Is it possible to learn anything online? An effective learner can teach him or herself almost anything with the copious online resources. However, my personal experience in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) makes me doubtful whether college students are prepared for this type of learning.
I took a course named “R Programming” on Coursera last year. This course was very popular, and has been shared on Facebook for more than 6.000 times. The course was presented as an introductory course, recommended to people who have “some familiarity with programming concepts and basic knowledge of statistical reasoning” before taking the course. The less-than-4-hour video lectures of the course covered some very basic programming knowledge, like control structure and loop. However, when it came to assignments and projects, the requirement for programming knowledge suddenly increased to a level far beyond the video lectures and recommended prerequisite knowledge. Many students felt frustrated when working on the assignments/projects and dropped out off the course. I finished the course and got a certificate with distinction, simply because I had been coding in different programming languages for several years, not because I learned very much from the course material. Honestly, I didn’t even watch all the lecture videos.
From my experience, especially in the area of programming, this is not an exception. Many online learning resources are not structured in a way that reaches learners with no or little pre-knowledge. Though they may contain valuable material and information, it is doubtful that you will learn how to program if you are not a programmer yet. Plus, it is as easy to drop out as it is to sign in. To take advantage of resources like MOOCs effectively, a learner has to be able to think critically, understand clearly the knowledge structure of a subject and his/her own abilities, constantly diagnose learning problems, search online for additional learning material, and seek support through a personal learning network. Is the typical college student ready for this type of learning?
Much of the discussion around MOOCs creates the impression that today’s students are digital natives, held back in our informal learning journeys by outdated brick-and-mortar institutions. My ongoing research and personal experiences tell a different story. In 2014, I conducted a survey among college students majoring in computer science at the University of Georgia. It included three questions on students’ attitude towards self-directed online learning.
Interestingly enough, the low score of first/second year college students indicate that they did not believe that they can learn sophisticated knowledge through online learning. They didn’t like independent learning very much, and also reported less frequent online search in their learning. A possible interpretation of the difference between first/second year college students to fourth year students is that the college experience actually helps us to develop independent online learning behavior. This is a question worth further exploration.
From 2004-2009, the New Media Consortium released one single annual edition of the Horizon report. In 2009, the NMC added a K-12 edition to the series, followed by the Museum edition in 2010 and the Library edition in 2014.Until recently, each report followed the same structure, highlighting six emerging technologies or practices based on time to adoption (one year or less, two to three years, four to five years). In 2013, the report introduced a new section on ‘significant challenges’; and the 2014 edition brought with it a complete structural overhaul, which tripled the number of trends and developments discussed in the report.
Among these publications and initiatives, the Horizon report forms an influential resource for educators that are interested in not only learning what the emerging trends are, but also how they might be able to participate in and shape the transformation process.
“Very long-range climate trends, alternative scenarios, or panels of experts are less effective than getting a rich contextual picture of the weather (perhaps from the weather channel) and looking at very recent trends such as direction and speed of weather fronts.” (Coates et al., 2001).
At first glance, one would expect that trend forecasts like the Horizon Report thrive to achieve correct prognosis about the future and that thus their quality is simply measured by the number of correct predictions in a given time frame. However, at a closer look, it is not that simple. The report is conducted to influence and inform strategic planning. Thereby it impacts future developments and may foster or prevent certain developments. Hence, its strength is to inspire discourse within the community by depicting alternative futures for educational technology adoption.
Adults don’t like the change they encounter when new technologies are introduced – and you won’t believe the reasons why!!!
Faculty member stays up all night answering email from students doing online work at 2 a.m. – find out her 10 secrets to napping during the day!All kidding aside, I did have three distinct findings, and they were almost unanimous. First, the vast majority of participants expressed concern about the quality of online instruction. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman also found this in the 2014 Babson Survey “Tracking Online Education in the United States.” The difference in my survey was that most participants expressed more concern about the quality of their colleagues’ courses. They perceived they had overcome most obstacles, but that others at their institutions had not. They did not believe that others were teaching courses that were on par with face-to-face classes in terms of quality. This is because of findings 2 and 3. The second finding was that the overwhelming majority did not feel support from their institutions when transitioning to online modalities, rather they indicated that experiential learning in the form of mentorship, learning by doing, and dialog with peers were most critical when overcoming the challenges. The third finding was that the majority of participants indicated the time required for preparation and intrusion of time on an ongoing basis during the course of an online class were significantly greater than time requirements of a face-to-face course.
Informal learning happens all around us. Many educators and instructional designers are taking notice. According to Julian Sefton-Greene, there are two scales to consider when looking at informal learning. First, learning can be considered on a scale from informal to formal in terms of setting (e.g., in-school vs. out of school). Secondly, learning can be considered in terms of the curriculum (e.g., self guided educational apps vs. a highly structured MOOC). Considering where your designs fall on this scale can be a powerful tool for educators and designers as they look at ways to improve learning.
The Indian edublogger Sahana Chattopadhyay explores how the changing landscape of work and learning impacts the requirements for learning material, the design process and the skill profile of instructional designers. Chattopadhyay argues that instructional design needs to respond to an education landscape that is characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA).
"An instructional designer today is required to not only understand the fundamentals of good instructional design but must also expand his/her skill sets to include an understanding of community management, the spectrum of learning from formal to informal, the impact of social, local and mobile on user behaviour, the need to equip users with self-managed learning skills".
A first step to develop these skills is to develop an understanding of user behavior and learner activities that span formal and informal learning. Here is a brief list of informal learning articles and publications from 2014. It offers a gateway into current research on social learning activities, online communities and informal learning in a variety of contexts.
This study, looks at the design of a virtual community for informal learning about Thai herbs. The community relied on social networking tools and a database of expert knowledge as well as community coordinators. Results show findings that relate the importance of access to expert knowledge and interest in a subject in informal learning contexts.Ferguson, R., Faulkner, D., Whitelock, D., & Sheehy, K. (2014). Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-19.
This study looks at the habits of pre-teen informal learning with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Web 2.0 tools. There are still restrictions of how technology is used in many school environments and this study takes a look at some of the distinctive elements of pre-teens use of these technologies.Halverson, E. R., & Sheridan, K. M. (2014). The Maker Movement in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-504.
In this essay, the authors provide context, give theoretical background, and consider the role of making in education. This form of informal learning is increasingly popular with the decrease in price of 3D printers, Laser Cutters, and other consumer manufacturing equipment. They finish with exploring the potential pedagogical impacts on teaching and learning.Hou, H. T., Wu, S. Y., Lin, P. C., Sung, Y. T., Lin, J. W., & Chang, K. E. (2014). A Blended Mobile Learning Environment for Museum Learning. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(2).
This study looked at three varieties of museum learning. (1) The traditional museum visit accompanied by a learning website, (2) paper - based learning sheets used during museum visits accompanied by a learning website, and (c) an interactive mobile learning system used during museum visits accompanied by a learning website.Jones, W. M., & Dexter, S. (2014). How teachers learn: the roles of formal, informal, and independent learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(3), 367-384.
In this qualitative study of math and science teachers at two middle schools, the authors iden- tifies how their system for learning to integrate technology into their teaching goes beyond what school leaders typically consider when planning for teachers’ learning. It considers the roles of formal, informal and independent learning for today's teachers.Maier, M., Rothmund, T., Retzbach, A., Otto, L., & Besley, J. C. (2014). Informal learning through science media usage. Educational Psychologist, (ahead-of-print), 1-18.
This article reviews current research on informal science learning through news media. Based on a descriptive model of media-based science communication the authors distinguish between (a) the professional routines by which journalists select and depict scientific information in traditional media and (b) the psychological processes that account for how media recipients select, process and integrate such information.Schreurs, B., Van den Beemt, A., Prinsen, F., Witthaus, G., Conole, G. & de Laat, M. (2014). An investigation into social learning activities by practitioners in open educational practices. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(4).
This research investigates how educational practitioners participate in activities around open educational practices (OEP). The results show how practitioners of six different OEPs learn, while acting and collaborating through a combination of offline and online networks.Song, D., & Lee, J. (2014). Has Web 2.0 revitalized informal learning? The relationship between Web 2.0 and informal learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.
Web 2.0 technology allows researchers to shed a new light on the importance and prevalence of informal learning. The present study investigates the relationship between Web 2.0 levels and the evaluation of over 250 informal learning websites.Ziegler, M. F., Paulus, T., & Woodside, M. (2014). Understanding Informal Group Learning in Online Communities Through Discourse Analysis. Adult Education Quarterly, 64(1), 60-78.
While informal learning may tend to occur as an individual endeavor, group learning can also be powerful. This study presents an exploratory analysis of a single thread from an online hiking community to introduce discourse analysis as a framework to study informal learning as a group meaning-making process.
“Wearable technology refers to devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewelry, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing such as shoes or a jacket.” Horizon Report Wiki 2015
Wearable technologies are seamlessly integrated with a user’s everyday life and movements. They enable users to see information about their surroundings, allow them to engage with social media, email and web services, and can be used to track and monitor an individual’s physical functions such as sleep, movement, blood pressure etc. Together with the already ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, wearable technologies are likely to shape our personal learning ecosystem.
How can we leverage these exciting new technologies for formal and informal learning? It was my pleasure to talk to Mike Searson, 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 on the Education Advisory Board for the US National Parks Service.
During SITE 2015, Mike Searson offers 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 the US National Parks approaches its Centennial in 2016, Searson and SITE are excited about the opportunity to weave together rich, place-based education experiences with emerging technologies.Q: What wearable and mobile technologies make up your personal learning environment?
Of course, the answer to that question depends on how one defines “wearable” and “mobile” technologies. In some cases, that’s pretty easy: my Fitbit is a wearable, my Android phone is a mobile. My MacBook Air is neither (although some may feel an “ultra” laptop is a “mobile,” I don’t). And, I’d classify my iPad as a mobile. Currently, the mobile/wearable landscape is changing very rapidly, and will continue to do so for some time. For example, some items at the SITE conference may disappear, while others may emerge just around the corner. For example, Google recently announced that it was “shelving” its Glass. And Apple is about to release its Watch. And, Google Cardboard offers some very interesting possibilities, especially for educators exploring place-based learning opportunities. We’re hopeful to have a good array of mobiles and wearables with us at the SITE conference.
However we define “mobile” and “wearable” devices, we should explore the possibility of BYOD tools to their fullest educational potential. In other words, we should leverage the devices people carry around with them everyday, as powerful tools for learning.Q: What National Parks are you planning on visiting this year?
Well, for the SITE conference, we’ll be spending time at the Red Rock Canyon, which is under the US Bureau of Land Management. It’s wonderful and beautiful park, just outside of Las Vegas. Perhaps I should mention that I sit on the US National Parks Service Advisory Board for Education, which allows me unique opportunities to “explore” parks. However, as I live in the Northeast US, I devote considerable time to “urban” parks. Over the next few months, along with various colleagues, I will be exploring the Federal Hall National Monument in NYC and the Independence National Park in Philadelphia. Also, I spend a lot of time biking at the Sandy Hook Gateway in NJ, along the Atlantic Ocean that has great views of the NYC skyline. As an educator, I am intrigued by the educational possibilities that Parks offer to urban youth and their teachers. I should mention that the year 2016 is the Centennial of the US National Parks Service, and many people are exploring the rich opportunities that parks—from national, to state, to local levels—offer the public, including place-based education experiences.Q: What specific potential do you see for mobile devices and wearable technologies to enhance place-based education?
Before answering that question, I’d like to acknowledge a remarkable phenomenon that has occurred over the past few years. When smart phones were first introduced, they had to be regularly tethered to computers; that is, if you wished to add new apps to your phone or update its operating system, you had to connect it to a computer. Over time, smartphones worked as truly independent devices. You could enjoy their full potential without ever connecting to a computer. Access to the “cloud” was the only requirement to optimize their value. Now smartphones have become the hub for wearable devices, i.e., with very few exceptions, your wearable device is not fully optimized unless it is either directly connected to or within a short distance of its smartphone hub. Yet, this coupling does allow for true 24-7 experiences. For example, I wear my fitness band all day; thus, certain fitness data are constantly monitored. And, when in range of my smartphone, these data are shared and uploaded to the cloud. Although, I was provided a dongle to “connect” my Fitbit to my computer, I never use it. I really like the mobility and ease with which I can carry/wear the smartphone/wearable combo all day long. So, within a few years, the smartphone went from a device that had to be tethered to a computer to one that is now a hub for other devices.
As education leaders, I believe it is our responsibility to explore the potential of such devices, especially when used in tandem, as rich learning technologies. And, due to their mobility, they are perfect tools to explore place-based education opportunities. While I could take my laptop and use its camera to take pictures of flora and fauna in National Parks, I’d never consider doing so. I would do what I do in other interesting daily experiences, take out my phone and take the desired picture. I could then use Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat to share with my community. And, at the same time, my wearable device may be collecting spatial and temporal data—I could easily find out the distance and elevation of the trail that I just walked.
In the end, it may be best to say that we really don’t know the answer to your question. We are in the early stages of exploring how mobiles and wearables can “enhance place-based education.”Q: What distinguishes wearable technologies from other mobile learning devices, such as smart phones?
First, I need to repeat what I said above, for the most part, wearables function best when they utilize a smartphone as a hub. Currently, there are very few exceptions to this. But, again, the landscaping is changing quite rapidly—there are wearables embedded in clothing, wearables “connected” to medical devices, wearables that transmit (and receive) data directly to (and from) your car. With that in mind, here are some of the notable distinctions: wearable are true 24-7 devices. My laptop is with me much of the day, but only when I am indoors. My smartphone is with me most of the day, but usually not around when I sleep nor (hopefully 😉 when I drive. Yet, the only technology that is with me 24-7—indoors or outdoors; asleep or awake; driving, watching TV or hiking—is my fitness band. Currently I find the notification systems on my wearables to be more functional and less intrusive. Frankly, many of the notifications on my smartphone are little more than annoyances—often some type of marketing message. Yet, on my fitness device, the subtle buzz when I’ve reached ten thousand steps or a flashing light that I need to recharge my battery seem just right. Again, as we gain more experience with wearables, this may change, but at the moment, for me, it seems that their notification ecosystem is just right. Finally, and this feature could cause alarm—many of the features in some wearables are tacit. In other words, without being consciously aware of it, I transmit and receive data to and from my fitness band 24-7.
However, all of this should raise some concerns for educators. As described above, since most of these data reside in the cloud, it is possible that they could be hacked. So, if they wished to do so, a law enforcement agency or a good ole hacker could tell precisely when (and even roughly where) I went to sleep. Should we begin to more formally incorporate mobile and wearable devices into classroom experiences we need to be concerned about who might be accessing the data students produce, and for what reasons.Q: For many people, me included, National Parks are a place for disconnecting from devices and re-connecting with silence. Are we old-fashioned curmudgeons missing out on crucial learning opportunities?
Actually, many of us on the Parks advisory board would agree with you. On the one hand, we recognize the need to make our parks as connected as possible; on the other hand, we should be concerned about the distraction issue. Ideally, connectivity in the parks, and other placed-based education spaces, would only enhance the overall experience, and not distract from it. For example, remarkable “apps,” available on both iOS and Android platforms, developed by National Parks Service staff (see http://www.nps.gov/nama/photosmultimedia/app-page.htm), provide true added value to the Parks experience. For example, the NPS Mall App, which can be used when in DC national parks, offers a unique augmented reality tool that allows the visitor to alternately view actual monuments and then access cloud-based media.
Yet, there are times that the unvarnished experience is the purest reality. For example, if you seen a herd of moose running across a plain in Yellowstone Park, put down your camera, stash your cell phone and just enjoy! In fact, one of the Parks subcommittees is simultaneously recommending that Parks be empowered with Wi-Fi/4G connectivity; yet, have strategically placed signs that say “Power Down Zone,” indicating the visitor has reached a space that could be best enjoyed with no filters, especially technology driven ones. In the end, those of us who support place-base experiences are confronted with the same issues faced by 21st century contemporary society—how do we best used our devices to enhance, rather than distract from, our lives.Q: Could mobile data collection by everyday visitors eventually inform park management and help curate national treasures?
Absolutely! Actually, that’s an easy transition from what’s been happening for years. Consider the numerous monarch butterfly tracking projects, where naturalists and other scientists work with students and teachers to track and collect data on monarch migrations. These types of activities are designed to create citizen scientists, everyday people who, under the right conditions and paired in some way with real scientists, can participate in actual scientific activities, such as providing tracking data on butterfly migrations. While some of the initial projects were PC based, we’re already seeing the availability of citizen scientist projects on mobile devices. For example, there are the Project Noah and Marine Debris Tracker apps that leverage active communities, such as students and teachers, to work with scientist in data collection and documentation.
Of course, even without apps, mobile and certain wearable devices come with inherent geo-tagging and time-stamp features, which are useful for data collection and curation activities. For example, in many of these devices, the very act of taking a picture invokes an array of meta-data—such as the location, time, and sometimes weather conditions—that were present when the picture was taken. And we can add text or audio notes to our pictures and videos, providing rich documentation of the experience.
Later this year, a group of educators, working with National Parks staff, will explore the historic sights in Philadelphia’s Independence Park to explore ways that we can use mobile and wearable devices to document some national treasures. We’ll then examine the classroom implications of such activities.Q: What learning experiences and outcomes do you hope your participants will take home from the SITE 2015 workshop?
Well, I guess I’ll begin with a point you raised earlier. 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, we end with some reflective time addressing issues that concerns many educators: How can we best incorporate our exciting informal learning experiences into formal classroom activities? For example, 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?Want to Learn More? Register for SITE 2015
Do not miss the SITE 2015 workshop ‘Taking it Outdoors: Personalized Learning Technologies and Place-Based Education’. To register access the SITE website at site.aace.org.Taking it Outdoors: Personalized Learning Technologies and Place-Based Education
This innovative workshop will examine the role of personalized learning technologies as a place-based education tools. For example, how can wearable devices and mobile technologies be transformed to support informal and formal learning experiences for students? Working with the US Bureau of Land Management and the US National Parks Service, workshop participants will be transported to the scenic Red Rock Canyon Park. Once there, we will take a guided tour through key areas of the Park. Facilitated by workshop leaders, participants will use wearable technologies and mobile devices to collect data and document their experiences in Red Rock Canyon. Returning to conference headquarters, participants will then engage with workshop leaders on how personalized learning technologies (PLTs) can be incorporated into formal classroom experiences. While workshop participants are encouraged to bring their own mobile and wearable devices to this workshop, a limited handful of new devices will be on hand to explore their potential as learning tools.
“Bricolage is a practical process of learning through tinkering with materials. It involves continual transformation, with earlier products or materials that are ready to hand becoming resources for new constructions”. Innovating Pedagogy Report 2014
Bricolage means to engage in a dialogue with a heterogeneous collection of materials and tools, in which items are repurposed and rearranged to solve a problem. Bricolage does not necessitate having a clear end in sight. On the contrary, it requires the stakeholders to be open and start with a vaguely defined idea. The project and its components take shape over time.
Bricolage comprises tools and artifacts that were accumulated over time. This may include material that was collected without any specific purpose, and picked up simply because it might be useful someday; as well as outcomes, products or ‘leftovers’ from other projects. The typical bricolage setting is one of constant remix: Its tools and artifacts are not limited to only use nor does one need specialized expertise to adapt and use them.
Dron, J. (2014). Ten Principles for Effective Tinkering. In Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2014 (pp. 505-513). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
Jon Dron argues that ‘bricolage’ is better suited to networked, social, open-ended learning than traditional learning design approaches. He offers ten principles and patterns for effective bricolage:
"Momentum for using threshold concepts to help teaching is growing across disciplines".The idea of threshold concepts emerged from a national research project in the UK, where researchers looked into the possible characteristics of strong teaching and learning environments for undergraduate education. Disciplines have ‘conceptual gateways’ or ‘portals’ that lead to a new, previously inaccessible way of thinking. An example from the social sciences is that ‘you cannot make causal inferences from correlational data’. Mastering a threshold concept puts learners in a liminal state where they oscillate between old and emerging understandings - just like an ethnographic researcher who is not outside, but also not quite inside the group he or she is working on. Characteristics Meyer and Land (2003, 2005) characterize threshold concepts with the following qualities:
Kiley, M. & Wisker, G. (2009). Threshold Concepts in Research Education and Evidence of Threshold Crossing. Higher Education Research and Development, 28(4), 431-441.
While most work on threshold concepts is related to discipline-specific undergraduate education, this article identifies six generic doctoral-level threshold concepts: Learning challenges experienced by research students and their supervisors. The research involved 65 experienced research supervisors across six countries (Australia, England, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand and Trinidad) and across Humanities, Social Sciences, Engineering and IT and the Sciences.
Chetty, J. & van der Westhuizen, D. (2013). "I hate programming" and Other Oscillating Emotions Experienced by Novice Students Learning Computer Programming. In Jan Herrington et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013 (pp. 1889-1894). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). View paper as Open Access in EdITLib.
The paper explores the range of of emotional reactions while learning a threshold concept, program dynamics. It helps educators understand students’ emotions so that they are not only communicators of information but also motivators.