Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day (for those in the US)

I was going to wrap up the month (now that I generally post on a Tuesday-Thursday schedule) with some thoughts on Steve Kaufman's semi recent rant on Theorists muddling language education. However, since it is a holiday in the US and I am inclined to post something more light hearted and humorous, here's a recent xkcd comic on the differences between academia and "the real world". I think that some of my friends out there will get a good laugh!

Be safe, don't eat too much (those of you who are celebrating thanksgiving), and do spend some time on homework - the end (of the semester) is near!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cloud Computing in Plain English

I like common craft videos and I was a little disappointed that I had not seen a new one for a while. Well, the good folks over at common craft have created a video for cloud computing. I think that I sense a change in direction here for these videos - previous videos seemed to be more for the layperson-enduser, however this particular video seems to be targeted toward the layperson-manager. Interesting, but not as entertaining as the other ones :-)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Command Structure


I just loved this PhD strip from a week or so ago :-)

Everything is predicated on doing the least amount of work, which is work that doesn't waste time hahaha :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Busy month!

Wow, this semester is really (REALLY) moving along quite fast. This month is just flying by, and December is going to be quite literally two class sessions. Lots of stuff is due, lots of papers, final projects, critical

So what's on my plate?

- Observation Analysis + Lesson plan for my ESL methods/materials class

- Complete Thematic Unit Lesson Plan for my Foreign Language methods class (yes they are different)

- Critical Analysis Essay for my Foreign Language methods class (plus an evaluation of a classmate's Essay)

- Evaluation Plan for an eLearning class (see Kirkpatrick for details)

- Put the finishing touches on the Academic Integrity Training that I am creating

- Finish off the rough draft of my capstone.

I guess I don't really have to do my capstone stuff given that I am actually supposed to do it next semester, but I am really into it, so it's hard to put something down when you've got a lot of inspiration for it.

On top of all that I've got a few research articles that have been nagging me to read them for the past few weeks. Interesting stuff - but no time! Hmmm... Articles on tape...someone should do that ;-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Multilingualism, please!

I guess that by this point you've guessed that I am a language geek (among other types of geek). A week or so ago I was reading this opinion piece, titled Only English Spoken, on Inside Higher Ed.

The author goes through a synopsis of historical liberal arts education, and the role that foreign languages played in it. The general view of the opinion piece (which you should read, by the way) is that if you are only monolingual you are denied access to a lot of inside knowledge. While a lot of information may be available in your native language (English for example in most cases in the US), and a lot of information is available in English (science and technology related information in my case), there is a corpus of knowledge both written and spoken that is not available in English and that knowledge is inaccessible if you don't know that language.

I happen to agree with this point of view and I do agree that as college graduates from US universities we should be at least bi-lingual, if not proficient in reading in three of four languages. However, I would add that in my view foreign languages need to be part of the curriculum in earlier grades. Kindergartners should be exposed to two languages (English and something else), by grade six we should have communicative competency in both of them, and by end of grade twelve students should have communicative competency in three languages. When student get into college, they should then pick another language that they want to learn and cultivate.

By learning another language you don't just have access to a corpus of literary work and knowledge from other places, you gain access to the people which helps you in ways that you may not have yet imagined.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Getting that warm fuzzy feeling of "I've been there! Done That!"

I guess this is one of those self-congratulatory blog posts ;-) I'll try not to be too cocky about it :-)

Anyway. Recently a colleague of mine sent me this blog post from the .eduGuru blog. The blog post is interesting to read so you should go ahead and do that. The quick highlights though are these:

1. College wants to do something exclusive for new students
2. College creates online exclusive community
3. College uses Ning to do it.

There have been many instances where I've had ideas for things that would make student's lives easier, but this is one idea that I actually grabbed and ran with it - and the result if the UMass ID community on Ning.

Of course my goals weren't just to welcome new students. My goal was to create a community of practice made up of current students, newly accepted students to the program and of alumni. People can come and be welcomed by a community of practitioners, they can find information about the program (what they need to do to graduate, what classes are available, and so on) and a place where they can ask for info about things that affect their professional lives as well (such as knowing a good source for training on a certain topic).

I have to say that I am not the only person that thought about doing this for an academic environment and then went ahead and did it, but having done it, and seeing other people follow the my footsteps and those of my fellow pioneers in the field makes me feel good to say "been there, done that, thanks for validating the methodology" :-)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Intro to Instructional Design - what should it be? (part 2)

OK, so in the last post I covered the model to be used in an introduction to instructional design class. Now the model should not be the focus of the course. The model should be an overarching theme that can be used to tie other elements together, and to be used in producing a final project in the course.

In an intro class I could expect the following:

Introduction to some learning theories: Theories like behaviorism, constructivism and so on. Just give people a 30,000 foot view of the theoretical knowledge in the field.

Semester Project: This would be a project that would make students think about all the steps required to design instruction. The topic could be something as mundane as making a spanish omelet or a monte-cristo sandwich. The point here is that students will need to think about everything that needs to go into instruction and create the instruction. This would be a group project (no more than 3 members)

Mini Research Papers: Nothing crazy, just 2 papers in a semester, 3-4 pages long (double spaced) where students need to go to the library, research two articles per paper and give their opinion in how it all fits in with the theories that we are doing in class.

Major Research Paper: Based on a topic for the whole class, write a 10 page research paper that uses the theory taught in class, along with other research that you've done on your own, to illustrate a given point (or to dispute it).

Some people may cry foul, saying that the course is too research oriented. At that I say "phooey!" Several studies, however incomplete, seem to indicate that instructional designers don't consult theory in their day to day work. They don't even do it as a hobby or for professional development.

It's important for students and professionals to have the ability to conduct research to problem solve situations that they have not been in and to try to understand different SME contexts. Doing is over-rated in an introduction context, it's the mind that needs sharpening, especially if you haven't been to grad school, or if you haven't been in school for a while.

Just my two cents on the subject...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Intro to Instructional Design - what should it be? (part 1)

In the past couple of months I've had some interesting discussions with colleagues and classmates about the introduction to instructional design class that we've taken in our instructional design program. It's interesting that people generally tend to fall into one of two camps: the anti-Dick & Carey camp, and the for-Dick & Carey camp.

Before I go on, let me just say that our program uses the Dick & Carey model for approaching instructional design. The camp that loves the Dick & Carey model likes it for breaking down the process into discreet steps. They don't like models like ADDIE or ASSURE because they view them as sloppy.

On the other camp, the Dick & Carey haters, I've heard arguments that the intro to ID course should not be a course on Dick & Carey; even though Dick & Carey might be a great model to use in real life do you really have time for all those steps?

I think that the truth lies somewhere between both camps. I think that an intro to ID course should cover all of the sub-steps involved in the process of creating instruction (learner and context analysis, instructional analysis, materials selection, etc.) The model you use makes no difference in the end product. If you're a sloppy and careless designer no model will save you. Crapid elearning is just that - rapid crap - no matter what model you use :-)

Having said that it would be useful to pick one model (I would personally go for Dick & Carey), and then contextualize that model and how the steps in that model overlap with steps in other models. Just going over the sub-steps and not giving learners the overall picture is of no use.

The disadvantage of Dick & Carey is that the textbook is simply awful and too dense to be used by novices. You need someone to 'translate' what the book says, you can learn the content, and then go back to the book for both an in-depth analysis and additional content.

Just my two cents on the subject...

Monday, November 2, 2009

New media is dumb is like txting - waaaaaah!

I really wish I could do an Adam Sessler like video podcast on this (complete with sessler-like sarcasm ;-) ) - Oh well, I think I will keep it to text.

I was reading an article on Inside Higher Ed a couple of weeks ago and I was waiting to see what comments this story would bring up. Alas, only about 13 comments.

In any case, the blog post here is essentially about collaborative learning using technologies like blogs and wikis in the classroom, and making the knowledge available to the world and having it be accessible after the course ends - something that is currently not done in Blackboard. I've written about this topic before so it's nice to see others picking it up.

The story here isn't really the blog post itself, but rather the comments that were left on the story by various members of IHE.

What I find AMAZING are comments like these:
I spend too much of my time trying to get students to punctuate, capitalize, and, more generally, to not write as if they're tweeting or texting, etc. Those media are definitely not conducive to careful, reflective, critical discussion, or to good writing. And too much of what I mark already takes on the character of that coarse, casual, and unattractive style.

I really don't get why people think that the medium is inherently not suited for academic discourse. The commenter disagrees that the medium has something inherent in it that makes it not conducive, but it just is not conducive. I wonder if this person knows the meaning of inherent - or if he does, he doesn't want to admit that blogs and wikis can be used in academic discourses and therefore just dismisses them as "not conducive".

I can take a piece of paper and use txting lingo, OMG. U SRSLY think that blogs r the only place that u can use sutch language? ROFLMAO, what a closed minded person - 2 bad hes a filosofer - doing a diservice 2 his profesion.

You get the point,... I hope.

There's more that I disagree with this person, but he is such a close minded individual that it's not really worth taking up any more space on here. It is worth going over to the blog post, reading that and comments.

The bottom line, there is nothing inherent in blogs, wikis and web 2.0 technologies that precludes the possibility of spell checking, creating coherent sentences and arguments that are backed up by research. Students will need to learn, and write, modern standard American English in order to be able to fit into society at large. You can teach someone those skills on paper, using a typewriter, using a computer with a word processor, or using blogs, wikis, and discussion boards. All you need is a good teacher.