Paul Ayers

Paul Ayers

by Paul Ayers

Let’s consider for a moment a formal definition put forth by Alan J. Cann for Personal Learning Environments (PLEs).  A PLE is:

a system that helps learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to set their own learning goals, manage their learning, manage both content and process, and communicate with others in the process of learning.

Graham Attwell also makes a strong case for PLEs in his article in his article “Personal Learning Environments – the future of eLearning?

Both Cann and  Attwell caused me to begin reflecting on the tools and activities I use to learn and demonstrate my learning, from working within my university’s LMS to using Web 2.0 tools like Wikipedia and Flickr to an old-fashioned Google search. It occurred to me everything I use to assist me daily with formal and informal learning pretty much meets the definition set above. But there also seems to be a gap. The ease and tools with which to share my learning are not as readily apparent.
Here is my take on it. We are close, but not there. We are more capable than ever of finding information and acquiring new knowledge, but how are we doing with the “reflecting on it and doing something with it” part? Do most learners really want to control their learning environment and to demonstrate knowledge acquisition to the degree a PLE might offer?

Ok…I’ll admit it…I am thrilled by the idea of a designed PLE to support learners, but I am also convinced it may not be the end-all-be-all solution to learning ownership. In an increasingly knowledge-driven society, we have to be aware of the probability that some learners aren’t as interested in showing what they know, but just knowing. The PLE of the future must make reflection upon and demonstration of knowledge as easy as acquisition. Otherwise, we may only be talking about Google 2.0.

Guest blogger: Paul Ayers holds a Master’s of Business Administration in Management and is a currently a doctoral student in the University of Memphis’ Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership. His research interests include e-learning applications higher education settings, hybrid learning environments, and instructional design. Paul currently works with International Paper as a contract instructional designer, where he is developing e-learning solutions with subject matter experts in the Environment, Health and Safety division. In his spare time, Paul enjoys spending time with his family and home renovation.

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Force Trainer courtesy of USA Today and Uncle Milton Industries

Force Trainer courtesy of USA Today and Uncle Milton Industries

Have you heard about Force Trainer?  Toymaker Uncle Milton Industries‘ Executive Vice President Frank Adler described the Force Trainer as

The wireless headset reads your brainwaves through dry sensor technology and can determine the differences between alpha, beta, gamma and delta waves. This allows a chip inside the Force Trainer to use an algorithm to interpret the data and translate it to physical action, which in this case moves the Training Sphere into different sections of the cylinder…it’s not a matter of “more powerful” brain waves as much as “more focused.” It’s very much like the concept of practicing the Force as you see in the films. The deeper you are able to concentrate, the more you will ‘feel the force flowing through you,’ and the more you will be able to move the Training Sphere. The device will interpret different levels of focus rather than being just one big on/off switch.

Is it possible we can use this to support learning?  I remember my 4th grade teacher fussing about my double digit multiplication facts saying, “You’re not concentrating!”  Now with a few electrodes, that lady-in-my-GPS-system-voice could fuss at me for not paying attention and concentrating in an online class.  Luckily, that doesn’t deter me from wanting to try and use the force to lift a plastic ball in a make-believe wind tunnel using a suped-up hair dryer, holding out my hand to “guide” the Force and praying my midichlorian count is higher than that of a 8-year-old — all while trying to remember that anger toward said ball, wind tunnel and hair dryer leads to hate, hate leads to . . . etc.

Gizmodo has more photos of more-geeky adults trying it out. Check it out.

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These are my Jumptags for February 20th

  • ClickHeat – ClickHeat is a visual heatmap of clicks on a HTML page, showing hot and cold click zones. Requires Javascript on the client to track clicks, PHP and GD on the server to log clicks and generate the heatmap.
  • 5 Heat Map Tracking Tools to Watch What Your Visitors Do – Supplement your analytics with some cool visuals from online heatmap tracking tools.
  • HOW TO: Make Firefox Your Productivity Machine – Learn about some of the greatest productivity bits that the Firefox browser has to offer. You may be surprised that many of these don't even require an extension!

Discussion (icon for workshops)Today, I’m presenting a workshop with Drs. Lee Allen and Kay Reeves on creating effective online courses.  There’s a tremendous push currently in our college (and university) to move more coursework online.  So, beyond the technical aspects of using our course management system (Desire2Learn), we are also discussing pedagogy and course design for online teaching and learning. We’re looking forward to a great discussion and some important conversations about facilitating learning online.

There’s a number of handouts and a presentation that I’m uploading here as well.

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These are my Jumptags for February 19th

  • Cogs For Blogs – A directory of Web 2.0 tools and tutorials on how to use them. Good stuff.
  • Google Spreadsheets Data Validation – Google Spreadsheets has a new feature for cell validation. It will check data within a cell to see if it matches certain criteria, such as email or URL.
  • Quick-UX. Quick Heuristics for User eXperience – Quick heuristics that consider usability, usefulness and desirability.
  • Six ways to make Web 2.0 work – Six ways to make Web 2.0 work. A Application Management Feature Article about Six ways Web 2.0 work by The McKinsey Quarterly. Free registration for most Business Technology Application Management articles. Web 2.0 tools opportunities, and how to u…
Charles B. Hodges

Charles B. Hodges

by Charles B. Hodges

I work in an environment where thousands of learners access web-based learning materials daily. Web-based learning is a major topic of research and discussion in the professional organizations to which I belong. I teach graduate-level instructional design courses, and I will soon be involved with undergraduate-level technology integration courses. Exploring the endless stream of new Web 2.0 tools that emerge and imagining (or reading in my friends’ blogs) how these might be used to facilitate learning is something I enjoy. Recently, I have found myself considering ethical issues surrounding all of these interests:

When designing instruction, how much attention should be given to making sure that instruction is accessible to all learners?

By accessible here I mean accessibility in terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In conversations with colleagues on this topic I have heard comments like: “If federal money is not involved, you don’t have to worry about accessibility.”, “Why worry about something that affects such a small number of people?”, “We’ll worry about accessibility when someone complains.”

These comments were both shocking and depressing to me at the same time. Shouldn’t we do the right thing for our learners, all of them? I often describe an instructional designer as being an advocate for the learners. I understand the difficulty involved with making accessible web-based materials. A great deal of my work has involved mathematics and the specialized symbols necessary for communicating mathematics brings the difficulty to the forefront quickly. I also understand the issues of cost during development in both time and money. However, for those that have commented to me about small numbers of people (which I am not sure I buy, by the way), I have tried to champion the case of accessibility makes for better usability for ALL. Who wouldn’t, for example, like to be able to search the text of a podcast for all the instances of a particular word or phrase?

For now I have decided to take a middle road — demonstrating emerging technologies and discussing clever and interesting uses of them for education, while at the same time making it clear that there are real issues regarding accessibility for many new web-based tools and services. Is this the right thing to do? I am starting to see eyes roll when I bring up accessibility and I think that is progress. My interpretation of the rolling eyes is “here we go again.” They must be starting to remember

Guest blogger: Chuck Hodges has worked in higher education for nearly 17 years, all in math departments. He has earned degrees in Mathematics (B.S., M.S.) and Instructional Design and Technology (Ph.D. from Virginia Tech). Currently, he wears many hats in his role as manager of the Virginia Tech Math Emporium: facilities manager, researcher, logistics expert, stand-up trainer, and learner advocate. He will soon be surrendering all of those hats to move south and be an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at Georgia Southern University.

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These are my Jumptags for February 18th

  • Snapter – Turn photos into PDFs.
  • Education – Tutorial: Two Uses of Technology to Improve Literacy and Critical Thinking – I’m still thinking about that UCLA research saying “technology in the classroom damages literacy and critical thinking.” I’m still thinking it’s behind the times, in its framing of technology as “…
  • Education | Diigo – Diigo is offering special premium accounts to k-12 and higher education faculty.
  • Assessment Strategies – Assessment strategies for gauging student needs, encouraging self direction and collaboration, monitoring progress, checking understanding and demonstrating understanding.
  • Lessons from the art of storyboarding – Here is a good short video reviewing the art of the storyboard as it’s used in story development and production in the motion picture industry. Storyboarding as we know it may have been pioneered by film makers and animators, but…
  • 21ideas – Tony Vincent outlines 21 technology tools and strategies teachers can use in the classroom.
  • Super Teacher Tools – Super Teacher Tools has many free classroom review games and classroom management tools, including Flash Jeopardy.
  • GeoGebra – On the one hand, GeoGebra is an interactive geometry system. You can do constructions with points, vectors, segments, lines, conic sections as well as functions and change them dynamically afterwards.
  • NASA – Do-It-Youself Podcast – NASA provides directions and permission to use their videos and images to create digital media.
  • Do-It-Yourself Podcast Blog – NASA provides some “how tos” to create podcasts and videos with their videos and images.
  • Top News – eSN Special Report: – Students in a South Texas classroom had taken on the role of employees at CleanWater Tech, a fictional U.S. company that produces water filtration technology, and were poring over the economic indicators of various unnamed countries, trying to decide…
  • Lovely Charts – Lovely Charts is an online diagramming application that allows you to create professional looking diagrams, such as flowcharts, sitemaps, organisation charts, wireframes, and many more… For free.
  • Addition & Subtraction Fact PowerPoints – A series of Powerpoint flashcards for addition and subtraction math facts.
  • Why Wikis? – Most Web 2.0 tools are discussed at length in terms of their application to the learning process. While there is much that can be learned from using these tools in instruction, there are also principles upon which that use rests that have long been …
  • 3 Challenges to Wiki Use in Instruction – There are always challenges in the actual use of technology in instruction, not only in practical terms with familiarity with the technology itself but, more importantly, in a pedagogical sense as the benefits to teaching and learning are examined mo…
  • Web 2.0 That Works: Marzano & Web 2.0 – A directory of Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning. Denotes free and premium services.
  • Siftables – MIT grad student David Merrill demos Siftables — cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands. These future-toys can do math, play music, and talk to their friends, too. Is this the next thing in hands-on learning?
  • eLearn: Predictions for 2009 – Respected authors and researchers, including Allison Rossett, Stephen Downes, Richard Mayer and Chris Dede, make predictions about the future of elearning.
  • Kitzu – Kitzu offers learning kits for specific topics. Many include photos to support the topic.

Elizabeth Boling

by Elizabeth Boling

Years ago when I read Design for the Real World (Papanek, 1973), I was not anticipating ending up in a design field where the issues he championed would actually apply to my work. Over time, however, I find my thoughts returning insistently to the core of his message – most trained designers end up plying their trade to produce more stuff (or more experiences) for people who already have enough (or people who have too much! See The Plenitude, Gold, 2007). Furthermore, a world of design problems exists all around us, solutions to which are desperately needed but for which comparatively little funding is available and to which little glamour is attached. It’s easy to see that this is still true decades later when we contemplate the esoteric wine bottle openers and floor lamps, or the expensive office chairs and modular work systems that take up most of the space in product design publications. Even on the experience side, it is easy to see when we think about whether or not people too busy to sleep or to be civil to each other on the street really need another mobile communication device – especially one that will cost hundreds of dollars, require toxic materials to produce and rely on an unsustainable infrastructure to maintain.

But instructional designers … we’re the good guys of design, right? We improve people’s learning and their experiences of learning. We consider performance holistically and don’t just try to cram knowledge into people’s heads without regard for their circumstances or needs. We worry about school districts without computers, and we help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Some of us even engage the objects of our design fully in the process and consider them collaborators in the design of instruction/systems that they will use. What could be wrong with that? Honestly, I am not sure there is anything very much wrong with it. I am just uncertain that we are offering our students the broadest view possible of instructional design’s potential in the world. If we had a publication that featured the most interesting and cool instructional design going on right now, how many of the projects featured in it would be focused in areas where people cannot find, or afford, instructional designers?

Guest blogger: Currently on sabbatical, Elizabeth Boling is an Associate Professor of Education and Chairperson of the Department of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. She teaches and conducts research on the use of images in instructional materials, ISD as a design endeavor and on teaching design. She is also a designer of interactive multimedia and other forms of teaching and learning materials.

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These are my Jumptags for February 6th through February 16th:

Dr. Sharon Smaldino

Sharon Smaldino

by Sharon Smaldino

As part of the 21st Century Partnership ( with a number of states, there is an emphasis on ensuring that students have learning opportunities that prepare them for their futures. Media literacy is one topic area within the suggested curricular areas and it is evolving as technologies related to social media and mobile technologies advance. Both teacher education and K-12 schools need to address these new literacy skills within learning situations. In order to harness the potential benefits from social media and mobile technologies, educators need to help students develop new media literacy skills that span across reading, writing, research, technology, critical analysis, and interactions with other participants.

Beyond the matter of core subject content is the ability for K-12 students to become literate in the ways of gathering information, interpreting the data, and engaging in communication with a variety of audiences. Theses students are encouraged to seek a variety of sources for their information, reaching beyond the traditional resources and seeking information across a vast array of experts. The need for clear and competent communication is critical for them. Further, a work-ethic that fosters interest in working collaboratively with teams of peers and experts expands the opportunities for learning. And, finally that students need to become reflective about their learning process to understand better how academic knowledge is a related component to future career choices.

Educators not literate in use of new technologies
Creative Commons License photo credit: dougbelshaw

K-12 students need guidance and to become aware of their collective responsibility within online learning communities that they take a role. Without a systematic approach for addressing these new media literacy skills, many schools across the nation view that student participation in social media sites and cell phone use are distractions or in some cases harmful to formal school activities. However, there are an increasing number of schools that have embraced these technologies for their potential benefits and purposefully began using these technologies for educational purposes.

Teacher education programs need to embrace a philosophy that encourages their candidates to think beyond the limits of the current resource sets and into the new generation of technologies that embody social networking tools, such as the new mobile resources. The challenge is to find ways to not only model the use of these tools, but to find ways to address reluctance on the part of schools to include them. Clearly, there is a need to move outside the traditional approach to teaching technology integration courses and into the new century’s view of media literacy. It may be time to shift our perspectives on how IT faculty fit into teacher education and advocate for a more integrated approach within the curriculum. It may be time to no longer offer the “course” but rather as faculty, to become a member of the instructional team for teacher education coursework.

About the Author: Dr. Sharon E. Smaldino holds the L.D. and Ruth G. Morgridge Endowed Chair for Teacher Education in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University (NIU). She was a professor of Educational Technology at the University of Northern Iowa for many years prior to moving to NIU. In her current role, she is focused on working with faculty and P-12 teachers to integrate technology into the learning process. Dr. Smaldino has served as president of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) and on the board of directors for the International Visual Literacy Association. She is currently serving as the editor of TechTrends, an AECT publication.