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

Capturing influence in informal social networks

Posted on November 27th, by George Veletsianos in open, sharing, work. 1 Comment

Data on the influence and impact of interactions in informal social networks is difficult to come by. Dr. Jon Becker is trying to collect data on the influence of Dr. Alec Couros‘ work, in support of Alec’s Tenure and Promotion application. Data from this endeavor will go in Alec’s digital portfolio that supports his application. This is a great idea, not just in terms of evaluating one’s contribution to the community, but also in terms of celebrating the achievements of a dedicated, resourceful, and brilliant colleague. If you have benefited in any way by interacting with Alec – and if you have interacted with Alec, I am sure you have – say it here!

Emerging Technologies in Primary Education

Posted on November 24th, by George Veletsianos in open, sharing. 2 comments

A few short weeks ago a colleague at the University of Nicosia-Cyprus asked if I could pay a virtual visit to her class and have a discussion on issues relating to educational technology. Below are the slides that I’ll be using to discuss the use of emerging technologies in primary education. I don’t usually post these, but this one is in Greek so I thought that some people may find use in it. Below is the same message in Greek.

Πριν μερικές εβδομάδες μία συνάδελφος απο το Πανεπιστήμιο της Λευκωσίας ρώτησε αν θα μπορούσα να κάνω μια εικονική επίσκεψη στην τάξη της για συζήτηση για θέματα που αφορούν την εκπαιδευτική τεχνολογία. Πάρακάτω θα βρείτε τις σημειώσεις μου για τη χρήση των νέων τεχνολογιών στην πρωτοβάθμια/δημοτική εκπαίδευση. Δεν συνηθίζω να τις δίνω αυτές αλλά μίας και είναι στα ελληνικά  σκέφτηκα ότι κάποιοι μπορεί να τις βρουν χρήσιμες.

Two Quotes

Posted on November 23rd, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about educational change lately. I’ve also been trying to connect a few ideas relating to culture, power, access, and responsible teaching. Though I usually return to Paulo Freire for these things, I’ve been reading a bit more on what other authors have to say. Below are two quotes that provide food for thought:

From the Foucault blog, “I lecture at a rather special place, the Collège de France, whose function is precisely not to teach. What I find very pleasing about the situation is that I don’t feel like I’m teaching, that is, I don’t feel that I am in a relationship of power with my students. A teacher is someone who says: “There are a certain number of things you don’t know, but you should know.” He starts off by making the students feel guilty. And then he places them under an obligation, saying: “I’m the one who knows these things that you should know and I’m going to teach them to you. And once I’ve taught them to you, you’re going to have to know them. And I’m going to verify whether you really do know them.” So there’s verification, a whole series of relationships of power. But at the Collège de France, students take only the courses they want to take. And anybody can sit in on classes, anybody from retired army officers to fourteen-year-old lycéens. They come if they are interested, otherwise they stay home. So who is tested, who is under power? At the Collège de France, it’s the teacher.”

From the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy of Education: “In Nietzsche’s thoughts, education and culture are inseparable. There can be no culture without an educational project, nor education without a culture to support it. Education in German schools springs from an historicist conception and gives origin to a pseudoculture. Culture and education are synonyms of “selective training”, “the formation of the self”; for the existence of a culture, it is necessary that individuals learn determined rules, that they acquire habits and that they begin to educate themselves against themselves, or better, against the education forced upon them.”

Conversational Agents & Natural Language Interaction CFP

Posted on November 21st, by George Veletsianos in cfp. No Comments

Disclosure: Please note that I am on the editorial advisory board for this book with regards to my pedagogical agent work)

CALL FOR CHAPTER PROPOSALS (pdf document)

Proposal Submission Deadline: December 16, 2009

Conversational Agents and Natural Language Interaction: Techniques and Effective

Practices

A book edited by Dr. Diana Perez-Marin and Dr. Ismael Pascual-Nieto Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain

Introduction

Human-Computer Interaction can be understood as two potent information processors (a human and a computer) trying to communicate with each other using a highly restricted interface. Natural Language (NL) Interaction, that is, to let the users express in natural language could be the solution to improve the communication between human and computers. Conversational agents exploit NL technologies to engage users in text-based informationseeking and task-oriented dialogs for a broad range of applications such as e-commerce, help desk, Web site navigation, personalized service, and education.

The benefits of agent expressiveness have been highlighted both for verbal expressiveness and for non-verbal expressiveness. On the other hand, there are also studies indicating that when using conversational agents mixed results can appear. These studies reveal the need to review the research in a field with a promising future and a great impact in the area of Human-Computer Interaction.

Objective of the Book

The main objective of the book is to identify the most effective practices when using conversational agents for different applications. Some secondary objectives to fulfill the main goal are:

- To gather a comprehensive number of experiences in which conversational agents have been used for different applications

- To review the current techniques which are being used to design conversational agents

- To encourage authors to publish not only successful results, but also unsuccessful results and a discussion of the reasons that may have caused them

Target Audience

The proposed book is intended to serve as a reference guide for researchers who want to start their research in the promising field of conversational agents. It will not be necessary that readers have previous knowledge on the topic.

Recommended topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Fundamental concepts

- Definition and taxonomy of conversational agents

- Motivation, benefits, and issues of their use

- Underlying psychological and social theories

2. Design of conversational agents

- Techniques

- Frameworks

- Methods

3. Practices

- Experiences of use of conversational agents in:

- E-commerce

- Help desk

- Website navigation

- Personalized service

- Training or education

- Results achieved

- Discussion of the reasons of their success of failure

4. Future trends

- Issues that should be solved in the future

- Expectations for the future

Submission Procedure

Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit on or before December 16, 2009, a 2-3 page chapter proposal clearly explaining the mission and concerns of his or her proposed chapter. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by January 16, 2010 about the status of their proposals and sent chapter guidelines. Full chapters (8,000–10,000 words) are expected to be submitted by April 16, 2010. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers for this project.

Publisher

This book is scheduled to be published by IGI Global (formerly Idea Group Inc.), publisher of the “Information Science Reference” (formerly Idea Group Reference), “Medical Information Science Reference,” “Business Science Reference,” and “Engineering Science Reference” imprints. For additional information regarding the publisher, please visit www.igi-global.com. This publication is anticipated to be released in 2011.

Important Dates

December 16, 2009: Proposal Submission Deadline
January 16, 2010: Notification of Acceptance
April 16, 2010: Full Chapter Submission
June 30, 2010: Review Results Returned
July 30, 2010: Final Chapter Submission
September 30, 2010: Final Deadline

Editorial Advisory Board Members
Galia Angelova, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria
Rafael Calvo, University of Sydney, Australia
Dan Cristea, A.I. Cuza University of Iasi, Romania
Miguel Gea, University of Granada, Spain
Diane Inkpen, University of Ottawa, Canada
Pamela Jordan, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Ramón López Cózar, University of Granada, Spain
Max Louwerse, University of Memphis, USA
José Antonio Macías, University Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
Mick O’Donnell, University Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
María Ruíz, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Olga Santos, University Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain
George Veletsianos, University of Manchester, UK

Inquiries and submissions

Please send all inquiries and submissions (preferably through e-mail) to:

Diana Perez-Marin, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain

Email: diana.perez@urjc.es

and

Ismael Pascual Nieto, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain

Email: ismael.pascual@uam.es

Hack This Syllabus!

Posted on November 9th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 3 comments

I’m very excited to announce my Spring 2010 course, EDC385G (Current Issues in Instructional Technology: Online Learning in the Participatory Age). Students enrolled in this course will study the research and application of participatory technologies for online learning. Given the topic of the course, and the breadth of expertise the exists in the various professional networks that I belong, I thought I’d ask for your help to improve this class.

Here’s your chance: Hack my syllabus! Take it apart, suggest readings, activities, additions, subtractions, whatever you may think will help. Your suggestions will not only improve these students’ learning experience, but will serve as a model example of how the network can help us improve practice. My weekly topic list is posted on digress.it, allowing you to comment on each paragraph rather than on the document as a whole.

I am looking forward to your suggestions! [edit: Please note that ALL readings should be freely and publicly available]

Another student dissertation

Posted on November 8th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

Another student of mine posted her MA dissertation on scribd (previous postings can be found here). Theodora picked a topic that was close to my research interests and looked at the complex issue of avatar appearance in virtual worlds. She studied  (a) how students design their avatars in 3D virtual worlds and what factors influence those decisions, and (b) the relationship between students’ physical and virtual appearance. This area is wide open for more research -there’s enough speculation to go around, so we don’t need any of that ;)

Collaborators in learning

Posted on November 4th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

The newspaper article below is in Greek and comes from a  Cypriot newspaper. I don’t usually see educational technology news from the homeland (yes, indeed, dear blog reader, I was born and raised in Cyprus :)), but this one came through today and I was really excited about it. And then I read it… and my excitement plummeted… and I needed 2 dirty martinis to come to my senses.

The article basically says that Microsoft signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education and Culture for helping develop the conditions for integrating new technologies in primary education (there’s also some other big words in there like innovative schools, innovate teachers, and innovative students – indeed innovation all around!). The article ends by noting that Cyprus holds the second place with regards to computer:student ratio (I am assuming they mean worldwide, or at least EU-wide, though there’s no reference to the source), and that over 95% of teachers have attended basic computer skills training. It sounds like this is a great accomplishment, but, worldwide research shows that it’s not, and here’s why:

  • Adding technology (computers, access to the web, laptops, ipods, whatever-the-next-thing-is) will do little to change the nature of education. The tool may allow efficiency gains (e.g. making grading easier), but just by giving tools to teachers, innovation isn’t the natural outcome, partly because…
  • Teachers will simply use the tool to accommodate the dominant teaching style. And my experience in Cypriot schools, and my discussions with current students, tell me that the dominant teaching style is lecture and regurgitation. Critical thinking skills and a love for learning are not cultivated and are completely disregarded (there might be pockets of innovation here and there, but by and large, these aren’t the norm). One should also remember that…
  • Basic training in computer skills does not enhance practice. Read some literature. What teachers need goes WAY beyond learning how to move the mouse or how to create a powerpoint presentation. You can also read an interview I gave to ednews.org last year, but the important point is captured in this quote: “We can work with teachers to mold technological solutions that target real issues and problems. We can start thinking of learning as something that is inherently enjoyable and fun, as an aesthetic experience that (as Patrick Parrish puts it) has a beginning, middle, and end. We can design for engagement rather than for strict notions of learning as demonstrated behavior change. Rather than training teachers to use generic tools and software, we can aim at enhancing their understanding of how technology can provide added value for particular topics and learners in specific contexts.”
  • Finally, I also wonder if these people have ever been to a basic skills training and have ever observed the learners’ reaction. Below is an image that I took that captures (most) student feelings about basic skills training. The students are on facebook while attending a class intending to teach them basic skills bemoaning the training they are in. Oh, the irony! (…and before anyone jumps in to say that facebook is to blame, let me remind you that when classes were boring you used to do the same thing, by scribbling on your notebook and desk).  [P.S half of the image is in greek, but it basically says "this person is thinking that s/he is teaching us how to use the computer" and the reply says "yes, that's what s/he thinks."]

boring_lesson

Inviting a for-profit company to enhance education is a recipe for failure. If you are an official in Cyprus and really want to change education for the better, I suggest inviting a group of caring teachers, a bunch of students, some Cypriot ed-tech professors, a few Cypriot ed-tech professors who live abroad (hint, hint),  some foreign ed-tech professors, a couple of education non-profits, and a couple of plain ed professors, to draft real plans for improving education (with technology) grounded on the local reality. Key words to think about: social. authentic, creative, critical, community, authentic, relevant, fun.

The newspaper article follows:

Σε υπογραφή συμφωνίας για υλοποίηση του Προγράμματος «Συνεργάτες στη μάθηση» προχώρησαν χθες το Υπουργείο Παιδείας και Πολιτισμού και η εταιρεία Microsoft, σύμφωνα με ανακοίνωση.

Στόχος της συμφωνίας, προστίθεται, είναι η περαιτέρω προώθηση της χρήσης της Τεχνολογίας Πληροφορίας και Επικοινωνίας στα δημόσια σχολεία της Κύπρου.

Η συμφωνία αφορά μόνο σε εκπαιδευτικές δραστηριότητες, για να δημιουργηθούν οι συνθήκες για την ενσωμάτωση των τελευταίων τεχνολογικών επιτευγμάτων στη διαδικασία της μάθησης, σε ένα πλαίσιο λειτουργίας ενός σύγχρονου καινοτόμου σχολείου, στο οποίο θα διδάσκουν καινοτόμοι εκπαιδευτικοί σε πρωτοπόρους μαθητές.

Στην ανακοίνωση αναφέρεται ακόμα ότι μέσα από το πρόγραμμα θα εξευρεθούν πρακτικοί τρόποι, για να εισαχθούν και να αξιοποιηθούν οι διάφορες εξεζητημένες τεχνολογίες στα δημόσια σχολεία και να καθοδηγηθούν οι εκπαιδευτικοί για το πώς και με ποιο επιθυμητό αποτέλεσμα θα χρησιμοποιήσουν τις μεθόδους και τα συγκεκριμένα μέσα.

O Υπουργός Παιδείας τόνισε ότι καταβάλλονται επίμονες προσπάθειες, για να παρέχει στους εκπαιδευτικούς τα τεχνολογικά μέσα που θα τους βοηθήσουν να αναβαθμίσουν τη διδασκαλία τους στην τάξη και να προσφέρουν στους μαθητές τις δεξιότητες που απαιτούνται ως εφόδια στη σημερινή Κοινωνία της Τεχνολογίας και της Πληροφορίας. Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι η Κύπρος κατέχει τη δεύτερη θέση σε αναλογία η/υ ανά μαθητή, ενώ πέραν του 95% των εκπαιδευτικών παρακολούθησαν προγράμματα βασικής χρήσης η/υ.

ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΡΙΡΗΣ
Κωδικός άρθρου: 906786
ΠΟΛΙΤΗΣ – 04/11/2009, Σελίδα: 22