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

Category: sharing

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

The book’s conclusion- Your feedback?

Posted on October 27th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 4 comments

I have just finished writing the conclusion to the book I edited that is to be published by Athabasca University Press (under an Open Access license) for Terry Anderson’s distance education series. It is tentatively titled Emerging Technologies in Distance Education.

I am posting the conclusion below. If you’d like to provide any feedback, I’d be glad to listen. Are there things that you’d expect to see in there but you don’t? Is something unclear? Anything that needs further refinement? Or is everything perfect? (I doubt it!) And, of course, I hope that when the book comes out, you grab your free copy and send us your feedback!

Conclusion

It has been a little over a year since this book was conceptualized. Notwithstanding important global events that happened during the period from July 2008 to October 2009, the period in which this book was developed (such as the worldwide economic recession and the election of Mr. Barrack Obama to the US presidency), technological advances during this time have been rapid. To cite a few, Twitter became part of the popular discourse and the web has seen increased activity and interest in real-time access to published information. In addition, this period has seen advances in the educational front. For instance, this was the first time Open Access Week was celebrated, calling for immediate and free access to scholarly knowledge, while two free online universities were launched (Peer-to-Peer University and the University of the People). It seems that both the web and the way we think about education are changing.

Regardless of the fact that both education and the web are in a state of emergence, this book provides evidence that we are moving towards a consensus with regards to how effective and engaging learning experiences should be designed. Whether as a result of technological advancements, as a result of a changing mindset, or a combination of the two, distance learning educators, researchers and practitioners are (a) moving towards a model of distance education grounded upon social, authentic, and community-based learning experiences, where (b) presence, communication, interaction and collaboration are valued, (c) and where emerging technologies are both used to enhance education and where good practice and pedagogy is used to appropriate the emerging technologies available. Reflecting on the finished chapters, the original submissions, and my discussions with chapter authors, I see three themes that can bring closure to this volume: (a) the broad focus of the book, (b) the excitement and motivation displayed by this volume’s practitioners and researchers, and (c) the prospects for future research. I will discuss these themes next.

First, while our focus lies on the use of emerging technologies in distance education, it is clear from reading the chapters and observing the summary of the chapters generated via wordle.com (figure 1), that the focus isn’t necessarily the technology. The authors in this volume focus on enhancing educational research and practice based on the notion that powerful learning experiences are social, immersive, engaging, and participatory. In turn these types of learning experiences lend themselves well to being enhanced through the emerging technologies that we have available at our disposal. [insert figure 1 here]

Second, the authors contributing to this volume have displayed tremendous excitement for their work, eagerness to receive feedback, and motivation to transform the future of distance education. These authors are not just writers and scholars but also activists in furthering meaningful, powerful, and just educational opportunities. To me this is very important. The work of an academic should not be limited to teaching classes and writing research reports to be read and analyzed by like-minded individuals. In short, academics should also see themselves as changemakers, and, academics in schools of education in particular, should focus their work towards developing equitable societies that are free of injustices, where opportunities for deeply personal and powerful learning experiences are open to everyone. Evidence to these authors’ commitment to the noble causes of education was the fact submissions to this book came as a direct result of it being open access. In particular, more than three quarters of the original 65 submissions noted that the reason for submitting to this project was because the book was going to be offered free of charge for anyone to use and download.

Finally, while each chapter suggests future lines of inquiry at the micro level, the work presented in this volume collectively highlights broader areas of interests that deem research attention. At the macro level, it is clear that we need longitudinal research that is multidisciplinary in nature. At the meso level, important areas of inquiry and research include,

• Further inquiry into the symbiotic and reinforcing relationship between emerging technologies, pedagogies, and the rise of the participatory web
• new pedagogies and approaches that embrace emerging technologies as natural artifacts in contemporary educational systems as opposed to add-ons to an existing pedagogy, approach, or activity,
• renewed emphasis on the role and nature of education and universities, along with an examination of the roles of educators and informal learning experiences,
• further research into understanding how social, immersive, engaging, and participatory learning experiences can be initiated in distance education contexts,
• development of research frameworks for investigating social, immersive, engaging, and participatory learning, and
• revamped efforts to understand how learning communities can be fostered (both in the context of formal education, as well as in the context of lifelong informal learning).

In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading this book and that you found it worthwhile for your research and practice. If you did, share the book openly and freely.

George Veletsianos, October 2009

Wordle summary of the Emerging Technologies in Distance Ed book

Posted on October 26th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

I am editing an open access book for Athabasca University Press on Emerging Technologies for Distance Education. It consists of 16 chapters, and the 230-page word file is about 4.9MB. While not yet ready for public use, below is a basic summary of it. Apart from the obvious high-frequency words you will also notice a few favorite of mine including process, community, open, experience, and agents.

Amy Mahan Research Fellowship Program

Posted on October 22nd, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

The following showed up in my inbox. It may be helpful to some…

Amy Mahan Research Fellowship Program to Assess the Impact of Public Access to ICTs:
http://www.upf.edu/amymahan

Up to 12 Research Fellowships will be awarded, each providing a grant of up to 22,000 € and specialized guidance to enable emerging scholars to carry out their own new and original study examining the impact of public access to information and communication technologies (ICT).

Emerging developing country researchers from Africa, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific region and Latin America and the Caribbean are invited to apply for a Fellowship. They may submit their application and conduct their research in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. The deadline for applying is Midnight Eastern Standard Time, 31 December 2009.

The Program is an eighteen-months project sponsored by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and managed by Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain, in collaboration with scholars from Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina, the University of the Philippines, Manila, and the LINK Centre, South Africa.

Detailed information is available at the Program Website. The Frequently Asked Questions section (http://www.upf.edu/amymahan/faqs) is comprehensive and a good starting place to learn more about the Program.  We’d also like to encourage those interested to make use of the topic query to help refine their proposals.

Again, we hope you can help us disseminate this announcement (which is also attached) to other researchers and scholars who might be interested in ICT for development research.

Electronic dissertations/theses

Posted on October 21st, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 1 Comment

Starting this academic year (2009/2010), the University of Manchester has moved to allowing MA students to submit their dissertations in electronic format, and gives students the option to “allow the University to make the dissertation open access.” [Insert applause here]

I would also like dissertations from prior years to be posted online, especially because (a) our current distance learning students would benefit from seeing examples of past dissertations, and (b) knowledge stored in libraries is easily lost. And for that, as long as there is the desire to share, there’s scribd (or any other file hosting site). So…

Below you will find two MA dissertations from two of our talented students who completed our MA in Digital Technologies, Communication & Education degree in September 2009. The first one (by Eman Tariq Mehana) is entitled Perceptions of Saudi Female Higher Education Students Using Web-Based Videoconferencing and it’s one I supervised. Eman used a videoconferencing system in a traditional higher education classroom in Saudi Arabia and juxtaposed the results with current practice. If you are interested in the global uses of educational technology, use of technology to solve real problems, cultural relevance, and don’t subscribe to the notion that technology is culturally neutral, then you should take a look at this one. Some illustrative quotes to entice you follow:

“In Saudi Arabia, gender segregation is conducted in institutions from the beginning of formal education until graduation from university…most campuses are designed with two main areas, one for males and the other for females, with high walls separating them. In each academic and administrative department there are female and male counterparts for all posts. The issues around gender segregation in higher education arise when male lecturers are asked to deliver lectures to female students; however, it is not acceptable for female lecturers to lecture males. For female students in higher education, the lectures they attend when given by male lecturers are delivered through videoconferencing or closed circuit television (CCTV). The rest are given by female lecturers, where there is no need for CCTV” (page 14).

“It is important for the sake of completion [comparison] to visualise the traditional CCTV class these female students are using as a means of comparing this new experience for them. A typical CCTV class in a Saudi Arabian university will be an auditorium of up to 100 seats with two medium-sized monitors hanging from the ceiling to allow better observation from the whole class. Female students take their seats before the class starts and a supervising university employee takes attendance and closes the auditorium doors before she notifies the male lecturer that they are ready for the lecture to begin.  The male lecturer has no means of seeing what is happening in the female class except for what the university employee will tell him. There is no camera in the female auditorium. The single method of communication between the lecturer and the rest of his class is through a telephone placed on a desk across the auditorium. A student who wishes to speak to the lecturer, or request clarification as the distance between a student’s seat and the screen makes it difficult to observe details, has to leave her seat, walk through the auditorium until she reaches the telephone and then ring the extension of the telephone in the lecturer’s auditorium. Although this is technically two-way synchronous communication, these calls can only be made at the end of the lecture and there is only a remote possibility that a lecturer will engage his female students in a debate or an ongoing discussion” (page 81-82).

Full Dissertation appears below:
Perceptions of Saudi Female Higher Education Students Using Web-Based Videoconferencing

The second one, How effective is ICDL Training for Omani Teachers (by Fahad Khalifa Humaid Al Hatmi) is another good example of the type of work that our students engage with and it was supervised by my colleague  Drew Whitworth.This one looks at a standardised computer training certification, the ICDL (International Computer Driving License), and, espousing a critical theory perspective,  examines whether teaching fundamental technology skills to teachers effectively prepares them to critically integrate technology in their classrooms. Education departments who teach technology skills to their teacher trainees (aka pre-service teachers) should read this one. Here’s a quote:

ICT literacy, described in terms of both core skills and transferable skills, is an important element of education from the standpoint of both students and teachers. ICT education needs to include core skills training, critical thinking skills applied to ICT selection and use, and the ability to evaluate the outcomes related to the use of ICT. In general, and specifically in the Sultanate of Oman, ECDL/ICDL programs are not achieving all of these goals. (p. 35)

Full dissertation appears below:
How Effective is ICDL Training for Omani Teachers
Enjoy! If you have any comments, I am sure that both Eman and Fahad would love to read them.

[Note that the students own the copyright to their dissertation (see point 14 on this page) and have given me written permission to make their dissertations publicly available via Scribd. The text from point 14 in the previous page is also posted below in case the page goes offline:

“Usually under The University of Manchester’s Intellectual Property Policy (subject to some exceptions), the student owns the copyright and intellectual property (IP) in their thesis itself (IP described in the dissertation may belong to someone else). Those exceptions are where:

  • the student is undertaking a sponsored studentship and the sponsoring body has a claim on arising IP
  • the student participates in research together with employees of the University (other than simply being supervised) where potentially commercialisable IP may be created
  • the student creates IP outside of their course using more than incidental use of University resources
  • the student writes a thesis which is generated by research performed in whole or in part using equipment or facilities provided by the University under conditions that impose copyright restrictions e.g. software licenses”

An article and two CFPs

Posted on October 15th, by George Veletsianos in cfp, papers, sharing. No Comments

My RSS reader brought these presents today. Hope they are useful to you. The article will strike a chord with those who seek to improve schooling (with or without technology). The CFPs also relate.

Singal, Nidhi & Swann, Mandy (2009). Children’s perceptions of themselves as learner inside and outside school. Research Papers in Education. Published online: October 15, 2009 (today) at http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/02671520903281617
Abstract: This exploratory study set out to investigate how a group of children, who were identified as underachieving in school, constructed understandings of themselves as learners inside and outside school. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and image-based methods with the children. Interviews were also conducted with their parents and teachers. Findings of this study highlight the centrality of the children’s relational world and the richness of their learning experiences and capacity for learning outside school. Significant differences were evident in their descriptions of learning processes inside the classroom and outside the formal school setting. Outside school learning experiences, both structured and less formalised were perceived by the children as being more active, collaborative and challenging. Knowledge and understanding in these contexts seemed to be located within the children. In contrast, learning inside school was characterised by dependence on the teacher. Knowledge and understanding in this context appeared to be located within the teacher.

CFP #1: Call for a special issue of QWERTY. Generation Y, Digital Learners, and Other Dangerous Things (via the red-ink doctoral school)

CFP #2: Call for chapters for an e-book on Personal Learning Environments and Networks (via George Siemens)

Pedagogical Agent Talk at Linköping

Posted on October 6th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. No Comments

On the 7th of October, I am giving an invited talk at Linköping University in Sweden on my work and research with pedagogical agents. I will also be meeting with Agneta Gulz, Magnus Haake, and their colleagues whom I haven’t yet met (but really looking forward to meeting) to discuss various projects and future directions. Below is my presentation for attendees and for those who may be interested.