April 19, 2009
This blog is moving...sort of.
This is the final post on this version of my blog. I am changing platforms. The web address: situativity.org, will remain the same but the RSS will be different. If you are following along using my Feedburner feed, I am dropping that service as a combination feed and moving to Friendfeed.
Direct links to original entries on this blog should all be preserved because I do not plan to delete the original posts but links from those entries to the homepage will go to the new version of the blog.
Posted by Rovy at 9:47 AM
June 18, 2008
The problem with computer-based education...
I think I have figured out the problem with computer-based education: it’s the computer. Computers are designed to do many things to a satisfactory degree, rather than doing specific tasks well. It reminds me of a conversation I had several years ago with Don Norman when I worked in his usability group at UNext.com. He had his Palm device, which stored contacts and kept his calendar, I had a fancy new Windows Mobile device, which could do all sorts of things. As we stood comparing devices, he panned my Windows device but not because he thought it was incapable, it was too capable.
Don wanted a device that did one or two things very well, not a device that could do everything. He qualified this desire in the following way: When I am camping, I want a pocket knife that can help me do a great many things. When I am in the kitchen, however, I want my full complement of cooking implements that can each do a specific task very well.
While all computing devices (not “computers” per se) today do many things, the newer devices tend to focus on a niche capability or at least allow the owners to focus on a niche capability. My iPod™ can be used to read ebooks, for example but it is much better at playing music and watch video on the go. My Kindle™, on the other hand, has completely changed my reading habits almost overnight as a fantastic e-reading device. Even though I can upload music to my Kindle, I choose to let my iPod handle this task.
Our online and computer-based courses, however, still force us to endure all aspects of content on a single device. Perhaps a podcast is offered to provide access to a lecture, but courses are generally designed to put everything within the context of a laptop/desktop. As a result, the better designers among us try to limit or eliminate longer text passages from online courses. Videos and audio tracks are severely curtailed as well, since most people don’t want to sit and watch or listen at their screens for that long. What are we missing as a result of this? Are we losing potentially rich prose simply because the device we are using is ill-suited to reading?
Text is still valuable, and I agree with Jeff Bezos, who noted that most current technology is designed for what he called "info snacking" and not deep, meaningful understanding (part of the logic behind Amazon’s development of the Kindle).
At the Co-lab, we have a new XML schema we have created to allow courses to be easily re-skinned or deployed to different devices. I have asked our lead technician whether we can take that technology a bit further and allow it to parse text to go to one device, one-way media (audio or video) to go to another, and finally to leave multimedia or interactive components on a desktop/laptop. The key is that I also want the course to be able to reassemble into a “pocket knife” version that can be fully taken on a single device.
Using only a single device to instruct is a relatively new concept. I think we need to reconsider a return to the use of many devices for teaching (like we did when it was a blackboard, books, lecture), but let’s update the concept for e-learning.
Posted by Rovy at 4:17 PM
May 22, 2008
Oil and online education
I was reading the Wall Street Journal this morning on my Kindle (more to come on the Kindle itself) and I saw that the latest reports on oil fields and their productivity are not particularly encouraging. According to the article, the IEA (International Energy Agency), while in its early stages of assessing current oil field health, may be about to significantly reduce its outlook for the ability of supply to meet demand.
What does this have to do with online education? We are already seeing steady and significant increases in all forms of online education for many reasons. This year, I heard of one K-12 district in Wisconsin that is facing exploding student growth and had all bonds voted down to build a new high school. The result: the district is considering a blended approach where students alternate days in class with days spent in online classes – essentially half the students are physically in school on alternating days. While this particular district is facing a unique situation, energy economics are affecting all schools.
Across the country, community newspapers have similar headlines: Schools face shortfall in fuel budgets. Has anyone started to ask the question: what would happen if we went to a 4-day school week with 1 day online? How much would that potentially save our school systems? Could a sharp oil increase (far beyond what we have today) be the catalyst for looking at new models?
There are many implications for making such changes but I would be interested to know if anyone has seen stories from schools considering reduced weeks.
April 16, 2008
eLearning Guild AG 2008 Handout
The link above will download a Word document containing the handout for my SCORM presentation at the eLearning Guild 2008 Annual Gathering.
Thanks to everyone who attended!
December 21, 2007
When training does not help...
HELLO! As someone who flies a lot, I would like to see the FAA hire a performance or training consultant who has been through Training 101 (likely they have one who says what I say here until they are blue in the face but management is not listening).
Both controllers were taken off duty and sent for retraining, standard procedure, Molinaro said.
And then a couple of paragraphs later:
Controllers in the Chicago region have said they are weary and more error-prone after having to work repeated six-day weeks due to staffing level changes. The FAA has said that staffing levels are adequate despite controllers' complaints.
This is not a training problem. I think I am going to create a new site category called "Bad Training Stories" to begin to call these out. I am sure one intent of telling people the employees are getting "more training" is to give some assurance something is being done but it is not fixing the problem.
December 20, 2007
Google, Android, and ARG Games
From the GLS email list (note this is not an open mailing list):
The first augmented reality games on handheld (we call them ARGH) for Google's Android is now out in Beta. 2 thoughts on this: 1) It is now easier to see how Google is beginning to pull all of their technologies together in interesting ways and 2) This is the first step in making ARGH games much more accessible.
The Local Games Lab, which is a part of the Academic ADL Co-Lab has created 8 educational ARGH games and the level of student engagement is very high. These demonstrate the power of these games as a learning tool.
I wonder how people in a mall or nice restaurant will react to people playing ARGH shooter games? When we will see the first "No ARG Shooter Games Permitted Here" signs begin to pop up?
A good description of the WiFi Army beta game can be found over at FinderMentalism.
December 19, 2007
On the other end of the "acceptance of online education" spectrum...
From this article in the NY Times this morning:
Walter H. G. Lewin, 71, a physics professor, has long had a cult following at M.I.T. And he has now emerged as an international Internet guru, thanks to the global classroom the institute created to spread knowledge through cyberspace.
Two quick points: At 71 years old, he is another reason why I dislike the term "digital natives" as a reference to the younger generation. I also admire the fact that he puts in about 25 hours of prep for each 50-minute lecture.
This is the sort of thing I would normally Furl but for some reason the auto update on my site is no longer recording new articles (though they seem to be coming through the Feedburner feed just fine). Looks like another minor project for my upcoming "vacation" time.
More articles on the virtual school decision in WI
Here are a number of opinion articles about the recent decision to limit state funding of virtual charter schools in WI. The issue is not as simple as at might first appear and the real legal issue is the use of state funds, not the schools themselves. There are many models of virtual schools and it is not clear how broadly this ruling will apply.
What adds a twist to the picture (but might not change the legal issues) is that it is not an argument about educational outcomes. As noted in the "Blow to Innovation" article below "...the kids attending Wisconsin Virtual Academy are thriving. They score at or above the state average in most subjects at nearly every grade level."
It's a Virtual War (The New York Sun)
A Blow to Innovation (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Virtual School Was Real Solution (Wisconsin State Journal)
Virtual Schools Here to Stay (Capital Times)
Online Education Vital for Wisconsin (Badger Herald)
Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families (WisPolitics - Press Release)
Thanks to Judy Brown for sending these over.
December 17, 2007
Game merger mania?
This is a link to a recent story in the Economist about the impending merger between Activision and Vivendi (who produces World of Warcraft). The story describes the trend toward more mergers and consolidations and reasons why they are happening. I thought the following quote by Activision's leader was particularly interesting:
"World of Warcraft” is really “a social network with many entertainment components,” says Mr Kotick."
December 13, 2007
This Wired story might be old news for some but it is making the rounds today...
December 11, 2007
Scott Leslie at SREB
I am attending the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) meeting in Atlanta this week and it seems appropriate to blog while Scott Leslie is presenting on Web 2.0. This is a group of tech folks but it is interesting to see that there is still new knowledge in the presentation for everyone.
Despite some connectivity issues, Scott did a great job and was an impressive presenter!
The presentation is a wiki:
More to come...
December 7, 2007
A great blog for game/learning research
Perhaps many of you already subscribe but the last few weeks on the MacArthur blog have been outstanding with posts from the GLS faculty related to games and identity development.
December 6, 2007
And so it begins in earnest...
We are now seeing the battles begin to heat up over virtual schools. this story today here in Wisconsin shows how contentious this issue is now becoming. I predicted these battles almost two years ago on this blog but they are now happening.
"Virtual schools allow students to learn over the Internet under the direction of their parents. Students from any district can enroll in them under Wisconsin 's open enrollment policy.
Supporters say they are more effective for some students, less expensive than traditional schools and popular with families who prefer to home-school their children. The schools are growing quickly across the country and in Wisconsin.
But teachers unions and other critics say the schools take away money from traditional ones and lack state oversight."
This ruling is specifically targets at the particular format of virtual schools that are led by parents with certified teacher support, versus states with a much higher level of direct instructor involvement. I have asked a few people whether this ruling will impact all forms of online education in Wisconsin and there is no clear answer.
It is clear from the article, however, that there are those who have found value and benefit from the virtual schools:
"I 've been on the phone and e-mail all day with a number of parents who are just scared to death about what 's going to happen, " she said. "Many have kids who are thriving for the first time. This is a real kick in the teeth to us."
I am not going to say that we know all of the answers right now in terms of how online education should be utilized for K-12 students, but it will certainly play a role and pulling the plug completely is unlikely to benefit anyone.
December 4, 2007
Creating a "culture" of simulation
After attending I/ITSEC last week, I returned to snowy Wisconsin and headed to a meeting with the innovative folks at the Marshfield Clinic. Marshfield is located in north central Wisconsin and is internationally recognized for its work in telemedicine. After our meeting, I had the opportunity to see their new simulation training center. The center currently has three "patients" that are remarkably life-like and incredibly sophisticated. In addition to simulating a number of emergencies and conditions, the actions taken by trainees is recorded and played back for debrief. Real IVs can even be inserted in to "veins" in the patients.
As we discussed the lab capabilities with the instructor, she made an interesting comment about the challenge of using simulations. She said that it was sometimes hard to orient people to take the simulation itself as seriously as they should. This often disappears after the scenario is underway but she said it would be beneficial to have a culture that is more accepting of simulation.
A brief video and more thoughts in the extended entry:
December 2, 2007
Virtual Reality Driving at I/ITSEC
If I look a little happy in the picture, it is because I had just consumed six virtual alcoholic drinks and was attempting to navigate my hummer through some tricky construction areas. Seriously, the simulator had a scenario that slowed your reaction time, gave you tunnel vision, and made driving very difficult based on the number of virtual drinks you consumed, your build, and how long it had been since you consumed the drinks. I set the simulation to six drinks, medium build, and less than one hour since consuming the drinks. I could not keep this thing on the road but the actual effect was relatively subtle until you needed a quick reaction time. Such simulations provide a more effective learning experience than the lectures and scare-tactic movies I saw in driver's ed.