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

Category: my research

Startups should talk with researchers & educators

Posted on August 19th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning. 16 comments

If you believe that educational technology startups can learn a thing or two from educators and education researchers in their quest to improve education, then we’d love your vote for our 2014 SXSWedu proposal.

Tanya Joosten, Amy Collier, Audrey Watters and I have proposed a panel during which we will discuss how educators/researchers can help startups improve their education technology offerings, and answer questions pertaining to education research, how people learn, and classroom practice. If we want meaningful and transformational change in how we do education, it is imperative for
entrepreneurs and educators/researchers to converse. We’ve called for this over and over. And it’s not just us four that have noticed a disconnect between what educational technologies companies do and what we know about education and learning:

In discussing the flipped classroom model Schneider, Blikstein, and Pea note that “by failing to pay attention to the research, we were applying what is possibly a good idea in the wrong way. That’s why research in education is crucially important to improve our schools. Intuitions are good, but science is better.”

Neil Selwyn notes “The current understanding of schools in the digital age [is] hampered by a curious amnesia, forgetfulness or even willful ignorance of past phases of technology development and implementation…”

Rolin Moe argues, “In education, innovators and disruptors consistently reinvent the wheel, hyping revolutionary ideas that are often unaware of existing research, replications of prior models, or proud of their ignorance of history of the field’s theory and pedagogy.”

In short, our panel will provide answers to the following questions:

1. How can educational technology startups use knowledge generated through education research to improve their products and services?
2. How can educational technology startups partner with educators, researchers, and educational institutions to improve their
innovations?
3. Why have education technology innovations failed in the past, and what can startups learn from those experiences, so as to avoid making the same mistakes?

If you feel that we have something meaningful to add to the conversation about how technology, pedagogy, and emerging ideas can improve education, then we’d love your vote.

Talking to machines: What do learners and robots talk about?

Posted on August 8th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, scholarship. 6 comments

Talk like me

 Talk like me by pursyapt

My research endeavors originally started with an attempt to understand interactions between learners and virtual characters, bots, and other artificially intelligent beings. Even though a lot of that research has been published, there’s still a couple of papers arriving. As we are moving closer and closer to everything (and i mean everything) being networked, I believe that it’s important to keep on examining our mediated existence and the ways we experience and interact with emerging forms of media. This is especially true for education. Until very recently, educators and practitioners have been adopting technologies developed for non-educational purposes and using them to fit education needs (e.g., TV, Radio, computers, the Internet, YouTube, iTunes, the list is endless). This might be changing a little bit with the booming interest in educational technology, but when we adopt technologies developed for other purposes, we need to investigate the congruency between those technologies and our teaching/learning context.

In a paper that a graduate student and I wrote, we tried to understand what learners and virtual characters may discuss when they have the ability to have open-ended conversations. If you were a student, and a virtual robot (of sorts) was deployed to support your learning, what would you ask it (him?her?)? If you could talk about anything, what your interactions with him/her (it?) look like?

Here’s our abstract, describing our findings:

Researchers claim that pedagogical agents engender opportunities for social learning in digital environments. Prior literature, however, has not thoroughly examined the discourse between agents and learners. To address this gap, we analyzed a data corpus of interactions between agents and learners using open coding methods. Analysis revealed that: (1) conversations between
learners and agents included sporadic on-task interactions with limited follow-up; (2) conversations were often playful and lighthearted; (3) learners positioned agents in multiple instructional/social roles; (4) learners utilized numerous strategies for understanding agent responses; (5) learners were interested in agents’ relationship status and love interests; and (6) learners
asked personal questions to the agent but did not reciprocate to requests to talk about themselves.

You can download a pdf of the full paper below:

Veletsianos, G. & Russell, G. (2013). What do learners and pedagogical agents discuss when given opportunities for open-ended dialogue? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 48(3), 381-401.

The MOOC stories we are told, and the ones that remain untold

Posted on July 21st, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, scholarship. 12 comments

I’ve been fascinated by the rhetoric surrounding MOOCs, and the storylines and narratives that are shared by providers of these initiatives.

One of the main storylines around MOOCs focuses on amazing individuals that overcome insurmountable struggles to succeed (e.g., individuals in conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Syria). I believe that we can all agree that these stories are inspiring. As I’ve argued in the past, these individuals are extraordinary. They will succeed despite shortcomings in pedagogy, platform, design, etc. These individuals can serve as role models, and they should be celebrated.

At the same time, one has to wonder about the numerous individuals that have struggled and abandoned MOOCs, individuals whose life circumstances, motivations, and needs negatively impact their learning. These stories, the stories of the individuals who are struggling, are rarely shared. They are, in fact, hidden. They become figures and statistics (e.g., “90% dropped out” or “82% completed the first two assignments), and as such their stories remain untold.

 

Social Media in Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship: 6 Tales of Practice

Posted on May 8th, by George Veletsianos in my research, online learning, open, scholarship. 22 comments

I had the pleasure of delivering the opening keynote to the 2013 Teaching and Learning to the Power of Technology conference on May 1st. Our hosts (Heather Ross, Jim Greer, and Brad Wuetherick) from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Saskatchewan put together an excellent program! It was difficult to leave Saskatoon 2 days later as everyone was so gracious, kind, and eager to share his/her work! It was also great to spend time with Valerie Irvine (who did the 2nd keynote of the conference), Rick Schwier, and Alison Seaman!

My talk focused on Social Media in Education/Scholarship. I wanted to discuss a number of ideas including the rich history of the field of educational technology, the role of openness in scholarship, and the practices that open scholars engage in. Additionally, part of the talk included a call for individuals to become involved in the design of future educational systems/technologies. I highlighted my qualitative stance more strongly in this talk, essentially arguing that the world is grey (not black or white) and binary thinking is dangerous: There are multiple ways to see and read the world, there are multiple truths, and those truths can coexist at the same time.

Here is a video recording of the event. And, as always, here are my slides:

Vote for our #MOOC production fellowship application?

Posted on May 7th, by George Veletsianos in courses, emerging technologies, my research, online learning, scholarship. 28 comments

Audrey Watters and I submitted an application for Iversity’s MOOC production fellowship program. If funded, we will co-teach a course that is desperately needed: Foundations of Educational Technology. Our goal is to help individuals learn the history, research, practice, and debates of the field.

We want to improve education. To do so, we believe that educational technology developers, learning designers, and practitioners need to know the answers to a number of important questions including:
(a) how do people learn?
(b) how does technology/pedagogy impact learning?
(c) why have educational technology efforts failed/succeeded in the past?

Our course focuses on these pillars.

The fellowship recipients are selected by a jury of peers and by a process of public voting. If you think that this is a worthwhile cause, we would love your support. If so, please *vote for our proposal*. To vote for our proposal first you have to  register on the platform and then you have to click on the green vote button. While you are there you can also read more about our application. There you will notice that our proposed course blends pedagogies, approaches, and ideals that originate from the progressive and open education movements (e.g., OER reuse, cMOOCs, knowledge-building, communities of practice ideas) while introducing artifacts and values that we feel should be staples in xMOOCS (e.g., personal learning plans and instructor-supported community interactions).

edtechmooc

 

The next step, if you are so inclined, is to help spread the good word. Please tell your colleagues and friends about it. Send them to this blog post, to Audrey’s post, or to our proposal, and ask them to help us help the world design meaningful, purposeful, effective, and equitable educational technologies. Remix it, share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, your department’s listserv, shout it from your rooftop, write a song about it, create a banner…. do whatever else pleases you to help spread the word. Or, just grab the message below and post it on your favorite social media platform:

I voted for the Foundations of Educational Technology class! Help me spread the word: http://bit.ly/100XoCK #edtechCourse

Finally: I’m very excited about this course. However, I am humbled, I am in awe actually, that friends and colleagues from around the world have offered to help us with the course. So far, 13 students from the University of Texas at Austin have volunteered to be Teaching Assistants for the class and Dr. Valerie Irvine from the University of Victoria and Dr. Rick Schwier from the University of Saskatchewan have also offered to help with various aspects of the course. I am in awe of my colleagues and students who unselfishly offer their time to improve education. The world is a better place because of you. And for that, we thank you!

George & Audrey

I have some news to share

Posted on May 6th, by George Veletsianos in my research, open, scholarship, sharing, work. 55 comments

Sherrilyn Kenyon wrote that “Life is a tapestry woven by the decisions we make” and to that, I would add, “and the experiences we create.”

I am taking the next step in my life and career. One that I expect will add many more experiences to my life.

I have decided to accept a position with the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. I have been appointed as Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology by the Canadian federal government and my post will begin on September 1st. As in the past, my position will be research-focused, and I will continue my research on understanding  learners’ and scholars’ practices and experiences in emerging online settings (e.g., online social networks, open courses, etc).

Royal Roads is a public university with a successful university-wide teaching model that combines short-term f2f residencies with online learning. I’m excited about being at a university that has had a blended learning model since 1995 and has a reputation of innovation that it embraces. I’m excited that my research is a natural fit with the institution and that the synergies exist for applying a lot of the work that I have been doing regarding online education, openness, and digital scholarship. I’m also excited about being in British Columbia, which will soon “become the first province in Canada to offer students free online, open textbooks.” On a more personal note, I’m excited to be able to live and work by the ocean.

It probably goes without saying, but I will miss the University of Texas at Austin, my colleagues, and my students at the College of Education. UT-Austin is an amazing university and I am very fortunate and grateful to have been able to spend a few years of my life there.

Leaving a university often leads individuals to ask why. And, I’ve experienced that already: Why leave a research-1 university that is recognized worldwide, especially when your tenure and promotion case would be easy to make? I have asked myself that same question. Why am I working long hours? Why do I spend time away from my family visiting back-to-back conferences? Why do I take pride in my students’ work and do all I can to help them succeed? I engage in these activities because I care, not because of tenure (though, admittedly, that is a positive by-product). I personally chose my field of study and research because I care about education and individual’s learning experiences. I care about societal well-being and growth, about social justice, and see education as a way to eradicate inequities and injustices. These values run across my work (which is partly why I make all of my publications available online).

…and since this post is getting long, a final thought: I don’t like moving. But… I AM looking forward to the road trip to Victoria.

Course Trailer for our dual credit CS course

Posted on April 22nd, by George Veletsianos in my research, work. 18 comments

We are in year 2 of an NSF-funded project intended to improve and broaden participation in high school computer science courses. We are using a technology-enhanced PBL approach and are adopting the Computer Science Principles as our guiding curricular framework. (P.S. Our course is available here for free under a Creative Commons license). I have received the near-final copy of our course trailer today, and I’m really excited about it. Houndstooth Studio and Enspire Learning worked with us for this, and as you can see from the video below they have done a great job!

 

 

#et4online notes, thoughts, reflections

Posted on April 15th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning, open, scholarship. 19 comments

I just returned from the 2013 Sloan-C Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference in Las Vegas. What a fantastic gathering! The value of the conference to me was the numerous great conversations with new friends (Jen Ross, Christopher Brooks, Amy Collier, David Wicks) and old friends (Tanya Joosten, Laura Pasquini). And, as always, I finally met friends and colleagues who I have interacted with online for a while (Mark Lee, Rolin Moe).

* * *

Amy notes that the unconference was fantastic. She is spot on!

I’ve been trying to make sense of the conference and my experiences since I left. My friend and colleague Joel Donna (of 3ring) came to Austin to spend some time with me on Saturday-Monday and the conversations I had at the conference continued with him as well. Here’s what has been on my mind:

1. Three years ago, I used to have conversations with colleagues wherein I was desperately trying to make the case that technology-enhanced pedagogy was a powerful approach to have in our “how to improve education” toolkit. I wouldn’t  be surprised if at times I was called a technology evangelist (any of you that follow my work know that I am not). Nowadays, I am finding myself on the other end of the spectrum – cautioning colleagues about the narrative that education is broken, educational technology is the fix, and for-profit corporations are here to save the day. If Gardner Campbell was here, he would have said, “That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.” What is education for? Who is it for? What does it mean to learn? If education really “is broken,” what exactly is broken? Is the funding structure broken? Are the pedagogies that we use broken? Is instructor preparation broken? Is our understanding of how people learn broken? Is the notion of academic freedom broken? What is broken?

In the world that I inhabit, “broken” refers to educational systems that employ unjust practices, disregard unequal access, promote exploitation, and embrace pedagogies of hopelessness and marginalization. Unfortunately, I suspect that the notion of “broken” that I perceive may be unlike the notion of “broken” that popular narratives embrace.

2.  I can try to convince individuals that this contemporary fable of education being broken is a story told and retold by powerful individuals/entities who have something to gain by creating alternative systems (…and just to clarify, I am not arguing that education is perfect – see above). Do we stop there? Ideally, no. What educators and researchers need to do is to become involved in the design and development of educational systems and educational technology. If we don’t, someone else will design our future for us. Do we really want that? Do we really want future educational systems designed without input from educators and researchers? I hope not. I am working on a project related to this and I hope to be able to share it with you within the next two weeks.

3. I met a a lot of colleagues at the conference that are thinking about similar issues. This makes me quite happy. And I am very glad and fortunate to be able to spend time with all of you!

* * *

I had a great time participating in the Career Forum roundtables, giving advice to PhD students about academia and sharing my own experiences. I value this. I value having conversations with students and spending time together answering difficult questions. The question that keeps coming up here is: What is your passion? Is it teaching? Is it service? Is it a particular research method, a particular pedagogy, or worldview? How does that relate to the world at present? How can you pursue your passion? And to close the circle, unstructured time with colleagues is important and can be very productive for these types of conversations.

* * *

I was originally invited to the conference to give a plenary talk on emerging technologies. Huge thanks to David and Jen for all their help in making this a success. My presentation was recorded and I am really hoping that it will be made available online for free (hint, hint). My slides are  below, and a storify of my talk, courtesy of Laura Pasquini, is here.