Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Incubating Change

I've been in discussions with colleagues in my school about setting up a wing of our school to be a Teaching With Information Technology zone. Ideally, we'd begin with 3-5 teachers representing a range of subject disciplines, who would teach from classrooms equipped with mounted data projection; a bank of sharable notebook computers; a set of handheld devices; a few cameras; and wireless Internet access.

With my office being located just around the corner, I would act as a resource and team-teaching ally, assisting students and teachers in leveraging modern learning tools. We could have students host guest speakers via Skype; produce and publish multimedia content; participate in collaborative projects with international colleagues; and much more.

During this year of teaching and learning on TWIT lane, we would teach with open doors to model transparency for students, teachers, and visitors alike. Participating teachers would act as collaborative supporters for one another, and would benefit from regularly scheduled planning and debriefing sessions. The following year, a new cohort of teachers could set up shop, with the previous year's pilot teachers acting as mentors.

I'm rather excited about the prospect of working collaboratively with teacher-learners in modern classrooms, but I'm not so sure that TWIT corridor has much of a ring to it. Can you suggest a more apt name for our incubation zone? Do you know of similar projects that we might learn from? Might you be able to play an active role in supporting us?

--- Late Addition ---

We've settled on the name 'TEL-Wing' for the cluster of Technology Enhanced Learning classrooms now under development.

Photo Credits: shapeshift; Timothy K. Hamilton

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who Took the Easy Way Out?

Cheating... on an exam?!

After years of giving exams to students, an instructor at University of Central Florida, was shocked to discover that students cheat on exams.

Is it really all that hard to imagine that students would take the easy way out, when that appears to be exactly what the professor did? Instead of creating a novel and authentic way to assess student learning, Richard Quinn used his 20 years of teaching experience, to draw his exam from the question bank supplied by a textbook company. Instead of sharing his own work with students, he administered an exam created by a publisher, leaving me to wonder: Did the test acknowledge the source for the exam questions?

When I study at an institute of higher learning, I prefer to take courses that are not the same year after year; courses that recognize the realities of today's hyper-connected world; courses that don't place such a huge emphasis on a written exam to demonstrate the stickiness of course content.

In watching the 'lesson' below, I can't help but sense the emotional vibrations from the teacher: disappointment, frustration... disillusionment. As the audience for this 'lecture' learns that statistical variations, forensic analysis, and data tracking have narrowed the pool of suspected cheaters to about a third of the class, I'd have been just as interested to read the faces and body language of the 400 students.

The rant appears to have led to 200 confessions. Self-identifying cheaters will be allowed to complete the course and graduate, provided they take a four hour course in ethics. I can't help but wonder if/when any teachers at the school will see themselves as culpable.

At the close, we learn that the instructor was too distraught to load the slides for Chapter 8 and Chapter 9. Whether or not the slidedecks were also provided by the publisher, Mr. Quinn's closing comments indicate that he has much to learn:

"The days of finding a new way to cheat the system, are over!"

I suspect that the system will need far more than a new exam in order to make learning relevant, and cheat-proof. What do you think?

For more food for thought, visit a few true stories of students from the University of Windsor.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Learning in E-lationship

There was a conversational buzz that dominated the ECOO2010 conference experience. It began with ""Hey, I know you..."

Ed-tech conference attendees across North America, are experiencing conference events with networked colleagues, on a level never before seen. This past week, a great number of Ontario educators (and a few out-of-province tweeps) were energized to meet face-to-face with members of their personal/professional learning networks.

It's been a relatively short time since Twitter has been embraced by e-literate educators, but this tool has become a major difference-maker in the spread of good ideas. Conference attendees are readily self-identifying by Twitter ID, and are cross-pollinating their networks by introducing their 'followers' to colleagues.

To their full credit, the ECOO organizing team made a concerted effort to engage participants in the use of Twitter as a networking tool. Throughout the conference, attendees had opportunities to engage in back-channel discussions, to join in a Twitter scavenger hunt, and to attend a Super Tweet-up event.

I've written before about the critical role of the fourth 'R', but now I'm thinking of spelling Relationship in a new way. The positive vibes that result when meeting e-learning colleagues, might as well be referenced as 'elation-ship' or 'e-lationship'. It's difficult to explain to the disconnected, but it is empowering and invigorating to engage in first time face-to-face conversations, with familiar co-learners.

As part of my commitment to attend ECOO2010, I agreed to deliver in a Pecha Kucha talk during the last day of the conference. I couldn't have chosen a more apt topic: 'Twenty Things I've Learned in Twitter'.

It used to be that conference-goers could count on meeting peers who shared their passions and interests, but in 2010, conference attendees are counting the opportunity to meet with fellow tweeps, as the most rewarding part of the conference experience.

In assuming that you're already on Twitter, I'd be interested in your take. If you've yet to join us in shared learning year-round, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Think Before You Post Online

My colleague, Royan Lee, from a few hundred clicks up Hwy #401, has just posted 'Think Before You Post Online', a graphic poster, on The Spicy Learning Blog. The graphic shares a number of mini-lessons that should be taken to heart by social media participants of all ages, and when I saw it, I immediately wanted to share his wisdom.

Since I know Royan, getting permission to reproduce this graphic was relatively easy. I posted a request on his blog, and the next day, I discovered that Royan had granted me permission to share his work; but I couldn't help thinking that the inclusion of a Creative Commons icon on this piece of work, would've made it much easier to reproduce. In fact, the licensing on such a piece of work can serve to provide an additional lesson about copyright.

If you have a piece of work you'd like to share, my first suggestion would be to visit the Creative Commons website to Choose a License. After answering a few questions, you'll be supplied with a graphic that you can add to any work you'd like to share, along with some code that you can embed along with the work. Others visiting your work will have the option to hyperlink to your Creative Commons license to see what uses are permitted.

You can see by the icon and hyperlink on this blog, that I commonly license my creative work with an attribution, non-commercial, share-alike license. Royan... I'm going to revisit your blog soon. Will a lesson on sharing be embedded in future posts?

Late addition:
Following a tweet from Royan, I visited again... and was pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WE are Smarter than ME

Brian Eno is credited with inventing the term 'Scenius', as a tool to describe 'group genius' that tends to erupt serendipidously. Specifically, he's reported to have said "Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius."

This definition fits with the collaborative intelligence I've experienced for the past few years. Through a conscious effort to harness social media for personal and professional learning, I've confirmed that WE are smarter than ME.

Innovation, whether in the education sector, or otherwise, comes when individuals give themselves permission to think creatively, and to share their ideas, inferences, and insights with the crowd. As a result, similar but coincidental "A-ha!" experiences will sometimes take place completely independent of one another.

Kevin Kelly, writing on The Technium, offers four characteristics of Scenius, each of which is characteristic of the Personal/Professional Learning Networks being cultivated by more and more connected teacher-learners:

Mutual appreciation - When educators suggest they're going to try something unique, they get affirmation from members of their PLN. (E.g., A user tweets about hosting a Skype conference. Others affirm the idea; suggest guest speakers; and later, offer congratulations on the initiative's success.)

Rapid exchange of tools and techniques -- When interesting discoveries are made online, they rapidly fire through the retweet circuit until connected learners have been brought into the loop. (E.g., From node to node, and network to network, a presenter's slidedeck; resources page; or recorded presentation, are shared on Twitter via hyperlink)

Network effects of success - When innovative practices emerge, loosely connected participants, and random observers alike, readily acknowledge and celebrate the success. (E.g., Local and distant micro-bloggers use common hashtags to raise the profile of an Educon learning experience.)

Local tolerance for the novelties -- Creative thinkers who challenge the status quo, are often respected in networked learning environments. (E.g., A dissenting view is shared on a blog post. Although discussion participants may disagree with one another, the post can be recognized and valued for inspiring thoughtful debate.)

The expertise of my co-learners seems to me, to be exponentially more powerful when hyperlinked together. Whether or not we call it 'scenius', there's little doubt it's changing the way I consume, communicate, and create. Have you noticed your network having similar effects on your learning?

Next step: Find out more about the 'hive mind' in Kevin Kelly's latest book, Out of Control.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Audrey