Saturday, June 30, 2007

Social Networking In Plain English

Here is another great video from Common Craft - "Social Networking in Plain English" - if you have ever thought about getting involved with social networking or one of the social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn),but aren't sure what it is all about, then this video is for you:

Life After Death By PowerPoint

There has been a lot written in the blogosphere and elsewhere about PowerPoint - useful tool, horrible crutch, destroyer of education as we know it - you choose.

We have all sat through those presentations that we "affectionately" call "Death By PowerPoint" - slide 22, slide 23..., slide 45, slide 46 - make it STOP!!

This is a hilarious video from Don McMillan - it is a look at what NOT to do with PowerPoint. Follow his lead and you should be able to get your point across in your presentation without any serious casualties or fatalities...

Life After Death by PowerPoint

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Monday, June 25, 2007

So You Want To Know About Blogging...

Got this from Randommind - it's from the Fischbowl, an amazing educational blog created by Karl Fisch and the staff at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado. You may also know him as the creator of "Did You Know" ( a "refreshed" version of Did You Know - "Did you Know 2.0" is now available, from the Fischbowl blog, YouTube, and Google Video).

This video is students and teachers talking about blogging and what they do with it, how they learn by blogging, and what they get out of blogging. It's essential viewing for anyone who wants to blog or is thinking about using blogs as an educational tool or is thinking of adding them to their learning environments. It is crammed with ideas and innovations on how to use blogs as learning tools.

Thanks again to randommind for sharing this with me, and to the Fischbowl for the creation of this amazing video. It's what blogging can be as an educational tool...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Trends and Impacts of E-Learning 2.0

This is a video of Stephen Downes giving a presentation to the International Conference on Open Courseware and eLearning in Taipei, Taiwan, June 13, 2007. He has perhaps the best and simplest explanations of Web 2.0 and social networking that I have heard in a long time.

He also relates Web 2.0 and learning and the development of e-learning applications. His idea of learning "where you need it" is very appealing to me - it is learner-centred, and owned by the learner - it's all about engaged learners. Telephones as learning tools and mobile learning - cool..

I highly recommend this video as must see for anyone interested in learning, e-learning, and Web 2.0...

STLHE 2007 - Presentations and Handouts

If you are interested in looking at any of the STLHE 2007 conference proceedings, many of them are available at the STLHE Conference 2007 - Conference Handouts Web page. This page is being added to regularly. It's a great resource for adult educators and a one-stop site for seeing the presentations and workshops from STLHE 2007.

Take a look!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Goodbye Textbooks - Hello Open Source Learning

This video is of Richard Baraniuk, an engineering professor and founder of Connexions, an Open Source environment for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web (from the Connexions Web site). It is a very cool approach to creating and sharing learning resources and environments. The video is one of the many amazing videos from, another incredible site. Check it out.

I am in the process of looking at "liberating" my courses from textbooks, and replacing them with the more immediate resources of the Web, Web 2.0 and tools like connexions.

Take a look at the video, and let me know what you think. Am I on the right track? Are textbooks an obsolete form of information sharing, particularly with today's "Millennials". Who should be creating and delivering content - learners or me? How should that content be delivered? As you can see - more questions than answers...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

STLHE 2007 - A Few Days On...

It's been a few days since the end of STLHE 2007, and I'm back in Nova Scotia (not quite home yet though - I'm in Truro co-facilitating a CCEDP course). Other than a 45 minute delay because of a severe thunderstorm in Edmonton (you can see the clouds behind the airplane), it was an uneventful, but long trip back to the East Coast. Lots of time to start the contemplation and reflection on the mass of information received at STLHE 2007.

First, the most amazing part of STLHE 2007 was the people - an incredible, talented group (over 500 all told) of scholars, teachers, mentors, and facilitators all passionate about teaching and learning. the networking opportunities, the lunch time round tables and the hallway discussions betweens sessions and over coffee were a great way to hear what people had to say. I'm still digesting what I heard and learned, and determining what I can apply to my own practice.

I heard several common threads at STLHE 2007:
  • A need to move from "teaching/lecturing" to facilitation
  • A need to engage and connect with the Millennial generation (through the use of innovation, Web 2.0, and social software, among others)
  • The use of portfolio learning, PBL, and service learning to improve the learning environments and experiences of today's post-secondary learner
  • A lot of talk about learner-centred education
I look at these discussion threads (and there were many more), and one thing immediately comes to mind - we are doing good (maybe great) things at NSCC - many of us are already there on the threads above, certainly with our use of portfolio learning, PBL, learning (as opposed to learner)-centred education, and facilitation. many of us are also looking at implementing Web 2.0 tools and social software as a way to engage our learners, but there is a lot more that we can do.

All in all STLHE 2007 was an amazing experience - I can think of nothing better than going again next year to see where we are...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

STLHE 2007 - A Few Quick Parting Thoughts

The formal conference is now over, but now begins the digestion and reflection of the last few days. It has been a jammed packed, intensive, transformational experience and I am so glad to have been a part of it. I'm sure I will will realize just how much I have learned in a few days or week, but for now I just wanted to get down a few points:
  • We are doing good things at NSCC - we stack up well against all of the universities and colleges that were here and in fact are ahead of many in areas like learning-centredness, facilitation, and portfolio learning
  • The teaching and learning community in Canada is very open, collaborative, sharing, and down to Earth. I have never seen so many academics relaxed and enjoying themselves
  • The level of scholarship in Canada is high, and NSCC is right up there
  • I am doing far more right things in my classrooms than wrong things
  • Web 2.0 and social networking are having a profound effect on post-secondary teaching and learning and will cause a fundamental paradigm shift as institutions adapt to serving the Millennials
  • I cannot recommend coming to STLHE highly enough - if you are an adult educator, you must attend
  • I would love to come back to a future STLHE, as a presenter showing off some of the things that we are doing at NSCC (that's my shameless plug for a return trip to STLHE)
All week here at the University of Alberta we have been serenaded by raucous flocks of jays, so I thought it appropriate to give the jays the last word...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Three - An Introduction To The Concept And Practice Of Community Service Learning

This presentation was given by Cheryl Rose for the University of Guelph and the Canadian Association For Community Service Learning. a small audience of only 5 people, so this presentation was more of a chat than a formal presentation.

There is a long history of service learning in Canada, the USA, UK, South Africa, and China (among others).

Eyler and Giles in their book "Where is the Learning in Service Learning", define service learning as:

"Form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students work with others through a process of applying what they are learning to community problems and at the same time reflecting upon their experience as they seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves"

Key elements from the definition:
  • Experiential education - cycles of action and reflection
  • Working with others - partnerships and collaborations
  • Community problems - assets, issues, questions
Objectives for the community/benefits to learners - intentionally reciprocal in nature

The association Web site has lots of great material. This was a good presentation in that it exposed me to the scale of service learning in Canada. Service learning is not a new concept, it has been around a long time and there is a large body of knowledge around it. This will hold me and others at NSCC in good stead as we incorporate service learning into our programmes. Some essential resources for faculty, staff, and learners.

STLHE 2007 - Getaway Day

It's the last day of STLHE 2007 (last morning actually) and I'm heading to the airport around noon for the trek back to Halifax. It's been an amazing experience being here, and hard to believe that it's only been three days. I've met some amazing people, heard some fantastic presentations (including my first Nobel laureate), had some suspicions confirmed, and had a bunch of new ones raised.

I cannot recommend STLHE highly enough - if you are involved in post-secondary education, you MUST attend this conference. The open, friendly atmosphere and the intense focus on teaching and learning and how to make them better is palpable, and invigorating - I am all charged up and full of ideas - a truly transformational experience.

I'll be blogging some final thoughts on STLHE 2007 in a few days once I've had an opportunity to do my own reflecting, but for now let me start the day with another great Edmonton sunrise:

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - Enhancing Student Learning Through Project Portfolios

This presentation was given by Andre Oberle from the University of Scranton. he is a professor of German and has been using project portfolios for some time. This was the last presentation of the day on a Friday and the room was full to overflowing, indicating to me a high level of interest in the use of portfolios.

He gave a great presentation explaining portfolios, their creation, use, pros and cons, and gave several exampled or rubrics and tools that can be used to create and manage portfolios.

Andre recommended to the audience that they start slowly, using project portfolios for individual projects/assignments, then moving on to course/programme portfolios. I actually like his idea of small portfolios for individual pieces of work - they could quite easily become building blocks for larger programme-based portfolios.

When creating project portfolios, he gets learners to include all of their reserach, drafts, feedback, comments, and any other artifacts they have collected in their portfolios. I really like this idea - really helps with academic integrity issues if all sources, drafts etc. are included in the portfolio.

Portfolios are a great way to measure the achievement of learning outcomes and they also reinforce the need for critical self-reflection - answering the "why" question.

A great way to end the day on a high note. I am going to think about how I might implement project portfolios in my courses as smaller, more manageable portfolio "chunks" for my learners as a way of helping them build their larger, all encompassing programme portfolios. Hmmm...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - The Changing UK Education Environment And Its Impact Upon Student Learning Behaviours

This presentation was given by Robert J. Williams from the University of Plymouth. I attended this presentation as I wanted to get some idea of the issues facing post-secondary institutions in the UK.

Ther have been some major changes to the UK post-secondary scene in the past few years due to government initiatives:
  • Funding is now based on numbers
  • There is an increased intake into higher education
  • Student fees and loans (tuition fees are new to UK university and colleges in the past year or so)
  • Quality audits/student perception surveys
  • Personal development
  • widening participation (government aim for 50% of eligible learners to attend higher education. Rate in Canada is approximately 24%)
  • Credits accumulation/transfer
  • Foundation degrees from feeder institutions
Now seeing more diverse learners with larger classes. More learners with disabilities.

mandated creation of MLEs, managed learning environments - uploading of lectures, notes, assignments etc.

  1. There is now a greater diversity of ability/interest/motivation amongst learners
  2. Reduced ability to concentrate
  3. Reduced self-confidence
  4. reduced inclination to participate in class
  5. Poorer lecture attendance, particularly in morning lectures
  6. Reduced ability to organize teams for team projects
Learners are becoming more strategic in their approach to learning (this ties back to Selinda berg's presentation - education as a product). they are better organized, deciding on whether to attend or use the online MLE resources. there is a distinct attitude of "mark harvesting" vs. "thirst for knowledge"

The question posed was should this strategic approach to learning be encouraged? many learners are using MLEs as distance learning courses, which is not what they were intended for, resulting in higher levels of absenteeism, but this is what learners want - the ability to be strategic about their learning - when, where, and how they will learn.

Much of this change has come about due to work committments in order to fund what was once a free education (fees are now about 6000 pounds/year).

A good glimpse into the state of higher education in the UK - they are having many of the same problems we are. The big question is though - do we accept learner's strategic, product-based approach to learning and accommodate it,or do we continue to put up barriers to learning? If we really believe in Education Without Boundaries the answer to that question should be simple...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - Conflicting Cultures: Promoting Academic Integrity To The Millennial Generation

This presentation was given by Selinda A. Berg, a librarian from the University of Western Ontario.

There is a need to understand the culture that Millennials live in and it is different from the academic culture. Selinda handed out a sheet listing 15 different Web 2.0 and other online tools and technologies. Two questions were asked - how many of them have you heard of and how many do you use. I had heard of all of them and I use 10 of them (YES - I am an uber-geek - and proud of it!). many in the room had not heard of most of the names on the list.

So what does that mean? Some of these tools have given Millennials a false sense of consequence. For example:
  • YouTube - severe copyright issues - but the message being sent is that there is a small consequence/repercussions for violators uploading videos and other copyrighted material
  • FanFiction - ideas are free, there is no consequence or repercussion (except to the original authors who are warned by their legal counsel to stay away from the site so as not to inadvertently steal fans' ideas).
  • MusicMashup - rip, mix, burn - again little consequence or repercussion. Even professional musicians are doing it.
Basically the attitude is if it can be digitized, it can be distributed as Millennials are pushing information out onto the Web, they are not just consuming it (a la Web 1.0).

Traits of Millennials:
  1. Sense of privilege
  2. Atmosphere of consumerism
  3. Desire for customization, personalization, and choice
  4. Very social with a committment to the power of collaboration
  5. Goal oriented
  6. Complete immersion in technology
Millennials are product oriented consumers, this includes their attitude towards education, just another product.

  1. Clearly define standards of scholarship
  2. Separate the social environment from the scholarship, academia, and professional worlds
  3. maintain academic standards when engaging in a social environment with the Millennial generation
  4. Consequences:
    1. Unlike FanFiction - ideas are owned by authors
    2. Unlike YouTube - you are not allowed to republish and redistribute
    3. Unlike Music Mashup - you cannot mix and match
    4. Unlike the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bob Dylan - you cannot cut and paste
  5. Use authentic assessments
I had hoped to hear at this presentation (other than the confirmation that yes, I am a geek) some changes in attitude towards the way information is moved and shared in the Web 2.0, social networking online world we live in today. This didn't happen. There were some good strategies mentioned, but they were to get Millennials to "toe the current line". My own opinion is that the way we look at information ownership and how we handle that ownership and rights to it has to fundamentally change. For example, there was no mention made of Creative Commons licensing, yet several people in the audience were talking about it amongst themselves.

An interesting presentation, but the debate continues...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - Lunch Round Table Discussion - Coping With College Online Teaching

This lunch time round table discussion was hosted by Claudi Caruana from the University of Maryland/University College. We talked about online learning (OLL) at universities and colleges.

We discussed the various tools available to us for OLL, including LMS systems like Moodle, TLM, WebCT and so on. Most of those around the table with OLL experience seemed to prefer Moodle.

Some of the other issues that were raised were:
  • Handling of proctered tests - what processes were used to control them - mailing paper tests, opening and closing Web-based tests and so on
  • Facilitator preparation for OLL - at the University of Maryland all online instructors get six weeks of training that has to be refreshed.
  • use of web 2.0 tools in OLL- behind or in front of the firewall?
  • How each of used LMSs (I'm personally not a big fan of LMSs, but they appear to have their place in OLL, particularly in the areas of testing, grading, and monitoring of learner performance)
  • The use of Elluminate and/or Wimba as an OLL tool. The consensus was that Wimba was the better tool for many institutions simply because the per seat cost of Elluminate was too high
All in all a stimulating conversation, and one that has me thinking about exatly what the art of the possible is with OLL...

More Clouds - What Can I Say

What can i say - another picture that I just like. The clouds here in Edmonton are amazing. see for yourself:

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - Knowleges Exchange in the SCoPE Online Community

This presentation was given by Elizabeth Wallace from Simon Fraser University, the home of SCoPE, the Simon Fraser Community of Practices in Education. For me this was the best presentation I attended so far in the conference - Elizabeth was enthusiastic and engaging, getting all of us involved in the discussion. She is an amazing facilitator.

her premise (which makes a lot of sense to me) is that there are a lot of knowledges, not one knowledge - think about knowledges in the plural - learners, faculty, everyone brings a knowledge to the table. This is a conceptual framework or paradigm shift (June's use).

Her blog at is a great place to start looking at knowledges:
  • Knowledges are pluralistic
  • Knowledges exchange is an alternative approach to the industrial age model of teaching and learning
  • The process of knowledges exchange is based on mutual respect
  • In an education system that embraces knowledges exchange, learners are evaluated on how efficiently they facilitate the exchange with others, not on personal achievement
Scope is a knowledge exchange.

This presentation made a lot of sense to me because it is really what I do - I exchange knowledge with peers. learners, and complete strangers - it is how I work and how I think...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - How To Connect With Millennials Or Generation Y

This presentation was given by Linda Szekely from the University of Alberta. The thrust of the presentation was how to best connect with Millennials, the generation that currently makes up the majority of post-secondary learners. the current generations are:
  1. The seniors (veterans) - born between 1922 and 1943
  2. The baby boomers - born between 1944 and 1960
  3. Generation X - born between 1960 and 1980
  4. Generation Y (Millennials) - born between 1980 and 2000
There are many differences/conflicts between the generations. Millennials are the most child-centric generation and are technologically savvy.

For example here are some stats on Facebook:
  • 18th in world Web sites
  • Number 1 for photos in USA
  • Toronto is the largest Facebook network - 600,000
  • second most in thing with undergrads tied with beer and sex
  • losing inly to the iPod
Millennials are keen on achievement, pressured to the point of cheating, life comes before work, and they are significant users of technology.

Proven practices with Millennials:
  • Feedback
  • More time to process and analyze
  • Longer orientation to foster sense of safety and belonging
  • Reward rather than punish to inspire, not isolate
An interesting questionnaire was handed out - 30 questions, each with three answers. The questionnaire was scored with each question being put into one of three categories:
  1. Baby Boomers
  2. Generation X
  3. Millennials
I scored my questionnaire and the results were:
  1. Baby Boomers - 4
  2. Generation X - 11
  3. Millennials - 15
This despite being a baby boomer (by birth anyway). these result may explain a lot to some people, but i attribute my attitudes to the fact that I am immersed in new technologies and spend most of my time with Millennials. Something had to rub off eventually...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day Two - Creating Learner-Centred Curriculum In Higher Education - Faculty Perspectives

This presentation was done by Martha Cleveland-Innes of Athabasca University and Claudia Emes of the University of Calgary. They presented their findings on a study looking at curriculum redesign, moving from "planning For Teaching" to "Designing For Learning", a move towards PBL. It takes the responsibility/work from faculty serving up information to learners finding solutions.

Principles for Curriculum redesign:
  1. Explicit and accessible documentation of required outcomes
  2. Explicit and continuous reference to documented evidence of students experience
  3. Choices regarding pathways to master skills and knowledge (learner driven)
  4. Curriculum Delivery will be flexible and offer choices
  5. Clarity of role expectations and required behaviours
  6. Role adjustment for faculty - content expert and supporter of learner. Create deep, independent, self-managed learners
This is a learner-centred approach - the learners is at the centre of the curriculum development process

Study Findings:
  1. Issues in the move to learner-centredness
    1. clarifying expectations
    2. institutional support
    3. setting objectives
    4. finding resources
    5. moving online
    6. realizing outcomes
    7. lecture vs. seminar
  2. New learner role requirements
    1. deep, independent, self-managed learner
    2. higher expectations
    3. improved initiation
    4. periodic check points
    5. reflective learning
    6. new responsibility
This presentation reinforced for me many of the things that we are currently doing at NSCC with regards to curriculum development - I believe that we are definitely on the right path...

Friday, June 15, 2007

STLHE 2007 - Fort Edmonton and the Banquet

The STLHE 2007 banquet was held in the Blatchford Field Air hangar at Fort Edmonton Park. Fort Edmonton Park is a living history park that traces the growth and development of Edmonton through four historical periods represented by: The Fort, 1885 Street, 1905 Street and 1920 Street.

The tour of Fort Edmonton park started with a train ride and then we were dropped off at the banquet site. The banquet itself was quite well done, with a great menu and lots of socializing. the highlight of the night was the presentation of 3M National Teaching Fellows Awards to this year's recipients.
Here is a look at the menu and the 2007 3M National Teaching Fellows

A great evening of socializing, fun, and great food (for more pictures check out my Flickr site).

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day One - Educational Blogging - Applications and Challenges

This session was conducted by Zuochen Zhang from the University of Windsor. His presentation was mostly about the use of blogs by younger learners (K-12), but had some application for post-secondary use.

There was lack of understanding in the audience of what blogs are. Zhang recommended that blogs could be used for assignments to get you out beyond the box of traditional assignments.

He also recommended to not overdo blogs - don't get students to blog if everyone is getting them to blog - coordinate the process.

This short 30 minute presentation confirmed that what I am doing with blogs and what I plan on doing with blogs is on track...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day One - Slinging MUDD Across the Pond in a Virtual Environment

this session was presented by Barbara Campbell from the faculty of Nursing at UPEI. The MUDD Map was developed in conjunction with Kay Barrington from MUN.

MUDD Mapping stands for My, Understanding, Dialogue, Debate. It is an interactive teaching-learning activity. The emphasis is on 'sculpting through dialogue'. Learners are invited to take the mud of their courses (usually the course objectives) and sculpt them into something that makes sense to them, something that they can understand.

Learners agree to certain prerequisites before a MUDD Mapping session:
  1. Do the required reading prior to the session
  2. Reflect on past clinical situations and link the experiential component
  3. Be ready for debate/feedback
The teacher is present during a MUDD Mapping activity, but acts chiefly as the facilitator for the process, with 'intervention' status only when the learner is experiencing difficulty.

MUDD map looks very much like a mind map. An interesting tool, and one that could help small groups link concepts together as they review a topic...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day One - Lunch Roundtable - Implementing PBL In An Undergraduate Business Course

They have a really neat way of doing lunch here at STHLE 2007 - it's held in a big tent in a series of "round table" discussions on various topics. I sat in on the round table discussion "Implementing PBL In An Undergraduate Business Course". Our "host" was Denise Stockley from Queen's University. She described for us the experience they had conducting a PBL business course - and showed us the date that convinced Queen's School of Business to expand its use of PBL.

We had a great conversation about PBL, its pros and cons, about the need for good, clear, measurable outcomes and authentic assessment through the use of rubrics. We also talked a lot about problem formulation and that the key to good PBL problems was to not give too much information, at least initially (more kudos to David Gotshall).

There was also some discussion of what is being done at the University of Maastricht, which has a totally PBL based curriculum. Some of us (me :-)) had some experience with PBL (I use it extensively and have written about it for CCEDP and as part of my MEd research), while others were new to the subject, but eager to try it. One common thread that I have heard throughout the conference is a great willingness to get away from lecturing and the "sage on the stage" and to move towards teaching styles and strategies that will engage learners. It's great to hear and reassuring to know that I am already there.

A great session and a great way to eat lunch with your colleagues...

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day One - Experiential Learning

This session, presented by Randolph Wimmer from the University of Alberta, was the results of a study into various disciplines' "field experience" (FE). FE includes co-op, internships, work placements, practicums, of varying length and complexity.

This was three year study across several disciplines and their own unique approaches to FE. although there were many different disciplinary contexts, the content of FE was mostly similar. FE was valued most by learners across all programmes. Those that had a FE components in their programmes felt that they received a superior education than those that did not (this bodes well for our approach to work experience, co-op, and Applied Portfolio).

Learners involved in FE felt that hey had more time to reflect on what they were doing - FE added a reflective self-assessment piece to their learning. faculty like working with FE- it enabled them to identify with a profession.

It appears from this study that FE in all of its forms is a value-add to a learner's post secondary experience. This is certainly true with what we are doing at NSCC.

STLHE 2007 - Conference Day One - Web 2.0 and Post-Secondary Education

Before I describe and reflect on what happened today, let me explain my motivation for selecting the sessions that I did. I came to the conference particularly interested in seeing what others were doing in the areas that I am interested in - Web 2.0, portfolio, Problem-based learning (PBL) and so on. So you will see that my selection of sessions reflects that.

The first session of the day that I attended was "Web 2.0 and Post-Secondary Education" presented by John Mitterer from Brock University. As he put it - "Web 2.0 isn't a thing - it's a state of mind". I couldn't agree more.

John is a psychology professor who among other things teaches a first year class of 1400 students (that's not a typo and I will never complain again about class sizes at NSCC), so he doe snot do a lot of Web 2.0 stuff with them, but he is thinking about it.

As a frame of reference, he made the following distinctions between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0:
  • Web 1.0 - a giant library
  • Web 2.0 - the Web as a giant conversation - individual control over the means of production - allows for creativity, power, and expression
Web 2.0 participation empowers individuals (I read this as learners). he recommended Thomas Friedman's book "The World is Flat". I will have to get a copy.

There is a need to get back to inquiry, critical thinking, discovery learning, and reflection. Web 2.0 can help do this - as an example he presented, a student produced wiki from York University. Asa counterpoint he presented a faculty run site - BioMe, this site is controlled by faculty and while it has aspects of social interaction, is not really a social Web 2.0 site (IMHO).

He suggested that instead of papers, get learners to post to wikis (something I have done) instead of papers and assignments - share their work. Use blogs to get learners to express opinions and tell stories (we need more story telling).

He then posed this question - can Web 2.0 be used for inquiry? Can (or should) inquiry tools be socially constructed. he then presented us with an example of one - Otavo, created by a student ( - dubbed the "Intention Engine", Otavo is inquiry-based software that takes users of "quests" for information etc.

An interesting session and a good way to start the day - Web 2.0 is being used to varying degrees in post-secondary education, but is still a ways away - that whole digital divide between faculty and learners...

STLHE 2007 - Opening Plenary - Dr. Carl Wieman

The official start of the conference got off to a great start. The opening plenary keynote speaker was Dr. Carl Wieman, Nobel Prize winning physicist (the first Nobel laureate I have met BTW), who now heads the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at UBC. He spoke on "Science Education For The 21st Century".

As he put it, ignore that he won the Nobel Prize, and focus on the fact that he has good data to back up what he is saying. Science education (and this applies really to any discipline) needs to be effective and relevant to a large fraction of the population - there is a need to think about and use science like a scientist:
  • Practices based on good data
  • Utilize research on how people learn
  • Distribute results in a scholarly manner
  • Utilize modern technology (he shortened his presentation and did not talk a lot about this point)
Research indicates that learners can handle seven or less things in memory - this is a way lower number than what is actually happening in most science classrooms. There is a pressing need to reduce unnecessary cognitive load - reduced cognitive load improve learning (less really is more - between Dr. Wieman and David Gotshall I am getting that message loud and clear!).

On average, learners will learn less than 30% of concepts already not known. there are implications for instruction:
  1. Student beliefs about science and science problem solving are important (you can avoid a decline if you explicitly address beliefs - to me this means engage the learner)
  2. Traditional science courses are poor at developing expert-like thinking
  3. Need to actively engage learners and guide their learning
    1. Know where they are starting from
    2. Get active processing ideas then probe and guide
    3. Build further with extended effort
The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI) is the UBC-based centre where this research is ongoing. he is convinced (and am I) that a scientific approach to teaching works (to recap):
  • Practices based on good data
  • Utilize research on how people learn
  • Distribute results in a scholarly manner
  • Utilize modern technology
Dr. Wieman uses "clickers" (one example of many) in some of his teaching for student responses - there has been a lot of discussion about using them as they can also be used for attendance taking and grading and a lot of faculty (me too) see that as a negative (and i assume learners would too), but I think that they are a technology worth looking at for the potential engagement that might result from their use.

A great way to kick off the conference - some real food for thought. I'll be posting the rest of day one later today along with day two, so stay tuned (so much to see, so little time)!...

BTW - that's Dr. Wieman on the left in the picture above.

NOTE: A copy of Dr. Wieman's presentation is available from the STLHE conference handouts page.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Sun Never Sets...

This time of year, Edmonton gets about 18 hours a day of sunlight. I went to bed last night at 10:30 and it was sunny - I woke up this morning at 4:30 and the Sun was rising. Now I know why there are blackout shades on the window!

The upside is that Edmonton is a golfer's paradise - can you just imagine - work all day, have supper, and still have time for 18 holes? Note to self - self, bring clubs on next trip to Edmonton...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

STLHE 2007 - Day One The Pre-Conference Workshop - Problem-Based Instruction And Apprenticeship in Learning

This pre-conference workshop was led by Ranga Venkatachary from Simon Fraser University. Two main themes were covered - "Why Teach Problem Solving" and "How To Teach Problem Solving". I was attracted to this workshop because i do teach a course in Logic and Problem Solving to first year Information Technology students.

There was some initial discussion on the distinction between problem-based learning (PBL) and inquiry-based learning (IBL). after some discussion the consensus was that PBL inferred the pursuit of answers while IBL infers the pursuit and result f more questions. It's an interesting distinction that i think I will have to give some more thought to.

A question was posed to the group - "Is knowledge situated in contexts?" Personally I think that it has to be, particularly for adult learners who often bring context with then framed by the past learning and experiences. Or as it was put in the workshop, problem solving ability results from domain (knowledge of discipline) expertise and an astute reading of context.

The next topic was the use of stories in problem solving. Personally I use stories all the time to frame concepts - my own past industry experiences, analogies to everyday life, and so on. I find that using stories in problem solving (the case method maybe) helps provide context - we compare and contrast for setting context. Stories have to have triggers - what makes them useful for problem solving?

We then looked at the characteristics of a problem:
  • The form of information items
  • The organization of items into structures
  • The sequence of items
We then did an activity where we had to slect two images form a pile of pictures - one illustrating a problem, the other the solution to that problem. My two images were of a very sad looking, very wet cat (the problem) and a pod of orcas (the solution). My problem was that you could lead a learner to problem solving but quite often they just go "wet" like that cat - the solution was to get learners to learns from each other like the pod of whales. This was a very good activity that I might add to my toolkit. a word of advice was given - leave experiential learning alone - resist the temptation to intervene or give too many instructions - let the activity happen (much like David Gotshall's minimal rigid structure).

We then moved on to the second theme - "How To Teach Problem Solving". Prior knowledge sets context - have learners pull these individual contexts together. Problems are represented two ways - quantitative and qualitative:
  • Quantitative - procedural knowledge, numerical processing skills
  • Qualitative - images, metaphors, illustrations, personal identities
Use the appropriate problem representation of the problems that needs solving. The University of Maastricht has the "Seven Jumps" a a framework for how to approach problems.

Finally as a recap - knowledge is about associations - problem solving teaches us the "how" and the "why" those associations exist and associations state the potential representation of content (I hope to explore the whole issue of content and who should control it over the next couple of days).

A long, mostly content-based afternoon, but some gems came from it - problem solving is recognized as an essential skill regardless of discipline and approaches need to be presented to learners so that they may formulate their own personalized approach to problem solving.

Again it seems that I am doing a lot of good things with problem solving - particularly as it applies to helping learners develop problem solving approaches of their own.

The main conference starts tomorrow - I plan on attending sessions dealing with Web 2.0 and other collaborative approaches to learning.

STLHE 2007 - Day One The Pre-Conference Workshop - "Learning By Example - Teaching Through Facilitation"

Today was the pre-conference workshops here at STLHE 2007. Other than waking up at 4 AM Edmonton time (7 AM Halifax), the day got off to a good start. I'm right across the street from the "Butterdome", the university's fieldhouse, and boy it's bright first thing in the morning!

Conference registration went smoothly, I got my bag of goodies, and I was off to my first workshop - "Learning By Example - Teaching Through Facilitation". a really good intro to the conference, presented by two excellent facilitators from the University of Alberta, Sharla King, and Liz Taylor. The university has had an Inter Professional Initiative for many years and it includes facilitation instruction for both faculty and learners in the many different health related fields - dentistry, OT, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, etc. This inter-disciplinary approach is doing great things to prepare learners for their professional careers, and the recognition that they are part of a bigger health care team. The course that is run at the University of Alberta is INTD 410 Health Team development and it is a required course for the nine Health Science programmes at the university.The workshop looked at four main things:
  • Defining the Role of the Facilitator
  • Giving and Receiving Feedback
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Evaluation
The workshop was very hands on with the opportunity to explore these areas. they have created some great video resources for feedback and evaluation, and are using rubrics and peer feedback as key elements of their evaluation process.

They have created a tool called the Team Objective Structured Exam (TOSCE), a document that measures team processes, team outcomes, and team evaluation (by team members) - this is a great tool that I know I could use during our Applied Portfolio course or any team-based learning opportunity.

There is a lot of effort being spent at many Canadian universities to assist faculty and students with facilitation - getting away from the "sage on the stage" and more towards guided, experiential learning, and in some cases pass/fail competency-based learning - great things to hear. All in all, a very productive morning and a good introduction to the conference.

One thing that I did get out of this morning is that both NSCC as a college and myself as a facilitator are doing a lot of the "right" things, and in fact are ahead of many other institutions in our use of facilitation, team and group work and the use of rubrics in evaluation. It is always reassuring to learn that you are doing the right things for learners

This is the Central Academic Building (CAB) - Conference Central. Lots more pictures up on my Flickr site.

Now off to lunch...

STLHE 2007 - The Trip Out

I spent most of yesterday in airports and airplanes, travelling from Halifax to Edmonton (through Toronto of course) - why does everything go through Toronto (insert appropriate or inappropriate Toronto joke here...)?

Air travel has basically been reduced to riding a bus with wings - it's convenient, relatively quick, someone else is doing the driving, and you spend most of the time reading, eating or sleeping (although you have to pay to eat now :-). Actually I spent most of the time on the Toronto-Edmonton leg of the trip watching a movie son a little 5"x7" screen - a whole new experience for those of us in the progressive lens set.

Left Halifax in the cool and rain, arrived in Toronto to 31C and humidity and landed in Edmonton to 10C and cloudy - gotta love a large country and its weather. I am now firmly ensconced in the Lister Centre - the University of Alberta's conference centre.

Nice and convenient to the STLHE Conference which takes place across the street about a 5 minute walk away. The U of A is a huge, sprawling campus - I'll be posting pictures up on my Flickr site later, now that I have Internet connectivity.

Let the conference begin!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

STLHE 2007 Conference

I will be attending the STLHE 2007 conference at the University of Alberta in Edmonton fro 12-16 June. The conference theme this year is "Evolving Scholarship".

STLHE is The Society For Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. STLHE is a national association interested in improving teaching and learning in higher education. Member institutions can be found here.

From the conference Web site here is an explanation of the conference theme, "Evolving Scholarship":

"This theme also captures various perspectives of the scholarship of teaching including:
  • The scholarship of teaching and learning
  • Integrating research, teaching and learning
  • Administrative recognition and support of teaching and learning
  • Formal programs to enhance teaching and learning
  • Infrastructure to support teaching and learning
  • Experiential teaching and learning

Students today need different skills from students who attended university in the 1990s; they may need to remember less fact, but they also need a better-developed ability to access and manipulate information and to explore entirely new ideas. Also, the scholarship of teaching has changed. We recognize that we now know a great deal more about how students learn, and good professors will incorporate those findings into their teaching. Because many University staff have high qualifications in their specialty but less information about appropriate teaching techniques, Faculty Development and Offices of Education are also of interest to the Society. All these aspects are covered under the theme of "Evolving Scholarship"."

I will be blogging my experiences at the conference, so stay tuned...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More on PLEs - A Great Set of Resources

One of the issues coming out of the creation of PLEs will be the ownership of the materials and content of the PLEs. This will be particularly true of workplace and work-related PLEs - the norm these days is anything created on a company computer or network belongs to the company, but that doesn't really fit with the idea of of a personal learning environment.

The blog eLearning Technology by Tony Karrer has a great post " More Discussion on Personal Work Learning Environments", a collection of links and resources on the subject of the issues of control and resulting ownership of work product as more and more people create personal work learning environments. If you are currently blogging "inside or outside the firewall", you should take a look at the resources in this post.

So should a corporation, if it wants to be able to keep content created by an employee after that employee leaves, especially blog content, provide the Web 2.0 tools to employees rather than having tools adopted that are outside the firewall and personally owned where the company will lose the content if the employee leaves?

So - Web 2.0 inside the firewall - is that in fact still social networking, and if it is, who controls the work product? Hmmm...

No Reason, I Just Like The Picture

No particular reason for posting, I just like this picture and wanted to share it. I took this last week in Truro Nova Scotia, on a typically foggy morning - it's the sun through the fog:

You can check out the original picture, plus many more on my Flickr site.

Me And My Shadow (Are Getting Smaller)

I am six feet six tall (1.98 metres, 198 centimetres, however you want to measure it). I've been that tall since I was 14. The problem is, that while I figured out the whole vertical growth thing at an early age, I have yet to discover how to stop the horizontal growth thing. I have been wider and narrower, then wider again most of my life. My problem is a common one - all the things that I love to eat are not so kind to me, and I just have to look at food and it becomes a nine-year old wrapped around my waist. Oh yeah, and I could exercise more too...

But I think I have found a solution - and it's social networking. This spring I bought a pedometer and set the goal of walking a minimum of 10,000 paces a day. So far I am down two belt notches so it is slowly, but surely working. But it's not the walking that's doing it - it's all of you.

I have been posting my daily pace count on Facebook and the notes and encouragement ( and needling and abuse if I miss a day or post a low number) that I have been getting from my friends have been the momentum and incentive that I have needed to succeed. So thank you very much for pushing me, and please keep it up. I hope to have only a six year old around my waist by the end of the summer and then who knows (oh yeah - I do - I've committed to gasping my way through the Bluenose 10 Km race (a slow jog for me) in May 2008). There I said it - it's public, so start pushing...

Ain't social networking grand?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Digital Learners @ Analog Schools

This is an amazing video of students talking about why they cannot use digital technologies in support of their learning. Very powerful stuff.

From the description of the video (found on TeacherTube):

"Students today are native to technology and schools seem to be stuck in the past. They are not accommodating to todays digital learners. Here is a video where students speak out on what it means to be a digital student at a analog school."

So true - as educators let's listen to our learners and let them, as part of a learning-centred experience, select the ways that best allow them to express and reflect on their learning...

(Thanks to Randommind for pointing this out to me)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

RSS - Feeds R'Us

I'm a really big fan of RSS. It has become my primary source of online information. I like the idea that I can have information pushed to me without asking or having to go find it (once I subscribe to the feed).

The problem that I have is that I now have too many RSS feeds. I use NetVibes as my RSS agrregator, and I receive over 200 feeds perday. So I am reduced to scanning headlines and then reading those feeds that interest me. I still think it's a great way to get information, I just need to perhaps have a better personal "RSS filter" and stop subscribing to every feed that strikes my fancy. the efficiency of RSS more than out weighs the volume of information being sent to me

Another good RSS aggregator is Pageflakes. Both NetVibes and Pageflakes advertise themselves as much more than RSS aggregators, and in fact they are - complete with thousands of add-ons, they truly are Web start-up pages or portals.

If you are new to RSS check out the video from CommonCraft "RSS in PLain English". here is the YouTube version:

I will be using RSS feeds and aggregators (supported by blogs and wikis) beginning this Fall to augment and eventually replace text books. The information is more immediate, current, relevant, and how it is received by the learner can be customized. What do you think of my idea to remove text books and replace them with RSS feeds and other Web 2.0 technologies)?...

(Photo - The Universal RSS Logo/Icon by orangejack)

Wikis, Wikis Everywhere...

Nancy White is amazing. If you are an adult educator, you must run, not walk to a computer and read her blog. I have a Clustr map on my blog and am very happy that I have had over 600 hits. Nancy's cluster map has over 115,000 hits! In fact - all you can see is red dots representing clusters of hits - she is truly read world-wide, and often. A rare high standard for the rest of us to aspire to.

One of Nancy's recent posts is "Wikis in Plain English" which includes a very good introduction to wikis video done by Lee and Sachi LeFever of CommonCraft. The video is also available on YouTube.

I am a big believer in the power of wikis as collaborative learning tools. I use them in my courses and for my own use as well. They are a great way to get diverse groups of learners to find, share, and explain course material and content. In fact, wikis are a great way to get learners to discover and create course content, weaning them away from the expectation that it is the facilitator's or faculty's job to provide content (I do my best to provide only that content that I think is essential for the learning environment or that which might not be discovered by learners on their own). Once learners get engaged in the wiki process, they find that they are engaged in very powerful learning experiences.

The good thing is that wikis are becoming more and more universal. Wikipedia, of course, is the best known wiki, but there are many others out there that I use on a regular basis. The
Simteach wiki is a great resource for anyone involved in Second Life or other virtual worlds.

Here are some other wikis and wiki resources that I have found useful:

And here is a great article from Educause - "Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not" by Brian Lamb from the University of British Columbia. The article is a great summary of wikis and is also downloadable as a .PDF file. I highly recommend Educause as a source of educational articles and material.

Wikis are here to stay - what I need to do now as an adult educator is to figure out how to best use them to enhance my learners' learning environments (and my own too).

I would love to hear what anyone else has to say about wikis and what you are doing with them. It would also be great to get any wiki-related resources that you would be willing to share...

(Photo - wiki world (draft) by kaurjmeb)

Facebook as PLE - Part Two - The Plot Thickens...

I recently posted my thoughts about Facebook being an ideal environment for the creation of PLEs (Personal Learning Environments). I firmly believe that PLEs are the future of learning-centred adult education. PLEs ARE all about the learners - what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, how they want to share what they learn, when they want to learn, and what tools they will use in order for THEIR learning to occur.

Yesterday my friend Carolyn (Randommind) introduced me to Mosoto. Mosoto is a Web 2.0, Flash-based application that allows users to "share, chat, and discover". More importantly it fully integrates into Facebook. You can add Mosoto to you Facebook profile as one of the many Facebook Applications now available that have revolutionized Facebook.

Here is the description of Mosoto from its Web site:

"Mosoto is a new way to share and connect with your Facebook friends. With Mosoto you can easily share files, chat with friends and discover people and media in your social network. Because Mosoto is built on top of Facebook your friends and social network are already here. Mosoto is streaming social media."

Mosoto adds simple, easy to use synchronous chat, file sharing, and more to Facebook. It allows users to create private "rooms" or chats, an amazingly powerful learning tool. Combined with many of the Facebook applications mentioned in my earlier post, Mosoto provides a rich customizable learning environment - in short a PLE.

PLEs are an amazing opportunity to engage learners that many institutions may be missing due to geography, learning style, time, or dissatisfaction with "traditional" learning approaches and environments. PLEs are not just an alternate delivery or distance learning tool either. I fully believe that they will work well in classrooms, online, and in learning environments not yet thought of and that Facebook is the tool that will let this happen.

I am now convinced that I will allow and encourage my learners this coming fall to create their own PLEs and I will suggest to them that Facebook is a great place to start that PLE development. Facebook's combination of social networking, customizable environment, and ever-increasing list of easy to use applications makes it the ideal PLE development platform.

Over the next while I am going to build my own PLE using Facebook and I will share it with you once it is done. Of course being a PLE it will never actually be done, but rather will be in a state of constant renewal and evolution, so I will be looking for your feedback and comments ...