While yesterday I mentioned that there was not much conversation about research, today was a little bit different. The value that educational research can contribute was highlighted by Alan November (November Learning) and Richard Culatta (US Department of Education). Richard in particular suggested that edtech startups work with educational researchers and teachers in designing their products. Such a simple idea (and one that we teach in our MA and PhD degrees), but one that is rarely taken into consideration it seems. Working within disciplinary silos (whether that’s teachers developing educational technology alone, or engineers developing educational technology alone) is not how complex problem (like education) are solved. On the one hand, the absence of educators from a design team could lead to development of tools/products that don’t solve any sort of educational problem. On the other hand, the absence of educators might lead design teams to think outside of the constraints of current systems. Each time I think about this, I return to the design process used by IDEO, which highlights diversity and interdisciplinary thinking. The video below is a good example of this type of thinking:
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The acknowledgment that educational technology startups will benefit from partnering with educational researchers is important. It is the same acknowledgement that was made by the NSF in the computing education for the 21st century program (disclosure: I am co-PI on one of those grants). Actually, the NSF went beyond simply acknowledging the value of partnerships and made CS-Education partnerships a requirement in applying for funding.
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Richard mentioned that the Obama administration is developing initiatives that value teachers (e.g., Project Respect). I look forward to learning more about this, but to also understand how such policies align with the high stakes climate that the administration has continued pursuing. While individual policies may be worthwhile, they exist within a larger ecosystem, and I would love to know how the administration sees its high stakes approach aligning with these initiatives.
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Towards the end of the day I managed to position myself right in the middle of conversations related to venture capital, business models, and investment in startups. And the statement that follows has been in my mind since. A panelist said: Do we care about learning outcomes? Absolutely. Once we first make money for our investors. This statement was followed by another statement noting that a sizable return on investment is the “mandate.”
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I’m not that naive to believe that everyone is in this space for noble causes. I also don’t think that everyone is in this space for monetary gain. When building the educational systems of the future, all of us (educators, researchers, investors, designers, and developers alike) should make sure to ask: For whom is this future being built? Who benefits? And who is left out?
This week I am spending time at the SXSWedu conference. It’s described as a conference that “features four days of compelling presentations and informative sessions from education professionals, industry leaders, and policy practitioners committed to engaging all learners.”
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These are not my usual stomping grounds. Indeed, AECT, AERA, E-learn, SITE, EdMedia, ALT-C and all the other conferences I’ve been to feature groups of individuals committed to education and learning as well, but none of them feature the entrepreneurial atmosphere and the “disruption is imminent” aura that this conference is epitomizing.
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I had a great lunch with George Siemens today. I came across George’s work in 2007 and have chatted on and off with him over the past 5 years on various social media platforms but we hadn’t actually ever met face-to-face until today. I joked that I will be wearing my ethnographic hat during my time at the conference, trying to make sense of a culture different than my own. While my research aims to ultimately make a difference in education and people’s lives, and, a number of edtech startups and I are (seemingly) operating in the same area, I am not so sure I am in the “edtech space” (as it is affectionately called by the numerous entrepreneurs I met at the opening reception). And I don’t fully understand the different rounds of venture capital funding. But, that’s the language that’s dominating the conversations so far. But, I do believe this is something that more education researchers need to know about. After all, when individuals propose solutions for the problems of education, we need to listen. And to question. For more on this you should read this piece from Audrey Watters, (who is also at the conference and we got to spend some time chatting together today).
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Language is a strange thing. It’s strange because the same words might have different meaning to different people. Take the words “democratizing education” for example. What do you think of when you hear those words? I think of Paulo Freire, equity, education as a public good, the freedom from pedagogies of oppression. I wasn’t sure what these words meant when I heard them today. I believe they meant “freeing education from the control that educational institutions exert on it.” And even though it sounded good (who doesn’t want to “democratize education” anyway?!) I’m not sure that progressive educators’ visions of democratic and equitable educational systems align with the visions of democratic educational systems that were discussed today. And that’s another reason why more educators and researchers need to be here, and need to be in these conversations.
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Research was absent. Perhaps I was at the wrong sessions. Even at the sessions that I went to, any mention of evaluation (let alone research) was problematic. For example: “15% of our students told us that they [insert survey response here].” There was no mention of how many individuals were surveyed, what the return rate was, or whether the evaluation questions were created and validated by an independent party. I understand that educational research might not be on the radar of commercial entities and investors. But, it’s important. And, if we are truly dedicated to making change in education, however small or large it is, then we should be investigating whether the tools we create work, how they work, and in what contexts they work.
The 2013 AECT Conference proposal system is open. The members and leadership of the Research and Theory division are excited to invite you to submit a proposal to our division! The call for proposals is at http://www.aect.org/events/
We continue to encourage authors to submit their work in the following categories:
• Category 1: Completed Study
Report findings from a study that is complete.
• Category 2: Work in Progress
Report the progress of a study currently underway (e.g., as a Reflection Paper Session).
• Category 3: Research Methodology
Report innovative research methodologies in Educational Technology.
Authors can submit their work in any of the above categories that fit the interest of the R&T division and address this year’s conference theme “Innovate! Integrate! Communicate!” Proposals that use rigorous quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods are particularly warranted.
When submitting your proposal, please state in the abstract which category you are submitting your work. For example,
• “This proposal reports a Category 1 Completed Study on …”
• “This proposal reports a Category 2 Work in Progress on …” or
• “This proposal reports a Category 3 Research Methodology …”
Proposals that fit all the session types are welcome:
• Concurrent Session
• Roundtable Session
• Reflection Paper Session
• Panel Sessions
Questions regarding proposals for the R&T Division should be directed to Dr. George Veletsianos at veletsianos |at| gmail.com
We look forward to your submissions!
I was recently invited to deliver a plenary talk at the 2013 Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference, hosted by the Sloan Consortium. Steve Wheeler will be giving a keynote and I am excited to hear him talk. My presentation will pick up where Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (download it for free here http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120177) left off, and will take readers through a set of stories intend to clarify how emerging technologies are, and are not, changing education.
The talk is entitled Seven Tales of Learning Online with Emerging Technologies, and I described it as follows:
During the last few years, emerging technologies and online learning have dominated narratives regarding the future of education and the potential role that technology may play in education. Are we reaching a point where “anyone can learn anything from anyone else at any time?” Or, are Google, Facebook, and Twitter “infantilizing our minds,” distracting us from meaningful learning and purposeful living? As societies, governments, and other social groups adapt and change over time, so do institutions of learning, the work that they do, and how they do that work. In this presentation, I will share seven research-based stories describing the integration of emerging technologies in learning environments. These stories paint an intricate picture of online learning with emerging technologies and demonstrate how (a) emerging learning technologies have impacted educational practice, (b) the use of emerging technologies “on the ground” is often negotiated and contested, and (c) a “culture of sharing” may be finding increasing acceptance in education under emerging phenomena such as Massive Open Online Courses, Open Educational Resources, and social media use by scholars. These stories highlight how learning and education are (and are not) changing with the emergence of certain technologies, social behaviors, and cultural expectations.
I recently gave a presentation in which I sought to capture some of the activities that I see happening when researchers are using social media to enact scholarship. In this presentation I argued that while faculty members have always shared their work with each other (e.g., through letters, telephone calls, and conference presentations), techno-cultural forces are prompting educators and researchers to share scholarly work in an ongoing and open manner. I also argued that “sharing” is a value and literacy that we should embrace and teach, not just because it is compatible with the purpose of higher education but also because it may contribute to a more equitable society.
A facebook conversation from yesterday encouraged me to share one of the assignments that I developed for my instructional design course. The goal of the class is for the students to understand, experience, and apply instructional design in a variety of educational contexts.
One of the assignments I developed for asked students to enroll in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and analyze the instructional materials within the course using one of the rubrics provided by Dick and Carey (the instructional design book we use in class). It was a lot of fun and the students appreciated the exercise. Given the lack of presence and voice by instructional designers in MOOC happenings, the lack of valid, reliable, and serious research that exists on the topic (though Rita Kop’s work on cMOOCs is admirable), and my desire to engage students in contemporary events, I came up with this assignment to embed MOOC analysis in my course. The assignment is available for download on https://dl.dropbox.com/u/2533962/instr-materials-veletsianos.doc and posted below for those who just want to skim it without downloading it. Enjoy and feel free to use it:
Instructional Material analysis assignment
Individually, you will examine and report on the instructional materials of one popular digital learning initiative. An analysis matrix will be provided to you, and you will use that to matrix to evaluate these initiatives.
Length: Minimum 500 words.
|Criteria||Levels of Attainment||Points|
|Written analysis (evaluation)||
This task requires a few hours of research before you can actually complete it. Even though this is an individual task, if you would like to discuss the assignment with any of your colleagues, please feel free to do so.
First read the chapter and the rest of the materials for this week. Without reading those, I can assure you that your understanding of the issues presented will be superficial.
Second, examine the rubric provided by Dick & Carey for evaluating instructional materials (p. 250-251 – see below for the rubric). You will be completing this rubric for a digital environment, and it’s a good idea to understand what it encompasses before you proceed.
Third, select one course provided on one of the following platforms to examine:
- A course on Coursera (select a course that is occurring right now or has been completed. DO NOT select a course that has not started yet): https://www.coursera.org/courses
- A course on EdX (select a course that is occurring right now. DO NOT select a course that has not started yet): https://www.edx.org/courses
- A free course on Udemy (select a course that includes at least 5 “lessons/lectures”): http://www.udemy.com/courses
You can also choose to examine DS106: http://ds106.us/ I am including DS106 on its own because it is a course as opposed to the above (Coursera, EdX, and Udemy) which are platforms. If you pick any of these three (Coursera, EdX, or Udemy), then you should also pick a course (e.g., Within Coursera a possible course is https://www.coursera.org/course/friendsmoneybytes).
Once you have made your selection, it’s time to research your course. Spend time looking around, examining and evaluating the instructional materials provided. You will use the rubric to keep track of the criteria that need to be assessed, and then using this rubric you will write a report assessing the instructional material for the course.
You should start your report by stating the course and its provider. A link would also be helpful. For example, using the example above, I would start my report by stating the following:
“I am examining the course entitled Networks: Friends, Money and Bytes (https://www.coursera.org/course/friendsmoneybytes). This course if offered through Coursera and is taught by Mung Chiang who is a Professor or Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. The course is an introduction to the topic of X and its objectives are XYZ.”
Your report should be specific and detailed in its evaluation of instructional material, and should be guided by the five criteria families discussed by DC: Goal-centered, learner-centered, learning-centered, context-centered, technical criteria. I would like to see that you understand each criterion and that you are capable of applying it to evaluating your course. For example, at the very least, I would expect to see statements such as the following:
Instructional designers use five criteria families to evaluate instructional materials. Learner-centered criteria focus on XYZ and refer to X. The instructional materials for this course appear to be adequate for this criterion because <provide list of reasons here>. The course could be improved in this domain by <list of additions/revisions here>. However, because item X was not disclosed in the course, I am not able to evaluate Y.
Let me reiterate that to complete this assignment you will need to do background research on the course and the platform. For example, your background research on Coursera will reveal that some of these courses have more than 80,000 students from around the world. This fact alone will impact your evaluation!
Instructional Material Evaluation Rubric
Rubric is copyright of: Dick, W., Carey, L. & Carey, J. (2008). Systematic Design of Instruction, (7th ed.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
A. Goal-centered Criteria:
Are the instructional materials:
|1. Congruent with the terminal and performance objectives?|
|2. Adequate in content coverage and completeness?|
|6. Objective in presentations (lack of content bias)?|
Are the instructional materials appropriate for learners’:
|1. Vocabulary and language?|
|2. Development level?|
|3. Background, experience, environment?|
|4. Experiences with testing formats and equipment?|
|5. Motivation and interest?|
|6. Cultural, racial, gender needs (lack bias)?|
Do the material include:
|1. Pre-instructional material?|
|2. Appropriate content sequencing?|
|3. Presentations that are complete, current and tailored for learners?|
|4. Practice exercises that are congruent with the goal?|
|5. Adequate and supportive feedback?|
|6. Appropriate assessment?|
|7. Appropriate sequence and chunk size?|
Are/do the instructional materials:
|1. Authentic for the learning and performance sites?|
|2. Feasible for the learning and performance sites?|
|3. Require additional equipment/tools?|
|4. Have congruent technical qualities for planned site (facilities/delivery system)?|
|5. Have adequate resources (time, budget, personal availability and skills)?|
Do the instructional materials have appropriate:
|1. Delivery system and media for the nature of objectives?|
|3. Graphic design and typography?|
|6. Audio and video quality?|
|7. Interface design?|
As someone who deeply values teaching and learning, I have been reading a number of articles and books that explore the role, values, responses, and potential of universities in the face of calls for reform (both market reform and otherwise). The role of emerging technologies is a key area of interest for me in this discussion. Below are interesting articles and quotes that are worthy of reflection and further investigation:
Blum, D., & Ullman, C. (2012). The globalization and corporatization of education: the limits and liminality of the market mantra. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 25(4), 367–373.
Burka, P. (2012). Storming the Ivory Tower. The Texas Monthly. Retrieved on November 12, 2012 from http://www.texasmonthly.com/preview/2012-10-01/feature
Schwier, R. (2012). The corrosive influence of competition, growth, and accountability on institutions of higher education. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 24(2), 96–103.
The Burka article is a fantastic summary of what transpired in Texas during 2011-2012 with regards to reform initiatives, with a focus on the University of Texas at Austin. Blum and Ullman (2012) introduce a special journal issue focused on neoliberalism and education. Schwier (2012) explores how competition, growth, and accountability might interact with universities, and what relationship they might have with instructional design and technology.
“What do the forces of competition, growth, and accountability have to do with instructional design and technology? I think we are complicit in perpetuating these agendas in higher education. We have long been associated with improved teaching and learning efficiency, and of course distance learning is seen as a tool for competing successfully with other institutions…And distance learning supports an accountability agenda because it is, in many cases, seen as a product… Consequently we help our institutions treat education as a commodity—as credit units sold for dollar amounts. Is it any wonder we hear complaints about students who act like demanding customers?” (Schwier, 2012, pp. 101)
“And instructional design and technology has more to offer on the quality side of the ledger than on the efficiency side. We understand more today about what it means to build exciting and successful learning environments than we ever have before, and we understand how to take advantages of the affordances of emerging technologies. But our designs do not always result in greater efficiency; nor should they.” (Schwier, 2012, pp. 102).
“Instructional design and technology professionals need to be able to argue for vibrant teaching and learning environments, to promote strong cultures of teaching and learning in our institutions, and not act as content hacks or live in fear of failing to measure up to externally defined efficiency criteria.” (Schwier, 2012, pp. 102)
“In the neoliberal state, healthcare and education have been transformed through the market mantra, into products that individuals can buy and sell.” (Blum & Ullman, 2012, pp. 368)
‘While the liberal state only slightly lessened the role of ascribed status (the idea that people succeed both as individuals and as groups, through the status ascribed to them through their race, gender, or class status), the reality is that the twentieth century has been character- ized in the Global North by a combination of achievement and ascription, making success about both “who you know and where you are from” as well as “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps”.’ (Blum & Ullman, 2012, pp. 368)
“Schools have accepted the bulk of the blame for our economic problems despite the reality that educators have been virtually disempowered at every level. The truth is that our worldwide economic problems have little to do with the school-based preparation of human capital, but instead are deeply tied to the limits of market capitalism.” (Blum & Ullman, 2012, pp. 372)
I love spending time with others and participating in conversations that help others understand and explore the role of technology in education, society, and 21st century living. On Thursday (Dec 6th), I get to do that at a local middle school as part of the Digital Parent learning series, an event hosted by Carl Hooker who is the Director for Instructional Technology in the Eanes Independent School District. I will be talking about participation in online spaces and networked cultures and why and how parents can support and foster their children’s online participation. I anticipate that I will have to defend the notion of real and virtual life being inextricably intertwined and, to a large degree, inseparable (which is an argument that resembles one that I made in 2008 and one that Nathan Jurgenson recently described quite eloquently). I also look forward to hearing and learning from my co-panelists’ experiences!
If you are in Austin, please join us for this free event.