Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology & Associate Professor at Royal Roads University

ALT-C 2009 Presentations (#altc2009)

Posted on August 19th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

Seems like ALT-C 2009 conversations are sprouting here and there. I’m looking forward to this conference, partly because it’s happening at my host institution, and partly because I can’t wait to give my presentations, watch the keynotes, and spend time talking with smart people. Join me when I’ll be talking about the following:

(In the first presentation I try to define emerging technologies with a view to developing a research agenda for enhancing educational practice. In the second presentation, Aaron Doering and I, apply the Adventure Learning approach to higher education and present one example of how traditional curricula can be transformed to experiential, social, collaborative, and authentic learning experiences).

See you there!

p.s. i dislike labels such as “authentic” as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s easier to describe something in a sentence using these convoluted terms.

Dear student…

Posted on August 18th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 4 comments

My sister is about two weeks shy from attending university. This letter is for her, and for all young people her age. If you have any further advice, please feel free to contribute in the comments section.

2118947819_23cf5e5a79(image credit: Kuyman on flickr)

Dear Nicole,

Isn’t it great that you are finally able to go to university?! Meeting new people, living away from home, learning how to manage friendships, relationships, groceries… a budget. I’m sure you’ll do great. There’s a few education-related items that most people don’t talk about though. You may find them useful:

  • Your teachers don’t know everything and don’t hold knowledge wrapped up in a box to give it to you. Don’t wait for them. Take charge and search for it yourself.
  • Trust yourself, your instincts, and your sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. If you disagree with your instructor, say it. And be prepared to learn if you are mistaken.
  • Collect and cherish your experiences. Try new things, join organizations, visit museums, raves (are they still happening?), operas, theaters, sporting events, and so on.
  • Don’t rely on the facts and the material that you are given in class. Understand it, but question it. Question its relevance and its significance. And question these publicly.
  • Travel. Visit new places and new countries. But don’t go to the next tourist attraction and don’t waste your time in organized group tours. Go to places that aren’t advertised in mass media. And talk to the locals, learn about their way of living and share your way of living with them. One of my best memories of traveling was a night I spend in Diamond City, Arkansas. Kelly and I slept on a retired couples’ couch for the night. We didn’t know the couple. We met them through a site called couchsurfing.com. They had a hootenanny and invited all of their friends to have a good time with us. We learned about their way of life, about their kids, and their aspirations. We also learned that Diamond City is a “dry” county, which means that people living there drive to the closest county to get their alcohol (go figure). This is what you call a “learning experience.”  Compare this to the lectures that you will be subjected to and you’ll see the difference. I also learned a lot from spending a few hours in a disco at Aguas Calientes, Peru and at a fish tavern in Portugal. Travel provides powerful learning experiences.
  • Meet lots of people. With the help of technology you can even meet (and chat with) people that you will probably never have the chance to see face-to-face. Try things like omegle for example.
  • Be good to people and collaborate/work with as many as you can. It doesn’t matter if they disagree with you or if their outer visible characteristics are different from yours. Learn from them and let them learn from you.
  • Take the time to explore your passions and figure out how you can turn your passions into a career.
  • And don’t forget to play – play with your gadgets and have fun with your friends.

… I have lots more to add, but i’ll stop because I’ll digress to advice beyond education and learning. Enjoy!

xoxoxo

George

On the Popularity of Open Access Journals

Posted on August 13th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, open, sharing, work. 2 comments
[This posting is divided into 2 parts. This is part 2 and it provides an exercise in popularity metrics for online open access journals. The first part of this posting, providing an editable spreadsheet of online open access journals,  is available here.]

In this post I demonstrate several points that I have been playing with over the years. On the one hand, the post takes a simple concept (the popularity of academic journals) and attempts to rethink it in the context of the digital, interconnected space. On the other hand, it demonstrates the power of the “cloud” and the opportunities provided by posting information in online spaces that are accessible via standardized formats (such as XML). The posting also serves as an example of what kinds of opportunities mashups can provide to universities/education. And finally, I just wanted to learn how to remix data via online services :)

yahoopipe

As you may have seen in my previous posting, we collected a list of all the open access online journals that we could find that are focused on publishing educational technology research. While having the list online in an open spreadsheet format allows anyone interested to update it, it also allows us to manipulate and remix the data. As a simple example, consider the issue of journal rankings. I’ve seen it debated on ITForum, on twitter, at the University of Minnesota where I did my PhD, and at the University of Manchester where I currently work. The issue is that “top tier” journals are good for tenure, but there are debates on what constitutes “top tier.” Is it readership? Rejection rates? Quality? Citations? All the above? I could link to a few different resources here, but the only one I will refer interested readers to is the European Science Foundation ERIH listings that I personally use as a guide.

My intention in this post is to rank the online open access journals according to “popularity.” As I see the rolling eyes through the tubes of the internet, let me say that popularity in this case refers to the number of sites that link to a particular page. Higher numbers denote more inbound links (= higher popularity). If you want to see the popularity metrics without reading the details of how this was done, the end result (that is generated every time you click on the link) is available on this page. At the time of writing, the least linked-to journal had 0 inbound links and the most linked-to journal had 31,534 links.

To be fair (or, “a word of caution”): The popularity index is not without it’s faults. Popularity doesn’t mean quality or even readership. The number of inbound links can be easily manipulated. The measure leaves our RSS subscriptions and number of individuals receiving TOC alerts. Also, inbound links carry equal weight regardless of where they come from. Another issue relates to journals changing URLs. For example, the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication used to be hosted an Indiana University but is now part of the Wiley InterScience group (and is still open access). Also, the URL we used to link to a journal might not be the most appropriate one. To fully understand and see the problems with this method, one has to dive under the hood of the whole process, and that’s what I am doing next.

The implementation in detail

The journal URLs are posted in a google spreadsheet that allows data to exist online in a variety of formats (e.g. csv and html files). Those files can then be read into Yahoo Pipes (essentially, a drag-and-drop mashup tool). Once Yahoo pipes has a list of journal URLs, those URLs are send through the Yahoo Site Explorer API which generates “information about the pages linking to a particular page or pages within a domain.” That information includes the magic numbers used in this exercise (i.e. the number of pages linking to a particular journal via its url). Once the numbers are generated, Yahoo Pipes exports them as an RSS feed. That feed can then be imported back to a Google Spreadsheet. And that’s it. Whenever a journal url is added to the spreadsheet, the pipe generates a popularity number for it without anyone needing to do anything. A new journal appears? No problem, just add the url and its inbound links will be counted automatically. If you want the full details, feel free to grab the actual yahoo pipe that does all the work and clone it (at this point I should thank Mat Morisson and Tony Hirst, whose postings on yahoo pipes and online data manipulation helped me rethink how I was doing this). If you don’t have a yahoo account and are interested in how the implementation looks, the image at the top of this post is the actual pipe created.

A final word of caution :)

This is not a valid method to decide where to send your next paper :). Yet, as I see more and more conversations online about  open access (e.g., BJET published an editorial on the topic on Aug 12, 2009) and alternative ways to evaluate ones contribution to his/her chosen field, this simple example may ignite ideas for evaluating journal contributions (in the UK at least the issue of journal impact is currently being debated as we await the transformation of the Research Assessment Exercise). Also, the ranking is less interesting to me than the implications behind our ability to remix available data to think about journal “impact”. Finally, if you are managing an online open access journal and you feel that the URL used is not representative of where users link to, please feel free to correct the url by visiting the original listing. If we used an erroneous link, we apologize and we thank you for helping us correct it.

Open Access Educational Technology journals

Posted on August 9th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, open, sharing, work. 14 comments
[This posting is divided into 2 parts. This is part 1 and it provides an editable listing of open access journals publishing research in educational technology]

For the Fall semester of 2009, I am teaching a course for MA students on “Researching Digital Technologies, Communication, and Education.” One of the resources developed for my students is a listing of open access journals (name, url, and RSS feed) that publish papers on the nexus between technology and education (educational technology, instructional design, e-learning, online distance education, and so on, and so on). I initially thought that this list would be available elsewhere, but I couldn’t find it. I could find numerous other collections of journals (here, here, here, and here) but nothing that consisted of only open access and only for technology-enhanced education. So, we created our own.

spreadsheet

Obviously, it would be plain silly to develop such a resource and not share it openly. Therefore, I am making the list available as a Google Spreadsheet that you can access here (update: if you don’t have a google account, you can view the document in html format). The spreadsheet is also open, so that if you have a Google account, you can add any journals/information that we were not able to find (if you don’t have a Google account to add information to the spreadsheet you will need to use this form). You will see that the information that is mostly missing are the journals’ RSS feeds (if you are the editor of one of the journals listed, please consider adding RSS feeds to your online journal and adding this information in the spreadsheet). Note that there is also a column that allows you to add your name so that additions to the spreadsheet are properly attributed.

I hope that this is useful for the community, for instructors who want to introduce their students to open access, and to researchers who would like to have a handy list around when considering where to submit their next paper.

[Stay tuned by subscribing to this blog's RSS feed or following me on twitter: Part 2 of this series presents popularity metrics for these journals. These metrics are calculated in real-time and are automatically generated for every new addition to the spreadsheet]

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Notes from an e-learning workshop

Posted on August 4th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, Ideas, sharing, work. No Comments

This past week, my colleague and I had the pleasure of having with us a group of 25 faculty members from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In cooperation with the National Center For e-learning and Distance Learning, we held a two week workshop/training session for them on e-learning, digital technologies and education. Our conversations over these days touched upon multiple aspects of online and distance learning, ranging from cultural issues to techno-social affordances, to LMS evaluation, quality assurance, creativity, and pedagogical transformation. While I had a curriculum designed for my workshop days, I followed about half of it. The rest was revised on the spot according to what we felt we needed to cover and the needs that arose. In reality, the workshop wouldn’t have been successful had the curriculum was set in stone, but, if you are reading this far, I am probably preaching to the wrong choir :)

Below, is a list of items/ideas surrounding workshop issues. Other than being helpful to me, they might also be helpful to you if you are planning on leading a workshop/training session:

  • People seem to like lists. I don’t know why, but they do. I think it was Curt Bonk who had wrote that people like lists and acronyms (probably because they are memorable), but the last item that I gave to my colleagues before they left today was a list of 10 things to keep in mind when using technology in education.
  • This group was especially interested in learning from our experience with e-learning. Frequent questions were: How does the University of Manchester do e-learning? How do you train instructors/professors in using technology in education? What is your e-learning agenda? How do you convince instructors to adopt technology? What went wrong and what did you learn?
  • Pedagogy and technology-enhanced pedagogy should be central and this should be made explicit from the very beginning. By George (!) enough with pedagogy-enhanced technology!
  • University networks are just plain weird. On the one hand, my computer (that is registered on the network by its mac address, which is a unique identifier) would not connect to the network via ethernet. On the other hand, more than 1 person can log on the lab machines using the same username and password. The reason why the first issue arises while the second issue is ok is baffling me.
  • Practical activities and discussion trump theory.
  • People also seem to like to explore the courses that others have created and investigate specific design ideas or specific things that worked well or didn’t. I had my own courses to showcase and a few other open courses, but I wasn’t able to invite others to talk about their own experiences/courses. Perhaps the next time.
  • Every university is different and it’s always difficult to give specific input on what might work in a specific situation. Recipes for success are generally recipes for disaster. For example, in some of these universities, the university’s budget is a non-issue. Yes, you read this right. In this economic climate. This was something new for me. To be more specific, it doesn’t matter if Blackboard costs money and Moodle doesn’t.
  • Studying your learners helps. Did you know that online learning and distance education are  pressing matters in Suadi Arabia due to the fact that 38% of the country’s population is between the ages of 10-14 and the country needs to provide higher education to these people? It’s an exciting time for our field in this part of the world.
  • Respectfulness, politeness, openness, appreciation, and kindness (along with a desire to improve education) go a long way.

I will end by posting a link to a twitpic posting that occurred during class time when we were trying to explore how the college of applied arts could promote student work online. And, in the spirit of the cross-cultural learning that transpired during the sessions, I look forward to visiting my newfound colleagues in the near future in Saudi Arabia. Inshallah (which, incidentally is a common Cypriot expression and is not derived from a specific religion)… oh, the things that this blog’s visitors learn are never-ending :)

A year of travel

Posted on August 2nd, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

It was about 1 year ago that I moved from Minneapolis to Manchester, UK. In the past 11 months, somehow, I have managed to travel internationally every single month, either for work or for short personal trips. To keep myself reminded that this is possible and that I would like to keep up, I am posting a list of locations visited over the last 11 months :) (I have pictures from each location, but after my computer meltdown, I am waiting for my copy of photoshop to arrive to edit pictures from my last trip):

July 2008: Minneapolis, Manchester
August 2008: Minneapolis, Manchester
September 2008: Cyprus
October 2008: Czech Republic, Germany
November 2008: Czech Republic, Germany
December 2008: Cyprus, US
January 2009: US
February 2009: US
March 2009: Cyprus
April 2008: US
May 2009: Portugal, Sweden
June 2009: US
July 2009: US

(and another realization – it seems that i’ve traveled in the US way way too much. That’s probably true, but it involves both personal and professional [i.e. conferences] travel)