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

Category: emerging technologies

Invited talk at ICEM 2012

Posted on September 23rd, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, moocs, my research, NPS, online learning, open, scholarship. 9 comments

I am in Cyprus to meet with a number of colleagues and give an invited talk at ICEM 2012.

Talk title: What does the future of design for online learning look like? Emerging technologies, Openness, MOOCs, and Digital Scholarship

Abstract:  What will we observe if we take a long pause and examine the practice of online education today? What do emerging technologies, openness, Massive Open Online Courses, and digital scholarship tell us about the future that we are creating for learners, faculty members, and learning institutions? And what does entrepreneurial activity worldwide surrounding online education mean for the future of education and design? In this talk, I will discuss a number of emerging practices relating to online learning and online participation in a rapidly changing world and explain their implications for design practice. Emerging practices (e.g., open courses, researchers who blog, students who use social media to self-organize) can shape our teaching/learning practice and teaching/learning practice can shape these innovations. By examining, critiquing, and understanding these practices we will be able to understand potential futures for online learning and be better informed on how we can design effective and engaging online learning experiences. This talk will draw from my experiences and research on online learning, openness, and digital scholarship, and will present recent evidence detailing how researchers, learners, educators are creating, sharing, and negotiating knowledge and education online.

The purpose of a MOOC? Google and societal well-being

Posted on July 11th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, moocs, online learning, open. 2 comments

This entry is part of a reflective series of posts/questions relating to online learning, MOOCs, and openness.

MOOCS are everywhere nowadays. Coursera, Udacity, EdX, the connectivist MOOCs (e.g., #ds106, Change11), etc, depending on what lens one is using to examine them, are generating hope, excitement, uneasiness, and frustration. An important question that one needs to ask is: What is the purpose of a MOOC?

MOOCS have different purposes. For example, some MOOCs are built on the idea of democratizing education and enhancing societal well being. See Curt Bonk’s MOOC types, targets, and intents for additional MOOC purposes.

Other MOOCs are built on the idea of improving a specific skills. Today’s EdSurge newsletter included the following note:

GOOGLE’S FIRST MOOC comes in the form of a “Power Searching with Google” course consisting of six 50-minute classes on how to search “beyond the ten blue links.” Classes just started and at last count, over 100,000 people have already registered. Google promises to go way beyond the 101 stuff and dive into advanced features. We’re ready: we’ve been a little stumped at finding a query “to search exclusively in the Harvard University website to find pages that mention clowns.”

Let’s unpack this a bit. What is the purpose of this MOOC? This MOOC will help users make better use of google’s search capabilities. It will also help Google experiment with offering MOOC-type courses and reinforce consumer loyalty.

How does the Google MOOC fare with regards to enhancing societal well-being? Rather than offering courses to teach users how to search better, I would have rather seen Google develop online courses specifically aimed at reducing societal inequalities and enhancing well-being. I would have rather seen a course on “using our tools for speaking out against oppressive regimes” or “using our tools to facilitate the development of community in your neighborhood” or “using our tools to design and develop your own online class.”

I hope that this course is not the last that we see from Google, and that rather than focusing on teaching users a specific skill set, future courses focus on supporting the development of societal well-being.

Digital Scholarship: Visualizing a Twitter hashtag

Posted on March 30th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, scholarship. 9 comments

As part of my research on digital scholarship and the experiences/practices of scholars in online networks, I am working with the Texas Advanced Computing Center and the newly-established Visualization Lab at the College of Education to understand learner and scholar participation patterns on the social web. Below is our first visualization, which shows interactions between three types of users who are contributing to a hashtag (red, blue, green). It’s a directed graph, with nodes representing users, and edges representing interactions between users. The thickness of the edge represents # of interactions (thick = more interactions). When nodes of a different color interact with each other, the edges take the color of the two node (e.g., when a blue node interacts with a red node, the edge is purple). What does this visualization tell us?

We are still trying to make sense of this, and we are slowly learning from the tutorials that Tony Hirst has created. This is what (i think) this says: First of all, we know that the majority of the people contributing to this hashtag are not having a conversation with each other (#nodes making up the dataset are 3 times the group shown above – this is not shown  on the graph). Second, it looks likes there’s a few “central” folk through which conversations occur. Finally, even though interactions happen between red and blue nodes, it looks like the majority of the interaction is happening within those two groups. And that’s important in this situation because one of our hypothesis was that the red group was joining this community to interact with the blue group (if that was the case, we would be seeing more purple in the image above). We definitely need additional ways to evaluate some of these statements, but that’s what it “looks like” from the image above. And here’s where I think data visualizations start becoming really valuable: You can quickly see patterns and ask questions, and continue from there. We have some ideas and hypotheses, but we also want to let the data bring up phenomena that we haven’t thought about. I don’t yet feel confident that I fully understand what I am seeing here, but I am quickly learning a lot! So my question to you is: how would you interpret this? What questions do you have of what you are seeing here?

Digital scholarship practices: Students and researchers working around the system

Posted on March 19th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, NPS, open, scholarship. 5 comments

Imagine being a student at a small university whose library does not have the funds to subscribe to a journal that you need for your final paper. What do you do?

Imagine being a faculty member and you come across a very promising paper relevant to your work, but you can’t access it because there’s a 6-month lag between the time a paper is published and the time it becomes available at your library. What do you do?

A standard approach is to search Google or Google Scholar for the article, as a number of us self-archive our publications as soon as they become available. Another option is to email an author directly and ask for a copy of the paper. I find that most are not only willing, but excited to share their work and talk about it. I love sharing my research and I truly enjoy talking about it, so I’d be delighted to share it with anyone who lacked access but needed it. I believe this falls under fair use licensing.

Through my research on the practices of digital scholars (i.e. individuals who use emerging technologies for purposes relating to networked participatory scholarship) I have discovered another way that individuals use to access scholarship that they need.  If you take a look at the image above, you will see that individuals employ digital tools that we use in our day-to-day lives (a forum) to circumvent obstacles that prevent them from doing their work. In particular, individuals request articles that they do not have access to, and those who have access respond with a copy of the article. What you see here is the creative use of networked technologies to enable practice and success. And it does not just happen in open forums like the one above, but I’ve also seen it occur on Facebook and Twitter. Interestingly enough, in one situation, the author was requesting access to an article s/he wrote because the publisher (!) did not provide him/her with a final copy of the paper. We can debate the moral and ethical dimensions of this activity, but to me this practice highlights ideas relating to empowerment, networked skills, digital participation, reciprocity, and participatory cultures as they pertain to scholars’ digital practices. [Update 11/26/2012: In addition to the platform above, other spaces where exchanges happen are: The pirate university  http://www.pirateuniversity.org/ and #IcanHazPDF on Twitter. Andy Coverdale has also discussed this topic.]

Such practices aren’t foreign to teachers, as they are akin to using proxies or usb keys to bypass school filters. For example, here’s a video by Alec Couros that demonstrates this activity:

EdTech Startups: Exceptional Courses or Exceptional Students?

Posted on February 29th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, my research, online learning, scholarship. No Comments

This blog entry was supposed to go out next week, but I am sharing it today because it is relevant to the entry that George Siemens wrote today.

I gave a talk to Curt Bonk’s class a couple of weeks ago and the central premise of that talk was that we should be designing experiences, not products. This is not a new idea. It goes back to the beginning of my career and it’s a passion that I share with a lot of folks, most notably Aaron Doering and Charles Miller at the University of Minnesota (who incidentally just landed in Sydney for their most recent Adventure Learning project). For example, see  Raising the bar for instructional outcomes: Towards transformative learning experiences (2008) and Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies (2011). A central tenet of the 2008 paper is the following:

There exist “strong pressures to produce mediocre instructional products based on templates and preexisting content.”

That was in 2008. Now consider 2011/2012: Interest in open courses and in large online classes has exploded. The edtech entrepreneur is eager to leverage online education and capitalize on efficiency, by focusing on the delivery of pre-packaged content. Scale and efficiency are key in that if one is able to efficiently deliver content (read: low cost) to large numbers of people, s/he can charge a small fee that will yield high profit. This isn’t a new idea either. David Noble talks about the commodification of education, the attempt to market and sell education as a commodity.

Sebastian Thrun, who was one of the faculty members teaching the Stanford AI class last Fall recently “showed emails from a student who took the AI class, when he could get Internet access, amidst mortar and rocket attacks in Afganistan; and another, a single working mother, who refused to quit the class because it gave her a sense of accomplishment.” Are these statements describing exceptional courses? Are they describing experiences that pull students and engage them to their core? Or are they describing exceptional people? When you provide access to exceptional people (like the two individuals above), they will amaze you, because, well, they are exceptional! How do you design courses that are exceptional, that adapt to all learners, and provide support structures for individuals who are not exceptional? You provide opportunities for personally relevant and meaningful transformation. How do you do that, you ask? Here’s my (free) advice to any hopeful edtech startup: Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies (pdf).

Improving Computer Science Education through Project Engage

Posted on January 18th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, engagement, my research, online learning, open, sharing. 3 comments

Part of my research demands that I develop technology-enhanced interventions in order to study them. I enjoy this part of my work partly because I get to create solutions to tackle education problems and partly because it has allowed me to explore technology-enhanced learning across different disciplines (e.g. I was involved with developing online learning environments for American Sign Language, environmental stewardship, and sociological concepts).

Now comes another excitement and challenge: Last August, Dr. Calvin Lin and I were awarded a National Science Foundation grant (award #1138506) to develop a hybrid “Introduction to Computer Science” course to be taught at Texas high schools and institutions of higher education. The project is a collaboration between the department of Computer Science (Dr. Lin) and Curriculum and Instruction – Instructional Technology (me). I’ll be posting more about the project (probably on a different blog), but the overarching goal here is to enhance how CS is taught using emerging technologies and pedagogies (mostly PBL) while valuing local contexts and practices. Mark Guzdial, in a recent paper, notes that “We need more education research that is informed by understanding CS—how it’s taught, what the current practices are, and what’s important to keep as we change practice. We need more computing education researchers to help meet the workforce needs in our technology-based society.”

I look forward to sharing more about this project with everyone soon!

 

My contribution to the Change MOOC #change11

Posted on September 6th, by George Veletsianos in courses, emerging technologies, NPS, online learning, open, scholarship, sharing. No Comments

I just came across Nancy White’s discussion of her contribution to the 2011-2012 Change MOOC organized by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier (through Stephen’s announcement). Draft schedule here. I thought that Nancy’s description of her session sounded wonderful – so wonderful actually, that I wish that we had all shared our session descriptions with each other prior to designing them so as to create more synergies between the weekly sessions. There’s always room for re-design however, and I’m sure the #change11 organizers wouldn’t mind (smile)!

I am sharing my session description below, and even though I have tried to draw links to other sessions, you will see that task #2 is asking participants to make connections to other parts of the course in a very specific and personal way.

I would love to hear any input that you may have about this!

Scholars’ online participation and practices (April 30-May 6, 2012)

George Veletsianos, Instructional Technology – University of Texas at Austin

1. Overview

Within the openness movement, we have seen increasing calls for scholars and educators to employ open digital practices. For instance, enthusiasts argue that networked technologies such as blogs, social networking sites, microblogging fora, and other emerging social media can help democratize knowledge production and dissemination. During this week, we will explore how academics co-opt and appropriate technology in their day-to-day professional lives, with specific emphasis on social networking technologies. We will discuss faculty members’ experiences and practices when they adopt online social networks (e.g., Twitter) and online scholarly networks (e.g., Academia.edu) for professional purposes, and investigate whether their online participation is (re)defining academic work (i.e. teaching and research).

My work in this domain has started with a desire to understand faculty member’s digital practices. Professor Weller’s research (2011), which was also presented in this MOOC, has set the foundations for this investigation. Thus, the digital scholarship movement influences and informs my work. In this context, I have studied the relationship between scholarly practice and participatory technologies, and sought to understand (a) what faculty members’ do in online social networks, (b) what their experiences in these networks are like, and (c) what issues and pitfalls we might face when suggesting the use of social media for faculty members’ professional practice. This is an important topic of study because (a) digital scholarship is gaining increasing interest, and (b) a large percentage of higher education faculty have adopted, are considering the use of), or have rejected social networking technologies for professional practice, Importantly, the field is in dire need of empirical data to be in a position to critically evaluate claims with regards to the benefits that social technologies might afford academic practice (i.e. teaching and research).

During this particular week, we will consider whether the rise of online social networking within academic circles is a result of technological or cultural shifts, and investigate the purposes, goals, and pitfalls of networked participation. For instance, we will ask: What are academics doing in online public spaces? What are their intentions and what are their fears? Are faculty members’ altruistically sharing information on social media for the benefit of the community in which they belong? Or, is information-sharing a self-serving activity? Are academics sharing information in order to assist the profession grow intellectually, or are they attempting to develop a “brand” around themselves? Are we seeing the rise of the “public scholar” or the rise of the “celebrity scholar?” A critical evaluation of academics’ participation in digital spaces matters because an understanding of these reasons will allow us to gain a better sense of how and why online social networks are used in the ways that they are. Whether we recognize it or not, we are part of a complex techno-cultural system that is ever changing in response to both internal and external stimuli, including technological innovations and dominant cultural values. An understanding of the cotemporary forces that shape academic work is necessary for enhancing education and scholarship.

2. List of Readings

Hall, R. (2010). Open Education: The need for critique. Blog entry retrieved on August 12, 2011 from http://www.learnex.dmu.ac.uk/2010/07/27/open-education-the-need-for-critique/

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.

Veletsianos, G. (in press). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

Weller, M. (in press). The digital scholar: How technology is changing academic practice. Bloomsbury Academic.

Plus two other papers that I am not yet able to share publicly, but will be available by the time this session arrives.

3. Suggested Activities

Task 1: What do academics do on _________________ ?

The intention of this task is to describe academics’ participation on a number of social technologies (e.g., Twitter, Quora, Google +, Linkedin, Blogs, etc).  The goal is to evaluate participation and understand (a) how technology and its affordances influence participation, and (b) professional roles influence participation and use of technology. This is essentially a mini research task.

Your “description” can be done individually or collaboratively. It can also take any form that you are comfortable with. For instance, it can be an essay posted as a blog entry, a video narrative, a digital story, or a concept map. You should include support for any claims that you make. For instance, you can use empirical data or references to the literature (or other writing) to support your claims.

Task 2: Create a concept map that explains how the topic studied this week relates to and/or contributes to further understanding the topics studied in preceding weeks.

Digital Scholarship Practices: Fellowship post #4

Posted on August 6th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, NPS, open, scholarship, sharing. 2 comments

This is post #4 of my StellarNet Fellowship (see posts 1, 2, and 3). The purpose is to examine practices undertaken by academics and educators in networked publics. These practices fall under the general heading of “digital scholarship” and these individuals have been called “digital scholars” or “open scholars.”

I am preparing to leave Cyprus, and this is  my final fellowship entry. In this short entry, I’d like to discuss the spaces in which digital scholarship is becoming visible and what this visibility means for expertise and impressions. On the one hand, we have seen an increase in specialized technology tools targeting scholars. For instance, here is my academia.edu profile and my mendeley profile. On the other hand, we have seen general purpose tools that have been appropriated by academics and used in ways that further their teaching and research. Examples include such spaces as Facebook and Twitter (e.g., #PhDchat), but also YouTube, personal blogs, and iTunes. Some examples of open activities taking place in these spaces include:

  • – Book and manuscript authoring in public (while sharing ongoing drafts). This includes both individuals who have earned their PhDs, but also individuals who are working on their PhDs and are using online spaces to reflect and network on PhD-related topics.
  • – Debates on issues pertaining to theory and research
  • – Crowdsourcing videos, thoughts, solutions to problems
  • – Sharing clips from classroom teaching

These activities contrast to academic notions of expertise. While experts are sometimes perceived to be those individuals who “have the answers,” the experts that I have been following are willing to share drafts of their work in public and work through the issues that they are studying with the help of others. The trails that they leave on the web show may show how their thinking and work developed and improved over time; yet, individuals who are not immersed in this culture have often asked me: “How would others perceive me and my work, if they just happen to see my blog entry from June 2010 and nothing else, when in June 2010 I was just starting work in this area?”  That is a valid concern; and perhaps one that may be felt more by those who are just beginning their career or those who do not have a wide and persistent following. In the world of the open web, it’s not just our activities that matter, but also how our activities are perceived by others. To this extent, the scholars that I’ve been following have not only been sharing content, but they are also seeking to manage the impressions of others. Furthermore, activities aimed at impression management are undertaken not just on content that the individual posts, but also on content that others post. For example, in the words of a participant from a related project, “it’s my facebook wall, and if you write something I don’t like, I’m going to delete it.” It’s becoming increasingly clear I think, that participation in these communities (a) assists academics in improving their work (e.g., by receiving feedback on drafts), (b) enables them to become part of various academic subcultures, and (c) is used by academics as a way to further their career and their position. One may question why item C matters. Reasons for sharing matter because an understanding of these reasons will allow us to gain a better sense of how and why online social networks are used in the ways that they are. Such an understanding aligns with recent calls for educational technology research to investigate the social, political, cultural and economic factors that influence technology use and non-use (e.g., see Selwyn, 2010).

That is all for now, but if you are interested stay tuned. I’ll be sharing a longer draft of this work soon. In the meantime, if you have questions, please feel free to post them!

References

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.