Wednesday, April 27, 2011

mLearning and Foursquare-type academic Check-ins

I've been a bit silent on mobiMOOC these past few days, mostly sitting back, reading and taking time to think about things. One of the ideas that has come to mind is using services like GoWalla and Foursquare to check-into locations and using this as some sort of mLearning platform.

At UMass Boston the College of Management has a Management Achievement Program (MAP). In this program undergraduates, in addition to their coursework in management, need to attend a series of lectures in order to graduate.  Students can mix and match the lectures that they attend (based on interests and availability) and accumulate enough "miles" in order to graduate.
In the library we also have a self-guided tour of the library, and quite frequently I run into students who are doing scavenger hunts on campus as part of their  coursework.  It seems to me that these types of events could easily loan themselves to social-check ins.  For example If I am a management student and I elect to go to an eligible lecture by Management Guru X, the college of management could commission a custom badge for the event.

When the students check in, they are given a unique serial number [by organizers who also take their name down for some sort of paper backup] which needs to be added to their check-in to that venue so that they get a badge for that event (When you check in at  venue in foursquare you can microblog something. if you add keywords, like a serial number, the system can assign you a badge, as opposed to just indicating that you went to a specific venue).

Now, these individual events can also be part of a meta-category. If you attend 10 events for example in the Finance meta-category you might unlock another badge like Finance Maverick or Finance Guru, or if you tend to attend mostly IT related workshops and speaker events you might be given an MSIS Guru badge.  In addition to the badges students would be able to  gain access to resources (additional readings, discounts, one-on-one company tours, etc.) that could further their learning past that that workshop or speaker event!

This sort of mLearning tool can also be used for on campus engagement.  The campus hosts sporting events, student life events, dances, balls, galas and so on. The campus COULD commission custom badges for special events.  For example SEED (spring engagement and enrichment days) and Talented U. are coming up. Through the use of Foursquare (or some sort of equivalent) AND QR codes, people can check in and snap a photo of a QR code which foursquare then processes and not only checks them in to a particular building or department, but also gives them a badge for having participated in an event.

For academic events you'd need some sort of unique serialization, so that students check in individually, but the administrators also have some backup record to student attendance and participation for grading purposes; but for extended mLearning and student engagement, where you don't' necessarily need documentation, you can conceivably have some time-sensitive QR codes plastered up in certain venues and location which check you in to a specific venue with one snap of the camera and award you with a badge.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Is it learning if there is no assessment?

I have a feeling that this question falls into the category of "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"... but I will ask the question anyway :-)

This question came to me by reading Sheena's comment in my Different Levels of m post a few days ago. Sheena wrote that she was thinking of an SMS based mLearning project, being inspired by text4baby. Having never heard of text4baby, I looked into it (big thanks to Sheena for bringing it to my attention :-) ) So how does text4baby work? According to the site

Registration is easy and can be done online here or from your cell phone. Simply text the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. You’ll be asked to enter your baby’s due date or your baby’s birthday and your zip code.

Once you are registered you will start receiving free messages with tips for your pregnancy and caring for your baby. These messages are timed to your due date or your baby’s birth date. If your due date changes, you can text UPDATE to 511411 and enter your new due date.
This is an intriguing learning service and the geek in me wonders what the back end looks like :-)  This got me thinking.  In instructional design (no matter what model you use) there is always an Evaluation or Assessment aspect.  Did the learner learn what they were supposed to learn? Could they demonstrate the desired behavior?  How do you test this?  With text4baby it doesn't seem like there is an assessment component. You sign-up and you are sent personalize information daily via text, but it doesn't seem like there is follow up in terms of assessment. So for us learning professionals, is there learning taking place if there is no assessment to demonstrate that learning has taken place? Your thoughts?

As an aside, for all fellow mobiMOOC participants, how high up is assessment in your mental list when you're thinking about creating mLearning?

Friday, April 15, 2011

mobiMOOC: lots of academic sources!

I just had quite an interesting realization - it's only the end of Week 2 on mobiMOOC (1/3 done with the course) and there are already a ton of resources that have been contributed by participants; a lot of these resources are scholarly resources in the form of studies and published research articles on mLearning.  This is pretty cool!  There is also a delicious mobiMOOC repository available which is pretty cool.  I've been thinking of starting a Zotero share so we can put all of these academic articles, with proper citations and bibliographic information, somewhere where people can have access to them in one place (instead of being inside many separate google group email postings).  Perhaps this is something that I might start undertaking over the weekend, or next week.  Truthfully I haven't had much chance to go through the citations already provided, so I want to create this bibliography for myself, for future use, but I think it would be worthwhile for everyone to have access to it.  After all six weeks is a tiny amount of time to go through all these resources :-)

The other thing that came to mind, as far as academic sources go, is that this MOOC has many many more user generated scholarly article recommendations compared to LAK11 and CCK11.  Both in LAK and CCK George and Stephen provided weekly readings that we reacted to (in addition to reacting to fellow participant's blog posts), but I don't really recall seeing that many academic articles contributed by participants. It seemed like George and Stephen were the contributors of academic knowledge in the other MOOCs.  This MOOC seems to me more democratic, or rather more like a puzzle.  We have all come together with different pieces of a puzzle and we are filling each other's gaps in knowledge, while at the same time having a discussion and refining our own understanding of mLearning (technology and pedagogy).

It just goes to show, not two MOOCs are the same!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Print reference?!?!

Today I am at my last Basic Library Techniques (BLT) course, after this I am certified to be a library director - in a town of 10,000 or fewer residents in Massachusetts. OK those are a lot of terms and conditions, but I've gone through workshops in Library Administration, Collection Development, Cataloguing and now I am finishing up with Reference. Prior to this workshop I read Reference and Information Services as well as Introduction to Reference Work vol I and vol II by Katz. A lot of the stuff from this workshop I am in right now is review, but they are also plugging holes in areas that I opted to not read up on (like Children's Librarianship and Young-Adult Librarianship - I have no interest in these fields).

In any case, one thing is really perplexing about the homework. Among other things in this workshop we were given a set of questions that we needed to answer using ONLY print materials. Seriously? What is this 1959? Now granted, many small libraries do not have access to the electronic databases and indexes that I have access to in an academic library, but using only print resources to answer reference questions seems like tying both hands behind your back and  putting 50-kilo weights on your feet and telling you to go run a marathon. is it doable? of course! But it takes longer to get to the same result! I really don't get it.

The second thing that is a bit perplexing about reference comes as an anecdote from someone who attended Simmons (a major name in librarian training).  Apparently their intro to reference course requires a sit-down exam where future librarians are asked to tell the professor which sources they would look in for answer to specific questions (based on what's in the Katz books). Now don't get me wrong, it's nice to have the Katz books as reference material to look where to look things up in; however if your library does not have the reference materials listed in the book, what good is it to know that you can likely find the answer in Book A when you don't have access to Book A? It's better, in my opinion, to know your reference collection inside out, and do some collection development to improve your reference collection. These type of rote memorization learning exercises are useless.

That said, I am now BLT certified.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Different levels of "m"

Week 2 of mobiMOOC is underway - and there's been a ton of discussion during week 1! (much more than I expected actually).  It's amazing to me than mLearning has become synonymous (these days) with smartphones, apps on those smartphones and mobile data.  One doesn't have to go too far back in the research literature to find mLearning to be something that was based on regular phones, using regular SMS and MMS messages, and even voice communications!

In the shuffle in the developed world we seem to have lost that simplicity of just voice and SMS/MMS and we've gone with things that require expensive handsets and expensive data plans.  Even if you get a sort of cheap Android phone (certainly cheaper and an iPhone) you still have to pay for a data plan.  I don't know how data rates are in countries other than the US, but until recently (recent being 3 years of fewer) data on a phone cost a lot and you just didn't get that much of it!

I know it's tempting to go the App route, or mobile-web route, but what about lean mLearning? Back in the days computers had limited availability of things like RAM and hard drive space. This made developers THINK about how they would best implement their program so that they can get the most out of it on limited hardware.  I think that THIS is the mindset that designers of mLearning and designers of mLearning applications need to be in to NOT just think of those of us who are privileged in our position to be able to afford a smartphone and a data plan, but also those who have access to voice and SMS only.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Semantics, Epistemology and Learning

Another interesting post by Jaap in this week's (final week) of CCK11 made me think.

Jaap writes:

As a connectivist (CCK11) I do not like the words “acquisition of knowledge”, I like to that to be “connecting to information”.

This made me think of the philosophy behind knowledge, how one sees knowledge and information (and ultimately wisdom?), and the semantics behind the words we use. Take for instance this phrase:

Acquisition of Knowledge

What does Acquisition of Knowledge imply? Well, we acquire something that in concrete, something already pre-made, ready for us to pick up and consume, use, or put it on a mantle. This view of knowledge is very behaviorist in its connotation. I don't necessarily subscribe to this idea. I think information can be given (example: don't touch the stove, it's hot) but there is no necessary knowledge of what happens if you touch a hot stove. As a kid I was told this time and time again, and I never touched a hot stove. A few months ago, by accident, I did touch a hot stove and boy did it hurt! I guess though pain I gained the knowledge of WHY I shouldn't touch a hot stove. Which leads me to the next phrase. Consider this one:

Construction of Knowledge

This phrase is implies that we, as learners, do something to the information we take in. We take in information through all of our senses, then some sort of mental process happens where we work through the information we get to make sense of it, and create that knowledge (understanding) for ourselves - a constructivist (Piagetian) notion. Vygotsky took this a step further with social-constructivism where it's not just what happens in your head, but also the interaction between people that help you process the information you are getting and hopefully turn that into knowledge (know-how). I like this theory, Vygotsky's, a little better than Piaget's and Skinner's (behaviorism) because there is, conceivably, someone more knowledgeable than you helping you increase your understanding. The only problem here is when you have a bunch of individuals who are somewhat at the same level of knowledge trying to help each other out with their learning. Learning can potentially be really slow as they reinvent the wheel.

Finally, let's consider:

Connecting to Information

This comes to the heart of CCK11, and connectivism in general. Now this phrase is connectivist in ideology and does address the concern I have about social-constructivism; that is if you don't have someone at a much higher level of knowledge and information learning slows to a crawl. At the same time this phrase has a major flaw - you're connecting to information, but it doesn't really say anything about what you do with it. Of course you can connect to information (thank you internet! :-) ) but you ought to do something with it to make it worth your while. Also, if you don't understand the information, what then?

As others have pointed out, no one theory completely covers how humans learn. I think that my views of knowledge and learning lie somewhere between connectivism, constructionism and social-interactionism. Connectivism on it's own doesn't work for me. Social-interactionism is good, but without a network to connect to, when you have reached a ceiling, it sort of limits your growth as a learner.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Prognosticating is fun!

This is it, last week of CCK11.
I went through the materials, well...I mostly skimmed through them to be honest, but I really did have a blast going through them, especially Stephen's 1998 prognostications of technology and education in the future. In 1998 I graduated high school and started my undergraduate studies at the University. It's interesting that ideas, such as the PAD (or PADD if you are a star trek fan)are spot-on! Still not quite there with a few things, but we're getting there. If I could point at one thing that's great about ubiquitous technology it would be that it has the potential to open doors. Things like TED, online library catalogs, availability of library databases, and initiatives like OpenCourseWare and various MOOCs make it so that more knowledge, more education, and more access to subject matter specialists is available, for free, to many more people than before. This leaves it up the individual learner to take advantage of these sources for taking their learning up one notch.

Looking forward, one of the things that I still think needs addressing is cost of access. Sure, computers are much cheaper compared to ten years ago, so they are still more accessible from a price point perspective, but not everyone is still able to buy that netbook, that iPad, that smartphone, or the data plan that goes with it, to access all of these great educational resources. I also think that we, CCK11 participants, are part of an Elite. We have developed our digital literacy to the extent where we can make heads and tails of RSS, BBS, Blogs, Wikis, tweets and facebook for both general and educational purposes. There are still many people who have not, even if they have access to technology, so it is incumbent upon us to apprentice these learners into the digital literacy that they will need to be successful. After all, pen and paper are useless unless you know how to write, and cheap (or free) books are useless if you don't know how to read.

We need to improve access, but we also need to improve our fellow humans' digital literacies.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Future Classroom Tech

Can we install one of these in each of our classrooms?
Also, can we have dev-tools that are easy for students and faculty to use to create their learning content for these? ;-)