MOOCs and Education

There are two stories in the New York Times today about MOOCs (massive open online courses). Yes, two!

The stories deal with the ways schools are taking advantage of these open courses and finding ways to incorporate them into their college or university curriculum as for-credit courses. Of course, that also means they’re finding ways to monetize the courses, but still. It’s interesting because a while back, the talking heads were screaming that students shouldn’t be receiving credit for these courses.

This first one is how San Jose State is using them as remedial coursework to catch students up to where they need to be when they enter college.

The second one talks about community colleges who have taken M.I.T.’s computer classes and turned them into personalized courses that can be adapted to fit the pace of individual classes, or even students.

Here’s links: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/education/colleges-adapt-online-courses-to-ease-burden.html?pagewanted=1&smid=pl-share

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/30/education/adapting-to-blended-courses-and-finding-early-benefits.html?ref=education

I wish K-12 administrators would take the hint and get on this train, too. After all, as the first article states, about half of U.S. undergrads are not college-ready after graduating from high school and need those remedial courses. Perhaps if K-12 education took a page out of higher ed’s book and started adapting these materials to suit a high schooler, we wouldn’t have the gap in the first place!

Ah well – Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, and with K-12 education, nothing moves quickly. I guess that just means job security for me for a really long time!

Happy Tuesday, all!

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Women’s History Month: Margaret Fuller and Barbara Means

March is Women’s History Month! I’m picking some influential women to profile here on my blog. Each woman has a connection to my life at the present – be it through careers, interests, or inspiration. This time, I’m profiling Margaret Fuller, and Barbara Means. Keep reading to find out why!

#1. Margaret Fuller – Transcendentalist, Journalist, Writer

Margaret Fuller Image

Margaret Fuller

I first learned of Margaret Fuller in college in an American Literature course, and I could not believe I’d never heard of her prior to that class. Margaret Fuller (a.k.a. Sarah Margaret Fuller) was an American writer back in the 1800s who held a host of important jobs that were unheard of for women in her time. She was a teacher, a writer, a journalist, and she also advocated hardcore for women’s rights. She held meetings for women to gather and talk – not gossip, but talk about important topics, as a way to make up for the fact that women were generally not allowed to attend college during her time.

She is also one of the founders of the Transcendentalist movement, though she doesn’t get as much credit as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, etc. Whenever you learn about the Transcendentalists in high school, you only hear about the men, but Fuller joined the boys’ club and became the first editor of The Dial, the Transcendentalists’ magazine. She also worked for the New York Tribune and went to Europe as their first female correspondent.

Sadly, she died in a shipwreck just off Fire Island in New York (thanks Wikipedia, for this fact!) and her body was never recovered.

I love Margaret Fuller because she has a similar background to me. I am a teacher and a journalist, and I like to think that I stick up for women’s rights when I can. Also, the Transcendentalist movement is my favorite American literary time period. Fuller was breaking barriers that most women didn’t even realize existed at the time. That leads me to my next woman inspiration…

#2. Barbara Means – Educational Psychologist who focuses on how technology can improve education

Barbara Means

Barbara Means

Barbara Means is one of the major players in educational technology. She came up with some of the earliest widely-accepted theories that helped researchers talk about educational technology, and still contributes hugely to the field today. She’s written tons of books and articles about how technology can improve education at all levels, and she’s not even a Millennial.

Right now, she serves at the Director for the Center for Technology in Learning for SRI International, a research and development company. Currently she’s working on a project in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Means is on my list for a variety of reasons. First of all, she’s a major player in technology, a field notorious for its lack of women involvement (though that landscape is starting to change!). Secondly, she’s all about research for education, which is where my major interest also lies. Lastly, she’s an older person (with all due respect, Barbara!) who embraces technology and believes it has a place in education. U.S. education has not yet fully embraced the idea that technology can transform education, largely because the people who are currently teaching and/or making the laws about education aren’t of the Millennial Generation. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m currently studying to be an instructional technologist, and that’s a job that exists solely because of research that Means has contributed to. So thank you, Barbara, for this career I can be passionate about and also break down some barriers for women in the process!

That’s all for this week! To see who I profiled last week, click here! And consider taking some time out of your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to remember your own female inspirations this weekend! Feel free to link to your own posts in the comments!

My Book-less Semester: Halfway Through

English: An Apple MacBook in an aluminium casing.

English: An Apple MacBook in an aluminium casing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my midterm week! Yahoo! Next week is spring break!

The past couple weeks, I haven’t really had outstanding to report on the whole “book-less grad school” topic, but now, after buckling down this last weekend, I have some halfway point reflections on my decision to go paperless this semester.

1. If you have contacts and wear them a lot, either set aside some time in your day to take them out and do your readings, or don’t go 100% paperless. My contacts felt like they were going to fall out of my eyes after a long reading session. Granted, I spend most of my days staring at a computer screen all day long, and when I’m not doing that, I’m popping them in at 5:30 a.m. to teach and then work my night job. Wetting and lubricating drops have become my friends, for sure.

2. Always carry your device charger! You never know when you’ll have downtime to read, and if you’re like me, you don’t keep a running log in your mind of how much battery power is left on your laptop, eReader, etc. I’ve gotten into the habit of plugging everything in every night, but sometimes, depending on the amount of work I have, my MacBook runs out of gas. My Nook battery lasts fairly long, but I only have one textbook on that device. And if you’re an iPhone 5 user, you are familiar with the battery woes that come with actually using that phone.

3. Brightness controls are your friend! I found that a good way to avoid my eyes hurting during reading sessions was to turn down the brightness on my devices. I already do this on my iPhone (to save battery, mainly), but I’ve become very accustomed to dimming my laptop screen for reading and then turning it back up for regular use.

4. Disconnecting from Wi-Fi is the easiest way to get focused on reading. It sucks, because often part of my assignment is to read and respond in an online forum, but I do not have the self control necessary for reading on my laptop when I could be watching talking dog videos or googling job openings.

5. Get familiar with the note taking tools on your platform of choice. NookStudy is awesome, and Kindle for Mac also has highlighting features. They’re useful, especially for grad students who are doing research in their field. My textbooks often explain concepts that are central to my research project, and it’s super easy to highlight the sections and come back to them later on.

That’s all for now. So far, I don’t regret my decision to go paperless. I definitely don’t read assignments like I used to (over a period of four-five days), but that’s just a matter of disciplining myself to work that way again. The temptation of the open web browser is just too much for me after seven hours of work, two hours of coaching, and three+ hours covering meetings and writing articles.

Next week is my spring break, and after that I’ll try to provide intermittent updates (as long as I have something new and interesting to talk about!) throughout the second half of the semester!

My Book-less Semester: Week 1

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A week or so ago, I posted about how I purchased all my textbooks for my second semester of graduate school in eBook form. The main reason behind this decision? Money. The eBooks saved me around $50-70 this semester, which might not sound like a lot to the average working adult, but for me, that’s two weeks of groceries or a tank and a half of gas. The other reason is that my program, Instructional Technology, is about 70% online courses. My eBook purchases have now just combined 100% of my course materials onto my laptop.

The first week of school was pretty slow. Syllabus week proved to be just that: reading and posting that I’ve read the course syllabus, have my materials, yadda yadda. My first readings aren’t due until this week, but I did try to get a jump start on them this weekend.

My goodness, was it difficult! As I suspected in my last post, it took just about everything in me to get through the reading without checking my Facebook newsfeed, or scrolling through my endless Tumblr dashboard (curse you, Tumblr, for endless scrolling!), or to keep out of TweetDeck.

My first reading wasn’t bad. I got through it and then thought, “Oh, I’ll just reward myself for that with a little social media.” Two hours later, when I had wanted to accomplish all my reading over the weekend, I was still busy on Pinterest, my newest obsession (read about my newfound relationship with Pinterest here), pinning wedding reception photos, which is extra pathetic because I don’t even have a significant other (my cousin is getting married in June though, so that’s how I justify this behavior).

Once I got a hold of myself, I closed my applications and got back to work on my second reading, which was a particularly dry introduction to Web 2.0 technologies. I know, it was like fate was intervening here. Part of the assignment for the reading was to visit the sites mentioned in the text, and granted, they were education related, but all it took was the opening of a new browser session and I was off task again.

Needless to say, I did not finish my readings on Saturday. Sunday was a complete loss, what with the Super Bowl being on and my incessant need to partake in tweeting about commercials, the 49er’s awful first half, and of course, the highlight of the night, when the power went out at the Super Dome. There was no way any reading was getting done.

On the plus side, my eyes didn’t bother me from looking at the screen! Hopefully tonight after work I will have better luck settling myself down to get the readings for my other two classes out of the way. I’m thinking that with practice and discipline, perhaps I can work up to the ability to do all the reading without getting distracted.

Also, mega thanks to WordPress’s The Daily Post for linking to my blog post about going paperless and reminding me to post my update about it!

Join in the conversation! Is anyone else going paperless this semester?

End of the Smartphone Era?

I read this article by Nicholas Carlson in Business Insider. Carlson talks about the latest projects coming out of Google and Microsoft, which are glasses that display data right in front of your face. There are a couple key differences between the two products, and Carlson argues that these goggle gadgets could be the end of the smartphone.

Google Glass, according to the article, is a device that doesn’t involve lenses like regular glasses. Instead, it almost seems like a head band that rests on the bridge of one’s nose and has a small screen attached to its right edge, presumably where information would be displayed. And if you click on the link I provided back there, you’ll see in the image results page that someone has cleverly compared the head device to what they wore in Star Trek. Humorous, yes, but the two are very similar.

Microsoft’s product only has blueprint drawings floating around on the web, and Carlson included pictures at the bottom of his article. This version appears to be more like actual glasses that one wears. In the blueprint, it shows someone viewing a baseball game while wearing the glasses and data appears on the lenses about each of the players on the field. Pretty cool, but these glasses remind me of the ones that little kids who need glasses would wear to play sports, so as not to break their “good” pair.

Personally, I wear contact lenses because I DON’T LIKE WEARING GLASSES. They fog up whenever there’s a significant temperature change (like a heated car vs. outdoor winter weather, or an air conditioned room in humid summer), which is way too common in Pennsylvania and other areas with definitive seasonal weather. Glasses hurt my nose and make my ears sore. Yeah, maybe the glasses have the internet built into them. Maybe they aren’t even really glasses but a futuristic looking head band with a screen. Regardless, both devices, as they are now, rest on the bridge of one’s nose and use ears to hold them in place. And that sucks. Plus, what about people who already have prescription glasses? And people who want to wear sunglasses?

How would we enter text to search with these things? Would I have to tote my wireless keyboard to the baseball game, along with my glove, hot dog, XL soda, peanuts, and everything else?

I don’t know, but these glasses have a long way to go before they’re ready for the public to latch on to. Carlson does have an interesting point, though.

Computers have been getting smaller and closer to our faces since their very beginning.

First they were in big rooms, then they sat on desktops, then they sat on our laps, and now they’re in our palms. Next they’ll be on our faces.

(Eventually they’ll be in our brains.)

Has anyone ever read M.T. Anderson’s Feed? Written in 2005, it’s the story of our society in the future with the internet embedded in our brains, and all the interpersonal, moral and societal issues that arise from it. You should check it out, it’s a pretty intense read.

The smartphone isn’t going anywhere for a while. Unless Apple comes up with a product that trumps Google Glass and Microsoft’s product, I think society is perfectly content to have the internet in the palm of our hands.

 

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-end-of-the-smartphone-era-is-coming-2012-11#ixzz2DR6utaMC

Technology in Education – iTunes U

I just finished listening to the first in the three-part series of webcasts on how to implement and use iTunes U. It was a pretty exciting introduction to the application. Aside from two Apple heads talking about the software, they invited a high school and a university teacher to jump in and talk about their experiences with using iPads in the classroom.

For instance, Matt Baier, a Social Studies teacher from California at Cathedral Catholic High School, teaches all of his classes with the iPad, as his school has a 1:1 ratio for iPads to students. So every student gets an iPad!

Things that he noticed were much easier included collecting and disseminating assignments. All it takes is a simple post of the materials necessary to the iTunes U homepage and then all his students have what tMatt Baier (Cathedral Catholic HS) talks about using iPad in the classroom.hey need. Similarly, using various storage apps on the iPad allowed his students to turn in their assignments with a simple click.

He talked about a night when he realized that he would have to call in sick unexpectedly, and he was able to create a lesson and supply all the materials at 3 a.m. by putting them on iTunes U. He shot off a quick email to the sub outlining what the kids were doing, but there was no need for using an emergency lesson plan because he was able to let the kids know what they had to do before they even got to school that day.

One thing that struck me was the ability to create your own textbooks on iTunes U. I think this is awesome. As someone who likes to tailor their materials to suit my individual classes, being able to create my own textbook for my students is a huge bonus for me. No more skipping chapters or jumping around a huge anthology – I can decide what and when I want to do things in the book.

Another plus that was highlighted by Matt was that there is less of the “I didn’t know that was due” and “I didn’t understand the assignment” because the iPad sends push notifications to students when new posts are released and reminds them of due dates. “Centralization” was a buzzword – students had everything they needed right there on one device.

He also mentioned that students were able to communicate in a backchannel type discussion during the presidential debates. Even though the debates took place outside school hours, the students could communicate in real time using the iPads and the discussion features on iTunes U.

Another bonus? Parents with their own iOS devices can check out what their kids are doing in class. Matt mentioned that since it was an election year, some parents were checking out his materials and the projects students had created just because they were interested in the subject.

He also talked about the ability to publish student work to the district iTunes U page for everyone to see. Schools that are subscribed to iTunes U can have parents associate their Apple IDs with the district page and have access to everything the district makes available, such as the student newspaper, projects, policies, handbooks, etc.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty cool thing for schools to do. However, it depends heavily on the amount of money that can be spent to get the technology (iPads, iTunes U, etc.) and the training for teachers to be able to use it well.

My own personal concerns center around students remaining on task during instructional time and when they are allowed to work on projects using the iPad (podcasts, iMovies, etc.). I hope that there is some way that this can be monitored during class. Additionally, it’s important to remember that at first the technology may impede students’ learning. Not only will it be important to train teachers on using the technology, but also teach students how to use it as well.

Other than that, the benefits really do outweigh the potential setbacks. For instance, shy students will have a less stressful way to participate in class. Additionally, students who are absent are still connected to the classroom and are less likely to fall behind. It seems like the iPad and iTunes U have the ability to take learning outside the classroom and turn daily experiences into learning experiences with the connectivity the technology could provide.