the-job and/or in a simulated workplace, as competent or not yet competent.  There is no pass mark.  Pure and simple – you can either do it, or you can’t.  You either have the knowledge, or you don’t.  The acquisition of knowledge, understanding and competence is overseen by workplace trainers and assessors with significant, high level experience and knowledge.  I occupy that position with tenure.

Training Packages do not replace traditional high school, though many schools are now opting to deliver simulated workplace training and assessment as a vocational alternative to traditional, academic studies.

I must first say that I am by no means a traditional academic!

People talk about life long learning.  I have been blessed with a moderately high intellect, and have been greedily learning all that I could on subjects that have fascinated me since I was 3 years old.  I am now 57 and I still feel that I am in a lolly shop full of knowledge and there is not enough time to explore and learn all that I would like.  But like many young people today, I need a better reason to learn than that it is “what is required”.

I’m fascinated by Jungian type theory and it’s role as a potential tool to understanding and nurturing aptitude and talent, with particular regard to left-brain/right-brain balance skills such as graphic technologies.  In terms of MBTI and Keirsey’s Temperament Theory, my own preferences are towards INTP with balanced I/E, moderate preferences for T over F and P over J, and very strong preferences for N over S.  I have no S preferences on testing.

With your indulgence I will later post some of my observations, hypotheses and discussions over the past 10 years relating to learning, technologies, design and type (as in typology) preferences.  I believe there are some very interesting correlations between the epidemic, modern diagnosis of AD/HD and Dyslexia, and aptitude for learning, technology and creativity.  This has been supported in discussion with a number of learning gurus.

In response to your piece James, there is a plethora of information available as a result of the technologies of today, BUT I believe our role as educators and trainers is to provide guidance through that minefield of often insufficient or inaccurate information, to teach students to question everything, have faith in themselves, to have the joy of curiosity (or as noted Nobel physicist, Richard Feynman’s book suggests – “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”), and to synthesise and provide context for their learning rather than pursue the old rote learning those of my age were often subjected to at school.  We need to teach them to make informed decisions from a sound understanding.

At the beginning of each semester I ask my students who is there for the piece of paper, and who is there for the knowledge and understanding.  Interestingly, to me at least, those who say they want the piece of paper, frequently do not achieve it.  Those, however, who aspire to the knowledge and understanding, are often their own worst taskmasters, and rarely fail at achieving the piece of paper.

We must return I believe to where knowledge and understanding, and provision of sound reason for methodology, are again the prime target of we educators and trainers.  The other will follow.

10:22 AM Permalink
February 23, 2011

Adobe Forms Central

We all know the implications of illiteracy as students move into the workforce. Too many students cannot write a coherent paragraph or comprehend basic reading passages. Students who have demonstrated grade level literacy skills have recently produced formal essays that consist of texting-gibberish infused with a few multisyllabic words that they got from a quick word search. You know all ofthis because the battle over reading and writing is fought in every classroom, every day.

I pursue literacy with zeal in my graphic design, art, and yearbook classes. Students read and write two times per week about every aspect of art and design that is relevant to their field of study . Years ago, I created reading passages with InDesign and printed them off for students to finish in class. I added photographs, diagrams and illustrations to reading/writing worksheets to make content comprehensible for English learners, but I had to print them out in B&W. Occasionally I would print out worksheets in color and laminate them so that they could be used for following semesters.

I create lessons with Captivate but I wanted an easier solution to create successful reading/writing lessons. In March 2010 I started the move to computer-based literacy activities. I now create interactive .pdfs that make it possible for students to engage with lessons that reach all levels of literacy. But what about the dilemma of collecting, reading, grading and giving feedback on all of those scribbled sheets of paper? I attempted to use Acrobat Forms with my lessons, but had difficulty doing so because of cyber blocks from the IT department. Then, I found GoogleDocs and used Acrobat worksheets with a link to online Google Forms.

As a solid advocate of Adobe products, I kept my use of Google Docs/Forms quiet hoping for an Adobe solution and it is here: Adobe Forms Central. It integrates perfectly with the lessons that I create.

  • More engaging lessons. No more predictable B&W paper worksheets.
  • Less time reading essays. I don’t have to lug home piles of papers with illegible handwriting
  • Better teacher feedback. Students don’t have to try and read my scribbled, hasty “red-ink” corrections and comments

For each lesson, I develop an InDesign document that is loaded with audio, video, images, captions, and diagrams. The finished interactive .pdf file has links to Adobe Forms that (unlike Google Forms) have the same .pdf images to further aid understanding. I make the .pdfs available online for students to download. ELL students can translate the interactive .pdfs and more easily capture the gist of the lesson from the visuals ; I can sort the students’ answers and essays (for easier grade input); and using Acrobat, I can convert the answers to a .pdf file , mark them up, and “stamp” grades on each essay (How to use Acrobat Custom Stamps: http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/acrobat/articles/acr8at_stamptools.html).

But the best news is: students’ are writing more than they were before. Their essays are longer and the writing has improved because the feedback they get is more consistent and thorough than the old “red pen” approach. At first I thought it was the novelty of the new approach, but as this school year progresses, I am finding that 21st century student learning and engagement happens best when students use the tools they’re excited about.

3:08 AM Permalink
May 4, 2010

Does Data Based Decision making ignore Qualitative Research?

There is a strong push in educational administration to use data driven decision making. On the surface, it looks to be a very sound concept. What are the test scores, what subsections are strongest, what needs to be improved? In the test driven educational environment, it is difficult to argue with those priorities.
Yet as educators, we know there are always two faces to tests. There are the hard scores, ideally (But not always – see Texas ) based on non-politicized, well researched questions, and there is the story of the individual students, some of whom make heroic gains while struggling against incredibly difficult home lives to make substantial gains.
We have always known about this in education, and consequently, research has branched into two widely respected fields, quantitative research, (by the numbers) and qualitative research (by the case, or individual). My concern and the concern of many is that we have gone too far to the side of numerical analysis, and over reliance on test scores, and have ignored the qualitative aspects.
So why write about this in an Adobe blog? Because Adobe provides a tremendous amount of qualitative support options for education. Acrobat’s ePortfolio capabilities provide educators a chance to look in-depth at what students are doing, how they are doing it, and how they reflect upon that process. While it is not the only tool around for doing this, it is certainly an effective one.
When looking at the Adobe product line, there are many, many tools that assist in the achievement of higher order thinking skills, and 21st century skills and few that contribute to quantitative analysis. This is because it is harder to measure higher order thinking quantitatively, not because of any lack in the toolset. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the new digital divide emerging, one where rich kids go to school to learn how to tell the computer what to do, and to create, and one where poor kids go to school, and learn how to take orders from the computer, and how to do worksheets in a computer.
What experiences would you like your child to have? What products have they produced this school year?

8:09 AM Permalink
March 23, 2010

F2F Combined without Travel

I get a lot of requests for Face to Face training, often in situations where we already have an online course. Sometimes it is because a department or school wants it fast and all at once, but most often it is because of a comfort level they get having someone to answer their questions as they think of them. This is all well and good, but in today’s economy our district is pushing more and more to have training online. Most courses are asynchronous, taking away that personal contact that you get in the face to face classroom.
So, I am running an experiment the next couple months. I am meeting with my participants face to face, but online. The course will be training the use of Adobe Connect Professional. All delivery will be done using Adobe Connect Professional. This will immerse the participants in the product they are learning and remove the need for travel for both the participants and the instructor. My curiosity is whether online face to face will meet that personal need of participants that typically want to be in the same room as the instructor.
Let me know what feedback you have from participants on face to face versus online versus blended versus asynchronous training and professional development programs. I will add comments to this posting in late May after I get feedback from my participants.
Lee_Keller_AEL.png

11:37 AM Permalink
February 28, 2010

Digital Learning Environments Events Series Update-Las Vegas

DLEbanner2.gif
The second DLE was held February 25 at beautiful Lake Las Vegas, 7 miles off the famous Las Vegas strip. The keynote speaker for the event was Leslie Wilson, President and founding member of the non profit One-to-One Institute.
The mission of the One-to-One Institute is to “increase student achievement through the development of learner-centered 1:1 programs that to serve as an international information clearinghouse for those interested or engaged in technology rich education programs. engage personal, portable technology. Our goals are to facilitate the personalization of learned and
Leslie began her message by stressing that 1:1 programs are NOT just laptops for kids but are about teaching and learning-transforming the learning environment from teacher centered to student centered. She shared pictures from classrooms that covered the decades of the 50s until the present that showed how teaching and learning have changed little over that time. Much of the instructional time in classrooms in spent like the decades of the past in what she terms, “Instructional approach 1″ where the teacher is the master and students are organized, usually in rows, to perform tasks assigned and directed by the teacher.
In “Instructional Approach 2″ a more personalized and student-centered educational experience is offered to students. Teachers facilitate and provide “just in time” instruction that support the standards and objectives of the lessons. Technology tools are used when appropriate and are also used for feedback and assessment. Class environments are flexible and can appear chaotic to outsiders as students collaborate and are engaged in a variety of tasks.
The ultimate goal to provide students the ideal environment for developing 21st century skills is “Instructional Approach 3″-an approach that finds student in complete control of their learning. In this environment individualized long term projects are the norm. Students find themselves immersed in virtual realities such as Second Life and other augmented realities. Teachers act as advisors and provide personalized direction. This is a true mobile environment that projects outside the 4 walls of the classroom via the power of technological connections and environments.
Instructional Approach 2 and 3 are major paradigm shifts that empower students to take responsibility for their own learning. They are encouraged to take risks. Practioners of this method note that students are motivated learners when they have choices in HOW they learn.
Leslie concluded her address by outlining the keys to successful 1:1 teaching and learning programs including a reference to “Project Red” a national research and advocacy plan that promotes the need to “revolutionize the way the U.S. looks at technology as part of teaching and learning. We believe that technology can help us re-engineer our educational system. Through the efforts of Project Red and our partners we believe that technology will transform learning, just as it has transformed homes and offices in almost every other segment of our society.”
Following Leslie’s keynote the participants broke into groups and cycled through classrooms. One group was treated to presentations in several disciplines that highlighted how technology can be integrated into the curriculum in powerful ways that propel students toward learning 21st century skills with Instructional 2 and 3 techniques and another group of IT decision makers looked at solutions and ideas for cloud computing, wired and wireless networking, as well as network security.
I’m looking forward to my next Digital Learning Environment adventure in San Diego on March 11, 2010. If you are in that area, or if you live near Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, Indianapolis, Denver, Minneapolis, or Raleigh, please think about joining us at the DLE event in your city. These are amazing, FREE event. Find out more and to register for the events, visit: http://www.guide2digitallearning.com

http://one-to-oneinstitute.org/Home.aspx?menu=11

http://www.projectred.org/

8:12 PM Permalink