Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog


Leveraging Web 2.0 Tools for Learning 2.0 Applications
January 29, 2008, 4:43 am
Filed under: Articles

I just finished reading an article from the Educause Review (January/February Edition). The article was entitled:
“Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0”.

Any article that cites Tom Friedman is a favorite of mine! 🙂

The following quote seems to provide, in one sentence, the focus of the article: “The most profound impact of the Internet is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning.” For quite some time now, I’ve seen the real value of a course management system like Blackboard to enhance and improve the channels of communication between students and instructors. Indeed this notion is also a best practice in undergraduate education in “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” where by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda Gamson describe 2 key principles related to the use of technology to: 1) encourage student-faculty contact, and 2) encourage cooperation among students. Technology can provide the leverage needed to fully engage these principles in a “social” academic setting.

The article also mentions various opencourseware initiatives, where content is becoming freely shared and available. I think about our own GRCC YouTube Channel as a way to share knowledge and course content from our talented professors here and our popular lecture series.

I agree 100% with the articles view on the important social aspects of learning. That is, the ability for students to learn together and participate with each other and to interact with the content is uniquely possible using all sorts of web based tools. From instant messaging tools like Wimba Pronto, to content sharing tools like Blackboard Scholar, to collaborative tools like the Learning Objects Wiki or Blog and Google docs – the learning process is more about the social aspects of learning. That is, not only can we review content as an individual experience, but we can also share it, tag it, comment on it, and embed it. We can take “action” on the content. It’s about providing the ability to create connections with others and with the content which allows students to be fully engaged in their learning.

New possibilities… I can’t believe all of the unique tools that the web provides. From online libraries, to professionally generated video content, to learning object repositories, to mapping tools, to language conversion utilities… all with the ability to use them in a social context. The web is a robust set of resources that are waiting for us, as educators, to be used in our courses.

The difficulty with technology seems to be the time it takes to filter through all of the “noise” to find those real world applications that provide good pedagogical applications. Learning together as professionals in academia is the key. We need to discover new ways to help each other. The article has a great graphic that supports this endeavor:


Illustration from
“Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0”, Page 28

The article also includes the following quote: “The demand-pull approach is based on providing students with access to rich (sometimes virtual) learning communities built around practice.” I think also this is where technology can be leveraged. The ability for a student to receive information through “push” technologies can be very effective. Technologies that come into play here are tools such as the Wimba Podcaster and the Podcast LX tool from Learning Objects Inc. These tools, combined with GRCC’s YouTube Channel via RSS, and GRCC’s iTunes U site can provide a suite of technologies that increase access to course resources by “automatically” sending students content through subscription channels. Combine this with the ability for a student to engage with the media through social channels and you’ve got an effective learning experience.

Enter the social network. Tools like CourseFeed from ClassTop Inc. allow students to receive updates regarding their course in Blackboard in Facebook. So while students are using Facebook they are 1 click away from accessing announcements, content, and collaboration possibilities such as a “course wall”. I’m sure there is much more on the horizon that can more effectively provide a combination of a traditional course management system with the tools of a social network.

Another social “micro” blogging tool that has been gaining in popularity is Twitter. In fact, there was recently an article in the Chronicle’s Wired Campus entitled: “A Professor’s Tips for Using Twitter in the Classroom“. In this article David Parry (who I am now following on Twitter) describes using Twitter to enhance the social aspects between the students in his class. He is using Twitter to build a more effective learning community in his course. This community provides a higher degree of comfort and rapport that allows students to more freely share with each other and learn with each other within the context of his course – and beyond.

In closing, I’d like to cite another key statement in the Educause article. It points to the real power of a mix of face to face and especially online technologies for learning, collaboration, and communication, all combined with a student’s true “engagement” in the learning experience.

“It is passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make or perform something.” – From “Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0”, Page 30

This article was probably one of the best I have read the places a real focus on the value of using technologies to enhance and facilitate more effective learning.

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YouTube offers Mobile Video
January 24, 2008, 2:13 pm
Filed under: Articles

If you haven’t seen YouTube’s Mobile site at: http://m.youtube.com, you haven’t been missing much… until now! The site used to feature only a select group of videos in the the mobile (3gp) format. Today, I came across a blog post about the ability to view almost all of the YouTube video selection via mobile. I’m very happy to see that YouTube is moving in this direction, especially since GRCC is currently offering nearly 250 videos on YouTube. Visit GRCC’s YouTube Channel to see the videos that GRCC currently offers online!

Mobile YouTube

This capability will truly bring the classroom to students. Think about the possibilities of watching a course lecture from anywhere in the world with a cell phone connection. 2008 is shaping up to be the year of mobility!



Banning Google and Wikipedia in Learning?
January 20, 2008, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Articles

So I came across this article written in The Argus which is a newspaper in a city called Brighton in the United Kingdom. The article was entitled: “Lecturer bans students from using Google and Wikipedia”. So needless to say I wanted to read it to see if I could decipher the logic around banning electronic media and resources from learning, which is a philosophy that 180 degree opposite from my view of educational technology around leveraging web based tools in teaching and learning.

According to the article a professor, named Tara Brabazon, from the University of Brighton decided to ban her students from using Google, Wikipedia, and other web sites while doing their research.

To me, this seems almost impossible to enforce, and in my opinion it would actually do the opposite of what she is intending. That is, she wants students to produce the best work they possibly can. In my opinion, preventing students from using one of the best search tools (Google) on the Internet severely limits a students ability to track down and find all sources of relevant information that could be used in their research. Now I’m not suggesting that all of a student’s time be spent in Google. Using Library based databases and resources are still valuable and part of a blended approach to conducting research, however, banning the Web seems backward to me.

The professor instead, provides the students with a reading list to work from which seems to me to be limiting the possibility and potential of locating a wealth of related work using the power of the Internet.

Professor Tara Brabazon writes: “Too many students don’t use their own brains enough. We need to bring back the important values of research and analysis.” I think this is probably the best quote from the article. It’s true. We need to develop and provide thought provoking curricula to engage students and provide a deep level of knowledge attainment. Banning web resources doesn’t create a more deep understanding of any topic since the web contains information that can provide a robust level of learning when coupled with a well designed learning activity.

The Web is one of the best resources for research – ever. When I was growing up encyclopedias were considered a good research tool. They were out of date before they even went to print, and if there was a mistake in the data represented it couldn’t be corrected easily and you would have to wait until the next revision of the encyclopedia set. The web, on the other hand, provides real time updates, connections to related information, rich multimedia, and a wide array of community-based viewpoints.

Now, I DO think it is necessary, and the responsibility for educational institutions, librarians, and professors to provide students with the ability to discern, evaluate, and determine the validity of information on the Internet. It is part of our duty as educators to provide the basic general skill of information literacy.   I think this is especially true since most students turn to Google first!  Here is a recent poll that we took on our Blackboard Community Portal:

 searchtools.gif

Banning the use of Google, Wikipedia, and other web resources seems limiting and doesn’t leverage the ability of technology to produce enhanced and efficient research, learning, and access to resources that are not easily accessible in hard copy or print format.

What is your opinion?



Blackboard – Leveraging Mobile Technologies for Teaching, Learning, and Student Services
January 15, 2008, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Articles

I seem to be stuck in a theme in my last few posts. That is, the aspect of mobile technologies in education. My last 3 posts, for example, include aspects of enabling better communication using mobile devices and the use of txt messaging in teaching and learning:

For the past few years, we have been using clearTXT for crisis messaging. It has been an excellent tool that is integrated very nicely into Blackboard. For quite some time now, we have been interested in taking the use of clearTXT to the next level. That is, to provide more course and academic related mobile messaging capabilities with clearTXT’s premier edition called Ubuiqity.

One of the questions has seemingly been one of trepidation of many colleges and universities around fully engaging and moving forward with the use of mobile devices. Well… things are definitely moving forward on solidifying the real value and potential of mobile technologies at educational institutions as a result of a recent Blackboard press release.

Yesterday, Blackboard Inc. announced the acquisition of NTI Group Inc., which is a leading provider of txt messaging and mobile communications. Here is the official Blackboard press release. In addition, Blackboard has dedicated a web page that looks to be for the purpose of communicating more about what this acquisition means to the client base.

cellphone_bb.gif

In the press release are many details worth reviewing. Other than the typical crisis messaging viewpoint around communication, I found it interesting that Bb is also viewing the mobile connection for other student services. For example, Blackboard recently announced a partnership with Sony to provide the Sony FeliCa contactless technology in the Bb Commerce product. To me, this means that not only could a student catch an announcement from an instructor of a canceled class period, but a student could potentially use their mobile device for a commerce-based transaction, say perhaps to purchase their textbooks.

I think this helps to underscore the value of the mobile device to academia. Clearly this is the first step in providing truly anytime/anywhere access to learning, crisis messaging, and student services.

This news has also been quickly picked up by the following sources:



Students… Please turn your cell phones ON when entering the classroom!
January 3, 2008, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Articles

Sometimes I still come across some good information in the good ‘ole paper newspaper. Usually I use the Grand Rapids Press as a firestarter for camp fires and to start my charcoal grill, but every once in a while I pick up the paper while I’m eating breakfast. OK, enough small talk… and onward to the reason of this blog post.

While reading the newspaper, I came across an opinion article by a Special Education Technology Scholar at Michigan State University. He also wrote the Blog post cleverly titled: “Don’t Hang Up on Your Students’ Futures“. I was excited to read this article because there had recently been some talk among colleagues here at GRCC that some teachers are banning the use of laptops by students in their classes. Being a techie, I can’t understand the logic of telling someone that they can’t use a productivity tool to learn with. But at the same time, I do understand disruptive behavior by students requiring the professor to step in to intervene since the behavior is likely reducing the effectiveness of the classroom learning.

I do often wonder though, how far this goes in classrooms today. That is, how far does a professor go in banning the use of technology in their classrooms? Where is the line drawn?

I admire professors and educators like Ira Socol at MSU and Garry Brand, Laurie Foster, and Bill Faber (to name just a few) here at GRCC who spend extra time and effort that it can take to investigate the options that technology can bring to the teaching and learning process. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction of “You can’t use that!”, these progressive faculty entertain the unique capabilities that technology can bring to teaching. It’s about meeting students where they are, and allowing them to add to the richness of the classroom with devices that they are comfortable using. After all, teaching and learning is about communication and collaboration. And as Ira mentioned in his blog post, the cell phone is likely the single most powerful communication device in human history that has ever been created.

dscn1048sm.jpg

I also think that Ira hit the nail on the head, by saying: “…simply suggesting that if we cannot figure out how to teach with a tool this powerful we are surely failing as educators.” One of the most important aspects of an educator is to use all resources available to help facilitate learning and to create as rich an experience as possible.

As educators, let’s stop saying you can’t use that, and instead start asking how CAN we use that to create a more effective learning experience here at GRCC and beyond!



Keeping Students in Touch with Today’s Technologies
January 3, 2008, 10:50 am
Filed under: Articles

I just finished reading an article in the October/November issue of the Community College Journal. In this edition, there was a viewpoint section written by Thomas J. Snyder who is the president of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana.

What I liked most about this article was the point blank realization that students on our community college campuses have moved on. They are often more technical than we realize. They are often using technologies that we “older” folks don’t understand. They are often using technologies that fall out of the typical instructional technology implementation process that includes bulk software installs, traditional enterprise email systems, disk images, and large computer labs.

I think Ivy Tech Community College is approaching the mobile technologies in a progressive way. That is, to provide a comprehensive approach to mobile services on campus. It’s not just about crisis messaging. It is about accessing campus services anytime/anywhere and with any device. The Ivy Tech messaging service allows students to not only receive emergency messages, but also information about registration, financial aid, payment deadlines, campus events, and much more.

Students on Cell Phone
Photo from PartsnPieces on Flickr.

Here at GRCC I think we are well positioned to also move in this direction. We already have a clearTXT service linked to our Blackboard system for crisis messaging. Taking it one step further with clearTXT Ubiquity seems like a seamless and natural step.

What are your thoughts about txt messaging and campus services for students?