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.


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.


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: , , ,

What Can Educational Researchers Do to Make Their Studies Replicable?


Replication - a rarity in educational research. Can open and social software increase transparency?

Replication is important to science. It helps make science a self-correcting system. Any time a result is surprising, researchers will try to replicate it, to see if the phenomenon is dependable or just random occurrence. Among different fields in social science, education is the one that is most deeply troubled by the rarity of replication. Only around 0.13 percent of education studies published in top 100 educational journals are replications, according to a research conducted by Matthew Makel and Jonathan Plucker at Duke University in 2012. Some educational researchers may argue that education is an exception in which replication doesn’t play an important role. However, it would be impossible to tell which educational theory is built upon foundation of stone, or which upon the foundation of sand. The lack of replication does not only make it difficult to tell dependable phenomenon from random occurrence, but also makes it impossible to identify fraud. Jonathan Plucker said education research had not a single fraud accusation in many years, simply because educational researchers failed to replicate each others’ research.  

What can we do

The rarity of replication in educational research is partially due to “publish or perish” culture in academics. Many editors of high-end journals stress novelty over replicability, though some of them realize this is a problem. Fortunately, some new journals have been set up to encourage the submission of replication studies very recently. The other reason for such rarity is complexity of educational research. Educational studies often involve in some unspoken assumption and unlisted important factors. Difference between participants, learning and teaching settings, and other uncontrollable factors all contribute to the difficulty of replication. For a researcher, to make the study as transparent as possible will definitely help with replication. Detailed description of the study context and participants helps a lot, but the efforts can always go a little bit further. The increasing popularity of social media use and online version control tools can help increase the transparency of many research. Text data with unified hashtag on social media, like Twitter or Facebook can be easily accessed and collected by any interested researchers. GitHub (one popular online version control tool) makes it easier to share the analysis script and refined data online. GitHub page can even easily generate a professional website for the promotion of your research project. github Many educational studies involves activities that require participants to read and write, like studies on cognition, reflection, self-regulated learning or problem-based learning. Many of these activities can be easily migrated from classroom context to online context. For instance, this study is an ongoing research project investigating the effect of a proposed intervention on college students’ goal setting. Participant’s tweets with unified hashtag “edit4020” provide researchers an easy way to access all the text data. Each participant’s public profile can give rich information about the participant him or her self. Different tools that help data collection and text analysis have been developed and applied in other fields, like political science and psychology. For example, this set of scripts focus on data collection from Twitter. To migrate studies from classroom environment to online environment does not only makes the data collection easier, but also makes the studies more transparent. The transparency increases the credibility of your finding, and lowers the difficulty of replication.
Posted in AACE

Who Do You Connect With? Cultivating Your Personal Learning Environment

As the future connects us, how are we handling it? Who do we connect with? As we have all this information out there, what is our role? With all the answers available in networks, what are the most important questions in our field?’ Ann Hill-Duin, E-Learn 2014 Conference Talk

Personal Learning Environments and Networks

Personal learning environments (PLE) are ‘an idea of how individuals approach the task of learning’ (Educause 2009) and describe ‘the activities and milieu of a modern online learner’ (Martindale & Dowdy, 2010). PLEs comprise tools, communities, and services learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals. They migrate the management of learning from the institution to the learner’ (Downes, 2007). Though technology plays an important role in facilitating one’s PLE, the specific tools and environments may shift over time: As smart phones and tablets are more and more widespread, the concept has moved away from centralized, server-based solutions to distributed and portable mobile apps Horizon Report Wiki 2015.

I was first introduced to the concept of PLEs through the Massive Open Online Course ‘Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge (PLENK 2010)’ – and the discussions in this MOOC still shape my conceptual understanding of personal learning environments – most importantly: PLEs should be considered as an approach, rather than just a specific technology.

Everyone has and has always had a personal learning environment. Looking at just the technology-based components of a PLE will ignore the influences of personal networks, communities, and physical resources on personal learning’. (Larry Phillips, September 2010, PLENK Discussion Board)
Cultivating the personal learning environment is an ongoing task that requires choices not only about learning resources and infrastructures, but also about your learning network. People who are part of an informal social learning network provide resources or further contacts, and reciprocal advantages emerge among the networkers. Examples include simplifying workflows (“cutting through the red tape”), passing on strategic information and mentoring network members in their professional development.

Sometimes this network grows organically, through colleagues, friends, and miscellaneous conference contacts, other times, we deliberately include people we see as experts in our field.


Birds of a Feather: Weak Social Ties in Knowledge Networks Can Fuel Problem Solving

Who to Connect with?

With an increased engagement in social media channels this question faces us within the AACE community. Just as it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with the numerous publications and trends in Educational Technology, finding the right mix and balance for meaningful engagement with social media is a lifelong learning challenge.

Review our list of  Top 20 in Educational Technology on Social Media to find suggestions for Twitter channels and Edublogs.

Over to You

Although social media tools make it easy and convenient to keep up with a large number of resources, it takes deliberate effort, informed choices and, last but not least, individual preferences to shape a meaningful personal learning environment.

We want to know more about your personal learning environment. Do you have a favorite Edublogger? Which Twitter feeds do you pick up as your daily information grain? Which tools, communities and gatherings to you frequent online and offline? Leave comments and share recommendations through Twitter (@AACE) and on our Facebook page.

Posted in AACE Tagged with: , , , , ,

Top 20 in Educational Technology to Connect with through Social Media

Interested in growing your personal learning network? We informally queried the AACE community and beyond resulting in these top 20 suggestions for Edublogs and Twitter Handles. The list includes past AACE conference keynote speakers, conference committee members and EdITLib contributors.

EdTech Scholars' Twitter Profiles

Who is Who in Twitter?

Terry Anderson
Professor in Distance Education at Athabasca University (CA)
Topics: Digital Scholarship, Open Education, Educational Technology, Learning Networks, MOOCs
Blog: http://terrya.edublogs.org/

Tony Bates
Consultant in E-Learning and Distance Education (CA)
Topics: Instructional Design, Open Access, Open Education, Educational Technology, Strategy and Innovation, E-Books, Open Textbooks
Blog: http://www.tonybates.ca/

Curtis Bonk
@travelinedman Professor of Instructional Systems Technology in the School of Education at Indiana University (US)
Topics: Open Education, Self-Directed Learning, Motivation, MOOCs, OER, Instructional Design, Global Learning
Blog: http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/

danah boyd
Scholar at Microsoft Research, Founder of Data & Society Research Center, Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center (US)
Topics: Social Media, Youth Culture, Internet Culture, Big Data, Social Networ Blog: http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/

Saul Carliner
Professor of Educational Technology at Concordia University (US)
Topics: Workplace Learning, Educational Technology, Instructional Design, Organizational Development

Grainne Conole
Professor of Learning Innovation at School of Education, Bath Spa University (UK)
Topics: Online Learning, Higher Education, Learning Design, OER, Learner Experience, Learning Theories, Methodologies
Blog: http://e4innovation.com/

Alec Couros
Professor of Educational Technology & Media, University of Regina (CA)
Topics: Personal Learning Networks, Personal Learning Environments
Blog: http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/

Mark Curcher
Director of 21st Century Educators Program, Tampere University of Applied Sciences (FI)
Topics: Teacher Development, Entrepreneurship, EduPunk, Innovation, Educational Technology

Laura Czerniewicz
Director of Center for Educational Technology at University of Cape Town (SA)
Topics: Higher Education, Digital Scholarship, Open Education, Digital Divide, Mobile Learning, OER
Blog: http://lauraczerniewicz.uct.ac.za/

Nellie Deutsch
EFL teacher, faculty at Atlantic University (US), founder of Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning (IT4ALL) and Moodle for Teaches (M4T)
Topics: Online Collaborative Learning, Moodle, Teacher Education, EFL, MOOCs, K-12

Aaron Doering
Associate Professor of Learning Technologies / Learning Technologies Media Lab Director at University of Minnesota (US)
Topics: Adventure Learning, Experiental Learning, Design Based Research, Innovative Learning Design, Photography, Multimedia

Stephen Downes
Senior Researcher at National Research Council of Canada (CA)
Topics: Personal Learning Environments, cMOOCs, Connectivism, Sensemaking, Networked Learning, Educational Technology, Higher Education, K-12
Blog: http://www.downes.ca/news/OLDaily.htm

Jon Dron
Professor at School of Computing and Information Systems, Athabasca University (CA)
Topics: Digital Scholarship, Open Education, Educational Technology, Learning Networks, MOOCs
Blog: https://landing.athabascau.ca/blog/owner/jond

Ann Hill Diun
Professor at Department of Writing Studies, University of Minnesota (US)
Topics: Organizational Development, Higher Education, Personal Learning Environments, Portfolios, Social Networks

Alan Levine
Educational Media Consultant (US)
Topics: Digital Storytelling, Educational Technology, cMOOCs, Podcasting, Photography, Multimedia
Blog: http://cogdogblog.com/

Charles Miller
Associate professor of Learning Technologies at University of Minnesota (US)
Topics: Adventure Learning, Experiental Learning, Design Based Research, Innovative Learning Design, Photography, Multimedia

Howard Rheingold
Researcher, Author, Visiting lecturer in Stanford University's Department of Communication (US)
Topics: Learning Communities, Virtual Communities

George Siemens
Director of Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab (LINK) at University of Texas at Arlington (US)
Topics: Collective Intelligence, Connectivism, Learning Analytics, Learning Networks, Big Data, MOOCs
Blog: www.elearnspace.org/blog/

Martin Weller
Professor of Educational Technology in the Institute of Educational Technology at Open University (UK)
Topics: Digital Scholarship, Open Education, OER, Open Access
Blog: http://blog.edtechie.net/

Steve Wheeler
Professor ofLearning Technology in the Plymouth Institute of Education at Plymouth University (UK).
Topics: E-Learning, Mobile Learning, Web 2.0, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasting, Distance Education, Social Networks
Blog: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/

Posted in AACE Tagged with: , , , ,

Is It Possible to Learn Anything Online? A Student’s Perspective

Open learning resources along with web based training and online degree programs on almost every subject have been accumulating at an amazing speed, and become vastly abundant for each individual learner. According to a study conducted by Babson Survey Research Group, at least 30 new courses are released on major MOOC platforms (e.g., Coursera, EdX) every week in 2014, compared with 10 in 2012. Students’ enrollment of online courses is growing even faster. Only 2% of students used to take at least one online course in 2002, in the fall of 2010 this number had increased to 30%. More than 7.1 million students took at least one online course during only fall 2012 . A recent survey by Ambient Insight Research predicts that the online learning market will rise to $49.9 billion by 2015.

Online learning is on the rise - both in formal and informal settings (Image by Alec Couros)

Online learning is on the rise - both in formal and informal settings (Image by Alec Couros)

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.

Posted in AACE Tagged with: , ,

Que sera, sera? Predicting Future Trends in Educational Technology – Horizon Report 2015

Since the New Media Consortium (NMC) released the ‘Horizon Report 2015 Higher Education’ at the beginning of February, the 50-page document has been broadly circulated and commented upon in the blogosphere and on twitter. Reactions vary from appreciative “As always it makes interesting reading” (Grainne Conole) to critical “NMC should be obligated to re-examine its methodology” (Stephen Downes).

About the Horizon Project

Horizon2015 Since 2004, the New Media Consortium annually releases the Horizon trend report to identify key issues that are likely to have an impact on education over the next five years. The selection process for the NMC Horizon Report is a modified Delphi process. The Delphi method involves experts in a two-step moderated group discussion to identify possible future developments. This strategy is used to predict the impact of new technological trends or innovations.

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.

2015 Higher Education Edition in a Nutshell

In its current form, the Horizon report identifies 18 topics likely to impact planning and decision-making in the educational technology sector: Six key trends accelerating technology adoption, six significant challenges for technology adoption, and six important technological developments.

2015 Horizon Report for Higher Education - Overview

Six Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

The Horizon report identifies six key trends that are likely to drive technology planning and decision-making: Long-term trends will influence the educational technology sector over the next five years and beyond, mid-term trends will be influential for the next 3-5 years, and short-term trends are likely to become commonplace or fade away in 1-2 years.
  1. Increasing Use of Blended Learning: In terms of trends in the short-term, the report foresees a rising amount of online and blended learning offerings that complement traditional classroom activities on campus. While blended learning is not exactly a new trend, the report notes changes in its implementation: “Instructors are thinking more deeply about mimicking the types of interactions learners are accustomed to in brick and mortar settings”.
  2. Redesigning Learning Spaces: As another short-term trend, the report identifies the effort of reconfiguring learning spaces to better support new forms of teaching and learning: “Instead of the traditional rows of chairs with writing surfaces facing a podium, universities are creating more dynamic classroom layouts, often with seating arrangements that foster collaborative work.”
  3. Proliferation of Open Educational Resources (OER): As OER is gaining traction across campuses, the report predicts an increased acceptance and usage as a mid-term trend. 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”.
  4. Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: Measuring learning through data-driven practice and assessment is seen as a mid-term trend. As institutions are facing pressure from accreditation bodies and governing agencies to document student achievement and learning outcomes, this process may be facilitated by learning analytics: “The emerging science of learning analytics is providing the statistical and data mining tools to recognize challenges early, improve student outcomes, and personalize the learning experience”.
  5. Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation: As a long-term trend, the report predicts a cultural shift in institutional leadership and curricular structures towards agile start-up models that foster flexibility, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking: “It will require visionary leadership to build higher education environments that are equipped to quickly change processes and strategies as start-ups do. If these organizational models are designed well, universities can experience more efficient implementation of new practices and pedagogies”.
  6. Cross-Institutional Collaboration: The report predicts increased cross-institutional collaboration as another long-term trend, reflecting the notion that innovation can scale better when ideas are shared between institutions: “The prevalence of consortia underscores a vision of institutions as belonging to part of a larger ecosystem in which long-term survival and relevance in higher education relies on the mutually beneficial partnerships”.

Six Significant Challenges for Technology Adoption

The report lists six challenges that are not charted on a timeline, but categorized as solvable, difficult and wicked, depending on how well we understand the scope of the problem and its potential solutions.
  1. Blending Formal and Informal Learning: As one can learn something about almost anything at the palm of one’s hand, self-directed learning, led by curiosity or serendipitous discovery, has the potential to enrich formal learning in higher education. However, institutions struggle to acknowledge and validate informal learning experiences.
  2. Improving Digital Literacy Skills: As the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read and write has expanded to encompass fluency in using digital tools and online information with aptitude and creativity. In order to improve digital literacy, both students and faculty need support and training.
  3. Personalizing Learning: Universities struggle to design and offer educational experiences that address the individual student’s specific learning needs, interests, aspirations and cultural background. Data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate individual learning pathways have only recently begun to emerge.
  4. Teaching Complex Thinking: Complex thinking describes the ability to understand systems in order to solve problems by deciphering how individual components work together as part of a dynamic unit that creates patterns over time. While data visualization and infographics can make complex ideas digestible for students, the skillful presentation of data has become yet another expectation scientists and researchers need to meet.
  5. Competing Models of Education: As more and more free and low-cost content becomes accessible via the Internet and, at the same time, students face rising costs of tuition, new models of education (i.e., MOOCs, competency-based degree programs) are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional four-year campus experience: “There is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction and assessment at scale”.
  6. Rewarding Teaching: Since both organizational rankings and individual career trajectories are largely determined by research output, universities struggle to acknowledge talent and skill as an instructor as a valuable asset, which impedes the implementation of innovative pedagogies: “Overemphasis on research has caused a number of negative ramifications, including an excessive dependence on part-time faculty”.

Six Important Developments in Educational Technology

In its final section, the report discusses emerging educational technologies that have the potential to foster changes in education within the next five years – for example through the development of progressive pedagogies and learning strategies, the organization of teachers’ work or the delivery of content. Educational technologies are broadly defined as tools and resources used to improve teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. Currently, the NMC monitors seven different types: 1) Consumer technologies, (2) digital strategies, (3) technologies enabling transformative innovation, (4) Internet technologies, (5) learning technologies, (6) social media technologies, (7) visualization technologies.
  1. Bring Your Own Device: The report states that a growing number of best practice approaches are paving the way for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to enter mainstream with an adoption timeframe of one year or less. BYOD is a digital strategy that refers to people bringing their own laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. to their learning or work environment, thus enabling students and educators to leverage the tools that they find most efficient: “The link between the use of personal devices and increases in productivity gets stronger each passing year as more organizations adopt BYOD policies”.
  2. Flipped Classroom: As another digital strategy on the short-term horizon, the report predicts the broad adoption of flipped classrooms in higher education. The flipped model shifts the time spent in class from content transfer to group discussions, project-based learning and other learner-centered activities. The lecture-based information delivery takes place before and after class in form of video recordings, podcasts or reading assignments.
  3. Makerspaces: Makerspaces, community-oriented workshops that engage learners in problem-solving through hands-on design and construction, are forecasted to reach mainstream within 2-3 years: “Widespread enthusiasm behind makerspaces in steadily growing”. A growing number of universities are creating informal learning spaces that support the maker movement, offering 3D printers, laser cutters, Legos, sewing machines and other tools.
  4. Wearable Technologies: As another mid-term trend, wearable technologies are poised to see significant growth in the coming years. This consumer technology is expected to spur experimentation in higher education.
  5. Adaptive Learning Technologies: With an adoption timeframe of 4-5 years, the horizon report describes the advancement of adaptive learning. The term refers to smart learning applications that adjusts over time to user data, thus customizing learning experiences for individual needs on a large scale. This can happen by adapting instructional material according to individual user data, or by aggregating data across a large sample of users to optimize curricula.
  6. Internet of Things: Another trend on the long-term horizon is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT signifies a network of objects that connect the physical realm and the information technology sphere by embedding chips, sensors or tiny processors into objects so that they can transmit information such as age, cost, color, pressure or humidity. Application options in higher education include streamlining processes, automation and data-driven sustainability efforts

Is it Useful?

From Web 2.0 and social media to open education and personal learning environments to Massive Open Online Courses - educational technology research is a trend-driven discipline. Visions of the future in form of technology forecasts and trend reports are common ways for practitioners and researchers alike to stay ahead of the technology curve. At the turn out the millennium future studies in education have seen a definite boom. Various reports, projects, surveys and workshops aim to depict future needs and emerging themes in education, for example the CORE Education’s Ten Trends Annual Report (New Zealand), the Innovating Pedagogy Report (UK), or the European TEL-MAP project.

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.

Que sera, sera

Given the rapidly changing environments of modern societies there is a growing need to know about the development of future technologies and their impact upon societal changes. Reducing risks and identifying opportunities are common motives for studying the future. However, educational technology and technological change are both drivers and results of complex interactions in the context of social, economic, and political forces. Future Studies in the educational technology sector are methodologically tricky and may be compared to forecasting today's weather:
“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.

Posted in AACE, EdITLib Digital Library Tagged with: , ,

How Faculty Adapt their Practices to Teach Online – An Interview with Donna Murdoch


Donna Murdoch: Digital Learning and Online Teaching Specialist

Donna Murdoch is a Digital Learning consultant who is currently working with UNICEF to build an architecture that embeds digital learning into the organization. She also teaches educators how to integrate online and blended instruction into their practice at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in the new VOLT program (Virtual and Online Teaching.) As part of her doctoral dissertation, Donna Murdoch investigated the incorporation of online learning into faculty's regular practice. She surveyed 20 faculty members from across the U.S. who had been face to face instructors in higher education for at least 3 years prior to teaching online, and were currently teaching at least two course per semester, with at least one of them online. Her interviews focused on faculty’s perception of their own experience as adult learners during the transition, the challenges they faced, how they overcame them, and the perceived quality and value of the online courses they taught.

How do traditional face-to-face teachers become e-teachers? What are challenges and milestones in the transition process? It was my pleasure to talk to Donna about her research project. transition Online Learning: From enigmatic phenomenon to everyday practice (Adapted from algogenius Flickr collection, creative commons, some rights reserved).

Donna, can you sum up your findings in a few headline-grabbing sentences?

Headline grabbing –

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.

What gave you the idea for this project?

When I began developing an online program at a very large university, I experienced a phenomenon. Highly educated faculty members, popular with students and/or dedicated to research and well respected in their field were reluctant to teach online. Not only were they resistant to online instruction – I should not limit it to one modality. Many were resistant to any kind of change to what had traditionally worked for them, and emphatically so when it came to change that meant they would need to use technology. I was fascinated. These super intelligent people were overly resistant – there seemed to be something more to it. There were so many different reasons stated, but I sensed it was about something more overarching. I was often successful in “convincing” them, but when I did, it was not very easy!   When I did work in corporate education, I saw the same resistance. Very few people like the change that accompanies technology integration, whether in an academic setting or a corporate university. I wanted to know why this was happening.

What challenges did you face during data collection and analysis?

Interestingly, the only challenge I faced during data collection was not putting enough time on my calendar for each interview!   People who had been through the transition really wanted to talk about it, more so than I had anticipated. The parameters of the study included “must teach at least two classes online” so if we refer to the results of the study which highlight the time that is devoted to online instruction, it is easy to understand why they wanted to talk about such a big part of their lives. Analysis was not too difficult – I’m really infatuated with a new cloud based analysis tool called Dedoose, which can replace some of the traditional software programs - it is quite magical.

How can your results benefit faculty development initiatives?

The focus of technology, e-learning, or blended learning initiatives is often the shiny toys. It frequently involves working with the platform and perhaps some “training” on the tools themselves. Technical support is common, but technical competency is a very small part of what it takes to be successful in online instruction. The results showed that we really need to view the adoption and acceptance of e-learning in a more systemic way that educators will feel is supportive. This is change management, but it seems many experience support by means of an IT hotline number, LMS instruction, or a quick lunch and learn. Faculty are adult learners, and my research showed that they don’t feel IT oriented support is giving them what they need in order to feel confidence in the process they go through to build and sustain a high quality online course. We need to assess them in advance to find out what they need to know and how they will learn best. The benefits will be clear when the most common challenges are addressed via adult learning methodologies.

What are your next steps?

I will be defending my dissertation in the spring at Columbia University Teachers College. I got so much unanticipated data, there are a number of papers I hope to publish. Everything I learned was so worthwhile! That will come next. I also really enjoy applying research to practice, and I’m excited about PennGSE’s new VOLT graduate certificate in online learning, as I’ve been part of it from the beginning. I think it will be different than anything we’ve seen before. I enjoy my corporate work, and have been helping corporate universities (and NGOs) build digital learning that works for adults. And I really enjoy working with education entrepreneurs, especially when they are working to build tools for adult learners.

Did you know?

Donna and I met through the AACE Special Interest Group on ‘Assessing, Designing and Developing E-Learning’ (ADD E-Learn). You do not have to be an AACE member or an attendee of previous AACE conferences to join an AACE Special Interest Group– simply connect on Academic Experts.

Are you currently conducting a research project that you would like to share with the AACE community? Let us know! Contact us via FaceBook or Twitter @AACE.

Posted in AACE Tagged with: , , ,

Informal Learning: New Challenges for Designers and Educators

By Till Credner (Own work: AlltheSky.com) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

By Till Credner (Own work: AlltheSky.com) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

I first realized the power of Informal or Out-of-School Learning as I lay looking up at the stars in my backyard with my young daughter. We lay together looking up, and I pulled out my phone and opened up a Sky/Constellation science app. Together, we looked at the stars, and she looked up information and saw high quality photos about constellations, stars and other objects that we couldn’t view without this augmented reality. In that moment, she was engaged in this informal learning in a way very different from a classroom setting. It was a great experience.

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.

Informal Learning Scale

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.

Further Reading

Chunngam, B., Chanchalor, S. & Murphy, E. (2014). Membership, participation and knowledge building in virtual communities for informal learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 863-879. Retrieved from https://www.editlib.org/p/148582

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.

Join the discussion

Want to join in the discussion about informal learning? Share your comments and other references below.
Posted in AACE Tagged with: ,

Learning Adventures in the Red Rock Canyon Park: Michael Searson on Wearable and Mobile Technologies

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.

Explore Red Rock Canyon State Park during SITE 2015 (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Explore Red Rock Canyon State Park during SITE 2015 (Image Source: Wikipedia)

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.

Posted in AACE, Conferences, SITE Tagged with: , , ,