Monday, December 29, 2008

Anatomy of an unworkshop

This is partly a rant, and partly a reference to an interesting blog piece I read earlier today.

I was reading this blog article about the anatomy of an unworkshop. Now the content within the blog post is pretty interested, what I take issue with is the naming convention: the unworkshop.

Sometimes I feel like academics have nothing better to do than come up with silly names to describe a slightly different name for a slightly different process and it's just not necessary (unconference and edupunk also fall within this category).

His methodology sounds good to me, but I really do not see the need for giving it the 'unworkshops' name. After all when I sign up for workshops I don't sign up for socratic workshops or aristotelian workshops, so in reality the methodology does not matter in the naming convention of the event.

Am I making too much of this?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Modest Program Recommendations

OK, so it's the end of the semester, I've completed two whole classes in applied linguistics and I have spoken to many people about the program - classmates and faculty alike. I've gotten to find out what my classmates' plans are post graduation and so on. Some of my classmates are going into teaching (or remaining in teaching) while others like me are considering a PhD route.

Now, the program is structured in this way:
1. You've got 5 core courses that everyone needs to take

2. Then you must specialize in ESL, Foreign Language teaching or Bilingual education (2 courses + 1 practicum)

3. Then you've got your pick of 2 electives.

4. Pass comprehensive exams

The program is ten classes for an M.A. which is about normal for a Masters Degree. The department, at least in the course catalogs, has plenty of absolutely GREAT courses which have not been offered for a long time. Why? It's my impression that they don't have enough faculty to teach niche courses (such as Asian linguistics or Franco-American linguistics), so they focus their teaching on core courses and courses that students must have for concentrations.

This I see as a major problem with the program that needs to be fixed.

So, AK's modest proposal for the applied linguistics department:

Keep the five core courses. Get rid of the 'three track' system. Make the 10 class degree a 12 class degree.

Forcing people to pick a track is constraining. Some people, like me, would like to apply linguistics in a manner other than the foreign language classroom (although knowing how to be a good foreign language teacher is a good skill to have).

I would say have two recommended paths. If students want to be teachers, recommend the courses that they would need to be good ESL or foreign language teachers, and recommend that they do practicum. If students want to have a more open degree, learning more theory and applying it elsewhere, encourage that too. Recommend classes that would closely align with the students interests, and if a practicum or traditional 'track' courses are good for them, recommend them, otherwise, recommend other courses from the catalog.

By getting rid of the tracks, you will be freeing both students to experiment with courses, and you will be freeing the faculty to teach some of the courses that they have interest in but haven't been taught for a long time - Asian linguistics or cape-verdean linguistics for instance.

Now why 12 courses and not 10? Well, if five are core courses, and if students are interested in a practicum, that leaves only 4 courses to expand their horizons. I am a big advocate of the notion that school is there to not only teach you skills, but to expand your horizons. By having a 12 course M.A. program students will cover the core knowledge they need, expand a bit into ESL, FL Bilingual or theoretical areas and have some extra wiggle room to experiment with courses that they never thought of taking.


Just some food for thought...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If it's free, why pay for it?

Back to instructional & educational technology during the winter break.

Over the past few months a number of things have happened:

1.
We've seen IT departments bitten by the budget shortfall bug, and IT departments are looking at how they can be lean and mean.

2. We've seen colleges contemplating stopping services like email that students can get for free and often have prior to entering college.

3. Boston College actually stopped providing new incoming students with email addresses

4. UMass Boston ended its "email for life" for students, so when a student graduates they have some period of time to request a permanent email, or else it goes buh-bye!


5.
Finally, UMass Boston announced that it started a blog network (based on the WordPress platform)



Now, the one thing that comes to mind is this: if it's free, why provide the service in house? This is of course in reference to the blog network, and to student email to some degree. Many of us have been using blogs in higher education for a while now, the concept of blogging for educational, personal or professional reasons is not new to us. Some of us (like me for instance) evangelize and let people know of the uses and misuses of blogs so that others may start (or choose not to start) a blog of their own.

Blog providers are many. Google (blogger), WordPress, Tumblr, TypePad, Vox, and LiveJournal are just some of the names of free (or in the case of TypePad for pay) services that people have access to. Why pay to maintain a blog network on campus when things are already setup for you, for free, elsewhere? My modest recommendation would be to focus efforts on training and outreach to let people know that blogging software exists for free, and train people on how to use it. In addition, I would say that effort is better spent creating a blog aggregator for people to list all college related blogs in one place. A good example of this is Sync.gr, an aggregator of Greek blogs.

Now of course the benefits of having it in-house, are such that by focusing on one platform:
1. people can log-in with their university credentials so they don't have to remember yet another username/password,
2.training/troubleshooting can be handled by the help-desk because they don't need to know multiple platforms,
3. and you don't need to do anything other than logging in and writing (whereas with my model you would have to take one more step to list your blog in the university directory).
It's all half a dozen of this, or six of the other. In the end, the question remains, if it's free, why pay for it?


The second thing is email. I've seen lost of students (myself included) who don't check their student email! I have mine forwarding to mail gmail, but many students don't, thus missing out on important notifications from the campus and their professors.

Many students, like me, feel that they don't need another email because they have one yahoo, another on hotmail, and yet another on gmail, and they check them daily, why add another email? Yes you do have FURPA to worry about, and whether or not something does get to the recipient (or ends up in a spambox) but aren't those risks that you take on if you forward email?

Before email was ubiquitous (and free!), it made sense for universities to provide student email (oh VAX...those were the days...), but in today's world it seems like an necessary expense.

Now an email with an @yourCollege.edu does have its benefits. For instance people can signup for value added services which are free, if you have an EDU email, how does one reconcile that with students coming to college with an existing email? I don't have an answer - just thinking out loud. I just know that most students aren't checking their email and there may be a better way than what we, as academia, have been doing for a while now.

I think it's time to think in the Not Invented Here way of though for some things :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another semester done!

Another semester is done!
I completed my final and handed it in for grading (I think I did well).

With Linguistics (Apling 601) under my belt, I feel confident that things will make more sense from now on ;-)

In any case, in retrospect this semester was not bad. I only had one class which I did well in. I did spend a boatload of time working on GIDA (graduate instructional design alumni association) with both the online and face to face component of the organization - and I have to say that it is a lot of work. Our social network, sadly, does not yet support RSS, so people can't get a friendfeed in their RSS reader to see what's going on. Hopefully this will be fixed with future versions of the service.

We do have a large number of member (137 as of this writing), but it's hard reaching out to alumni since we don't know who they are. The weird thing is that students are also reluctant to join unless you give them a presentation and explain the benefits. It's not easy being the president ;-) LOL

I've approached my unofficial INSDSG advisers to see if I can start working on my capstone project. I am half-way done with the curriculum, but I've sunk in so much time and effort into the social network that I think I need to get all of this documented (in case others are interested in doing the same thing) :-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quiet again...

Paper due in one week.

The paper is kind of, sort of done. It just needs two or three rounds of editing. I guess I will be silent on here until next week :-)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Kids blame technology for homework hand-in failures

I was reading this article on the Register a week or so ago.
I think that this is pretty interesting because one of my friends is having problems (technological ones) with his kids' assigned homework and the electronic aspect of things.


‘My dog ate it’, ‘I left it on the bus’, and ‘someone stole it’ – they were the classic excuses in our day for not handing in homework. But modern youth are increasingly blaming absent homework on technology, a survey’s revealed.

Online electronics retailer Pixmania surveyed 1000 teachers during the past 12 months and found that of the total 6.5m excuses thought to be have been heard by UK teachers each week, roughly 1.3m - 20 per cent - centred on technological problem.

The most popular tech excuse heard from pupils was that they’d done the work, but then the computer crashed and they lost it. Don’t kids learn how to make back-ups these days?

‘I lost my laptop’ and ‘I finished my homework, but then deleted it by accident’ were also used by kids. Printer problems is another justification preferred by prepubescents.

The internet figured too, an inability to connect proving a frequently offered explanation for a failure to hand in homework.

Sue Cooke, Assistant Headteacher at Wallington County Grammar School, Surrey, said: "We are definitely wising up to their tech trickery.”

via the register



Of course this reminds me of Ellen Feiss from the Mid-late 90s Apple Switch Ads

Monday, November 24, 2008

silence

Running on silent mode this week.
Working on paper
Working on Thanksgiving prep
Looking forward to weekend

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Education via Wiki

Over the summer I took INSDSG 605, a course which is all about new media. As a way of experimenting with a wiki, I started a course called Greek4Travelers on wikidot.com.

I really didn't get far with the wiki because as most course and content creators know, creating curriculum does take up a lot of time. I would love to revisit the topic though at some point because my moodle implementation of the class was more fleshed out compared to my wiki. I would really like to bring that thought-out content to a free wiki for anyone who wants to take a crash course in Greek for traveling purposes.

I thought of using this wiki like the 'teach yourself' series of books where the learner takes the initiative to learn things and stay in sequence. The benefit of having it in a wiki format is that as things change (such as slang), it's easier to make the changes to the curriculum compared to a book or a static webpage.

If you are looking for a Wiki that is on the geek side - check out wikidot.com, otherwise wikispaces and pbwiki are pretty good wikis for they layman.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Picked my topic!

OK, so I did some searching on our wonderful library databases and I found an article in the Harvard Business Review on customer service. Since my observation paper was of customer service interactions, it makes sense that I pick a written text that deals with customer service.

I've read the article, reviewed the observation data, and outlined what I am analyzing, now I just need to do the analysis. It seems like Black Friday for me will be more about paper writing than shopping - which is A-OK since I have neither the money to do shopping, nor the patience to wait in lines for deals that seem worthless. Give me a $300 MacBook Pro (a new one) and I will stand in line, your current deals seem kinda m'eh to me.

Anyway, my linguistics class seems to be getting more interesting. We've gotten a bit into grammar and morphology, something that I didn't think that I would have much interest in. Well, morphology I thought I would like a bit since I am interested in the origin of words, but not grammar so much. It turns out that I like grammar more than I thought!

What blew my mind is that you can have a construct for time, in the sense that you can have something happen now, in the past or in the future, BUT you don't necessarily have to have a grammatical tense to describe a verb in some other time slot.

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Digital Dark Age' May Doom Some Data - if you don't prepare

I think this article is pretty interesting (direct link: click)

I personally think that this isn't just a standards issue, and a proprietary vs. open issue, but it is also an issue of proper practices and quality storage media. Recently I read a blog post of one of my blogging colleagues in Greece that irretrievably lost his valuable data (from ten years ago) that was residing on CD-Rs.

Luckily my insistence of expensive storage media and slow recording speeds has spared (most) of my data, including those silly little reports I did in High School, but how long will optical media last? Archival quality media can last for half a century, or more, but is copying over and over a viable solution? After all bit and bytes will eventually be corrupted from the continuous migration.




FULL ARTICLE:
ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2008) — What stands a better chance of surviving 50 years from now, a framed photograph or a 10-megabyte digital photo file on your computer’s hard drive?

The framed photograph will inevitably fade and yellow over time, but the digital photo file may be unreadable to future computers – an unintended consequence of our rapidly digitizing world that may ultimately lead to a “digital dark age,” says Jerome P. McDonough, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

According to McDonough, the issue of a looming digital dark age originates from the mass of data spawned by our ever-growing information economy – at last count, 369 exabytes worth of data, including electronic records, tax files, e-mail, music and photos, for starters. (An exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes; a quintillion is the number 1 followed by 18 zeroes.)

The concern for archivists and information scientists like McDonough is that, with ever-shifting platforms and file formats, much of the data we produce today could eventually fall into a black hole of inaccessibility.
“If we can’t keep today’s information alive for future generations,” McDonough said, “we will lose a lot of our culture.”

Contrary to popular belief, electronic data has proven to be much more ephemeral than books, journals or pieces of plastic art. After all, when was the last time you opened a WordPerfect file or tried to read an 8-inch floppy disk?

“Even over the course of 10 years, you can have a rapid enough evolution in the ways people store digital information and the programs they use to access it that file formats can fall out of date,” McDonough said.
Magnetic tape, which stores most of the world's computer backups, can degrade within a decade. According to the National Archives Web site by the mid-1970s, only two machines could read the data from the 1960 U.S. Census: One was in Japan, the other in the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the data collected from NASA’s 1976 Viking landing on Mars is unreadable and lost forever.

From a cultural perspective, McDonough said there’s a “huge amount” of content that’s only being developed or is available in a digital-only format.

“E-mail is a classic example of that,” he said. “It runs both the modern business world and government. If that information is lost, you’ve lost the archive of what has actually happened in the modern world. We’ve seen a couple of examples of this so far.”

McDonough cited the missing White House e-mail archive from the run-up to the Iraq War, a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

“With the current state of the technology, data is vulnerable to both accidental and deliberate erasure,” he said. “What we would like to see is an environment where we can make sure that data does not die due to accidents, malicious intent or even benign neglect.”

McDonough also cited Barack Obama’s political advertising inside the latest editions of the popular videogames “Burnout Paradise” and “NBA Live” as an example of something that ought to be preserved for future generations but could possibly be lost because of the proprietary nature of videogames and videogame platforms.

“It’s not a matter of just preserving the game itself. There are whole parts of popular and political culture that we won’t be able to preserve if we can’t preserve what’s going on inside the gaming world.”

McDonough believes there would also be an economic effect to the loss of data from a digital dark age.
“We would essentially be burning money because we would lose the huge economic investment libraries and archives have made digitizing materials to make them accessible,” he said. “Governments are likewise investing huge sums to make documents available to the public in electronic form.”

To avoid a digital dark age, McDonough says that we need to figure out the best way to keep valuable data alive and accessible by using a multi-prong approach of migrating data to new formats, devising methods of getting old software to work on existing platforms, using open-source file formats and software, and creating data that’s “media-independent.”

“Reliance on open standards is certainly a huge part, but it’s not the only part,” he said. “If we want information to survive, we really need to avoid formats that depend on a particular media type. Commercial DVDs that employ protection schemes make it impossible for libraries to legally transfer the content to new media. When the old media dies, the information dies with it.”

Enthusiasm for switching from proprietary software such as Microsoft’s Office suite to open-source software such as OpenOffice has only recently begun to gather momentum outside of information technology circles.

“Software companies have seen the benefits of locking people into a platform and have been very resistant to change,” McDonough said. “Now we are actually starting to see some market mandates in the open direction.”
McDonough cites Brazil, the Netherlands and Norway as examples of countries that have mandated the use of non-proprietary file formats for government business.

“There has been quite a movement, particularly among governments, to say: ‘We’re not going to buy software that uses proprietary file formats exclusively. You’re going to have to provide an open format so we can escape from the platform,’ ” he said. “With that market demand, you really did see some more pressure on vendors to move to something open.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paper #2: Indecision 2008

OK, so now I've got something to keep me going in my linguistics class - as much as I bemoan homework at times, I feel like I am a masochist for it!

Anyway, I've got my paper assignment for paper number two. With this paper I've got options, many options! One, obvious, option is to compare the text of a conversation that I observed to the text of an article and note differences in morphology and other linguistic factors discussed in class. OK, I could do that, but it seems like a hunt-and-peck option in other words somewhat easy - I may be wrong.

The other option is to pick a language that I am somewhat familiar with, find a native speaker and analyze certain aspects of their speech and how they use language. This option has three sub-options. The problem with this option is that the languages I am interested in exploring (japanese, russian or chinese), I have no access to native speakers for! I raked my brain and found a good compromise! Vietnamese! I had studied Vietnamese years ago (and forgot most of it), but I still know many native speakers of Vietnamese that I can interview.

Now I just have to pick my approach...

Monday, November 10, 2008

I dream of PhD


The issue of a PhD (or EdD, or D.B.A.) has come up many times in recent years. After I graduated with an M.B.A. and I applied for the M.Sc. program the question was "why don't you go for a PhD?" I thought about it, but I didn't really find something that satisfied my intellectual curiosity.

Once I got my M.S., and I applied for an M.A. and an M.Ed. the same question became even louder from friends, family, and faculty members who really wanted me to strive for something larger. I decided to apply for the M.A. and M.Ed. programs anyway, satisfy my intellectual curiosity in those subject matters (and while at it apply what I learned to my day job) and I made myself a promise to look into a doctorate.

Truth be told, I would love to get a doctorate, but there are two issues at hand. First there is the obvious economic issue. Most doctorates are full time ventures. If you are a family person, with regular expenses such as a mortgage or a car payment, you can't just quit your day job to get a doctorate. After all, even the most generous of stipends would not cover our basic living expenses. This means that I am looking for a school that allows me to be a part time PhD student while working full time - not an easy task.

Second thing to look out for the the distinction between a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), a EdD (Doctor of Education) and a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration). The jury is still out on a verdict on which one I should pursue. Younger advisors (who have a doctorate) tell me that so long as I get a Doctorate, the actual designation doesn't matter. What matters is what I focus on and the work I do.

The other side of the coin is the older, more experienced faculty, who are already tenured or just retired. They advise me to go for a PhD because an EdD or DBA won't be very useful if what I want is to teach (which is what I want to do). Even if I do phenomenal work, if it's not a PhD, my doctorate will be stigmatized on some way. I don't know who is right and who is wrong, but the proponents of both sides are about equal in number.

Finally the third thing to consider is the topic of the PhD, the structure of the program and the faculty. After all there is no reason to get invested in a program if you don't like it. My initial foray into PhD research lead me to some renowned Business Schools in the Boston area (DBA and PhD). Personally I found them kinda 'blah'. They seemed kinda stifling for my kind of intellectual curiosity and they didn't fulfill the previous two conditions.

I then looked at an EdD with a utilitarian motivation. It was part time, it was from a school that I think has good credentials, and its affordable. Win-win! Well, not so fast. While it satisfied conditions one and two, the purely utilitarian aspect of it meant that I might not necessarily like the experience, which seems like a pretty rotten reason to pursue a doctorate.

In any case, I've discovered that my interest does not lie in one subject which complicates things a lot because schools seem to want PhD candidates to have some narrow focus to their research interests. I have discovered, though linguistics, instructional design, education and business that I am a multi-disciplinarian. I don't want to focus on one narrow sliver of knowledge that I then make my life for the rest of my career.

There is a PhD which seems to tickle my fancy - but we'll explore that in another post...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why I've given up on Microsoft Office.

Now, don't get me wrong. At work I use Microsoft Office for the Mac and for Windows on a daily basis. It's a necessary evil. People just send me attachments in the all too familiar doc, xls and ppt formats. When the clock strikes 5 and I get off work, that's where MS Office and I part ways.

As a student it just doesn't make sense to pay $150 for the student edition of Microsoft Office! If you're a non-student this price balloons to $317 if you want all the trimmings. I still have papers to write, presentations to prepare and spreadsheets to crunch. What is a student to do?

Well, In the past year I've found the perfect solution to my office troubles. This solution is a combination of free and for-pay tools.

OpenOffice - this is completely free. It has programs that do essentially what Microsoft office does, for free! And, it's quite compatible with Microsoft Office files, so you don't have to worry (much) about opening files that your friends and colleagues send you.

Google Docs - this is a free service by google. It allows you to create word documents, presentations and spreasheets. You have a lot of the functionality of traditional Office programs and you get to save it on the internet. This means you don't have to worry about forgetting your flash drive or your homework files at home!


Plain text editors - On the Mac you can use TextEdit and on Windows you've got WordPad. These programs are good enough to get you started on that research paper - to get your ideas on paper, edit the content, proof read and grammar check everything, and it will allow you to do basic word processing functions. When you're done, save as an RTF and upload to Google Docs or save on your flash drive. AbiWorld is also a free word processor that one can use and it offers more functionality than TextEdit and WordPad


iWork - If you REALLY must pay for software to feel good about using it, and if you're a Mac user, iWork is for you. It costs $79 (half the price of the student version of Microsoft Office), and it has a capable word processor and publisher-like program called Pages. It has a Spreadsheet called Numbers and it has a GREAT presentation program called Keynote which is far better than PowerPoint! The best part of iWork is that it is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office documents, so you can open and save as a Microsoft documents so your friends can be in the loop.

For poor grad students (heck even undergrads), there is no need to spend the money to buy Microsoft Office, and there is no need to 'borrow' that install CD from your friend's friend's friend. Just use the free tools, or if you have to pay, there are cheaper options.

One program that I never recommend is Microsoft Works. While it can open word files, I do not believe that it can save as a word file, which makes it pretty pointless. Why pay for sort-of Office compatibility when you can get better compatibility for Free with OpenOffice?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's official: this is a lame duck semester

Well, registration period is now open for the Spring semester. I logged into the student system yesterday and I registered for my Spring classes - all of them Applied Linguistics. By the end of Spring 2009 I will be half-way done with both Instructional Design and Applied Linguistics.


With registration complete, I can't help but feel that this is now a lame duck semester. It is true that I still have one exam and one paper due for my fall linguistics class (and 5 weeks of lectures) before the semester is officially over, but it's like a switch flipped in my brain and this semester's value, or importance has been downplayed - like a lame duck president. There is still time left for the class to turn ugly if you don't watch it, but you can't help but think 'this is it'.


I wonder if other students feel the same way...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why do blue book exams still persist?

ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE: click

My Personal opinion is that Blue Books are great. They allow you to THINK before you write. Editing is a great feature but it all too often is abused when people just 'vomit' their thoughts on paper and never bother editing their papers well. I also like blue books for the same reason that I like reading paper books and not ebooks - no need for electricity.


ARTICLE:
UNC trying to update by using software that keeps students from cheating on laptops.

By Eric Ferreri
(Raleigh) News & Observer
Posted: Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008
CHAPEL HILL College students communicate with text messages clicked out on cell phones. They take class notes on their laptops. Yet, when they take an American history exam, they do what students a generation earlier did:

They scribble in a blue book, pausing only to grimace and shake a cramping hand.

The blue book is widely loathed by students, who must write coherently without the benefit of a backspace key, and by professors, who must fight through a jungle of bad cursive. But no technology has managed to displace it.

Now UNCChapel Hill is trying to relegate the venerable school supply to the academic dustbin with a computer program.

So far, the blue book retains the upper hand.

A couple of dozen UNC professors are using word-processing software called Securexam, which locks all other applications on a student's computer so there's no way to cheat. Each exam is encrypted and cannot be reopened once the student completes it, unless the professor OKs it.

“They can't surf the Web,” said Andy Lang, director of information services in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. “All wired and wireless connections are shut off.”

The college is spending about $30,000 a year on the software, and last semester about 1,000 students took exams with it, Lang said.

Joseph Wittig, who teaches medieval British literature at UNC, is using the software and loves it.

“I can read and grade 40 exams in one full day,” he said, adding that with blue books that task takes two to three times as long. “At a certain point, you'd start skimming because you're worn out. It's a huge advantage for students and teachers.”

The software was cheered recently by an editorial in the Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, that read in part: “This isn't 1860. We don't have to scrawl out long-winded treatises by hand anymore. We have these things called computers that allow you to type fast enough to keep up with your thoughts.”

But, like the cockroach, the blue book persists.

Only about 25 to 30 UNC professors use the new software. That's a small percentage of the faculty, though Lang said the product is gaining popularity.

Ready … write

Professors say blue books are still here because, well, they've always been here. But most would readily move to a new technology if the transition were easy, said Ed Neal, the retired former director for faculty development programs with UNC's Center for Faculty Excellence.

If nothing else, the blue book is simple. No log-ins or passwords.

At one blue book manufacturer, demand for the product is actually increasing. Comet School Supplies of Palestine, Texas, keeps churning out the blue books, said Don Howard, the company's operations director.

Neither automated multiple-choice tests nor the Internet's vast stores of information have dented his trade, Howard said.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to blogging (about classes)

I started this blog last summer so that I could use it for two of my instructional design classes and it's been dormant since the end of the semester. I thought of integrating the content with my main blog, but what the heck, I may as well just use this!

This semester I was not able to afford any instructional design classes. The university pays 45-50% of the tuition for ID classes, and I pay the rest. So what am I doing this semester? Well I anticipated that I would not be able to pay for my ID classes, so I decided to enroll in two Master's degrees. The first of course being an MEd in Instructional Design, and the second being an MA in Applied Linguistics.

Applied linguistics is completely free so I can still maintain my active student status and not have to pay those continuance fees that I can't afford anyway. The other benefit of doing two masters concurrently, at least for me, is that Linguistics and ID exercise two different parts of the brain. Instructional Design is more applied in nature. It's something I do at work day in and day out so I can take what I learn in the classroom and run with it next day in the office.

Linguistics on the others hand, even though it is 'applied linguistics' is a more academic topic, and required more time to process, understand, and appreciate - at least for me. With ID I can make connections right away because I've been in this business for quite some time and it's easier to make the connections and learn the theories for what you feel to be true - with linguistics I am waiting for that 'a-ha' moment! And, it's quite a glorious moment indeed when it hits you!

So what's the academic plan? For now it seems that I won't be able to take ID courses for another two or three semesters (until I can pay off my bills), but I am not worried, I am half way done with the degree already - linguistics on the other hand I just started so I can take my time waiting for those 'a-ha' moments, and working at integrating the ID knowledge and the Linguistics knowledge to create something new.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reflections of an Online student

When I signed up for this class, I knew what to expect, up to a certain point, because I had already taken a hybrid class a couple of years ago that relied heavily on Prometheus (the system that was in place before Blackboard). The one concern was that I wasn't sure how the whole assignment creation, submission, grading aspect would work. My hybrid class was big on actual deliverables, and did not place much emphasis on the discussion aspect - it was either 5% or 10% of the grade.

I think that collaboration is a cornerstone of learning, both in f2f environments and in online classes. Without collaboration students are missing out on an aspect of learning that enables them to better connect what they are learning with what they already know, and it enables new knowledge creation through the sharing of information. In a regular f2f class there may be a group of classmates that regularly meet and discuss things about the class, but most classes tend to 'clump' people together into loosely bounded clicks of people.

I think that the online experience unbinds those clicks and allows more people to join into the discussion and exchange knowledge and information. I've learned a lot from my classmates (both here and in 640). What I've learned are things that are either completely new, or different ways of approaching (or viewing) a problem. I've often gotten inspired by what others have posted, and it helps me improve as a student.

I think that there is a sense of community in online classes, and I saw that when I logged in the first time and saw people greeting each other with 'good to see you again'. I think that I don't get the sense of community right away, but by the end of the semester, as we've all gone through the course and as we see other people's knowledge, personality and background, that community is implicitly created and augmented as more students join different classes as the semesters progress.

I think that the threat to the community exists, but only if the instructors permit them to exist. There may be a provocateur in the group - a fire starter if you will; or someone who purposefully trolls around. These individuals may want to play devil's advocate, but if they consistently don't phrase things properly it can compromise the community. In this instance the instructor needs to pull these individuals aside and see what's going on.

Other threats may be the technological hurdles to the class. As a member of the iGeneration, I am comfortable with these tools and I don't generally see this as a threat, but there are others out there that are not as familiar with the tools and this may impede them from benefiting and contributing to the learner community.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Google Maps Mashup (Salem, MA)

I like to take photos, either on my 5MP Sony digital camera, or my 3MP mobile phone camera. Most times it's just sights and objects in my every day life. My goal is to get a high quality (10MP or more) DSLR :-)


View Larger Map

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week III

UMass Boston's Mission can be found Here, and it has as its tenets Access, Excellence, Public Service, Innovation, Economic Development and Quality of Life.

An e-learning project that may go well hand in hand with the University's Mission is an information literacy curriculum that can be accessible not only to members of the UMass Boston community (students, staff, and faculty) but also to the broader community that UMass Boston serves (Boston, the state of Massachusetts, the US and the World, since many students who study at UMB are not only local, but also national and global).

Information Literacy is something that many people do not have the opportunity to learn. Providing a free e-learning curriculum in information literacy, using free and for-pay services (the for-pay component such as academic journals may be limited depending on who the student is), could be Innovative, it could provide Access to resources for people who don't have them, it will definitely be a public service. The curriculum of course will strive for excellence, and it can act as an enabler for people to improve their quality of life.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Week 2: Reflections Part II

1) Anderson cites studies that claim that effective instruction is learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered. Given these dimensions, what impact does technology mediation have on instruction?

I would say that technology mediation positively affects instruction in these areas, for both hybrid and purely online courses.

Through technology mediation, we can have community centered learning, where every student can have access to the class's public forum and participate, in a democratic fashion, in the class. They analyses, thoughts, and opinions on what has been read or discussed can be freely posted. These posts can then be read and responded to by fellow classmates and the instructor. In this sense, it's sort of like sitting in a big circle and having a discussion, but not having to worry about place and time constraints as much. In a f2f environment you have 180 minutes per week, in an online environment you have the whole 15 week semester to view and comment on something that you found interesting.

Learner centered learning also benefits from technology mediation because, I think, that the learner has potentially more contact with the instructor. In a f2f environment you see the instructor for those 180 minutes, but you also have the ability to go to the instructor's office (during office hours). Technology mediation allows for anytime, anyplace contact (given sufficient interest by the student and the instructor). The instructor can help each student individually, without detriment to the rest of the class. If one student is slower at processing a certain subject than the rest of the class (for whatever reason), the instructor can have one-on-one time with them. On the same token if some students have specific interests, the instructor can point them in one direction and provide them with resources that are relevant to them, and not so much to the rest of the class.

Technology mediation also affects knowledge centered learning. There is no doubt that there is a plethora of sources out there (books, audio tapes, CDs, podcasts, ezines, magazines, journals, ejournals and so on) for what ever research (or practical) area interests you. Technology allows you to quickly find, and retrieve sources, and quickly decide if they are of use to you in teaching /learning or not.

Finally, on assessment centered learning, technology allows, at the very least, for some expediency in grading tests. Grading tests though is not fully utilizing technology for assessment centered learning. Virtual labs and simulations are just two types of technologies that can be used to improve learning. In a supply chain management class that I had a year ago the professor used an online simulation that allowed us to modify factory production, product distribution, and shipping methods to see how modifications to those elements improved (or worsened) our supply chain. Our modifications were not made willy-nilly, they were based on concepts learned in class, in supply chain theories and mathematical models. This simulation would be a good assessment tool (along with a narrative) to see if students really got the concepts of supply chain management, or if they were just going through the motions in class.



2) What do you think of Terry Anderson's model of online learning (p. 49)? Do you find it a helpful way to conceptualize online learning dynamics?

I find the model helpful in visualizing learning in general. I think the model can also be applied for f2f classes, and in my experience has been applied for f2f classes by students. The student-student interactions and synchronous/asynchronous communication (left hand side of the model) has been done informally between various student groups in my classes (and sometimes the whole class) without the instructor mandating it.

Students often met before or after class and they discussed materials, and there was often an asynchronous component (often over email), that allowed students to clear things up with the content of the class, and offer opportunities for peer to peer teaching. The model is quite helpful, but it's pertinent for all instruction.

Week 2 Reflections Part III

Is there any validity to the arguments of David Noble, Hubert Dreyus, and Mark Bauerline or are they just curmedgeony Luddites?

I can't really lump everyone in the same category so I will break this down:

Bauerline:
I don't thin he is a Luddite because, as he said, he does indeed use technology. I was left with my jaw hanging after listening to the interview. From what he said, I think that his "research" is really one sided. He uses the excuse that (paraphrasing here) by the time he puts together a research proposal and gets all his ducks in a row (grants,staff, etc.) the technology will have changed and thus the value of technology cannot be tested.

I think that this is fundamentally wrong. Sure the platform may change, but the underlying principles of the technology (examples: blogging, microblogging, social networks, LMS) do not change, the technology adapts to better serve that vision for which the technology was invented.

I listened to the subsequent podcast (CLICK HERE) which had three people from Abilene Christian University, and their views on technology and the pros and cons seemed like a more balanced view compared to Bauerline. I also looked at the ratings of his book on Amazon.com, and it seems like most people who've written a review either love the book because it falls within their world view, or hate it because it does not. I also don't think that the author serves his purpose well by naming the book "the dumbest generation (or don't trust anyone under 30)". This may have been a publisher decision, but it seems to me like an Alarmist who shaped the data to fall within his preconceptions.

This podcast interview did not add any intellectual value, and I do think he is wrong from what I heard. The mental image is of an old man, hunched over, waving his cane and yelling at the youngins. I am curious though to read the book to form a better opinion.


David Noble:
I am more sympathetic to Noble's arguments.
I can't agree, or disagree, with the assertion that there is no pedagological evidence that technology helps instruction because I simply have not conducted research in this area, and I have not been in the field of teaching others for a long time (this is only my second semester).

I do agree though that poor implementation of technology solutions, and not thinking through a technology implementation does drain the university of money and resources that should be placed in areas such as lowering tuition and increasing the educational value for students. In addition I agree with him that research is really overstated (the whole publish or perish deal for faculty), to the detriment of instruction and resources of instruction. I've had professors who are quite brilliant in their field, world renouned! Unfortunately they could not teach to save their lives. At the same token, I've had professors who really did not care much about research and publishing, but were the best professors I ever had, and I learned quite a lot from them!

[soapbox moment]
From a personal perspective I've been thinking of getting a doctorate, since I would like to apply my instructional design skills toward business education. Teaching at a university usually has the prerequisite of a doctorate. Some 'older' (or rather old school) faculty tell me that if I want to be taken seriously I need to get a PhD from a f2f school. Online education won't do. Quite honestly the stigma associated with online education, it being perceived as substandard is a misconception that I wish would get cleared up sooner rather than later. There are people that want to further their education, but a PhD at times seems like an old-boys club where you can afford to quit your day job to get it, or you can't, in which case you can't pursue it.

In addition, I don't care for the pressures and the initiation right of publish or perish. Publishing should be something you do because something interests you and you pour your extra time (and some TLC) into it. I would prefer to go into a classroom, full of energy, and teach (or as Canice would say 'facilitate'). I would like to spend my time designing classes, and making the best use of my resources for the improvement of my students, not have to worry if about the status of my job if I don't publish something.
[end of soapbox moment]

In the end, there are two thoughts:
1. The story is called 'digital diploma mills'. I think that this is incorrect. Higher education institutions have gold rushes every now and then, when they see a discipline taking off and they go through a 'me too!' stage. Face to face schools have diploma mills, and I think that eSchools should not be stigmatized as a diploma mill. Some are! However, some are not.

2. I am on a similar wavelength to Noble. I think that we should harness the potential of new technologies, but we should not dive head first, otherwise we might crack our skulls (or in the higher education sense: lost money that could have been better spent elsewhere)

Hubert Dreyus:
I understand where Dreyus is coming from. Fostering a community is how people learn, and how people stay in professional contact after graduation. Those who know me, know that I have been a student since 1998 (only taking one semester off between the end of my undergraduate degree and the beginning of my MBA).

I would not be going to classes, staying late three nights a week, spending weekends doing homework, if I did not enjoy it. Part of what made classes enjoyable for me was not necessarily that I was learning something new, but that I was learning something with other people, and I had access to the professors for face to face consultation. That social interaction was important for me, and it remains important despite the fact that I am doing half my classes online and half in a f2f environment.

I think that community building online has come a long way since 2001 (even though it has only been 7 years). This, coupled with my hobbyist interests in technology discussion boards and groups has enabled me to acknowledge and appreciate an online community just as if it were a f2f community.

I think the overall message that should be taken from Drayeus message is not simply the 'no community on the internet' aspect of the message, but the detriment that the lack of a community can have on the learning process in both an online and a f2f environment. Additionally, I think that it was pointed out quite well that a community in and of itself will not educate you. Bad facilitators can have the community run a muck , turning what is supposed to be an educational environment into a social environment. This points out the gentle balance that instructors must strike to foster constructive criticism and idea building, but at the same time keeping the discussion on topic, and bringing it back to focus when necessary.

There is one thing I disagree with:

"anonymous amateurs . . . post their views from nowhere" without risking a putdown from peers or a judgment from an instructor (79). " I think here he misunderstands what the putdown is. Everyone judges what we say and what we do. In a f2f environment, a smirk, giggle or the rolling eyes are enough to keep the introverted students from contributing in class.

A professor must also be open minded and approachable. I don't mind being judged from my professors, that is why I am taking a class, to learn, and the 'master' in the field judges what I know, if it's sufficient, and tells me what I need to do to improve. The problem comes in when the professor is unfriendly, combative, unhelpful, and has the 'my way or the highway' view. I don't think most students would be afraid to contribute and be tutored (in the Oxford British sense) if they knew that it was an opportunity for them to be fairly judged and coached afterward.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Week 2: Reflections Part I

In Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning, Mohamed Ally argues that no one school of thought on learning is used exclusively in online design, and that an online developer must know the different approaches to learning in order to select the appropriate instructional strategies (p. 6).

Personally I agree with Ally's assertions, not only for Online teaching and learning, but also for face to face. I've been a student for quite a long time. In the past couple of years I have been paying attention to not only to my learning preferences (and learning style) but also what worked for my classmates.

At grad student meetings where students would discuss which classes they wanted to take and other students gave them my two cents, I often asked students questions to determine their learning preferences and then suggest a professor whose teaching was more in line with their learning style.

Both in INSDSG 601 and 602 we saw (quite a few times) that our classmates were all over the learning styles map, so even for a face to face class, an instructor could not rely on one school of thought in order to develop a training module or a whole class. While it is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to accommodate everyone, a perspective teacher cannot just preach to the choir or students who happen, by chance, to be on the same wavelength.


Mohamed Ally talks about the implications of different learning theories--behaviorist, cognitivist, and constructivist--on online learning. How and where are the implications of these theories different for online learning than they are for face-to-face instruction? Does technology make a difference?

The way one answers this question really depends on how they view technology. I view technology as an enabler, a tool to be used for teaching and learning. The tool in and of itself is not the end, but rather a mean to reach the end. Different tools have different capabilities, and depending on the learning styles of the students, some tools are more powerful than others.

I think that the learning theories and how those are utilized do definitely have an impact on online learning, but they also have an impact in face to face learning. The implications are different only because the toolsets differ. An instructor will use one toolset for face to face teaching and a slightly different toolset for online teaching.

The analogy I would use is this: If there are two teachers, a teacher with only has his voice and gestures to teach (i.e. no assistive implements like blackboards, easels, overhead projectors, powerpoint, etc), and another that has more tools in his toolset (a blackboard and an easel for example), do these learning theories have different implications based on the 'technology' that they are using? The answer is no. The theories allow you to know your prospective learners, and understand (and analyze) what tools are good for what purpose. The technology in the classroom has the status of 'helper', nothing more, nothing less.

INSDSG 605: Embedded Presentation

This is my introduction presentation from INSDSG640 (I added a photo though)

Monday, May 26, 2008

INS DSG 619: First post

The inaugural post for INS DSG 619: Design and Instruction of Online Courses

1. What made you want to take this course?

I thought that this course looked pretty interesting. I believe that I can use what I learn in the class for both current work requirements and for hobbies. I think I will be able to use the material at work to create online classes that deal with library related training - this is the work aspect.  One of my interests is teaching Greek online, either in a synchronous or an asynchronous manner - this is the hobby aspect (haven't quite figured out if I want to do this full time, and if so, how to do it).


2. What are three things that anyone who knows you, knows about you?

The three things that people who know me know about me are:
1. I am fluent in Greek
2. I work for the UMass Boston Library
3. This is my second semester in the ID program