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

Category: Ideas

Asking the personal network for definitions

Posted on December 20th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

I was really happy to see Alec’s attempt to discover a definition of the term Personal Learning Network. Not only I consider such attempts to be valid forms of inquiring and researching a topic (see my attempt to discover a definition of the term Emerging Technologies), but I am uber excited that Alec had such a great response from his colleagues!

I should be doing something else…

Posted on December 10th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. 1 Comment

but instead I am blogging. I just got news that a proposal for a book project we have been playing with has been submitted. This is not the emerging technologies book – this is a whole new project that takes a more creative and “unorthodox” way to teaching and learning. I hope to be able to share more within the next month or so, once we hear back from the publisher. So far it looks promising as the published we pitched it to really liked our idea and the person we approached to write the foreword was positive. I’ll keep you updated, but it probably won’t happen until next year :)

Black Friday Deals & Books

Posted on November 27th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

I just received an email entitled “’s Black Friday Deals” and visited the amazon site to see if they have any deals on the books that i’d like to buy. I quickly stopped looking though because of the time required to go through the deals. Wouldn’t it be helpful if Amazon pulled together Black Friday wish list for me, showing me the books/items that were in my wish list AND were discounted on Black Friday? Simple and elegant, but apparently not available! Maybe next year…

My Spring 2009 course teaser videos

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

A definition of emerging technologies for education

Posted on November 18th, by George Veletsianos in E-learning, Ideas, open, sharing, work. 21 comments
[Update 3: The ideas below have been updated and will appear in the second edition of my emerging technologies and emerging practices book in 2016. More details on this update are here] [Update 2: The ideas discussed below appear in full detail at: Veletsianos, G. (2010). A Definition of Emerging Technologies for Education. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp. 3-22). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. You can download a pdf of this chapter from: ] [Update 1 : Nov 30, 2008: I was feeling a bit uneasy to write that noone has yet come up with a definition of emerging technologies. So, I emailed George Siemens asking if he had a definition that he is using in his work. He asked the question on twitter here, and posted the replies he received here. Picking up on the twitter message and George’s blog post, a few other definitions have emerged here and here. Thank you everyone for contributing your thoughts! The working book chapter with the definition of emerging technologies for education, teaching, and learning is updated and available]

Surprisingly enough, the education, e-learning, educational technology, instructional design, and so on literatures do not include a definition of emerging technologies for education. Below is my attempt at defining the term. This definition will be part of a book chapter to be published in 2009. The complete chapter will be posted here by the end of January 2009. Enjoy, and if you have any comments, or if you happen to stumble upon a definition of emerging technologies, please feel free to comment!

Emerging Technologies are tools, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings (including distance, face-to-face, and hybrid forms of education) to serve varied education-related purposes (e.g., instructional, social, and organizational goals). Emerging Technologies (ET) can be defined and understood in the context of the following five characteristics:

1. ET can be, but are not necessarily, new technologies. It is important to note that in this context the words emerging and new are usually treated as synonymous, but they may not necessarily be so. While a definition of new might be perilous and contentious, ET may represent newer developments (e.g., utilizing the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote to practice surgical techniques) as well as older ones (e.g., employing open source learning management systems at higher education institutions). Even though it may be true that most emerging technologies are newer technologies, the mere fact that they are new, does not necessarily categorize them as emerging. This idea of new technologies being emerging technologies also begs the following two questions: When do technologies cease to be new? When technologies cease to be new, do they also cease to be emerging? For example, synthetic (or virtual) worlds were described as an emerging technology more than ten years ago (Dede, 1996). Today, virtual worlds are still described as emerging technologies (e.g. de Freitas, 2008). Newness, by itself, is a problematic indicator of what emerging technologies, as older technologies can also be emerging– the reasons for this will become clearer after we examine the characteristics that follow.

2. ET are evolving organisms that exist in a state of “coming into being”. The word evolving describes a dynamic state of change and continuous refinement and development. Twitter, the popular social networking and micro-blogging platform, represents an illustrative example of an ET that is “coming into being.” Twitter’s early success and popularity would often cause frequent outages. Such issues were most noticeable during popular technology events (e.g., during the MacWorld keynote address). After a while, Twitter’s outage issues were both lambasted and anticipated by the industry. When a new company moved into Twitter’s old offices, an image was posted on the office door (Figure 1) as a tongue-in-cheek statement regarding Twitter’s downtime and office relocation. Early attempts to satisfy sudden surges in demand included using more servers and implementing on/off switches to various Twitter features (e.g., during the 2008 WorldWide Developers Conference), while later efforts included  Re-designing the application’s architecture and withdrawing services (e.g., free SMS and instant messaging support). Existing in a state of evolution, Twitter continuously develops and refines its service, while maintaining its core purpose, and still being an emerging rather than an established technology.

3. ET go through hype cycles. Today’s emerging technology might be tomorrow’s fad, and today’s simple idea might be tomorrow’s key to boosting productivity. While it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that today’s innovations will completely restructure and revolutionize the way we learn and teach, it is important to remain critical to hype. Even though technology has had a major impact on how distance education is delivered, managed, negotiated, and practiced, it is also important to recognize that due to organizational, cultural, and historical factors, education, as a field of study and practice, is resistant to change (c.f. Cuban, 1993; Lortie, 1975). Technologies and ideas go through cycles of euphoria, adoption, activity and use, maturity, impact, enthusiasm, and even infatuation. In the end, some of today’s emerging technologies (and ideas) will become stable (and staple), while others will fade in the background.

One way to describe the hype that surrounds emerging technologies and ideas for education is to observe the Hype Cycle model (Fenn & Raskino, 2008) developed by Gartner Inc. This model evaluates the relative maturity and impact of technologies and ideas and follows five stages that have been successfully applied to diverse topics (table 1). Most specific to the topic of this book are the hype cycle models developed for Higher Education (Gartner, 2008a) e-learning (Gartner, 2006), and emerging technologies (Gartner, 2008b).

4.      ET satisfy the “not yet” criteria. The “not yet” criteria refer to two interrelated issues:

a. ET are not yet fully understood. One factor distinguishing ET from other forms of technology is the fact that we are not yet able to understand what such technologies are, what they offer for education, and what they mean for learners, instructors, and institutions. For example, what exactly is mobile learning? How does it differ from other forms of learning? What does it mean to have access to data regardless of geographic location? What are the social and pedagogical affordances of mobile learning in relation to alternative forms of learning? As a result of ET not being fully understood, a second issue arises:
b. ET are not yet fully researched or researched in a mature way. Initial investigations of ET are often evangelical and describe superficial issues of the technology (e.g., benefits and drawbacks) without focusing on underdtanding the affordances of the technology and how those affordances can provide different (and hopefully better) ways to learn and teach at a distance. Additionally, due to the evolutionary nature of these technologies, the research that characterizes it falls under the case study and formative evaluation approaches (Dede, 1996), which, by itself, is not necessarily a negative facet of research, but it does pinpoint to our initial attempts to understand the technology and its possibilities. Nevertheless, because ET are not yet fully researched, initial deployments of emerging technology applications merely replicate familiar processes, leading critics to argue that technologies are new iterations of the media debate (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006; c.f. Clark, 1994; Kozma, 1994; Tracey & Hasting, 2005). Unfortunately, to a large extend, they are right – newer technologies are often used in old ways: Linear PowerPoint slides replace slideshow projectors; blogs – despite the opportunities they offer for collaboration – replace personal reflection diaries; and pedagogical agent lectures replace non-agent lectures (e.g., Choi and Clark, 2006).

5. ET are potentially disruptive but their potential is mostly unfulfilled. Individuals and corporations recognize that a potential exists, but such potential hasn’t yet been realized. The potential to transform practices, processes, and institutions, is both welcomed and opposed. For example, open access journals have the potential to transform the ways research and knowledge are disseminated and evaluated. While this advancement has the potential to disrupt scholarship, to date, the majority of research is still published at closed access journals and periodicals.

As I have said before, i developed the above “definition/description” because i couldn’t find one in the literature. If you have one that for one reason or another i couldn’t find, please feel free to add the citation/reference to the comments or send me an email. If you have any critiques, i also wouldn’t mind hearing those either :)

The disintegration of the real-virtual binary

Posted on November 15th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas, work. 4 comments

One facet of human thinking that intrigues me is the idea that we often believe things to be black and white. While shades of grey is probably the norm, and things aren’t usually as simple as we make them to be, we tend to think in binaries. A binary system is one that consist of two, and only two, units. For example, we tend to think in terms of male and female (disregarding all the other orientations that exist between the two extremes), white and black, real and virtual.

You can blame this CNN article for this Saturday morning rant :). In it, the reported describes how ‘A British couple who married in a lavish Second Life wedding ceremony are to divorce after one of them had an alleged “affair” in the online world.’ I increasingly see stories of the real life blending into the virtual one, and of the virtual one blending into the real. I have always been a proponent of the idea that we live in a world where our “real” activities cannot be distinguished from our “virtual” activities, actions, work, and thoughts (- as a side note, in a job interview once, I was asked if i think that virtual existence is the same as real existence and replied by asking what a real existence means). In other words, the real vs. virtual binary is non-existent, especially considering the fact that what we think is “real” may not be “real.” Confusing? Consider this: You walk down the street and you come across someone who is completely and utterly different than you (e.g. a cypriot professor who studied in the US and currently works in the UK – I am guessing other than me, noone else of that description is reading this blog). What do you “see” whan you see this person? You “see” this person with your own worldview and (positive & negative) stereotypes. What you see therefore, is not “real” as such, but it is your own understanding of this person. What is real for you may not be real for the person next to you.

Some of us – those who have access and skills to take advantage of the technology – live in a world where the distinction between the real and the virtual bends and blends. And this has immense implications for not only teaching and learning which is the focus of this blog, but living and experiencing the world.

Looking for a Research Assistant

Posted on October 11th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

I am looking for a Research Assistant (RA) to assist me with a project. If you know anyone that you think fits the profile of the person I am looking for and may be interested in a short-term position as described below, would you be kind enough to encourage them to send me an email at veletsianos \AT\ The only limitation to this is that the person needs to be based in the UK and have a national insurance number (but not necessarily be based in Manchester)

The project

To investigate the feasibility of adventure learning projects as vehicles for peace, intercultural understanding, and conflict resolution by conducting research on (a) adventure learning, and (b) technology for peace.

Adventure Learning is an approach for the design and delivery of online and hybrid learning that provides individuals with opportunities to explore real-world issues through authentic learning experiences and collaborative learning environments. Adventure Learning was developed by Dr. Doering and refined by Drs. Doering, Veletsianos, and Miller at the University of Minnesota. An example of Adventure Learning can be seen at

Expected project outcomes

Two co-authored manuscripts to be submitted for peer-review and publication.

Desired Research Assistant qualities

Ideally, I am looking for someone who:

  • Can work collaboratively and independently
  • Has good writing skills and enjoys writing
  • Is creative
  • Has experience with academic writing
  • Has conducted academic research in the past
  • Enjoys academic research
  • Is comfortable with using online databases for research purposes


In monetary terms: £2,058 GBP (paid as £14/hour x 7hrs/week x 21 weeks)
In value terms: The two publications which will open future doors : )

Pedagogical agent bashing

Posted on October 11th, by George Veletsianos in Ideas. No Comments

Lots of my work has to do with “pedagogical agents.” These are virtual characters employed in electronic learning environments for instructional purposes. But what lies behind the lingo? These are images of beings (humans or inanimate objects) that appear in learning modules or tutorials and “do something”. Some of them can hold a conversation with a learner (conversational pedagogical agents) while others present information, decorate the learning environment, or represent some sort of a persona. The second type of agents I call passive or non-conversational pedagogical agents. This is the type that gets employed the most in pedagogical agent research and this is the type of agent that I am going to bash in this post! :)

Pedagogical agents represent one of those technologies that have been presented as greatly beneficial to teaching and learning. Yet, the difference hasn’t been made explicit. Conversational agents, for reasons that I won’t explore here may be beneficial. Passive pedagogical agents however will not have any lasting impact on learning or any lasting impression on students. This is because:

* Pedagogical agents who merely present information to students are boring. Boring is bad. Let me say that again because educational technology researchers/designers might not have got it the first time around: Boring is bad.

* Pedagogical agents who don’t allow from deviation from the given task are “oppressive”. To be clear, “oppression” here is compatible to (or derived from) Freire’s description of classroom oppression and democracy.

While I do believe (and have empirical evidence) that the pedagogical agent’s representation influences how people interact with them, passivity isn’t the way forward.

Apologies for the negative post – but to move forward we need to talk about these things too :)