Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Moment in Meme

17 Ways i-Pads Will Be Used in Schools in 2013

The article's title caught my eye first—17 Ways i-Pads will be Used in Schools in 2013! And then I noticed that #1 refers to a program in one of our own communities! School administrators in Arab, Alabama are putting i-Pads into the hands of their students and I couldn't be more excited for both the learners AND the instructors! But the list certainly doesn't stop there.

As encouraging as this list is to read, I am still looking for more details about using i-Pads (and similar mobile technologies) for learning assessment purposes. The mobility afforded the instructor/learner team is unprecedented. How can the i-Pad's power and mobility enhance teaching and learning? How can teaching and learning be enhanced with the use of mobile technology? What makes mobile technology so powerful in teaching and learning?

If the teaching and learning process is no longer limited to the time/place of a classroom meeting, learners are more easily able to ask questions when they occur (and receive answers in a more timely manner than waiting for the next class). But what if instructors are not available when learners ask questions? It's important to remember that instructors are not (and shouldn't be) the SOLE source of information and feedback for learners. With a mobile device, learners have access to each other as well as the World Wide Web for resolving questions and problems when instructors are not there to help. The process of this digital collaboration can be easily guided and monitored by creating and maintaining learning communities where learners can safely interact with each other and with learning materials and resources both in the absence and presence of the instructor. This more deeply integrates the teaching and learning process into the life of the learner, with greater probability of comprehension, retention and application of new ideas and information.

The best instructors know that all the knowledge in the world is useless to a learner who finds the learning process inaccessible or irrelevant to their own lives. With the addition of animated graphics, multimedia and video to the instructors' arsenal of tools, students engage more deeply with learning material, and for longer periods of time.

As an example, I remember one of my first encounters with a student on the campus where I now work. I asked him what his professors do with Blackboard that makes him happy and he said that just being able to review video recorded lectures had had a huge impact on his grades (and overall GPA). He said that he worked out in the gym every day with his i-Pod, listening to lectures over and over again as needed. He found that he often got lost during the lecture and appreciated the ability to rewind and replay sections as needed before moving on to increasingly complex discussions of ideas and facts. Without this mobile access, he speculated that he would get lost and remain lost and would eventually "check out" of the course experience by either withdrawing completely or engaging on only a minimal level to get through the course. With the simple addition of recorded lectures, he felt much better able to engage and maintain the engagement over the duration of the course.

Traditionally, the teaching and learning process has been somewhat one-sided except in the most progressive and exceptional of learning environments. The instructor gives, the learner receives. The instructor provides, the learner absorbs. Or doesn't. Who really knows until the final exam is given and grades calculated, and then what happens if someone was lost along the way? Too late.

The interactivity of mobile technology facilitates the exchange of teaching and learning between instructor and learner in a more balanced model. In fact, mobile technology provides the ideal platform for formative assessment (especially those models incorporating self- and peer-assessment practices) in replacement of summative assessment tools like multiple choices quizzes, which most agree are not the most reliable tools for assessing learning outcomes.

Using Blooms Digital Taxonomy as a reference, it's easy to see how the digital tablet can help achieve learning objectives that emphasize context, relevance and application of learning material. When students can demonstrate the application of knowledge rather than mere reflection of data and facts, we know that true learning has occurred. The digital tablet empowers students to demonstrate, list, build, illustrate, design and record the teaching and learning process to such limitless levels that I would personally deem the digital tablet the most promising tool for learning outcome assessment ... ever!

Mobile technologies allow for teaching and learning to happen in context—in the real world. Which is a better measure of learning: passing a text-based timed multiple choice quiz on plant identification, or submitting photographic sampling (taken on a mobile device, of course) of the same plants as they grow in the learner's physical environment (home, park, garden, forest, etc.)?

This is a prime example of how mobile technology can enhance learning assessments. How can learners give us evidence that they have learned? How can learners share learning with each other? Can learners who share physical environments/communities provide each other context for learning?

By allowing the teaching and learning to "go mobile" via tablet and smart phone technology, we are sending the subject matter content INTO the world of the learner, rather than simply wrapping around it from the far reaches of academia. Even without faculty guidance, the realization of relevance and application of subject matter knowledge is much more likely to lead to real-time integration of the ideas learned when they are physically available (via mobile technology) in the context of the learner's "real life" as opposed to the relatively sterile and institutional environment of a physical classroom.

The digital tablet (i-Pad and various Android devices) can be an amazing educational tool with vast benefit to both teacher and learner, but only if both instructors and learners connect on that platform in a virtual environment that meets the needs of all. Luckily, that's getting easier (and more fun) every day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Copyright and Fair Use: 3 Tips

I really can't disagree with anything written in Copyright and Fair Use: Compliance Guidelines for Faculty. I try to follow this issue somewhat closely and keep up with the discussion. (And will add this link to our resource list on this page.)

But one thing I often find missing in the discussion is the mention of alternatives to using copyrighted material in curricula. Where is the discussion about open source, creative commons and copyleft movements that break down the barriers of proprietary intellectual property and broaden the offering of how those materials can be used?

Creative Commons, open source and copyleft licensed content is virtually EVERYWHERE on the Web! Some social media networks have even embraced the Creative Commons by allowing users to safely browse content in a discrete section of the Web site. Flickr's Creative Commons is rich with photographic content available for free use! This blog has scads of free resources linked in the navigational bars to the right of this narrative post.

The Understanding Copyright vs. the Creative Commons provides a straight-forward overview of the comparison and contrast between copyright and Creative Commons licensing. And a simple Web search will produce hundreds or thousands more great resources for information on this movement.

So the next question is usually: But WHY? Why would anyone want to give away their intellectual property? If we stop to think about the way that technology has changed the way that we learn and consume information, the answer becomes clear. Distribution. How great is an idea if its audience is drastically limited by cost and copyright?

If we are browsing an online bookstore or searching the Web for a good reference book on a given topic and our search results bear both free and costly alternatives, which will we be most prone to choose? Which will we be more prone to share, to pass along and to distribute to others? Credibility and quality being somewhat equal, the free one, right? And with all the free high-quality textbooks out there (and increasing in number every day), fewer and fewer course developers are relying on expensive traditional textbooks when opting for the free, open-license textbook gives learners easier accessibility earlier in the academic semester (since many students must wait for financial aid refunds to even purchase their books). And how likely are learners to carry those books around with them through their daily life? (HINT: Not nearly as likely as they are their smartphone or i-Pad tablet.)

So how does the author/creator make a living by giving away their product? Again, the magic is in distribution. The more widely distributed your work, the more widely recognized your name. The more widely recognized your name, the higher the demand for your presence in academic professional environments, speaking at conferences and leading teams of academics. While it would certainly be easier to stick with the way things have always been and wait for royalty checks from a book publisher, the potential in that paradigm is limited (after all, who would BUY a textbook if they weren't a registered student compelled by a professor's syllabus? And yet millions eagerly absorb no-cost academic content for free from outside of academia!). And quite honestly, the model flawed. We are still fighting copyright battles everyday in court!

In fact, many universities are very anxious about how the e-learning boom will be impacted by the copyright laws currently on the books and those yet to be written in response to the new challenges brought by technology and an increasingly open academic environment on the Web. Like it or not, times are changing and we have to decide where we fit. In fact, it's time for us each to decide. Which team are you on?

Open Access Textbooks provides guidance for authors wanting to apply Creative Commons licensing to their works, as well as several ways for educators and learners to get involved in the open textbook movement.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Best Practice: Top 10 Online Bachelor Programs

Sometimes the research of "best practice" for a given program involves lots of research, data-gathering and analysis. Sometimes you can look at the success of those who are doing what you want to do with the success to which you aspire. In that spirit, we are closely watching these top ten online bachelor programs to see what they are doing and we are not (yet).

This list further highlights my experience that every institution has its own program design, its own objectives, its own priorities and resources for meeting its goals. There is no single solution to making an online degree program successful, but there are lots of ideas, tips and suggestions that can be gleaned from watching these programs in action.

“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
(George Bernard Shaw)