Thursday, June 19, 2008

Google Maps Mashup (Salem, MA)

I like to take photos, either on my 5MP Sony digital camera, or my 3MP mobile phone camera. Most times it's just sights and objects in my every day life. My goal is to get a high quality (10MP or more) DSLR :-)


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week III

UMass Boston's Mission can be found Here, and it has as its tenets Access, Excellence, Public Service, Innovation, Economic Development and Quality of Life.

An e-learning project that may go well hand in hand with the University's Mission is an information literacy curriculum that can be accessible not only to members of the UMass Boston community (students, staff, and faculty) but also to the broader community that UMass Boston serves (Boston, the state of Massachusetts, the US and the World, since many students who study at UMB are not only local, but also national and global).

Information Literacy is something that many people do not have the opportunity to learn. Providing a free e-learning curriculum in information literacy, using free and for-pay services (the for-pay component such as academic journals may be limited depending on who the student is), could be Innovative, it could provide Access to resources for people who don't have them, it will definitely be a public service. The curriculum of course will strive for excellence, and it can act as an enabler for people to improve their quality of life.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Week 2: Reflections Part II

1) Anderson cites studies that claim that effective instruction is learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. Given these dimensions, what impact does technology mediation have on instruction?

I would say that technology mediation positively affects instruction in these areas, for both hybrid and purely online courses.

Through technology mediation, we can have community centered learning, where every student can have access to the class's public forum and participate, in a democratic fashion, in the class. They analyses, thoughts, and opinions on what has been read or discussed can be freely posted. These posts can then be read and responded to by fellow classmates and the instructor. In this sense, it's sort of like sitting in a big circle and having a discussion, but not having to worry about place and time constraints as much. In a f2f environment you have 180 minutes per week, in an online environment you have the whole 15 week semester to view and comment on something that you found interesting.

Learner centered learning also benefits from technology mediation because, I think, that the learner has potentially more contact with the instructor. In a f2f environment you see the instructor for those 180 minutes, but you also have the ability to go to the instructor's office (during office hours). Technology mediation allows for anytime, anyplace contact (given sufficient interest by the student and the instructor). The instructor can help each student individually, without detriment to the rest of the class. If one student is slower at processing a certain subject than the rest of the class (for whatever reason), the instructor can have one-on-one time with them. On the same token if some students have specific interests, the instructor can point them in one direction and provide them with resources that are relevant to them, and not so much to the rest of the class.

Technology mediation also affects knowledge centered learning. There is no doubt that there is a plethora of sources out there (books, audio tapes, CDs, podcasts, ezines, magazines, journals, ejournals and so on) for what ever research (or practical) area interests you. Technology allows you to quickly find, and retrieve sources, and quickly decide if they are of use to you in teaching /learning or not.

Finally, on assessment centered learning, technology allows, at the very least, for some expediency in grading tests. Grading tests though is not fully utilizing technology for assessment centered learning. Virtual labs and simulations are just two types of technologies that can be used to improve learning. In a supply chain management class that I had a year ago the professor used an online simulation that allowed us to modify factory production, product distribution, and shipping methods to see how modifications to those elements improved (or worsened) our supply chain. Our modifications were not made willy-nilly, they were based on concepts learned in class, in supply chain theories and mathematical models. This simulation would be a good assessment tool (along with a narrative) to see if students really got the concepts of supply chain management, or if they were just going through the motions in class.



2) What do you think of Terry Anderson's model of online learning (p. 49)? Do you find it a helpful way to conceptualize online learning dynamics?

I find the model helpful in visualizing learning in general. I think the model can also be applied for f2f classes, and in my experience has been applied for f2f classes by students. The student-student interactions and synchronous/asynchronous communication (left hand side of the model) has been done informally between various student groups in my classes (and sometimes the whole class) without the instructor mandating it.

Students often met before or after class and they discussed materials, and there was often an asynchronous component (often over email), that allowed students to clear things up with the content of the class, and offer opportunities for peer to peer teaching. The model is quite helpful, but it's pertinent for all instruction.

Week 2 Reflections Part III

Is there any validity to the arguments of David Noble, Hubert Dreyus, and Mark Bauerline or are they just curmedgeony Luddites?

I can't really lump everyone in the same category so I will break this down:

Bauerline:
I don't thin he is a Luddite because, as he said, he does indeed use technology. I was left with my jaw hanging after listening to the interview. From what he said, I think that his "research" is really one sided. He uses the excuse that (paraphrasing here) by the time he puts together a research proposal and gets all his ducks in a row (grants,staff, etc.) the technology will have changed and thus the value of technology cannot be tested.

I think that this is fundamentally wrong. Sure the platform may change, but the underlying principles of the technology (examples: blogging, microblogging, social networks, LMS) do not change, the technology adapts to better serve that vision for which the technology was invented.

I listened to the subsequent podcast (CLICK HERE) which had three people from Abilene Christian University, and their views on technology and the pros and cons seemed like a more balanced view compared to Bauerline. I also looked at the ratings of his book on Amazon.com, and it seems like most people who've written a review either love the book because it falls within their world view, or hate it because it does not. I also don't think that the author serves his purpose well by naming the book "the dumbest generation (or don't trust anyone under 30)". This may have been a publisher decision, but it seems to me like an Alarmist who shaped the data to fall within his preconceptions.

This podcast interview did not add any intellectual value, and I do think he is wrong from what I heard. The mental image is of an old man, hunched over, waving his cane and yelling at the youngins. I am curious though to read the book to form a better opinion.


David Noble:
I am more sympathetic to Noble's arguments.
I can't agree, or disagree, with the assertion that there is no pedagological evidence that technology helps instruction because I simply have not conducted research in this area, and I have not been in the field of teaching others for a long time (this is only my second semester).

I do agree though that poor implementation of technology solutions, and not thinking through a technology implementation does drain the university of money and resources that should be placed in areas such as lowering tuition and increasing the educational value for students. In addition I agree with him that research is really overstated (the whole publish or perish deal for faculty), to the detriment of instruction and resources of instruction. I've had professors who are quite brilliant in their field, world renouned! Unfortunately they could not teach to save their lives. At the same token, I've had professors who really did not care much about research and publishing, but were the best professors I ever had, and I learned quite a lot from them!

[soapbox moment]
From a personal perspective I've been thinking of getting a doctorate, since I would like to apply my instructional design skills toward business education. Teaching at a university usually has the prerequisite of a doctorate. Some 'older' (or rather old school) faculty tell me that if I want to be taken seriously I need to get a PhD from a f2f school. Online education won't do. Quite honestly the stigma associated with online education, it being perceived as substandard is a misconception that I wish would get cleared up sooner rather than later. There are people that want to further their education, but a PhD at times seems like an old-boys club where you can afford to quit your day job to get it, or you can't, in which case you can't pursue it.

In addition, I don't care for the pressures and the initiation right of publish or perish. Publishing should be something you do because something interests you and you pour your extra time (and some TLC) into it. I would prefer to go into a classroom, full of energy, and teach (or as Canice would say 'facilitate'). I would like to spend my time designing classes, and making the best use of my resources for the improvement of my students, not have to worry if about the status of my job if I don't publish something.
[end of soapbox moment]

In the end, there are two thoughts:
1. The story is called 'digital diploma mills'. I think that this is incorrect. Higher education institutions have gold rushes every now and then, when they see a discipline taking off and they go through a 'me too!' stage. Face to face schools have diploma mills, and I think that eSchools should not be stigmatized as a diploma mill. Some are! However, some are not.

2. I am on a similar wavelength to Noble. I think that we should harness the potential of new technologies, but we should not dive head first, otherwise we might crack our skulls (or in the higher education sense: lost money that could have been better spent elsewhere)

Hubert Dreyus:
I understand where Dreyus is coming from. Fostering a community is how people learn, and how people stay in professional contact after graduation. Those who know me, know that I have been a student since 1998 (only taking one semester off between the end of my undergraduate degree and the beginning of my MBA).

I would not be going to classes, staying late three nights a week, spending weekends doing homework, if I did not enjoy it. Part of what made classes enjoyable for me was not necessarily that I was learning something new, but that I was learning something with other people, and I had access to the professors for face to face consultation. That social interaction was important for me, and it remains important despite the fact that I am doing half my classes online and half in a f2f environment.

I think that community building online has come a long way since 2001 (even though it has only been 7 years). This, coupled with my hobbyist interests in technology discussion boards and groups has enabled me to acknowledge and appreciate an online community just as if it were a f2f community.

I think the overall message that should be taken from Drayeus message is not simply the 'no community on the internet' aspect of the message, but the detriment that the lack of a community can have on the learning process in both an online and a f2f environment. Additionally, I think that it was pointed out quite well that a community in and of itself will not educate you. Bad facilitators can have the community run a muck , turning what is supposed to be an educational environment into a social environment. This points out the gentle balance that instructors must strike to foster constructive criticism and idea building, but at the same time keeping the discussion on topic, and bringing it back to focus when necessary.

There is one thing I disagree with:

"anonymous amateurs . . . post their views from nowhere" without risking a putdown from peers or a judgment from an instructor (79). " I think here he misunderstands what the putdown is. Everyone judges what we say and what we do. In a f2f environment, a smirk, giggle or the rolling eyes are enough to keep the introverted students from contributing in class.

A professor must also be open minded and approachable. I don't mind being judged from my professors, that is why I am taking a class, to learn, and the 'master' in the field judges what I know, if it's sufficient, and tells me what I need to do to improve. The problem comes in when the professor is unfriendly, combative, unhelpful, and has the 'my way or the highway' view. I don't think most students would be afraid to contribute and be tutored (in the Oxford British sense) if they knew that it was an opportunity for them to be fairly judged and coached afterward.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Week 2: Reflections Part I

In Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning, Mohamed Ally argues that no one school of thought on learning is used exclusively in online design, and that an online developer must know the different approaches to learning in order to select the appropriate instructional strategies (p. 6).

Personally I agree with Ally's assertions, not only for Online teaching and learning, but also for face to face. I've been a student for quite a long time. In the past couple of years I have been paying attention to not only to my learning preferences (and learning style) but also what worked for my classmates.

At grad student meetings where students would discuss which classes they wanted to take and other students gave them my two cents, I often asked students questions to determine their learning preferences and then suggest a professor whose teaching was more in line with their learning style.

Both in INSDSG 601 and 602 we saw (quite a few times) that our classmates were all over the learning styles map, so even for a face to face class, an instructor could not rely on one school of thought in order to develop a training module or a whole class. While it is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to accommodate everyone, a perspective teacher cannot just preach to the choir or students who happen, by chance, to be on the same wavelength.


Mohamed Ally talks about the implications of different learning theories--behaviorist, cognitivist, and constructivist--on online learning. How and where are the implications of these theories different for online learning than they are for face-to-face instruction? Does technology make a difference?

The way one answers this question really depends on how they view technology. I view technology as an enabler, a tool to be used for teaching and learning. The tool in and of itself is not the end, but rather a mean to reach the end. Different tools have different capabilities, and depending on the learning styles of the students, some tools are more powerful than others.

I think that the learning theories and how those are utilized do definitely have an impact on online learning, but they also have an impact in face to face learning. The implications are different only because the toolsets differ. An instructor will use one toolset for face to face teaching and a slightly different toolset for online teaching.

The analogy I would use is this: If there are two teachers, a teacher with only has his voice and gestures to teach (i.e. no assistive implements like blackboards, easels, overhead projectors, powerpoint, etc), and another that has more tools in his toolset (a blackboard and an easel for example), do these learning theories have different implications based on the 'technology' that they are using? The answer is no. The theories allow you to know your prospective learners, and understand (and analyze) what tools are good for what purpose. The technology in the classroom has the status of 'helper', nothing more, nothing less.

INSDSG 605: Embedded Presentation

This is my introduction presentation from INSDSG640 (I added a photo though)