Eric Kunnen\’s GRCC Blog

Scanning the Horizon – A Review of the 2009 Horizon Report
February 23, 2009, 4:14 pm
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One of the reports that I always look forward to reading is the Horizon Report [PDF] from the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.  This report is always interesting to read and thought provoking.  It contains important trends and topics that are an important read for anyone working in education.  Whether or not you are a techie with a pocket protector, or a technophobe, or someone that lies somewhere in the middle, this report is well worth reading.

In short, the Horizon Report focuses on the following six areas that will have an impact on teaching and learning within the next 5 years:

  1. Mobiles
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Geo-everything
  4. The Personal Web
  5. Semantec-aware Applications
  6. Smart Objects

MOBILES – While the debate continues on whether or not to allow cell phones in the classrooms (see School Cell Phone Ban article)… not to mention laptops, one this is clear, mobile technologies will continue to play an ever more important role in our personal lives and also from a productivity standpoint.  Take a look at the Apple iPhone ad as a perfect illustration for this.  Need a better educational example you ask? Well, ok… check out this iStanford iPhone app video.

In addition to crisis message alerts from GRCC’s Rave Wireless system, the college is currently working to include the ability for students to subscribe to course related information (announcements, calendar items, assignments, and grades) in the college’s Blackboard system.  More information is located on GRCC’s mobile web site.

In addition, the college is working on expanding the use of the iPod Touch for podcasting lectures that are captured with Camtasia Relay to support the work of the AT&T grant that was awarded to the college back in February 2008.

Following along on this mobile theme, GRCC is also looking forward to Blackboard’s iPhone app to provide even better integration for students and their access to course information with an iPhone or iPod Touch.

CLOUD COMPUTING – What is becoming an more common place buzz word in education, this notion will likely be shaping how students and faculty communicate and exchange information.  Much of the course information is already available via the web, through GRCC’s Blackboard system as well as publisher web sites.  Also, GRCC currently uses Gmail for student email and the Google Apps are a possibility in the future.

GEO-EVERYTHING – While you may lump this into the MOBILES section, there is tremendous potential here for disciplines like geography, history, and science whereby location, combined with imagary provide a wealth of contextual information that provides a more thorough understanding of the materials.

THE PERSONAL WEB – Combining with the students ability to access course content anytime/anywhere is the ability for students to easily share, connect, and collaborate online.  Not only can students access information, but they can interact with it, comment on it, engage with it.  Services like Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr provide end user generated content that when combined with online community creates a potentially powerful learning environment.  GRCC’s YouTube site is already providing a wealth of information that is freely available to not only the students here at GRCC but the community beyond.  Combined with that is GRCC’s Facebook page that provides yet another way for individuals to interact collectively…   Students are also beginning to use blogs, wikis, and portfolios that are integrated into Blackboard through a Building Block from Learning Objects Inc.

Finally, students can take advantage of Classtop CourseFeed or Blackboard Sync to integrate their personal web space and academic web spaces together.

SEMANTIC-AWARE APPLICATIONS – No where but the web could such a thing be possible.  That is, the ability to create connections between items that are seemingly unrelated to generate new meaning.   While just scratching the surfance, Scholar by Blackboard is one service that already contains rich resources that point to knowledge contruction.  However, what’s missing is the intelligence behind connecting all of these seemingly unrelated resources.  Albeit, Scholar is still an effective tool that provides social bookmarking and sharing from a personal/productivity tool, at the course level, and toward a knowledge sharing and construction perspective.

SMART OBJECTS – Items that are self aware have potential in education beyond the typical situations where you may find things like RFID tags and the like.   Think in terms of signing out reference materials in the Library by merely walking out with them.  Or perhaps paying for your food in the cafeteria by simply walking out of the lunchroom.  Technologies that work for people, rather than the other way around could help for something as simple as reducing much of the time spent standing in lines.  Blackboard and Sony FeliCa announced a partnership in this direction about a year ago.

Switching gears, but yet related to this 2009 Horizon Report are the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s Top Teaching and Learning Challenges for 2009:

  1. Creating learning environments that promote active learning, critical thinking, collaborative learning, and knowledge creation.
  2. Developing 21st-century literacies among students and faculty (information, digital, and visual).
  3. Reaching and engaging today’s learner.
  4. Encouraging faculty adoption and innovation in teaching and learning with IT.
  5. Advancing innovation in teaching and learning (with technology) in an era of budget cuts.

Combining and comparing the 2 reports, there is a common theme around reaching and engaging today’s learners using technologies that promote active learning, collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing.  The importance of encouraging faculty adoption and supporting innovation in teaching and learning is becoming exceedingly clear.


Engaging Students through Social Networking
February 23, 2009, 12:32 pm
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Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a webinar session by Inigral Inc. which is a company that specializes in bringing social networking to education.  The session I attended was called: “Lifecycle Engagement: Using Social Networking to Engage Prospects, Students”.  What follows are some of my thoughts and notes from the session:

I enjoyed the session because I believe that social networking in and around education is becoming a requirement for educational institutions.  My focus is on using social media in the classroom, but just as important are those students that are not yet part of the institution or those that have recently graduated.  Taken from this perspective is a view that social networking can be used for the entire lifecycle of a student’s engagment with an institution. That is, the “wrap around” services that an institution provides (in addition to the direct classroom instruction) are as important as it shapes an overall student experience.  Therefore, even those areas of a campus that are often considered as “extra curricular” activities such as student groups or organizations are important to the complete “education experience”.

Anyway, I picked up several good ideas and thought provoking suggestions from this session as Michael Staton did a great job of providing some background around social media and networking before jumping into some solutions that Inigral provides.

It was a good refresher that helped to underscore the importance of: images and video, mini-feeds of information, relevant and timely content, user generated content, interactive commenting, showcasing and marketing for awareness, and overall the building of online interactions and community through extending the campus into the virtual world.  I thought it important also to do what Michael suggested in searching for what is already out there about your campus.  If anything, it will give you a good indication of what the perceptions are of your campus, and what is important to students.

I thought that this slide was particularly helpful in how it breaks down the components of the life cycle into prospective students, enrolled students, and alumni.


Inigral’s Schools on Facebook solution seems to be headed in the right direction.  If you are interested in learning more, Inigral is hosting another session (on March 4th) entitled “The Facebook Dilemma“.

While social networking and it’s use in education continues to grow and expand, check out GRCC on Facebook or as a student, get plugged in with Blackboard Sync and CourseFeed which are available now from GRCC’s Blackboard system.