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.