Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Do You Think About Teaching?

Enjoyed this piece today in the Chronicle of Higher Education "These Videos Could Change How You Think About Teaching" - I'm a fan of  Mike Wesch  @mwesch , and especially appreciate his attitude about teaching. I had the privilege of hearing him speak at an Educause conference years ago. In person and online he comes across as genuinely authentic, and I'm sure his students sense that. 
I'm also glad to hear of his new site, My Teaching Notebook. The videos below and more can be found there. "He is working on more short videos – they're essentially visual op-eds – to post, all of them about his philosophy that college teaching should focus on transforming the learner." 
That last part, "college teaching should focus on transforming the learner," that is what resonates with me, that's what I believe.  

I'm a big fan of risk taking and failing, this one is my favorite so far:

Lastly, as an academic librarian I teach short one-shot library research classes (typically 45-60min), and as an adjunct I teach fully online courses. It can be challenging to connect with and "transform learners" in short teaching sessions or in fully online courses. I work hard at this in my teaching and have seen pretty good results so far. I hope to break new ground this year by reminding myself of the philosophy of Mr. Wesch.  
As always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Learning in Virtual Worlds -- #Minecraft #DigitalLiteracy

Years ago I served as a librarian and then as an adjunct instructor for graduate education courses taught in a virtual world, Second Life (SL). After teaching for a while, I took a National Library of Medicine grant funded position as a Consumer Health Librarian in SL. Both were remarkable experiences. the learning that took place for me in that virtual world was truly transformative.
However, with all SL had to offer, there were problems and challenges that, in the end, proved too difficult and costly for many colleges, universities and schools to continue to use SL for teaching. Many educators moved on to other virtual worlds but, in my opinion, nothing came close to what SL offered...until Minecraft. (Yes, Minecraft is very different from a real life like virtual world but it's the same type of open system that allows you to create whatever you can imagine.)

If you know nothing about Minecraft for education, this entertaining video can get you up to speed in five minutes. And, of course, there's the Minecraft wikipedia page, which includes excellent references. For those wondering about Minecraft research, here are Google Scholar results.

I've been working on an upcoming digital literacy presentation and have been researching ways we can develop digital literacy skills through inquiry, play and exploration. I agree with @EricStoller in this Inside Higher Ed article regarding our digital literacy development in higher education " seems that technology competency, digital literacy, social media fluency, online engagement, etc. are still areas that need some structured/intentional work."

In this post I want to showcase an excellent example (albeit quite advanced) of learning, and developing digital and traditional information literacy skills around a project using Minecraft. A short article, found through twitter, titled Students build Gallipoli in Minecraft, includes comments from the teacher and a few of the dozens of Auckland teenagers who spent thousands of hours recreating an awesome virtual version of 1915 Gallipoli. It also features a quality silent video of the student work.

I went hunting for a bit more about the project and found two of the short videos below, which include student narration, on this page.

The learning and engagement with history, technology, problem solving, and the research process itself that took place during this project is clearly evident.

Watch: The making of Gallipoli in Minecraft:

Description: Watch how students used the sketches from Percival Fenwick’s diary as a reference for the 'Recreating Gallipoli in Minecraft' build. 

Decription: Students from Alfriston College re-enacting the tragic events that Anzac troops had to experience on the Gallipoli peninsula from May 5th to May 7th 1915.

A couple of years ago I downloaded Minecraft and began playing. I mostly made a huge mess, it was fun and very reminiscent of my early days in SL. Like SL, I could create whatever I wanted, I simply had to learn how. There was a familiar feeling of empowerment that I often experience when exploring a powerful new digital tool that allows me to create and learn. I could take my time solving problems, make a huge mess and it wouldn't matter. I could make connections, collaborate with others, solve larger problems, etc., all while fully engaged and continually #learning.
Being overly committed I decided that, until time allowed, I would follow the development of Minecraft in education on Youtube. A Youtube search of Minecraft returns almost 60 million results, it's really quite a phenomenon.

Teaching and learning with online games and virtual worlds has been taking place for many years. It seems to be more popular than ever in K-12 (partly due to Minecraft and people like Jane McGonigal and others who understand the engagement and learning potential), I've been surprised that there hasn't been greater adoption in higher education. I wonder how students who learn about history, for instance, in such an active constructivist learning way, will fare in the more traditional "sage on the stage" type of lecture classroom.

I didn't fare well in traditional classrooms, I was painfully bored and could not remain focused no matter how hard I tried. I was also intensely curious and remember desperately wanting to learn. I would have loved to have had opportunities to learn in similar ways as the Alfriston College students. I'm thankful I can continue lifelong informal learning, and developing my digital literacy skills using many readily available technologies.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Thoughts About Educating for Responsible and Effective Social Media Use

My thoughts in the Google+ box below are on the New York Times piece about ThinkUp, a service that helps a person monitor his or her Facebook or Twitter account. Click the link under the image to read the article.

After my knee jerk reaction (as an educator, I feel pretty strongly that education is the answer to many of our problems), I've been reconsidering.  I suppose the founders of ThinkUp could make the argument that they are educating via their service as well.  And to be fair, the company does provide services (additional analytics) beyond helping people "act like less of a jerk online."

Still, my thoughts are that unless someone just doesn't want to think for themselves, and is unable to learn about the many free tools that are available to provide analytics for them in their use of twitter and facebook, most can manage without a service like this.

Perhaps I'm thinking too narrowly, I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from others on this topic. Feel free to comment.

(Full disclosure: I am beginning my fourth year as an adjunct instructor for master's level students on professional Identity management.)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Internet of Things...will we get there?

I was first introduced to the Internet of Things (IoT) concept in 2008 while attending an experiment/presentation by a small tech team from France. The team was demonstrating spimes they had created; I was fascinated by the smart objects and have been following the IoT movement ever since. (And more recently, it's closely related and often used synonymouslyInternet of Everything.)

Spimes aren't mentioned much anymore but the IoT seems to be picking up steam, in the newsand social media at least, the past year. Many are hearing about the IoT in 2014 for the first time. I remember a similar resurgence in mainstream interest around 2011/12.

In 2011 Cisco published this post and infographic showing that the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on Earth and more. Still, we haven't really scratched the surface yet of what is being predicted. Some of us who have been following the IoT movement for a while are wondering if/when the predictions will come to pass.

A recent post by TechCrunch titled The Problem with the Internet of Things takes a look at issues surrounding some of our not quite yet smart objects and connected homes. 

Below is a five minute video about The Internet of Things by IBM. Published in 2010, it was the time I felt the most optimistic about IoT development.

Emerging technologies and concepts with huge potential (a world of connected things is a life changing concept) always pique my interest. I anticipate all kinds of possibilities and applications, especially health and educational applications. Educational technology has been a focus of mine for years as an academic librarian and adjunct instructor. Education (and our lives) would not be the same if the IoT comes to pass as many are forecasting.

To better understand the IoT and the potential impact on our lives and society, view the excellent 17 minute video below by Dr. John Barrett, The Internet of Things. Dr. Barrett explains basics of how the IoT works, and how it could enable new ways of interacting and learning with things we encounter in our world. Six practical and educational applications are illustrated (starting at 4:57 in the video). Hint, remember the Star Trek Tricorder

The most sobering aspects of the IoT are related to security. Dr. Barrett states "Security under the IoT has been called a shocking vulnerability, but it's also a major opportunity." In my own non-techie mind, I feel the security challenge, and privacy concerns for some, has to be a major roadblock to the IoT moving forward. 

Kelly Brown, IT Professional and Academic Director for University of Oregon AIM Program, looks optimistically at the opportunities for those with enterprising minds in his recent IoT post
There are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs who can not only come up with a way to embed devices in everyday things but also those who can develop the interconnection between devices and who can do a deep dive in to the data to create meaning.
He goes on to list "three important steps that need to take place to make the Internet of Things a reality." I do hope our schools and universities are providing students the skills that are needed to move us forward. 

This post provides good background information for those who would like to know more about the history of IoT: Brief History of the Internet of Things

The Fow Community has created a nice simple visual of the IoT in this infographic (click to expand). Notice the experts' predictions of where we'll be in 2020. Who do you believe? Will we get there? Comments are welcome. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Innovation + Disruption in Higher Education

I'm embedding the Google+ post below because I think it's important.
The symposium is three hours long and I honestly thought I'd watch about 15 minutes. I ended up watching two hours and hope to catch the third hour soon.

A four minute introductory video was uploaded to youtube that I've embedded below but it only barely touches on what Clayton Christensen was trying to get across to the higher ed leaders.
Scroll down and click the Innovation + Disruption Symposium by Colgate University link in the Google+ post and give it 15 minutes of your time, then decide if it's worth watching more.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rethinking College - Exploring the Future of Higher Education

Update August 30, 2014: #Newshourchats for Rethinking College took place August 26th through the 28th. If, like me, you were too busy with the start of the Fall semester, you can catch the twitter chats that have been posted by PBS NewsHour on Storify.

Shared this earlier today on Google Plus (G+). Since it's easy to embed a G+ post in a blog, and because I want to keep this one for posterity (could be interesting to look back on a few years from now), I'm posting here as well.
The videos linked below seemed more balanced than some I've viewed on this topic. PBS NewsHour did a nice job working to cover different sides of the issues in an unbiased manner. Hoping for further insight from the upcoming twitter chats.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Library Publishing and Open Textbook Initiatives

"The cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed in recent years. To students and families already struggling to afford high tuition and fees, an additional $1,200 per year on books and supplies can be the breaking point."

- Fixing the Broken Textbook Market 2014 report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and The Student PIRGS.

In addition, according to the report "65% of students said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive. The survey also found that 94% of students who had foregone purchasing a textbook were concerned that doing so would hurt their grade in a course. More than half of the students felt significant concern for their grade." 

Our university president recently commented to the faculty senate that the cost of textbooks has become a major factor for students in attending college. His comment aligns with the quotes and report above. 

Update: Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution - 2015 report by The Student PIRGS.

A couple of years ago I worked with my university's director of educational technology to help faculty create textbooks for specific courses. We demonstrated how to get started building ePubs in a couple of faculty workshops by using articles in our library databases (when license permitted), OERs, library e-book chapters (when permissible), and their own writings. We also chose a platform that would allow all students to access the books regardless of what type of device they might be using. From the Android OS to iPhones and tablets, laptops and desktops. A couple of our tech-savvy faculty gave this a good try. In the end they reported that the time and effort involved in getting the textbook ready for the course (with limited IT and library help), was simply too great. 

Shortly after my experience with creating our homegrown textbooks, I heard about the SUNY Open Textbook Initiative. “SUNY Libraries are working with faculty to reduce costs to students, promote authorship, invest in readership, and support teaching and learning."

-Cyril Oberlander, Director of Milne Library at the State University of New York at Geneseo and the Principal Investigator for the Open SUNY Textbook Project. 

Over the past year I've been exploring and learning about a variety of open textbook initiatives. I’ve curated a set of articles and videos on open textbooks and library publishing initiatives on for those who are interested.  

Academic libraries have been increasingly involved with this movement, and there are a number of initiatives around the country that are gaining momentum. A recent library publishing conference I listened in on via the #LPforum hashtag on twitter mentioned several initiatives that were making good progress (see link to curated articles above). I’m looking forward to reading the Library Publishing Forum 2014 proceedings when published later in the year. A couple of blog posts that were written about the event helped fill in the gaps from twitter, this blogger did a nice job summarizing.

Though it's still early, successful open textbook initiatives are beginning to have greater impact. Learn about Rice University OpenStax textbooks in the videos below. There are quality peer-reviewed open textbooks available now that I feel comfortable recommending to faculty as an alternative to costly textbooks. However, the numbers are still small.

It was encouraging to read that over 2,500 professors had signed the open textbook statement of intent to include open textbooks in their search for the most appropriate course materials. But we need faculty members to make a commitment to using open textbooks or OERs for their courses. We also need more quality peer-reviewed open textbooks from which faculty can choose. This is where involvement and participation in the open textbook movement by libraries like mine could help. 

Small universities do not typically have the resources to start an initiative for publishing open textbooks. However, we are part of a consortium of 37 colleges and universities in the pacific northwest known as the Orbis-Cascade Alliance (OCA). One of the OCA [library] directors, Faye Chadwell, the University Librarian at Oregon State University (OSU) and director of OSU Press, was a featured speaker at the recent Library Publishing Forum. This news piece was shared in the #LPForum twitter chat and alerted me to the work already begun at OSU: OSU open textbook initiative aims to reduce student costs, enhance learning. Another OCA member librarian, Karen Estlund, Head of the Digital Scholarship Center at the University of Oregon (UO) Libraries, also presented at the LPForum. 

I would love to be involved in writing a grant for an Orbis-Cascade Alliance Open Textbook Initiative. We could solicit one textbook from each institution, providing some cash to the lucky professor who gets chosen at each school, with half of it payable when the book is complete.  If we could get this rolling and get a batch of texbooks every year, we would soon have a collection that would matter, and that participating schools and others could use with pride.  

Definition and characterizations of Open Textbooks - simply put, college texts offered online under a license that allows free digital access and low-cost print options. 

Would love thoughts from others about library publishing and open textbook initiatives. How doable is it? Are the challenges too great? Would the benefits to students be worth overcoming challenges that arise? Seems to me they would.