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Evolve or stay the same? May 9, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in high school, instructional design.
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Does it not make sense that as the world changes, education has to evolve with it? Shouldn’t education prepare a student for the world in which they live? Wouldn’t it make sense to educate high school students with the skills they require to survive in today’s workplace?

Two recent articles/posts that I have read both relate to the same issue but focus on different aspects.

In Karl Kapp’s blog post “Hire that Kid!,” Karl highlights the void of technology in the classroom and the need to update the schooling system. Stemming from an article that discusses the banning of iPods from classrooms to deter cheating, he makes very valid points that the use of iPods and other technological gadgets by students displays an ingenuity that is valuable in today’s workplace.

I know personally, friends come to me with all of their technology issues and questions. I never claim to be an expert on selecting the best hard drive or networking the computers in a household. But what I do know is how to “google.” I often joke that I should open a company where people can contact me with a search request or a question and I will google it and get back to them with the answer.

In a somewhat related issue, The Story-Centered Curriculumaddresses the defunct high school system. His suggestion to enhance the learning and better prepare students for the real world is to teach students through a series of realistic projects that mesh together different subjects and facilitate group learning. Each project then builds upon the previous one.

I see this being highly effective. With the student in the center of their learning experience, and the teacher filling more of a facilitator role. I would be very eager to see how this curriculum is received by students and learn more about actual story-centered projects.

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It’s great to go back. April 24, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in instructional design, other.
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Last week I attended the CAC Conference at Bloomsburg University. Basically it is a chance for alumni of the program and those in the learning industry to get together, share ideas, support the students and program, and network. Since I have graduated from the program in 2004, I have been back to all but one CAC conference. I find it to be a great learning experience, a lot of fun, and I just love being able to contribute something back to such a great program.

This past CAC conference was no exception. I learned a lot from the CAC member presentations on Wednesday. Presenting myself for the first time at CAC was a good experience. It felt good to go back and have something to share. I hope to continue to do this.

Many great solutions to the RFP were presented by the students on Thursday. I always find this to be the greatest feat of the three days. With the program being a year long, and even though you have a semester or so of class before getting into this capstone course, applying the strategies and thinking creatively as a new learning professional is a challenge. I remember my experiences – and I am thankful for how I have continued to grow outside of the program in my working experiences. The presentations this semester were very well done, with a lot of great ideas and some great demonstrated instructional strategies. When I first experienced the student presentations as an attendee of the conference, I remember feeling so much for the presenting students. The longer I am out, the less I feel nervous for the students and the more I just appreciate the experience this grad program provides.

Needless to say, I brought back a lot of ideas to work. I hope to never stop going back to this conference. I feel like I learn just as much by going back as I did presenting. Life is a continual learning experience. Just because I have finished my degree doesn’t mean I stop learning…

Bummer April 24, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in other.
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So it’s official. I did not get into Lehigh’s doctoral program for Learning Sciences and Technology. After countless days checking the mail, I finally emailed the program and got my response. Then the letter came in the mail yesterday (finally…).

So now I move on. I have decided to expand my search (problem is I was looking for something that was close so that I could fit it into my schedule). Maybe I can find something else. And then I can also try again next year. I can’t let go of my ambition. I have to admit it was a bummer when I first learned of this news, but I can’t let that get to me.

Keep movin on!

The Great Homework Debate March 28, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in high school, instructional design, other.
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I was watching tv last night and a commercial came on for what was upcoming in the news at 11:00 pm. One of the stories had to do with homework. Someone was on tv talking about how homework is hurting our children. Although I did not see the actual news program, it got me thinking about homework.

For someone to go and say that all homework is bad seems very irresponsible to me. I think back to when I was in grade school, and although I do not believe that all homework helped me all that much, I could not have imagined making it through some subjects, such as math, without doing homework. It gave me a chance to practice what was just covered that day and reinforce the learning.

In a website I just found, Nancy Kalish writes about how homework is extremely harmful to a child’s desire to learn or read or such. She believes that there is no evidence that homework helps studenst. I just cannot believe that. I distinctly remember my experience with homework and know that for me its not true.

My papers and projects I worked on in school gave me the skills to produce papers and write documents in college and even now in my job. It was the foundation for future learning.

However, that does not mean that I dont think that in the schools today some teachers overdo it with homework. I definitely believe they do. Just as you must do things in moderation, homework is no different. Teachers must separate “busy work” from truly necessary reinforcing homework.

I also believe that for the most part, homework should be a reinforcement for learning. It cannot replace the teacher. Guidance by a teacher is still necessary. However, you cannot wipe homework out.

So I think that the people who argue to get rid of homework need to rethink their approach. Homework is not all bad. It depends on how homework is used in the scheme of learning. And I think the teachers need to rethink their approach to assigning homework. They must have an instructionally sound reason for doing so.

Still waiting… March 22, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in other.
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For all who want to know, I have applied to the Teaching and Learning Sciences Ph.D. program at Lehigh University. This has been something I have been inspired to do for a while, but was not motivated enough to do it until now. It’s exciting (and scary, knowing all the work that could be ahead of me).

I inquired about when I will receive notice of whether I have been accepted to the program. I was told March 15th. March 15th has come and gone. I understand the process that goes on and the time it takes for that process, but every day I bite my nails in anticipation. Did I get in?

I never was a consistent mail checker..oh, not until about March 9th. Since then, I have checked the mail every day. Is today the lucky day?

Project Organization Tool March 21, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in project management.
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There’s a great new program I just found and have started using. ThinkingRock is a great tool to get things done when you don’t know what all needs to be done. For me, sometimes attacking a project is hard because you are looking for the end result, when there are actually many smaller projects and tasks that must be completed before you can accomplish your overall goal. I downloaded and used ThinkingRock this morning and found it just great!

Although the interface of ThinkingRock was a bit confusing at first, I shortly found my starting place. The program has you begin by entering comments into its interface. It then takes each of those comments and makes you decide whether it requires an action or not. If it does require an action, you specify what the end result can be and either when it needs to be completed, by who, or if it’s done. And all of these things can be grouped into little projects, even categorizing by putting smaller projects within bigger projects.

It was great to use this morning, after just coming into work, to start off my day. It focused me. I am currently in the midst of a website redesign project and there is much to be completed yet. I created tasks and gave descriptions as to what would be the desired result.

My favorite part of this program: Once you get everything entered, you can create a report in a pdf and hand it out to your team, as a task checklist. The reports can get pretty detailed or be brief.

What a great tool! I haven’t even gone into detail here, but I must say – you must try it!

Expanding the Learning Scope: Websites March 6, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in instructional design.
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I believe that learning is more than traditional “courses.” Of course, it exists everyday in the little tasks we do, or in conversations, or in browsing a newspaper. But sometimes, there are realms that, as designing, sometimes are forgotten as an environment in which to learn.

My latest project at work happens to be the design of our website. We have done all of the preliminary work – setting up the global links, deciding what will be a part of each section. Video and audio has been requested in the site. All of this is great, but I believe a website is another way to teach someone something. Our goal is to teach a viewer what we are about. And that requires a careful design of textual content, visual placement of components, and media to support.

Our main goal, I feel, is to utilize the technology in a way that we do not overuse the technology. To put everything we can possibly do onto the site with little regard for the user would be foolish. It is, in the end, all about that user. What will make them learn the most from this website?

 We have decided to create a site with global linking (a good idea for any site). However, I feel that to make a website serve its purpose, it must instantly tell the user what its purpose is and lead him or her in the right direction. The key to this (on the home page) is to put together a series of “quick links” that highlight the most important areas of the site. Although a user can find these areas by using the global links, someone not familiar with the site could be presented with this quick link button, be intrigued, and visit the page. Thus, we are teaching the user what we are about by highlighting the areas of our site.

These “quick links” must be simple and catchy. Add too much animation or interaction and you lose the user. There is always a fine line between cool and interesting and too much.

Transforming the Conformed February 23, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in instructional design.
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Back in the day someone thought it was a good idea to create these super-packed, super-long courses. The more that was in the courses, the better they were. So we have these courses now, with awesome content, yet not many users that have the time to take them. How do we transform the conformed? How do we convince those that designed the large courses that big is not better. Once again, I am not sure…

Learners of today have 15 minute chunks of time and not hour long breaks. Information is better transferred in chunks.

It is a fight for good instruction. So many elements must come together to make it good. So now I mus ttry to transform the conformed. Someday…

Compliance Training: Stumped February 15, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in compliance.
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The whole issue of compliance training stumps me. The compliance industry seems to devour itself. The requirements for such training do not entirely support engaging and non-linear training, however, this is what the learner wants. The learner wants control of their learning and I don’t blame them.

I am stumped, yet the company moves ahead. We create courses in the standard way. Multiple sections and subsections lined with content packed pages. Duration extends way longer than it should be, yet this information must be learned. And in many cases, learned in this order. The execs at banks want straight forward compliance training, so we satisfy them. The learners want to be engaged and take control – they’re left to want.

So by satisfying the execs we forget about the learners? What is the goal of training? Is it for the learners to learn or for the execs to be happy?

And if the learners are made happy, does this mean the content in the training is sacrificed? Where’s the happy medium? Is there a happy medium?……………..

BLOGS IN EDUCATION January 27, 2007

Posted by stacey27 in blogs.
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Introduction

New learning technologies are emerging, which means that many questions are being raised and many walls must be broken down. As more people are adapting the blog to be used in education, it is important to understand what a blog is, how people are using blogs, what the challenges are with blogs, and why blogs should be used.

What Is A Blog?

Some say a blog, short for “web log,” is “a tool that serves as an online journal encouraging personal reflection” (Williams, 2004). However, a universal truth is that blogs are easy to use, do not require the user to install any software, offer plenty of control over the design and operation of the blog, instantly updated and available, and linkable (Armstrong). Thus, blogs are growing tremendously, gaining a dedicated readership. Educators are finding that blogs encourage students to further discuss topics and share up-to-date information (Williams, 2004).

Blogs possess a personality but most importantly, a point of view (Kennedy, 2003). This is evident through the writing on a blog. However, at first, writing a blog seems to be only a form of publishing. “But as time goes by, blogging resembles more and more a conversation. And for a conversation to be successful, it must be given a purpose and it must remain…unconstrained” (Downes, 2004).

Blogging is actually not about writing at all. Writing is just the end process that takes place if all else has been done properly. Blogging is about reading and engaging with the content and the authors (Downes, 2004). A blogger who does not know this ends up writing a quite boring blog. However, the blogger that is a reader understands that to write a good blog is to engage in a topic. Therefore, blogging has evolved from a simple tool to publish online diaries to a high traffic publication tool of the large industries (Williams, 2004).

In education, because blogs are becoming easier to use, they are more welcomed (O’Hear, 2006). And educators are finding that students hold and overwhelmingly positive view of blogs (Armstrong).

How Are Blogs Used?

It seems that the areas where blogs are being used most in educational applications is where journals have already proven to be a useful tool and thus, the transition to blogs met less resistance. However, just requiring students to write in a blog is not enough. Blogging in an educational environment is most effective when the students are given some direction at the beginning as to how to blog and what to expect from it (Williams, 2004). One professor of English, Jeff Golub, encourages his students, future teachers, to encourage personal authorship of students. He belives, “…students will write when they have something to say, when they have an audience, and when they get feedback” (Kennedy, 2003).

Blog use by students ranges from offering personal online space, posing questions, publishing work, and linking and commenting to other sources on the web (O’Hear, 2006). Blogs have benefit students by being a tool to document in-class discussions where participation credit is awarded for commenting on the blog (Downes, 2004). They can be used as a place to store a collection of important snippets of information gathered from lecture and notes (Armstrong). Also, great advantages can come when multiple people author a single blog and contribute to a unified purpose (Downes, 2004).

One way educators utilize blogs in education is for assignments. They will assign a specific reading and require students to post their responses on a blog (Carvin, 2006). Teachers also have been using blogs for their classes to create the class web site and post everything from the syllabi to assignment notifications. They may also use these class blogs to post links to relevant web pages on the internet in order to spark conversation or comments (Downes, 2004).

What Are The Challenges?

Despite the many ways that blogs can be used, there are challenges that must first be faced. These challenges range from technology to blog management to learning styles.

One downside to a blog is that there can be a technical barrier (Watrall, 2006). A blog is no good when a person cannot get past the learning curve to make use of the blog. Proper education about the blog must occur before benefiting from the blog if such a barrier exists. And just because a piece of technology can be used for education that does not mean that it will produce positive results for all aspects of education. As when using any technology with learning, the challenge always lies in the integration (Kennedy, 2003). One area of learning that blogs do not lend themselves very well to is memorization. Students using this method of learning do not require the self-organization and self-assessment that a blog offers (Homik).

“The social and peer contact and learning between students and face to face training is very difficult to replicate online,” even on a blog (Armstrong, Conclusions section, para. 4). For all that a blog can do, it is not able to do everything. Also, no matter how great of a tool a blog is, it is only effective if the learner wants to use it. That is when the most learning is harvested (Farmer, 2004). If a student does not want to take part in the blog, the value of a blog is lost.

“Students have long learned as much from each other as they have from an instructor or a text book – it’s just a question of finding an appropriate vehicle for facilitating this learning” (Williams, 2004, Summary section, para. 5). Could the appropriate vehicle be a blog? Quite possibly.

Why Use A Blog?

Each person could use a blog for a completely different reason. However, there are some known reasons that people blog. The most attractive characteristic of a blog is how easy it is to use (Downes, 2004). It is easy to locate, manage and access, and impossible to lose (Armstrong). And because a blog can be used for a number of reasons, “there is no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to use a blog.” It can be molded to fit an individual’s needs (Carvin, 2006, para. 11).

Another benefit of blogs is that the publication of personal thoughts for the public to read can prove to be uplifting and sometimes healing (Williams, 2004). It provides a venue for the release of feelings and makes a blogger feel more accomplished. In the recent past, bulletin boards and chatting capabilities have demonstrated a varying degree of effectiveness. However, blogs give the student a greater sense of control and a higher degree of satisfaction in online learning (Armstrong). Shy students respond very well to blogs and are able to show as much energy as more outgoing students usually do in class (Carvin, 2006). Thus, most all students seem to react very positively to using blogs in education (Armstrong).

In addition, blogs connect more people than just those in one class. They can reach across many classes or across the world (Carvin, 2006). This occurrence of, “collective knowledge generation can and should be applied to traditional educational environments” (Williams, 2004, Introduction section, para. 8). They provide benefits for students of a wide range of ages. One fifth-grade student, Dominic Ouellet-Tremblay, wrote, “the blogs give us a chance to communicate between us and motivate us to write more”. Because students, now in fifth grade, are utilizing blogs for learning, as these students enter high school and college, they will be expecting their educators to use similar technologies and will be well experienced at using blogs (Downes, 2004, para. 3).

Educators must begin to embrace this learning technology or lose out on many great opportunities for learning. The creative nature of blogging and open learning environment allows students to guide their own learning in a way that surpasses the traditional curriculum. In college, professors are expecting much more from their students. “If professors want students to become autonomous, creative, helpful, and cooperative, educational institutions must actually allow students to practice exactly these skills…by designing curriculums and courses that really value these courses” (Williams, 2004, The BSBG MBA Blog section, para. 11). The blog could greatly aid in the development of such skills.

In the traditional work that is produced for class, either individually or in a group, is completed knowing that the work will be under the scrutiny of the teacher. This assessment of the work is usually the sole motivation for the student (Farmer, 2004). The student’s work is done to satisfy the teacher. Because a blog’s audience is the public, the work on a blog is done with this wider audience in mind. A student is more compelled to produce higher quality work when a larger audience will be critiquing the work. Therefore, a greater learning experience is had by the student.

Not only does a blog give a student more of a sense of purpose, but it gives the student’s studying a sense of order and routine (Armstrong). Because of how a blog is structured, the posts are displayed in a reverse-chronological order. And the ease of use allows a student to post regularly. “The learner needs to articulate the connection between new information and what they already know” (Armstrong, Learning Journals section, para. 3). This order and routine makes it easier for a user to reflect on learned information. In the same respect, a blog allows a blogger to capture knowledge and catalog for access at a later time (Williams, 2004).

If a student does not play an active role in learning, the knowledge is quickly forgotten. Learning logs, or blogs, can help to lessen the lost knowledge by serving as the active learning element (Homik). Writing a blog helps a student to develop a confident and clear voice and develops higher level thinking because he or she must confront personal views and analyze how these views might be interpreted and judged by others. By doing so and engaging with the content, a student increases the success of the transfer of knowledge. Also, the “…learning through hypertext links to relevant material encourages revisiting and revising of learned concepts, enriching the learning experience.” This feature further adds to the engagement and active involvement with content. The power of blogs in the educational environment really lies in the heightened autonomy while at the same time encouraging more interaction with peers, thus making the blog a transformational technology (Williams, 2004).

“We read about the potential of online learning to bring learning to life, to engender workplace learning or life long learning…This is the sort of thing they mean: that the lessons we might expect to find in the classroom work their way through alternative means, into our day-to-day activities” (Downes, 2004).

Conclusion

Blogs provide educators with a supportive learning tool that can be used for a variety of purposes. Blogs offer a learning experience that is unique and actively engages the student. Once past the technological barrier and in the appropriate learning situations, if blogs are incorporated into the learning activities, a greater transfer of knowledge will occur for the student and provide a richer learning experience. Thus, teachers and students alike must learn what a blog is, how blogs are being used, what the challenges with blogs are, and why blogs should be used.

References

Armstrong, Laurie, Dr. Marsha Berry, and Reece Lamshed. BLOGS AS ELECTRONIC LEARNING JOURNALS. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/docs/Vol7_No1/CurrentPractice/Blogs.htm.

Carvin, Andy. (2006). Using Blogs as a Novel Approach to Engage Students. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from PBS TeacherSource learningnow.com Web Site: http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/learning.now/2006/06/using_blogs_as_a_novel_approac.html.

Downes, Stephen. (2004, September/October). Educational Blogging. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(5), 14-26.

Farmer, James. (2004, April). What’s the Blogging Point?: Can personal webpublishing have a qualitative impact on learning. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from incorporated subversion Web Site: http://radio.weblogs.com/0120501/2004/04/05.html#a625.

Homik, Martin and Erica Melis. USING BLOGS FOR LEARNING LOGS. Retrieved January 13, 2007, from ActiveMath Web Site: http://www.activemath.org/pubs/HomikMelis-ep2006.pdf.

Kennedy, Kristen. (2003). Writing With Web Logs. Retrieved January 13, 2007, from techLearning Web Site: http://www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/TL/2003/02/blogs.php.

O’Hear, Steve. (2006). e-learning 2.0 – how Web technologies are shaping education. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from Read/WriteWeb Web Site: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/e-learning_20.php.

Watrall, Ethan and Nicole Ellison. (2006). Blogs for Learning: A case study. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from Higher Ed Blog Con 2006 Web Site: http://www.higheredblogcon.com/index.php/blogs-for-learning-a-case-study/.

Williams, Jeremy and Joanne Jacobs. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.