Thursday, October 13, 2011

Personalized Learning

A few months ago I found a surprising no-nonsense solution to an educational challenge.  As a teacher, I was always seeking approaches as to how I could teach a class full of students the same content at the same time.  As you would expect, some of the students were bored and some were lost. 
Then I few months ago, I was following an instructor of mine on Twitter and I found a talk at TED 2011 (  The talk was called Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education.
 Khan talks about his experience making math video tutorials for his nephews on YouTube.  His nephews liked the tutorials because they could rewind, fast forward, and not have to ask their uncle dumb questions.  Also, they could choose when they wanted to view the tutorials.
So simple! By using technology a teacher can solve an educational challenge of “one to many”, by providing videos for access “one to one”.   Technology could play a significant role in personalizing the educational experience and increase a more productive educational experience for the learner.
Why is it so difficult to come up with solutions that make so much sense?  According to Daniel Pink the author of A Whole New Mind, (2005), we are coming out of an era where left brain solutions were the norm.  In a new economic era, Pink suggests we can solve problems using right brain senses to change the default options.  To master the sense of what he calls “symphony” we need a conceptual approach to see the big picture.  Salmon Kahn “flipped” the default option of “one to many” by making videos that his nephews could choose to use anytime and anywhere “one to one”. 
Currently, I am designing an online course on the Moodle Learning Management System through New Mexico State University.  It is my intention to incorporate videos to personalize the learning experience.  So, what is the best approach to increase a more productive educational experience using videos?  One approach that I’m exploring is the use of mobile learning devices to allow learners access to some of the learning content anywhere and anytime.  It is not my intention to design the course for the mobile device.  I would like to support the course performance by providing some of the video content for a mobile device as well as on the course website.  A good small start would be videos for students to receive content, and videos to offer tutorial support on the course site.  Since “receiving” information is a small part of learning, a later goal would be video “production” of content by learners. 
A good mobile plan would need access and resources for all learners and quality videos. In exploring mobile learning tools, I can see this is a challenge.  As I explore using the various mobile learning devices and applications, I have found that some video applications will not work on certain mobile devices.  Also, while most learners today have access to a cell phone, the phone may not be a smart phone that allows video.  Some students may not have access to high speed broadband at home to connect to the course website.  Finally, time is a constraint when locating effective existing videos or producing teacher made videos.  So far, I have made first attempts to produce videos using screencast-o-matic,   Jing, and Camtasia.  
Without the same access and resources for all learners, my mobile plan will stay small and focus on identifying mobile learning alternatives for the following elements in the course:  the content generated by the instructor, the internal communications, places to store and share mobile generated content.    My wiki site shares examples of applications that do work on the ipad:   Social media applications such as FaceBook and Twitter could be useful tools for communications within a course.   Storing and sharing mobile generated content requires a platform that will work from varied mobile devices.  The following article called: Lecture Capture Takes to the Cloud,
found at Campus Technology (2011), uses TechSmith’s Camtasia Relay system and Kaltura’s open source video platform.   Columbus State Community College “has developed a process to move captured Relay content directly from on-campus classrooms to the Kaltura cloud. The goal is to ensure high-quality streaming video for all CSCC students, regardless of where they are”.    
Moving forward with my course design, I will continue to design a personalized learning environment that combines effective teaching/learning models with effective elearning approaches.  The following link to an article by Alan Rudi in Learning Solutions called Hybrid Learning: how to reach digital natives provides good clues on how “hybrid learning” can leverage everything great about good teaching and learning models and elearning technology.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

'Open' Content:  How Open are You?
A wide continuum exists for a web-based course such as a NMSU Online Teaching and Learning course, and an ‘open’ content course, such as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).  Yet, both models are changing the definition of a “course” for learners and instructors.  The online Educause article, Through the Open Door: Open Courses as Research, Learning, and Engagement, suggests that the open content model is “not a new way to pass on knowledge from the initiated to the acolyte”.  Instead, the open model inverts the position of “content”: rather than being a prerequisite for a course, curriculum becomes an output of a course. 
What are the considerations of the course designer given the continuum between a content driven and content open course? The Educause article, reminds us that “open courses can leverage communications technologies and open the door to learners to fully engage with the academic process. Open courses offer a new possible future for those of us in higher education — a value choice that promotes collaboration, responsibility, and a commitment to seeing that we can accomplish our goals together.” Since learner engagement is a key goal to an instructor designing a course, what considerations in course design would move busy course designers to see the “value” in promoting collaboration to accomplish learning goals?
Essential Elements (2002), provides realistic clues as to considerations in designing a course given the reality of technology tools available, the readiness of the learners for online collaboration, and the time involved in designing a course that is engaging to learners.  One suggestion is to engage learners of different learning style by including multiple options for activities, such as video and audio.  Another suggestion, plan a learning cycle that is predictable throughout the course: intro, lesson, activity, discussion.  Provide clear directions and eliminate barriers to students by offering checklists and tips to assess readiness for online learning and general knowledge.  Planning a “Getting Started” topic up front will help to get everyone up to speed to work online.  During the “Getting Started” topic make sure that learners realize that while they are all different, the focus will be on how coming together to learn can improve dialogue.  Make online conversations a community expectation, a value perhaps new to learners.  
So where on the continuum between a content driven course and an open course do you see yourself as a course designer?  For me, I like to experiment with small steps but create a framework to add more later. For example, I can start with technical applications that will work for most students to view on desktops or mobile devises.  I just created a video tutorial for my course syllabus in addition to the text version.  I used YouTube to publish since the video will play on mobile devices.  Later, I can add content generation by students in activities scaled to learner ability. 
While the Quality Matters Rubric standards remind us to state prerequisite technical and general knowledge, we are aware that readiness levels will vary so moving to more of an open course will take time for learners and instructors new to online learning.  Face to face technology workshops or other readiness activities may be necessary in moving learners to work online.  The Educause article suggests that “Learners need some sense of what they are choosing to do, a sense of eventedness”.  The article reminds educators to be clear in their description of the challenges faced by learners in the online environment so that learners will understand what it is they need to invest to be successful.  I agree, and I would add that course designers also need to understand the value of investing in designing more of an open course model.  
Dave Cormier, D. & Siemens, G. (2010).  Through the Open Door: Open Courses as Research, Learning, and Engagement. Retrieved from

What is a MOOC? (2010) retrieved from

Elbaum, B., McIntyre, C. & Smith, A. (2002). Essential Elements: Prepare, Design, and Teach Your Online Course.  Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

Quality Matters Rubric Standards 2008-2010 edition.  Retrieved from

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Taking learning outside the classroom

Did you know that the 18 year old college freshman this year has always had the internet in their life?  Yes, they are wired differently than people like me.  How can we use videos as tutorials outside the classroom on mobile devices? 

Friday, July 22, 2011

How do you like to practice?

Practice!  What works best...  As an aspiring yogi, my intention is to practice from where I am today to where I want to be.  As my instructor advised, "listen to your body, but don't be afraid to push it". 

Or, while pursuing golf, I can hit balls on the driving range at random or practice on the course finding new ways to hit balls in real situations.

Can mobile learning tools provide effective practice for learners?