You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks? Instructional Support For Adult Learning

The saying, ”You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” depicts a common view many people implicitly share: Learning is best done young. For instance, the younger you learn a language, the better your chances of success. But is that actually true?

Can old dogs learn new tricks? Only if they want to!

Can old dogs learn new tricks? Only if they want to! (Image by Mark Robinson)

Changing demographics and increasingly knowledge-based economies have heightened the demand for lifelong learning. We no longer learn for life during our school years, but prepare for a life full of learning. The concept of lifelong learning implies plasticity, the capacity to adapt and reorganize to respond to new learning requirements throughout life – in our neurological system, in our cognitive processing, and in our social learning environment.

Data on Adult Skills & Adult Education

How to support learning in adulthood is a challenge on the national and international level. In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a comprehensive survey on adult skills. Based on data from 166,000 people from 23 countries, the survey assessed the proficiency of adults learners in literacy, numeracy and problem solving with information technologies.

Individuals with lower proficiency levels are more likely to report poor health, to believe that they have little impact on political processes, and not to participate in associative or volunteer activities.

For a summary of the results from the US perspective, see “Time for the US to Reskill?

The OECD and the US Department of Education have made several data browser available to work with and explore the PIACC data. PIACC results can be filtered by different variables, for instance by professional background.

Who is an adult learner?

Although definitions vary, it seems most productive for adult education to avoid age-based definitions and focus on qualitative characteristics. The European Commission defines adult learners as ‘people who undertake formal or informal learning activities after a break since leaving initial education and training to acquire new knowledge and skills’ (Litster, Carpentieri & Vorhaus, 2010).

How does adult learning differ?

Adult learning differs from learning experiences in other developmental periods in our lives, i.e., childhood and adolescence. The way we think about how learning changes over the lifespan depends on how we study the question how learning works in general. There are at least four different perspectives on learning.
  • Neuroscientific – What happens in the brain?
  • Cognitive – What happens in the mind?
  • Metacognitive – How does the mind monitor what happens in the mind?
  • Social –What happens in the world?

Neuroscientific

The brain contains 100 billion neurons, each of which has up to ten thousand connections. From a neuroscience point of view, all learning occurs as changes of connections between neurons. Current research suggests that the brain matures at age 25 and starts loosing plasticity, the ability to reorganize, soon after. But although the rate of learning decreases with increasing age, as long as the brain is trained continuously, learning is possible throughout one’s entire life. From an evolutionary perspective, the human brain has evolved to do nothing else better than learning. Although the rate of learning decreases with increasing age, learning occurs at every period of life. At each period, new roles are undertaken, new challenges must be faced, and, as a result, new capacities emerge, in other words, we learn.

Cognition

Ever since the cognitive turn in the 1970ies, the learning sciences have not only seen learning as observable changes in behavior, but also tried to develop and test theories of how learning happens in our minds. We understand how the mind works in similar ways as a computer functions. The working memory is the place where we keep bits of information accessible and where we perform cognitive operations. This is where we mull things over, where we manipulate or transform information.

The long-term memory is our hard drive – it is where we store information long term in forms of schemas.

Cognitive processes that underpin learning are subject to age related changes. Research on age-related changes in cognitive processes generally states that cognitive faculties peak where development ends, and development ends with biological maturity (around age 20). Aging is characterized by decline, decline in working memory capacity, decline in speed of information processing, and decline in attentional control, which means adult learners may have a harder time to ignore distracting noises or extraneous information.

On the other hand, adulthood is characterized by an accumulation of experience. We have established complex knowledge systems that are stored for our disposal in our long-term memory. The quantity and quality of such knowledge systems very much depend on the individual opportunities for and the individual level of dedicated engagement in learning activities over the life span. Different life trajectories amplify the effects of both mechanisms, decline and growth, resulting in a large diversity amongst adult learners.

Metacognition

Due to their learning and life experience accumulated over time, adult learners have high levels of self-directedness and self-regulation. They are able to monitor their learning progress, to choose learning strategies, and to identify learning success. These metacognitive abilities, together with their prior knowledge can make adult learners highly efficient and effective learners. Furthermore, the abilities that allow adult learners to self-regulate one’s own learning is in itself a skill that we can promote through instruction.

Adult learners' self-directedness in learning is associated with higher levels of selectivity. They are selective about what they consider necessary to be learned as well as how to learn it. Catering to these preferences may be beneficial to learners' engagement in the short term, but it can have detrimental consequences in the long run, because instructors risk that learners are staying within their comfort zone. In addition, learners do not necessarily know what they don’t know.

Environment

Learning does not only occur in the mind, it is an activity that happens in the world. Societies have age-graded expectations about the competencies that are desired and opportunities for participation in settings and roles. Interpersonal relationships, social roles and expectations, communication patterns, and resources impact the way adults learn.

When it comes to the learning resource time, the adult learner is typically at a clear disadvantage. Adult learners usually do not have fixed times set aside to focus on learning. Instead, they rely on informal and ad-hoc learning. In formal learning settings, adults are more likely to multitask which makes it less likely that they actually learn, because it hinders the processing of information. And as they already have a professional status, they are more likely to avoid making mistakes or admitting that they do not know something.

In formal learning settings, adults are more likely to multitask which makes it less likely that they actually learn, because it hinders the processing of information. And as they already have a professional status, they are more likely to avoid making mistakes or admitting that they do not know something.

On the other hand, adult learners have established their own personal learning environment and network. They have a network of colleagues and peers and they incorporate the expertise of professional peers and mentors into their learning. Learners use websites, communities and social media to locate as connect to others, to manage information and build their personal knowledge repository.

Ideally, learners should be able to connect what they learn in the classroom with their experiences and resources outside the classroom. E-Portfolios are an example for an instructional support technique to foster this connection.

What does it mean for instructional design?

In the 1970s, Malcolm Knowles coined the term 'andragogy' as a counterpart to pedagogy to create a theoretical framework that is focused on they way adults learn. Andragogy is an instructional theory focused on mature learners. It can be summarized into 6 broad principles of adult learning.
  1. Relevance: Adult learners need to know why they need to know something. Their motivation to engage in learning is directly related to how they perceive the relevance of the content to a particular challenge that they face.
  2. Life-Experience: Adult learners come equipped with life experience – they want their instructors to respect them as experts and allow the to contribute to their learning. This calls for collaborative settings like small groups and instructional approaches like experiental learning .
  3. Self-Directedness: They have strong preferences on what and how they want to learn, so it is good to offer them choices and let them influence the course of their learning, for example by using audience response systems (clickers).
  4. Timing: Adults shift from learning for the future to learning for an immediate application. If I teach them something they do not need at the time, they will be less likely to pay attention.
  5. Problem Orientation: Adult learners approach leaning problem- or solution-focused rather than learning for the sake of learning. This can make things difficult if my material is concept-focused, so for instance if am trying to teach foundational knowledge or theories.
  6. Intrinsic Motivation: Certification and mandated training left aside, adults are more often intrinsically motivated to learn since they usually have more control over what type of learning activity they engage with. They really want to learn, if we manage to provide instruction that is effective for them.
Posted in AACE

Book Review: Teaching Crowds

crowd pic small

Crowds. They are everywhere, and generally crowds cause challenges for those that have to manage them. Yet, crowds can be exciting, energetic, and full of creativity. Trying to manage the complexities of a crowd, while harnessing the positive potential of a crowd can be especially tricky in an instructional context.

One of the most exciting (yet daunting) recent pushes in education is the call for using social media and social learning to connect with crowds. Whether this be a MOOC with tens of thousands of people, or teaching a distance course to a smaller group, teaching crowds can be a wonderful challenge. Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media teaching crowdsby Jon Dron and Terry Anderson is a recent book aimed to address this current teaching challenge. This book is part of the series, Issues in Distance Education, edited by Terry Anderson and David Wiley.

Note: Jon Dron was a keynote speaker at E-Learn 2015 in Montreal.

In this book, Dron and Anderson give practical advice for dealing with teaching crowds of all sizes. In the first two chapters, they discuss the nature and value of social software and the rise of the internet as well as a general explanation of social learning theories. While these chapters are still useful for those with many years of online instructional experience, they become a valuable resource for novices that are just entering the world of online and social learning.

Excerpt from Dron and Anderson's, Teaching Crowds:

By definition, learning is associated with change. We change our ideas, actions, capacities and skills in response to challenges and opportunities. For most types of learning, the necessary knowledge or skills needed to solve our problem already exists in the mind of another person or resource. Our job as learners and educators is to provide tools, paths, and techniques by which this knowledge can be accessed, appropriated, constructed, and re-constructed so as to meet our individual and collective needs. (2014, p. 10)
The early chapters provide a basis for why understanding teaching crowds is important. The middle chapters provide an explanation of several kinds of crowds (groups vs. networks. vs sets) and are again, a great resource for anyone that is involved in teaching crowds of most any size and form. The authors then provide stories and examples of how to teach crowds, discuss issues and challenges of technology and social software when dealing with crowds. Finally, the authors discuss and make some predictions on what the future of social teaching and learning may look like.

There is much to gain from reading this book if you are currently instructing a crowd of any size, or if you plan to in the future.

This book is available for purchase in paper back, a variety of electronic formats, and is also available FOR FREE as a PDF from their website http://teachingcrowds.ca/. More information about the book and series can also be found on that page.

Posted in AACE Tagged with: , , ,

Stewarding Open Educational Practices: An Interview with Francesca Allegri and Bradley Hemminger

The term 'open educational resources (OER)' was coined in 2002 during a forum held by UNESCO as the open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes. Since then, the idea of educational material, freely and openly accessible on the Web, has attracted substantial attention.
Open for Education, Image by John Martinez Pavliga

Open for Education, Image by John Martinez Pavliga

In the past five years, the OER movement shifted its focus from creation to reuse and the adoption of sustainable open educational practices. Between 2010 and 2011, the Open Educational Quality Initiative collected 60 case studies of successful OER projects in Europe. In 2014, the “Open Resources: Influence on Learners and Educators” (ORIOLE) project concluded with the book publication ‘Reusing Open Resources’, from which selected chapters are available as a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Media in Education. The organization ‘Lumen Learning’ recently released an interactive dashboard to communicate and share information about the effect of open educational resource (re)use.

The 2015 Horizon report identifies the proliferation of Open Educational Resources (OER) as one of six trends that will accelerate technology adoption in higher education. As OER is gaining traction across campuses, the report predicts an increased acceptance and usage over the next 2-3 years. However, the broader proliferation of OER hinges on effective leadership: “While data shows that some faculty are integrating OER on their own, institutional leadership can reinforce the use of open content”. As Tony Bates observed: “There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the take-up of OERs by instructors is still minimal, other than by those who created the original version”. 

How can institutional leadership foster the use of OER? Which strategies do stewards of open education deploy to disseminate best practices and high-quality material? It was my pleasure to talk to Francesca Allegri and Bradley Hemminger, who are currently implementing an OER initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What is your role at UNC Chapel Hill?

Brad: I’m a faculty member in the School of Information and Library Science. One of my major research areas is “Shared Open Scholarship”, and as part of this I’m interested in the role OERs can play in making education more accessible, and I am committed to promoting the reuse of high quality teaching materials. I chair our UNC OER committee, which several of us started in 2012. We are interested in having better support for OERs on the UNC campus. Related to this work, I’ve previously chaired the Electronic Theses and Dissertations committee on campus (which shifted us from print to free electronic dissemination of these materials), and chair of the UNC Scholarly Communications Committee. Fran: I am an Assistant Director (Interim) and Head of User Services at the Health Sciences Library at the University of North Carolina. I became involved in the OER initiative on campus at the invitation of Brad to help plan how the university could be successful in engaging faculty and other instructors in creating and using OER. Our library has been an early and strong proponent of open access to scholarly output and of public access to the published products of federally funded research. The OER initiative seemed to be a very logical extension of those initiatives as well as being tied to our global initiatives to improve access to health information.

What is the scope and goal of your OER initiative?

Brad: We plan to provide a well-developed program of support on campus for faculty who choose to make course improvements, including the use or development of Open Educational Resources as course materials. This program will use expertise in the Libraries, the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) and other units on campus.The program has four primary goals:
  1. Improve courses and learning outcomes at UNC
  2. Significantly reduce the cost of educational materials for students taking courses at UNC
  3. Produce open shared course materials that can be utilized by other institutions
  4. Become a visible leader in developing open educational resources, both at the state and national levels

What have you achieved so far, and what are next steps?

Brad: The first step was identifying important participants on campus who were interested in or might want to be involved with OERs, or would be affected by the adoption of OERs on campus, and engaging them in our discussions. Some of the groups we identified are the Center for Faculty Excellence, the University Libraries, UNC Press, the textbook division of Student Stores, ITS/Sakai (course software), Innovate@Carolina, General Administration, and Faculty Council. As a group, we drafted an initial planning document to guide our work.   The next step was surveying similar efforts at other institutions, and identifying what made them successful or not. A library science masters student conducted web site reviews and compiled a comparative spreadsheet and librarians created an online survey which was sent to faculty development, scholarly communications, and health sciences library directors’ listservs. From these conversations and data we evaluated whether there should be a program at UNC supporting OERs, what form it should take, and what challenges we should expect to address.

Fran: One thing we identified from our survey was that successful programs included the library and the faculty development center as critical partners. Our committee felt that, for a number of reasons, the best approach on our campus was a slow growth one, where we could build support on campus from campus units and faculty, have guidelines available (implemented here as a library resource guide http://guides.lib.unc.edu/OER), be sure the infrastructure was in place (for instance having an OER collection in the Carolina Digital Repository with an easy submission mechanism), and develop metrics for measuring success before we begin to promote OERs on campus.

We will begin to officially promote OER support on campus later this year (Fall 2015), including an award program that will annually help a small number of instructors re-examine their courses to incorporate more OERs, or to develop publicly sharable OER content for their courses.   The award program will provide stipends to help offset the costs involved with re-envisioning courses and developing open course content materials.  The UNC Press is connected to this effort by looking at ways to support authors of larger content pieces (like full textbooks).

Do you have a vision of how open educational practices will impact the UNC campus over the next 2-3 years?

Brad: In our discussions, one thing we emphasize is that this is a win/win proposition. With OERs you do not need to convert everyone to using OERs, nor should you (it is not necessarily appropriate for all course materials).   So, it is easy to grow at whatever pace best suits your environment. We believe the uptake will be small in the first few years (a few dozen courses). Early adopters are already doing this; so we are focused on educating instructors who may not be familiar with the OER concept, and what materials may already be available to them. We think, though, at some point in the future, this will snowball into much larger numbers; however this will most likely happen 5-10 years out.

When you look at your own personal learning environment, what part do open educational resources play?

Brad: Because of my research interests in open, shared scholarly discourse, I already follow OER practices. I produce most all of my course materials, and in some cases reuse freely available materials (slides from instructors of similar materials at other institutions, videos that do a good job of conveying important course topics).   I make all of my materials available online, and free to other instructors to use (licensed through Creative Commons).   The one exception that I haven’t managed to avoid (yet!) is the Database course I teach where our curriculum uses the same textbook for several courses in sequence.   Excluding that, students (or anyone) can freely access, save, and share my course materials at no cost.

Fran: Librarians are implanted with a sharing chip! All of the instructional materials we create here at the Library are freely available. When we receive requests to use or adapt content we have developed, we only ask for attribution. Unless there is some requirement from an external collaborator to do otherwise, that is how we approach our teaching materials. For me personally, I love to find OER content that I or my colleagues can use or adapt. Much better than recreating the wheel.

One role librarians will play in the UNC-CH OER initiative will be helping faculty find relevant, quality OER’s they can consider using in their teaching . This is a key way that the subject specialist librarians across the libraries can help faculty adopt use of this content. This may also inspire faculty to create or share curriculum materials they develop if librarians identify there is a lack of suitable content in their area of teaching. The librarians can also support faculty sharing efforts, for example, alerting them to the Carolina Digital Repository and submission process, assisting with Creative Commons licensing, and similar help that can preserve faculty’s desired author’s rights and make their contributions discoverable by their peers and students. Contacting a librarian early in the process could save the faculty member’s time, also.

Can you name some of the barriers and enablers for open educational practices that you have encountered in your work at UNC?

Brad:There are a number of barriers. Some of the main ones we have identified include
  • Educating instructors about what OERs are
  • Finding and developing quality materials
  • Intellectual property and copyright concerns
  • Financial income concerns
  • Technological and sustainability questions
To be successful, an initiative of this type needs to anticipate and respond to concerns and challenges such as these. Based on our committee’s research, however, we believe an OER program at UNC has the potential for a huge upside, in terms of impact and publicity. There is little downside, as appropriate infrastructure exists on campus to support OERs. Even if only a small fraction of courses at UNC adopt OERs, this still results in a significant benefit. This program has the potential to greatly impact every North Carolina student’s cost of education and this is a critical time to help students with education costs.

Fran: We also identified enabling factors. These include

  • Availability of a large and rapidly growing pool of OERs to use in creating course materials
  • High prices of traditional textbooks causing demand for more affordable educational materials
  • Instructors’ desire to provide high quality low cost course materials to students
  • Regular discussions of open access issues at faculty meetings and annual program by a campus scholarly communications committee.

From your experience, are students generally aware of or rather oblivious to the open learning opportunities that surround them?

Brad:Up until recently, I think students were less aware of Open Learning as a concept, and the practicality of OERs. During the last few years, and even more so in the near future, I think four factors are causing this to change:
  • Increasingly high prices of college textbooks
  • Familiarity with open concepts (open source software, freely available music/videos, Creative Commons)
  • Environments (YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest) encouraging sharing and reuse
  • Tools (cellphones, cameras, video editing software, presentation software) that facilitate easily producing and sharing freely available content

If you could give one single piece of advice to every faculty member and instructor, what would it be?

Fran:Please contact your subject librarian to learn more about OER and what OER materials and support are available to you!

If you want to learn more about our initiative, consult the UNC-CH campus page on OERs for more information. hemminger Brad Hemminger is an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina. He has a joint appointment in Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. He has a number of areas of research interests including digital scholarship, information seeking, information visualization, user interface design, digital libraries and biomedical health informatics.   He has published over 85 papers, served on several international standards committees, and consulted for a number of companies in the areas of visualization and user interfaces. He serves as a reviewer for over a fifteen journals and conferences.   He currently teaches scholarly communications, databases, biomedical health informatics, information visualization, and data science. He is director the Informatics and Visualization Lab at UNC, part of the Interactive Information Systems Lab, and directs the Center for Research and Development of Digital Libraries.   His current research interests are focused on developing new paradigms for scholarship, publishing, information seeking and use by academics in this digital age. For more information see his website http://ils.unc.edu/bmh/.

allegriFrancesca Allegri, MSLS, is Assistant Director (Interim) of the Health Sciences Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As Assistant Director, she is determining and implementing user focused strategic initiatives, allocating resources, and advising the Director in these areas. She also is Head of User Services, Health Sciences Library. She manages a strong liaison librarian program and single service point (20 FTEs) and is part of the library’s senior management team. She is also a graduate of the National Library of Medicine/Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries Leadership Fellows Program. Prior to that, she held two positions in the Health Sciences Library’s administrative unit managing professional librarian recruitment, staff development, planning, and institutional data collection and reporting. She also served four years as Department Head of the education department at the Health Sciences Library and has had leadership experience in campus organizations, such as the University Managers Association and the UNC Network for Clinical Research Professionals. Earlier, Ms. Allegri served as Assistant Head at the University of Illinois Library of the Health Sciences in Urbana, Illinois. She holds an MSLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois.

Posted in AACE

A Peek into Text Mining (II): Data Visualization

Many educational technology researchers leverage social media data to answer questions about trends, collaboration or learning networks. If you are not a programmer, you will most likely use existing apps and tools to conduct quantitative data analysis and generate visualizations such as word clouds and clusters. As more and more educators are acknowledging coding as an important digital literacy, this post we will explore some common techniques of statistical data visualization.

In my last posting on text mining, I described how to collect data from Twitter. In this post, I will describe how we can summarize a large set of tweets on a certain topic - for example the latest SITE conference.

Background: Giving structure to your data

Text data, such as tweets, comments or posts usually comes with limited structure, as compared to scores on likert scales. To visualize and quantify the data we have to give it structure in the first place. Suppose we have a character vector as the following:

> texts [1] "I am a member of the XYZ association"
[2] "Please apply for our open position"
[3] "The XYZ memorial lecture takes place on wednesday"
[4] "Vote for the most popular lecturer!"

What is a character vector? You can think of a character vector as a container of all text pieces. Each piece represents the text from an individual, and is assigned a number. You can access any piece by using its given number. This type of data is easy for humans to read, but not for machines. Machine prefers the same information structured in the following way:

matrix

A text file structured in this way is called document-term matrix. Each row in the matrix represents a word, while each column represents a document, which refers to all the texts from an individual. Each element in the matrix represents the number of times a particular word appears in a particular document. You may have noticed that all texts have been converted to lowercase in this matrix, while some words, like “a” or “the” are not shown up in the matrix.

To convert the tweet texts you collect into a document-term matrix, the following steps are usually necessary:

  1. Remove nonsense characters
  2. Convert all words to lowercase.
  3. Remove stop words, such as “a”, “an”, “that” and “the”.
As you can see, by delineating the text into single words, its meaning may change significantly. This is why it oftentimes makes sense to combine qualitative and quantitative approaches when analyzing data sets - simply looking at a word cloud is not a replacement for meaningful analysis of qualitative text data.

Sample Data - Tweets on #siteconf

Did you miss your favorite AACE conference? Would you like to find out what predominant topics people discussed? We collected 709 tweets using the hashtags "#siteconf".

Step 1: Word Clouds

To take a quick look at our data, an initial visual representation with world clouds is helpful.

wordcloudAs you can see, the word clouds present us some key information as well as a lot of noise. We can spot some popular topics at a glance, but it is impossible to see how concepts are related.

Step 2: Cluster Tree

A more structured way to explore the data in an associational sense is to look at the collection of terms that frequently co-occur. This method is called cluster analysis.

Cluster analysis is a way of finding association between items and bind nearby items into groups. A typical visualization technique is a tree diagram called dendrogram. The most common cluster analysis include K-means clustering and hierarchical clustering. K-means clustering require you to specify how many groups you prefer to have in the result before the analysis, while hierarchical clustering doesn’t have this requirement.

dendrogram

The density and shape of the dendrogram may vary depending on the sparsity. The above one is the dendrogram on sparsity .95. It is interesting that when people tweeted using the hashtag “#msueped”, they also tended to use “#site2015”. “#msueped” stands for Educational Psychology and Educational Technology from Michigan State University. You can tell that many people from this program went to SITE 2015 conference.

Conclusion

Did you gain a sense what the SITE community is talking about? Data visualization is certainly helpful to make sense of large datasets as it allows you to gain an overview from an elevated perspective. However, don’t mistake a set of images for the real thing. If you attended SITE 2015 in Las Vegas, your first hand experience is likely to be totally different and certainly more in-depth. Also keep in mind that while social media is becoming ever more popular, Twitter users are still only a sub-group of the whole audience.

No approach is neutral in its analysis: Understanding the tools that we use helps us to interpret seemingly obvious connections more carefully. If you want to explore how we produced these visualizations use our sample data set with instructions.

   

Posted in AACE, SITE Tagged with: , , ,

Data Visualization with R – Step-by-Step Instructions

This post covers the details of how to use R to generate data visualizations. We will use a sample data set that includes about 800 tweets using hashtag “#edutech” for the purpose of explanation. To learn how this data set was collected read my post A Peek Into Text Mining: How To Collect Data From Twitter. Text data has to be converted into a document-term matrix for analysis. To convert our sample data set into a document-term matrix, you need to do the following things:
  1. Copy and paste all the codes in the file termDocumentMatrixConverter.R to your console of R, and run the codes.
  2. Run the following code in R console. Please remember to replace the filename with the name of your file (without csv suffix).

data <- vectorConvertor("edutech", TRUE) data <- plainTextDocumentConverter(data) data.tm <- TermDocumentMatrix(data)

Now your document-term matrix is saved in a variable called data.tm for future use.

Word Cloud

A word cloud is very helpful if you want to take a quick look at your data. To generate a word cloud, please run the following code in your R console:

# word cloud install.packages("wordcloud") library(wordcloud) # word cloud function can only be run on PlainTextDocument wordcloud(data)

This code will generate a word cloud. The generation of the word cloud may take some time. wordcloud2

Cluster Tree

Cluster analysis is a way of finding association between items and bind nearby items into groups. A typical visualization technique is a tree diagram called dendrogram. Before applying hierarchical clustering to the data, we will need to remove the the terms that only appear once. When we get the clusters, we will need to plot it to see the dendrogram. All in all, run the codes in hclusterofwords.R file first, and then run the following code in your R console.

hclusterofwords(data.tm)

Your dendrogram may look like this: cluster To learn more about clustering analysis visit the open access book and website The Elements of statistical learning.
Posted in AACE Tagged with: , ,

A Peek into Text Mining: How to Collect Text Data from Twitter

In the last 25 years, the Internet has fundamentally changed the way we interact with each other. In 1993 there were only 50 static pages on the World Wide Web. Today, social networking tools alone have billions of active users.

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Communication through social networking tools is both bidirectional and many-to-many at the same time. We can keep contact with our friends, friends of friends, and any number of people with shared interests. In these networks, a piece of information can easily travel along many different paths and have unforeseen impact.

Text Mining

These changing communication patterns coincide with new frontiers for academic research. 30 years ago, text mining did not exist as an independent academic field. Text data sets were expensive, and machines were not powerful enough to store or sort large amounts of text information. Today, researchers in the broad area of natural language processing list text analysis as one of the most important research areas. Text analysis is not only a challenging problem, but also a powerful tool that has been employed in diverse fields such as business, humanities and health sciences. Education is not an exception. Online activities are increasingly integrated into classroom learning, more and more people are using open educational resources and students worldwide connect through online learning communities. The resulting communication streams offer a vast amount of material for analysis.

Anyone Can Explore Big Data

Despite the potential, many educational researchers are unaware about how relatively easy it is to collect big data from social networking sites and how to process it. This post offers a basic introduction to educational researchers interested in text analysis on social networking tools and focuses on data collection from Twitter. Though data from Twitter is not fundamentally different from data from other social media networks, Twitter has unique characteristics that make it particularly interesting for text mining. On the one hand, weak-tie connection among people on Twitter is stronger than other networks, which greatly increases information exposure. On the other hand, Twitter has word limits on each tweet. Users tend to use precise rather than artful language when faced with this limit, which makes connections more obvious. To collect my data set, I am using R, an open source language and environment for statistical analysis. The following step-by-step instructions enable you to collect your own data set.

Download and Start Using R

If you are using Mac, please go to http://www.r-project.org/, click “download R” and follow the rest of the steps until you finish the installation. If you are using Windows, you may want to download R-studio when you finish installing R. R-studio provides a more user-friendly interface for Windows users.

The only knowledge that you need about R for now is the concept of working directory. R is capable of reading from and writing to a specific folder of your system, and the specific folder is the working directory to R. You can use the following command to check the current working directory of R:

getwd()

To specify which directory you would like R to use as the working directory, you can use setwd() command. The following example tells R to use C:/ as the working directory.

setwd("C:/")

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Data Collection Approach 1: Popular hashtags

Some Twitter hashtags are very popular, and different people around the world keep tweeting using these hashtags constantly, like #elearning or #edutech. Some other hashtags, in contrast, may not be as popular, but more relevant and meaningful to a specific community, like the hashtag for SITE conference #siteconf. For tweets with the two different types of hashtags, Twitter weighs and indexes them differently, which requires different approaches for data collection. This section discusses how to collect information for a popular hashtag, using the example #edutech.

Create a Developer Account and Application on Twitter

To collect data from Twitter, you will need a developer account on Twitter first. You can register one at https://dev.twitter.com/. Once you have a developer account, return to the page and scroll down to the bottom of the page, click “Manage Your Apps” under “Tools”.

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Now, simply click on “Create New Application” button on the following new page:

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On the application creation page, the only thing you need to remember is to fill the Callback URL as http://127.0.0.1:1410.

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When you finish the creation step, you can check the details of your application:

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The generated consumer keys and secrets would be under the tab “Keys and Access Token”. This piece of information will be important for you to successfully connect to Twitter later on.

Connection and Data Collection

If you have finished the installation of R and figured out what working directory is, then you can march ahead towards data collection by connecting to Twitter using R. One reason I love R is that it has a very active community. No matter what statistical calculation you need to do, or what common function you need to run, there’s always a package out there online. A package is a collection of R functions that make your life easier. Instead of writing your own functions for a purpose, you can instead just use the function coded by other people, in this case, a package called “twitteR” that implements Twitter’s APIs and can greatly simplify the code for connecting to Twitter. If you want to know more about the package, please check its manual here.

I am curating a collection of functions and detailed explanations on Github. If you have a Github account, please feel free to watch the progress of the functions. I am always trying to update them when there is any change in the package.

To connect to Twitter using R, simply copy and paste the codes in the file Authentication.R to your R (or R-studio) console. Please remember to replace the “xxxxx” with your own consumer keys and secrets before running the codes. When R returns the following strings, you will know that you have successfully connected to Twitter.

"Using browser based authentication"

Now you can move on to data collection using the hashtag you are interested in. Please copy and paste the codes in the file hashtagSearch.R, then run it. Type the following sample codes in the console after you run the codes in hashtagSearch.R:

tweetCollect("#statistics", 100, "statistics_from_twitter")

Now you can access your working directory and find a file named statistics_from_twitter.csv. This file contains your data. The above code simply tells R to collect 100 tweets using the following hashtag: #statistics. You can replace the hashtag with whatever you like to explore, and you can also increase or decrease the number of tweets to collect.

Data Collection Approach 2: Specific hashtags

If the tweets you would like to collect are not using constantly popular hashtag, the first thing you need to do is to search the hashtag using Twitter’s search function. If we would like to, for example, collect most tweets about SITE conference in recent two years using the hashtag “#siteconf”, we can just search the hashtag: Capture

Only most recent data is shown on this page, because Twitter is implementing infinite scrolling. What you need to do is to keep scrolling the page until all the tweets in recent two years show up on one page, and then you can save the HTML page to the working directory of R.

Data Processing

Technically speaking, the data collection is already finished. However, you still have to process the data before it can be used for future analysis. The goal is to format the tweets in two columns. One column represents the original tweets, while the other represents the processed tweets without the hashtag and hyperlinks. Each row represents tweets from an individual.

To process the data, copy and paste the codes in the file parse_Tweets_simplified.R, then run it in R. After that, type the following sample codes in the console:

getData("#siteconf", "#siteconf - Twitter Search.html", "siteconf_from_twitter.csv")

Now go to your current working directory and find a file named siteconf_from_twitter.csv, and that’s your data. The above code simply tells R to parse the tweets in the HTML file into your specified csv file. You can replace the hashtag with whatever you like to explore, and repeat all the above steps in this section.

What next? This is a series of two postings on text mining. Watch for my next post on how to conduct data visualization and further analysis. If you are interested in learning more about R, this is a list of recommended books.

Posted in AACE Tagged with: , ,

Learning from Video Games: An Interview with Best Paper Award Winner Eddie Gose

GoseThe use of video games for education is not new. There are many that have issued the call to use serious games for learning and research. Yet many instructional designers are not ready to give their full blessing on the use of video games for learning.

Perhaps this is where the work of researchers such as Eddie Gose comes in. Eddie Gose and Michael Menchaca, of the Educational Technology department at the University of Hawaii presented research on video game research at the E-Learn 2014 Conference.

In their award winning paper, Video Game Genres and What is Learned From Them, the authors describe their research around the possible benefits of defining genres of video games, and the associated learning constructs of video games. The following is an audio only interview with Dr. Gose about his current research, and the experience of winning a paper award at E-Learn. Click below to listen to this audio only interview with Dr. Gose.

Eddie Gose is an Instructional Designer at the Distance Course Design & Consulting group at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis on Educational Technology. His dissertation was on video games and learning. Other interests include learning through new media technologies.

References
Gose, E., & Menchaca, M. (2014, October). Video Game Genres and What is Learned From Them. In World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (Vol. 2014, No. 1, pp. 673-679).
Posted in AACE

Let’s Talk About Flipping: An Interview With Matt Osment

Lately, flipping the classroom has become an educational imperative on many campuses.
Flipped learning reverses the traditional classroom approach to teaching and learning. It moves direct instruction into the learner’s own space. At home, or in individual study time, students watch video lectures that offer them opportunities to work at their own pace, pausing to make notes where necessary. This allows time in class to be spent on activities that exercise critical thinking, with the teacher guiding students in creative exploration of the topics they are studying. Flipped learning is sometimes seen simply as a different approach to delivering content. It also offers opportunities for the classroom to become a more flexible environment, where the physical layout can be shifted to enable group work, where students can make use of their own devices, and where new approaches to learning and assessment are put into practice. 2014 Innovating Pedagogy Report
The flipped classroom becomes a space for dynamic, interactive learning. (Image source:  Ffion Atkinson, flickr commons)

The flipped classroom becomes a space for dynamic, interactive learning. (Image source:
Ffion Atkinson, flickr commons)

Flipped Classroom Workshop at E-Learn 2014 - Meet Presenter Matt Osment

To free-up class time for active learning and group work, students need to process content outside of class. Effective instructional videos thus become a central ingredient of flipping. At E-Learn 2014, Matt Osment from the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence addressed the needs of instructional designers and faculty with a workshop on video production for the flipped classroom. Approximately 25 participants spent an afternoon learning the ins and outs of conceptualizing, planning, recording, producing, distributing, sharing and reusing videos for educational purposes.

When you go to conferences such as E-Learn or SITE, do you take advantage of the many workshops that are offered or do you simply attend presentations of papers? Hopefully you already take advantage of the many parts of an academic conference, but if you aren't familiar with how workshops run and are organized, this interview will give you insight in what some of the many benefits are to attending a workshop.

Osment Pic Matt Osment is an instructional designer at the University of North Carolina, Center for Faculty Excellence. His background includes technology curriculum development and instruction for the Adult Technology Education Center and Teen Computer Clubhouse at Boston’s Harriet Tubman House; e-Media project management for Harcourt publishing; and instructional design for St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, Master of Advanced Oncology online for Universität Ulm, Germany, and Master of Public Administration online for UNC’s School of Government.

Thinking about offering a workshop? Aloha Kona!

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Posted in AACE Tagged with: , , ,

E-Learn 2014 Outstanding Paper Award Winners: Priscilla Norton and Dawn Hathaway

What does it mean to win a best paper award at an AACE conference? How do researchers decide what conference to attend and where to submit their work? How do researchers implement their research in their own teaching?

These are just some of the questions that will get answered during the following interview with Drs. Priscilla Norton and Dawn Hathaway. Norton and Hathaway who were awarded with Outstanding Paper Awards at the E-Learn 2014 Conference for their paper Using a Design Pattern Framework to Structure Online Course Content: Two Design Cases.  Both are from the Division of Learning Technologies, College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. Their research of late has focused on the topic of using design patterns to help organize their own courses, particularly in online instruction.

 About Dr. Norton and Dr. Hathaway

NortonPriscilla Norton is a Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. She has been involved with educational technology since the mid 1980’s, working with teachers to understand the role of the newer electronic technologies to support teaching and learning. Dr. Norton is Academic Program Coordinator for the Designing Digital Learning for Schools Certificate, Master’s, and Doctoral Programs as well as the Integration of Online Learning in Schools Certificate, Master’s, and Doctoral Programs. She is the author of numerous articles and two books – Teaching with Technology (2003) and Technology for Teaching (2001). More recently, Dr. Norton has been designing and developing e-learning environments for teachers and high school students resulting in part in The Online Academy – a virtual high school. This program was awarded the 2006 Governor’s Technology Award (COVITS) for Innovative Use of Technology in K-12 Education. In 2007, Dr. Norton was selected as a recipient of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty award sponsored by the State Commission on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and Dominion Power. Her research interests include design strategies and processes as they influence technology teacher education, online learning environments for both teachers and high school students, and the design of K–12 classroom learning. You can contact Dr. Norton by email at pnorton @ gmu.edu.

Hathaway 2Dawn Hathaway is an assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development, Graduate School of Education, Division of Learning Technologies at George Mason University. Dr. Hathaway works with K-12 practicing teachers in a Master’s program in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on the Integration of Technology in Schools. As a former School-Based Technology Resource Teacher, she has extensive experience collaborating with classroom teachers to design curriculum that integrates technology to enhance students’ learning experiences. Dr. Hathaway earned her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction and her PhD in Education with an Instructional Technology specialization at George Mason University. She has a robust record of scholarship that includes both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. You can contact Dr. Hathaway by email at dhathawa @ gmu.edu.

 References

Norton, P., & Hathaway, D. (2014, October). Using a Design Pattern Framework to Structure Online Course Content: Two Design Cases. In World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (Vol. 2014, No. 1, pp. 1440-1449).

Posted in AACE, Conferences Tagged with: , , ,

Adventure Learning – Wearable and Mobile Devices: An Interview with Mary Beth Klinger

During SITE 2015, Mike Searson offered conference participants a unique experience: Exploring the Red Rock Canyon Park and delving into the possibilities of mobile and wearable technologies at the same time.

As immediate past president of SITE—Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, executive director of the School for Global Education & Innovation at Kean University and member of the Education Advisory Board for the US National Parks Service, Mike Searson was perfectly positioned to guide this workshop activity.

Prior to the workshop, Mike explained what he hoped that participants would take away from the experience.

“If nothing more happens than enjoying the beauty and surroundings of Red Rock Canyon, we would have had a rich experience. However, if we use the mobile and wearable devices that we carry around with us on a daily basis to collect data and document our experiences, then our trip to the park will become more engaging. Finally, […] can data and documentation collected in the Red Rock Canyon with our mobile and wearable devices then be integrated into lesson plans and curriculum standards?” Mike Searson, AACE Blog
The workshop tackled difficult questions that concern all educators who are interested in mobile and wearable learning: How can we best incorporate informal learning experiences into formal classroom activities? How can we address concerns about who might be accessing the data that students produce, and for what reasons? It was my pleasure to follow up with one of the workshop participants, Mary Beth Klinger, Professor of Business at the College of Southern Maryland.
SITE 2015 Workshop: Taking IT Outdoors at the Red Rock Canyon Park

SITE 2015 Workshop: Taking IT Outdoors at the Red Rock Canyon Park

What drove your decision to sign up for this unusual workshop - the encounter with nature, the immersion into new technologies or an interest in place-based education?

I have a strong interest in place-based instruction and wearable technologies. I have had the opportunity to explore Google Glass and incorporate this technology into my instruction.

I have found through the integration of QR codes or even integrating Auras into content that students have the potential to dig deeper into the topics that we are studying. For example, in one of the business courses I teach, a negotiation simulation is incorporated that revolves around a current international issue. In the resources provided to students, Auras is incorporated to have students explore more deeply the countries and customs. I have found that this adds to the overall experience for students.

I was looking for new ways that I could enhance these mobile technologies and ideas into my current teaching practice.

Give us a look behind the scenes: Can you describe your day at Red Rock Canyon Park?

After I took in the overall beauty of Red Rock Canyon Park, I began to think about experiential learning and the idea of providing students with meaningful experiences.

One way to do this is to explore locations and even interview people with an attempt to create an experience that students can participate in to learn complex topics more deeply.

I have not yet determined what this will look like, but the day at Red Rock with colleagues from around the world discussing these types of ideas was motivational.

Any anecdotes of mishaps, adventurous encounters or unexpected discoveries you would like to share?

Cell phone service was not very reliable, so in remote areas this would need to be accounted for. But GPS was working and that was interesting. I enjoyed being at the Canyon with everyone and exploring and ultimately thinking about these ideas.

I believe students would also benefit from this type of experience. The ability to find ways to provide these rich experiences to them is always a goal. This experience brought that to my attention again.

After the workshop, has your attitude towards mobile and wearable technologies changed? Are you rather cautious or eager to try out these devices and apps?

I utilize and attempt to find real world application to incorporate these types of devices into my teaching. So, this experience provided me an opportunity to think even more deeply about these tools and how I can integrate them into my classroom and instruction.

Which other personal lessons did you take home from the workshop?

I am still trying to discover ways to incorporate these tools into my teaching to enhance student learning. Students carry cell phones and many bring laptops to class. If I can discover ways to incorporate these tools into my teaching to get students more involved and excited about what they are learning, I would be thrilled.

This workshop provided a lot to think about and work towards. Primarily due to the connections that I made with the other participants, I found this experience very meaningful.

Does the workshop influence your teaching? Will you take advantage of the opportunities to take learning outdoors via technology with your own students?

I will look for ways to take learning outdoors. As I mentioned earlier, I do believe my students would benefit from this. However, at this time, I am not sure how I would accomplish this task.

Any advice you would like to share with conference workshop organizers?

This experience was meaningful. It is always helpful to have an immersive experience that you can participate in with colleagues from around the world. It provided an excellent opportunity to share information and resources around a learning model incorporating wearable and mobile technologies.

About:

Prof. Mary Beth Klinger

Prof. Mary Beth Klinger

Mary Beth Klinger is a professor of business and management at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata, MD where she teaches undergraduate courses in business, management, leadership, organizational behavior, small business and entrepreneurship, and marketing. Her research interests are in the areas of knowledge management, leadership, innovation and technology, and global education. She holds a Ph.D. in Organization and Management, a Master’s in Business Administration, and a Master’s in International Management. Her professional background includes educational consulting, employment in private industry in logistics and supply chain management, as well as several federal government agencies, to include the Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Federal Trade Commission.
Posted in Conferences, SITE Tagged with: , , ,