Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hear Us Out! Learners Open Up

Students in four Hamilton County, Tennessee high schools talk about college: what motivates them toward college, what weighs them down, what supports they need. The students were part of a series of focus groups (ten in all) in a student-led research project called "Hear Us Out." A student researcher facilitated each focus group. At the end of the video, juniors and seniors give advice to freshmen and sophomores who are just starting their path to college. "Hear Us Out" is a project of the nonprofit Center for Youth Voice at What Kids Can Do. A grant from Lumina Foundation for Education made this video possible. (YouTube description)

I find it sad and telling that this gem of a student perspective has been on YouTube for two years and has less than 300 views. Learners are letting us know what they need to succeed—are we listening?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Seven Things You Should Know About MOOCs (from Educause)

Here's a two-page PDF primer from our friends at Educause for those just joining the conversation about free, open courseware in higher education:
Seven Things You Should Know About MOOCs 
I'll be posting more resources and news as I come across it! I welcome your comments, questions and insights!

More on MOOCs

My email inbox held several significant updates regarding the "tsunami" issue of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courseware). There were company updates from Coursera (1 million learners!) and Udacity as well as ample speculation regarding how well MOOCs will dominate the market for free, open courseware. There was also speculation of just how sustainable the entire movement is likely to be.

Not surprisingly, there are issues of retention with learners registering for and beginning courses that they don't complete for a variety of reasons. It will be fascinating to watch as the data begins to manifest and key obstacles to retention—and ultimately graduation—are identified and vanquished (ever the optimist, I am!) as education becomes ubiquitous in an increasingly global higher education market.

I have always found the greatest diversity of my neighbors on the campuses of colleges and universities and it's one of the things I love most about working in higher education. The integration of free, open courseware into the more (and less) traditional forms of classroom and online education will enhance that diversity of both learners and teachers exponentially as new technologies give birth to new players in the global movement to teach and to learn. More voices, better dialogue. Most educators I know would agree that diversity of voices adds depth, context and application to knowledge and information. It turns reading, talking and asking into learning, and for everyone involved! As teachers, isn't the most gratifying teaching that which brings us opportunities to learn as well?

The challenge will be to maintain engagement with curriculum, the learner and with a qualified tour guide/subject matter expert in the form of faculty, teachers and instructors. The new learning paradigms require more of both learner and teacher than ever before, but the outcomes promise to bring more relevance and more profound sense of meaning to the experiences of both learners and teachers.

There is an excellent case to be made for the embrace of MOOCs by institutions of traditional higher education. Students who use a combination of self-guided study through a dizzying array of curriculum choices with the guidance, support and curation of faculty/instructors have literally a world of information from which to draw as they practice the skills of problem-solving, collaboration, design, engineering, teaching, researching and discovering. From that post (emphasis mine):

"The promise of MOOCs is their inclusion in the creative design of individual programs of study for degrees and certificates, and the force that will drive it is the most intimate, natural, and informal sort of dialogue that transpires between teacher and student. In this scenario, the teacher becomes guide, advisor, and facilitator; and the student, an active participant in the planning. Together, they will explore all the learning resources in the world to generate an individualized plan that meets the student’s goals and the college’s standards. When this happens, we’ll begin to realize that MOOCs, as a tsunami, have transformed rather than destroyed higher ed, and the changes will redefine the roles of students and teachers as well as the structure of courses, the sources of content, the process of learning, and the forms of degrees and certificates."

There is an entire globe full of people who want to learn, and there's a place for everyone at the table, both learners and teachers. As the tsunami approaches, the distinction between the two continues to blur.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jimmy Wales on the birth of Wikipedia

In order to understand the way that Web technologies have opened up the doors of education, I suggest watching this video from TED. Wikipedia's model is a perfect example of how an open, democratic platform for the curation and delivery of knowledge can be the most authentic for learners.

And, hey ... did you know that Jimmy Wales is a Huntsville native?

Free fonts!

I just added a list of free font Web sites to our list of resources on the right! It's important to be creative with typefaces and fonts that are eye-catching and easy to read when preparing digital curriculum. You also must make sure that the font is not substituted by a learner's computer system if it can't find the same font in its library! Contact me in the ODEeL if you'd like help using unusual fonts in your curriculum and would like to know our secret for "freezing" them into your layouts and never having to worry about font substitution again!

These are easily downloadable on both Mac and PC platforms. Just download the one you want, open the ZIP file by double-clicking and then double-click the TTF or OTF (TrueType Font or OpenType Font) file in the folder. It will ask if you want to install the font in your system and you simply agree. Then open your programs and see your new fonts on your type menus!

Let me know if you need assistance with this or any other technical or design issue on your course development!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Value of Disagreement

I sure hope that you all already know about TED. Margaret Heffernan's Dare to Disagree is one of the best TED talks I've heard yet, and I feel compelled to share it because of its social, cultural and academic implications. Please listen carefully when she talks about the value of dissent in collaboration and research. From TED:
Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress. She illustrates (sometimes counterintuitively) how the best partners aren’t echo chambers—and how great research teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.
Sometimes, we all must agree to move forward. Sometimes, it takes disagreement for any forward movement to occur.

Do you encourage your learners and colleagues to disagree? 

Friday, August 3, 2012


Coolest tool I've seen since Pinterest! MixCloud is a Web-based server (free! unlimited!) for your "radio shows" and podcasts. Of course, you don't HAVE to be a content-provider/deejay in order to enjoy the offerings of all its members! The music offerings alone seem incredibly rich. But the applications for this unique cloud-based media server site also include talk radio/podcasting, documentary/news, politics, and education.

The site is just as easy to navigate for producers as it is for listeners. Users develop a unique profile and have access to group functions that allow each to affiliate with like-minded souls and to share similar content easily in a social media stream model.

In comparison to i-Tunes, MixCloud is a Web-based software environment that does not require a client-side application (download/install) on the user's device (although there is an app for mobile devices). Content is entirely free unlike at i-Tunes, which offers a mix of free and billable content (which requires a credit card affiliation with each i-Tunes account).

Although MixCloud content is free like YouTube's, here the radioshows are presented as one continuous file of presumably consistent quality. And—at this point anyway—the content is audio only. YouTube offers the ability to create video lists with continuous play that operate somewhat like a "radio show" but unless they were all produced by the same content provider, playback quality can vary widely and playback can involve some tedious monitoring. With MixCloud, the listener simply hits the play button and sits back to enjoy the entirety of the radio show/podcast.

The environment at MixCloud is ripe for use in e-learning. And not just for course delivery! I imagine a class in which students are asked to produce their own content in assessment of their learning. The MixCloud venue is the most open, democratic and free that I've seen since YouTube launched, with a little tighter structure holding the content together in simple, easily navigable formats (groups and categories).

I plan to do something fun with MixCloud. I don't know what yet, but when I do, you'll be the first to know!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Online Pecking Order

HERE's MORE on the free, open courseware movement. How will (both) traditional brick-and-mortar universities (as well as the exclusively online degree industry) react to this game-changing movement? Stay tuned.