Thursday, October 23, 2008

Legacy of Dennis E. Minor

It is in recognition of the continuing and expanding legacy of Professor Dennis E. Minor that this presentation blog is created.

Dr. Minor carried the light that illuminated the potential and promise of technologies in enhancing teaching and learning in the arts and humanities at Louisiana Tech University. The knowledge, vision, enthusiasm, and persistence he dedicated to this cause continues to serve an ever-expanding number of faculty members and students at Tech.

In honor of Dr. Dennis E. Minor's leadership, I humbly offer this blog as a token of the dedication to quality in teaching and learning that he shared with students and colleagues. The header of each of the following posts is linked to an example of the principle or technology in that post. Recognizing Dr. Minor's fascination with the horizons of technologies, you will find "on the horizon" posts interspersed through the blog. Please post comments to keep this resource blog current, interactive, and relevant. - ray

Three Pedagogical Approaches

Three major approaches to teaching in the classroom have emerged in the past century or so.
  • The Objectivism/Behavorism approach where an emphasis is placed on cultivating desired behaviors
  • The Cognitivism/Pragmatism approach where an emphasis is placed on organization, structuring and memorization.
  • The Constructivism/Interpretivism approach where an emphasis is placed on building knowledge that is unique and specific to the learner.

Research has pointed to Constructivism as a particularly effective way to approach online learning. An emphasis is placed on interaction and engagement:

instructor < - > student < - > student < - > discipline

Connectivism - a Learning Theory for the Digital Age

In 2004, George Siemens (now at the University of Manitoba) articulated a new theory that draws upon elements of Social Constructivism and other pedagogies while taking into account some of the special features of the digital age.

Most notably, Siemens posits that knowledge in the 21st century resides, not just in the individual's brain, but also in the networks that the individual has built (both social and electronic). Due to the exponential increase in information, we need to expand our repository to include other individuals and sites where knowledge may be accessed.

On the Horizon - Neurological Rewiring and Brain Wave Translation

As Siemens writes of creating networks and creating connections. We are on the cusp of crossing the barriers of physiology to interact with technology. Three technologies in example:
  1. For some time, we have had devices that could interface with the human optic nerve to provide some limited sight to those who have lost their vision.
  2. Now scientists have been able to rewire severed nerves in monkeys to enable them to control extremities that were rendered ineffective.
  3. On the marketplace now is the human brain wave sensor that can be interfaced with video games. ABC Report. Stanford Emotiv EPOC.

Passive Learning

Perhaps for us to discuss active learning, it is best to consider the common forms of passive learning. For centuries passive learning has been a favored approach of teaching at the unversity level. Faculty members would teach large groups of students in lecture halls. There would be essentially no interaction, no engagement, no active learning. Take a moment to view this video produced by Michael Wesch's cultural anthropology class last spring at Kansas State University. It explains well that passive approaches do not succeed with the 21st century student. More on the study here:

From Passive to Active

Despite overwhelming research (and common sense) that passive learning is less effective than active learning, many classes emphasize passive approaches. Passive approaches emphasize:

  • Lectures
  • Readings
  • Watching video
  • Listening to audio
  • Observing demonstrations

Active approaches emphasize:

  • Interaction through discussion
  • Student<->student / faculty<->student interactions
  • Student presentations
  • Group projects
  • Simulations
  • Problem solving

A presentation blog dedicated to active learning:

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) just released results of a national study that shows online students report deeper learning and more engaged learning than their on-campus counterparts:

Constructivism Online

The constructivist approach also strongly supports active learning. Based in social constructivism of the early and mid 20th century, this approach to teaching and learning suggests that we, as instructors, do not impart knowledge, rather we help our learners to build thier own personal knowledge. We can best do that through active learning.
  1. Knowledge involves active cognizing by the individual.
  2. Knowledge is adaptive, facilitating individual and social efficacy.
  3. Knowledge is subjective and self-organized, not objective.
  4. Knowledge acquisition involves both sociocultural and individual processes.

There are some great examples linked above.

On the Horizon - Virtual Learning Environments

Emerging virtual worlds offer opportunities for active learning in a unique way. These "worlds" are populated with avatars. Avatars are those animated characters that can take almost any shape or form and - in many virtual worlds - can talk and interact with other avatars. Second Life and other virtual environments enable a kind of immersion in learning and engagement. See how the avatars interact directly with one another. The New Media Consortium is among the leaders in the use of Second Life for collaborations. An introduction to their islands is linked to the title of this posting. UIS is currently collaborating with the Illinois Department of Public Health in the Brothers and Sisters United Against AIDS / HIV project. Deb Antoine (aka Vidorah Messmer) has built most of the UIS SL island - she takes us on a quick tour:

A resource recently shared with me by Vidorah is the SL Immersive Workspaces:

A great look ahead in virtual learning environments:

An incomplete list of colleges and universities who are using SL:

Second Life is not the only virtual environment:

Google is now into the virtual environment game:

Bloom's Taxonomy Revised - Actively!

The American Psychological Association has a great resource (linked above) with some revisions that are tailored to our active learning pursuits. You will see that the highest order is now CREATE rather than evaluate and the term knowledge has been more aptly re-named REMEMBER.

The taxonomy circle is a most useful tool. Note that it combines the non-active roles of remember and understand - and separates out each of the active roles of:

  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Evlauate
  • Create

It is in the higher orders of the taxonomy that we achieve active learning - and in which we can implement some of the new and evolving Web 2.0 tools to actively engage students.

Sloan Consortium Pillars of Success

The Sloan Consortium ( ) is an association of 1,500 colleges, universities, and other organizations committed to quality online teach and learning. The founder of the consortium, Dr. Frank Mayadas, is a good friend and colleague who has had an enormous impact on the development of online learning nationwide over the past 15 years. He is the program officer for the online and blended learning initiatives of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through which he has distributed nearly $100 million to foster quality online teaching and learning.

Dr. Mayadas identified five key "pillars" of success in online programs:
  • Learning Effectiveness
  • Access
  • Faculty Satisfaction
  • Student Satisfaction
  • Cost Effectiveness (institutional commitment)

All five of these pillars are necessary for a successful online program.

Rubrics for Quality

The award-winning Quality Matters program now keeps their rubric as a proprietary tool available only to members. But, up until 2006, it was available to the public at large. In eight key areas, the rubric sets best practices standards for the design of online classes.
  1. Course Introduction/Overview
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Resources and Materials
  5. Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility

One additional area I encourage users to consider is the less-quantitative aspects of the class. How does the class promote affective learning and changes? Are attitudes and opinions cultivated?

An excellent, less-quantitative, rubric that addresses some of these areas is one developed by Chico State University:

On the Horizon: Virtual Eve

The near-human performance of a virtual teacher called Eve created by Massey researchers has drawn the attention of scientists across the computing world. Eve is what is known in the information sciences as an intelligent or affective tutoring system that can adapt its response to the emotional state of people by interaction through a computer system. The system “Easy with Eve” is thought to be the first of its type. It may be a glimpse of the future with avatar-teachers interacting with students. Ever-patient; never-tired; always-responsive; 24x7.

Web 2.0 and Course Management Systems

A course management system is used by many colleges and universities as a kind of toolbox of technologies and organizational structure for online classes. But, there is a trap. One has to ask, are these the right tools? Are they organized and presented in a way that is consistent with the pedagogy we seek to implement? Is content aligned with the tools in a naviation bar, or is the content integrated into modules that scaffold the learning with a wide array of connections and resources each step along the way? This article linked to this posting title examines the CMS/LMS in the context of the advent of Web 2.0 and hints at the future.

Wonders of Wiki

There are a plethora Web 2.0 technologies - each has its own useful aspects. But, none has captured the attention of educators more than the Wiki. Borrowing the Hawaiian word for "quick" - the Wiki enables collaborative document creation oline.

For educators, it provides a solution for the age-old quandry of group projects. Have you ever assigned group project only to be approached afterward and told that one student did nothing, or did the whole assignment? Wiki has the solution - a complete history is recorded - each contribution, each change, each addition, each correction is visible to all.

Of course the Zoho suite and Google Docs provide similar features.

Generating Engaged Online Discussions

In electronic environments, responses to ideas and texts are dialogic rather than solitary and foster ongoing written conversations among readings and readers. These guidelines should be adapted to course content, design, and emphasis, as well as to the type of electronic communication (email list, discussion board, or blog, for instance).

Assessing Active Learning

Assessing Active Learning in Online Comparative Politics Classes

Assessing Learning in Web-enhanced/Online Courses

Get Fast!

Toward Transparency

Ubiquity is a project of Mozilla Labs. It is one example of ways in which technology is moving toward transparency. The iPhone, wearable computers, WiMAX, and a plethora of other technologies and trends are integrating technologies into our lives. Our challenge is to keep up with these techologies to assure that we can best leverage these technologies in our teaching and learning.

On the Horizon - the Horizon Report!

Early each year, EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium produce a report on emerging technologies that are on the horizon - one year out; two to three years out; and four to five years out. This report is a valuable aggregation of new and emerging technologies that promise to impact education in the future.

For daily updates on online learning, educational technology and emerging technologies, I invite you to visit the blogs aggregated in the right column:

Online Learning Update

Educational Technology Blog

Techno-News Blog

Postscript (prescript for the future!) - New Century Learning Consortium

The New Century Learning Consortium is a prototype for the future - universities collaborating and coordinating to promote economy and excellence. In the new economy of the 21st century those universities that will thrive are the ones that find ways to work together to serve student needs while sustaining their institutional identity and building upon their strengths.