Monthly Archives: April 2014

Week 12 – Social Media. Open Source Tools. My story.

What did you learn from your experience using social media and other open source tools? Should they be used for teaching and learning? Tell the story of what you learned…

Changing the way I learn and teach… how I look at the world through a different lens…how I research… how I leverage my interactions… how I extend my own beliefs and push me into deeper dialogues, but at the same time understanding that there is line to the interactions.. a blurred line.  I think that SM allows for one to self-reflect no matter who is the audience.  You put yourself out there and through a matter of clicks others reflect with you or maybe without you.  I am motivated by others, intrigued by others and sometimes infuriated by others.  Social media is tricky – specifically, twitter.  When you have 140 characters to represent your thoughts, your beliefs and try and capture the essence of what you are trying to say and on the flip side you have the ability to self-direct, choose your own learning and according to Vanwynsberghe &  Verdegem (2013), there is a public and private blur of the boundaries.  I kind of felt that way when following the directions for this weeks module, I had to link my twitter to my facebook account.  I try to achieve a separation of the two… I like to “try” and use twitter for professional ideas, sharing, connecting, developing my PLN and with facebook, I tend to use it to connect with my friends, many of whom are professional friends, but basically I started using facebook because my mother always asked me “are you in town or out of town”.  I had a “secret” code or way of indicating this without her having to even ask now.  When I connected the two, I kind of felt that blur of the boundaries.  Is that a bad thing?  Not really, it just felt like I had to try harder to keep the content on a different level.  Maybe it was just me… could facebook be used as an educational tool?  Sure, the very nature of what it is, indicates that it is allows for easy access, people can connect and ask quick questions – poll out, reach out for help, assistance for something… heck ask the experts.  Here is a perfect example — a friend is coming to Texas and needed recommendations for running trails, night life, etc.  Sure she could research google, yelp, travel advisor, but why not use primary sources?  Those who live in the area for the best recommendations?  What is wrong with that… nothing.  Could an educator do the same thing?  Absolutely… does it happen? Probably not.  In K-12, I am sure there are some sort of filtering that would interfere with that… I think there is still a fear.  We don’t get trained on how to use these tools (or at least we didn’t when I was still teaching) but rather take the easy road and just block the things that could provide us the best route to the best information.   It is funny… I posted this and then read a post… on Facebook of all things, from a K-12 teacher reminding them of an assignment that was due… hmmmmm.  I investigated this a bit further and it looked like only 8 students were reminded.  I guess because the other students are not on facebook?  I am intrigued and I know this teacher… I am going to ask.  

When I think of using SM, I think of this like the Big 6.  I used to teach this when researching.  One example (this was before twitter and I don’t think we even had FB yet) but trying to figure out going to the movie – this might not be the best or most relevant example anymore, because there is an app for that!  But prior to this, I might have to get the newspaper to figure this out… I could call the movie theater, but then I would have to look up the phone number, call, get the information, etc.  I think you get the idea.  

Is there a curve to this?  Absolutely!  I think sometimes teachers are just barely rounding the bend of this curve OR they want to, but then there is some guy at the head office that says… “Ummmmm, no”.  There needs to be a better way to understand why these tools are important and how to best approach them vs just not going there.  Professional development is definitely an option, but along side that is providing the experiences and digging into why these tools are beneficial.  I can teach you how to use the tools, but there is a whole other piece to the learning… application of the tools.  Let’s don’t get caught up with the tool and trying to fit it in.  It needs to be applicable and relevant and provide a deeper level of the learning.

Vanwynsberghe &  Verdegem (2013) also discuss the idea of active participation by the user and the traditional models that are no longer sustainable… we don’t have a classic “sender-message-receiver communication model”.  It is really an interchangeable communication model that is both mass and self-communication… interesting takeaway… you post something on twitter for the “masses” but really in essence you are self-communicating and then getting feedback – retweets, favorites, inquiries… and potentially a deeper & richer meaningful conversation to be had.  That is why I love it.

On that same thought:  http://projectinfolit.org/index.php/component/k2/item/75-smart-talks so good reading and pondering… exploring these ideas.

Vanwynsberghe, Hadewijch, and Pieter Verdegem. “Integrating social media in education.”CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15.3 (2013). Literature Resource Center. Web. 21 Apr. 2014.

 

Week 13 – World of Warcraft… A Learning Experience?

What do you think the future of educational games are? Can we actual study them sufficiently to determine if they can actually impact learning? Why or why not? Are these things you feel are going to be beneficial or will there be a backlash?

Reflect on your experience in WoW. What was it as a learning experience? Good? Bad? What did you learn? How? Why? Be specific.

First off, I believe there is a place for educational games in classrooms.  Am I going to base my thoughts on my own experiences… and then tie in some research or deeper thoughts by others.

What I know:  I needed more.  Plain and Simple.  I could not get past some of the basic foundational principals of the game to think about how WoW could be used in a classroom.  I had to experience it and then think about it.  Sure, there is probably nothing wrong with this.  I am now reflecting on my experience… that is what this blog is about.  But here are the facts:  I needed…purpose, objectives, processes… these are all important or they should be — or maybe it is because I am an adult who doesn’t get these games?

Having not ever even gone into a World of Warcraft area, my first challenge:  what was my objective to the game.  Sure I knew it was virtual world, but that was it.  Doing what I think any good student would do — turned to my own resources:  I looked online for hints as to how to get started, what was a world, what is an avatar, quests and more… and then well I used my best resource – my son!  He doesn’t play World of Warcraft, but other online environments so we just talked and he transferred some of his own knowledge and we talked and well… I got it!  Sort of….

It is funny watching him play these games — I think this goes back to the initial question.  Can they impact learning?  I do think in some aspects it can – let me explain.  In “normal” day to day exchanges, my son is a very quiet learner.  He takes it all in.  He watches everything.  He won’t raise his hand in classes.  He is brilliant.  He does very well on tests without studying.  These worlds provide him a way to express his views without anyone “seeing” him.  I listen though… he is conducting very deep conversations, strategizing about his next move, working together to achieve a level, collaborating.  Is this learning… sure.   Will he best “tested” on this subject – never, but will these skills be important for a worker in the next phase of his life?  Absolutely.  He is very inquisitive, but on his terms.   Does the learning transfer?  Is my son a good problem solver… sure.  Does this make him a better student?  I am not so sure… I think he had the skills already.  He has always thought deeper, but never verbalized them unless in a small group setting.  Does this present a problem?  Only if the instructor allows it to become a problem.  Has it ever been a problem… sure it has.  I am sure the particular instructor who didn’t allow the type of learning that happens in a regular classroom setting, discussions, deeper thinking, would never venture into this type of learning experience.

Now transfer to me… I am a very different learner and these worlds… well here are some of my own observations.  I like a challenge.  I like the “social” aspect of these worlds, but as a learning experience… I was “challenged”.  From a constructivist learning theory, this article, An exploratory review of design principles in constructivist gaming learning environments (Rosario & Widmeyer, 2009) discusses “MMOGs would become an instrument to offer meaningful knowledge where students can learn, in a fun way, by doing. Additionally, constructivism can foster participation and collaboration among people through feedback from knowledge and experiences. Thus, a MMOG is the perfect place to create a visually interesting and appealing interface that supports both participation and collaboration.”

This is where I stand with learning with MMOGs.  It was interesting during the quests, as I didn’t really collaborate with anyone until I started achieving higher levels.  I guess my fighting expertise was found to be acceptable.  I was asked to join realm by another player.  If I didn’t have this assignment, I might have joined, but was warned that I would be moved into a new realm – personally, that scared me.  To this point, I knew what I was doing, could complete the quests, that appealed to me.  Another key piece to this and one that the article points out – learning principals that are prevalent and important to learning – as detailed in the designed principals for a Constructivist Gaming Learning Environment – as a few examples:

Principal 1 – Probing Principal:  Learners should be encouraged to engage in cycles of action, hypothesis building, and inquiry.  Related to my experiences of WoW – the specific quests had me engage and think about a specific direction to go and the outcome.  I am sure that at these initial levels, the hypothesis building is very basic.  My level of inquiry was very limited.

Principle 2 – Distributed Principle: Learners should find growth and knowledge in their interactions with other learners, technology, context, objects, and tools.  I think this goes back to the idea of collaboration.  As a learner when we collaborate, there should be some sense of accomplishment.  I don’t think it has to be a completed project, but the process of the learning is a valuable piece of the whole picture.  

There are others, but I am skipping to

Principle 11 – On-Demand and Just-in-Time Tutorial Principle: Game tutorials should aid players in learning the game mechanics and user interface while they are playing, exploring or interacting with the environment. This way, players will learn the game mechanics as well as the user interface while they are playing the game. 

I wonder if as adults, we are programmed to have the directions and not know how to learn while “playing”?  Have we been programmed to wait for directions as that is the way we were taught as obedient students?  I think back to me as a student and I can’t remember anything even remotely close to gaming – I know we didn’t have video games or even computers, but could the same principals have been used in face-to face type of scenarios.  Students have always developed hypotheses about things, explored and interacted with environments, and well love rewards.  I think that is a key piece of WoW.  I can’t deny it, but I loved the feeling of accomplishment when I completed a quest and was challenged to go to the next level.  As I reflect, I wish that a little more direction was given, maybe not the game itself, but I wish that I knew or could have known who my classmates were so that a little more collaboration could have taken place.  Could I have worked with someone I didn’t know?  Sure.  Is that scary to me.  YES.  How can I transfer that fear into something good?  Are these type of learning environments good for learning.  I think so.  In doing some research – there are those that disagree.  I think that it is fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Does fear interfere with learning?  Absolutely.  Do educators make choices about these types of environments because of their own fear?  I think so.  I am intrigued.  Take for example this blog…

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/world-of-warcraft-finds-its-way-into-class/

There are some positive comments, but then there are the backlash comments.  An interesting point noted in the blog – “When I bring these to their other teachers, I am consistently told, ‘I don’t get anything like this from them,’” Sheehy said in reference to the writing her students produce. They write complex arguments because they are passionate about the game, the storyline, and the class. “When there is no passion you get dutiful, for the grade work,” she said.

“Assessment and gaming are so contradictory,” Sheehy said. “Gaming is almost like the scientific method. You get your quest, you form a hypothesis, you try it out, you encounter challenges and you draw conclusions.” She thinks that’s assessment enough and is wary that formally assessing students will take the fun and the passion out of what she considers to be a very effective education tool.

Another article linked within this article:

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/01/money-time-and-tactics-can-games-be-effective-in-schools/

This is an interesting topic.  I wonder what my PLN thinks about these type of games as educational learning.  I am of the camp, that they do have a place.  I would love to explore this topic further.

Back to my original thoughts about this learning experience… Constructivism… making sense of my environment to construct deeper meaning.  Socially, do these experiences support a richer and deeper sense of learning?  There is another thought to games… drill and kill.  Do these support a deeper or richer experience?  I think there are probably teachers who agree with using games, but I am wondering if it really isn’t the game itself, but the elements of the game which is important to the learning experience?  What kinds of qualities do good game developers focus on?  Also, now there is that idea of gamification, but when I think about this term, I see leaderboards and that badge or reward at the end, plus there is that element of competition to be at the top of the board or receive the badge upon completion… do these badges cause one to forget about the intrinsic rewards?  What about the sense of completion based on motivation.  In my own experience, in World of Warcraft, I received weapons, copper, things that I could use to battle or escape.  Are they rewards… I think so, but not in the same sense as a leaderboard or badges.

Rosario, R. A. M., & Widmeyer, G. R. (2009). An exploratory review of design principles in constructivist gaming learning environments. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(3), 289-300.

Week 11 – Blog Week 12 – Open Source and Social Media… chasing the technology?

How useful do you find the open source tools and social media for learning? Is it your personal preference that drives this or the affordances? Would they be useful for others if you find it lacking? What would make them more useful?

I found this article to start my engine “thinking”.  As more and more educators are trying to reach their “customer” students whether or not they are in K-12 or higher ed, one particular phrase that struck me immediately is “Chasing the technology”.  Do we as educators think that we must jump on every train that stops at the station.  I think that sometimes educators do this without thinking about the ramifications, objectives or even what the problem the technology solves and is it truly “better” or do we think we need to use this new technology, just because it is…. well…. new?

Online Learning: Trends, Potential and Challenges

Is the trend to do this… chase the technology?  I liked the twitter aspect of this weeks plan, but I think overall, it is because… well I get it.  I like the short bursts of knowledge, the ability to read 140 characters and determine whether or not I want to digest it and do something with the knowledge or just read it and pass on by.  Does this work for everyone?  Definitely not.  Do you have to always read everything on Twitter… ummmmm – no, you can’t.  The way that I approach twitter work for me. Period.  Could someone else use my approach, for sure, but they need to figure out what works for them.  Do we put twitter or even facebook in the trend category – absolutely.  I still get the question about twitter… I can tell you what works for me, but in the chapter Scott/Wakefield describe Learning as Communicative Actions – described one thing that I think more people need to figure out… choosing to commit.  I didn’t choose to commit for about 4 months on Twitter.  I didn’t understand it. Period.  I finally chose to commit and wow… I have contributed to other people’s learning, had some interesting discussions (albeit short bursts), but these lead to deeper and richer investigations and I feel I would not found otherwise – I don’t have the time to spend hours upon hours to connect and learn.  I love that learning comes to me in short bursts and I can figure out for me, whether or not I want to expend the energy.  Are there times when the conversation isn’t exactly what I want to read?  Sure, but the beauty of twitter is to look for other followers with the same interests, commonalities or more.  Same thing with Facebook – I don’t necessarily “choose to commit” to FB, but it connects me to my family, my community happenings, even to people I have not seen in quite some time.  It is a like a window — I can choose to open it up or keep it close.  I can look through other people’s windows if they open them.  That is kind of weird to think about though… I guess there are those people who keep their windows open way too much (that is my own personal belief), but the beauty of FB is that I can do that…

Instructionally, I think it is a shame that an instructor won’t use or even offer the opportunity to explore a particular tool because they feel it isn’t sound or they don’t like it.  As I started out… even if it is a trend, if the goals and objectives of the instruction support the use, why should I as the instructional designer prohibit the use?  It is like me and math… it isn’t my greatest subject, nor am I excited about it, but I do it.  I have to facilitate sessions that incorporate some tools which are heavily math based… I don’t just pass over them or exclude them.  I embrace them, learn them even at a level which I can speak to reasonably and then let the others who are more passionate for the tools, drive the discussion.  What is wrong with that?

As far as open source tools which contribute to an even deeper/broader scope, I don’t think at this point, changing the dynamics or the flow of the “space” will change the outcome – yet.  As a community of learners, and even though online learning has been around now for a while, I don’t think we as designers and learners have totally embraced what can be with online learning.  We don’t totally understand what it means to collaborate, to share, to converse, to have a presence in an online environment.  I am not really talking Twitter or Facebook here, but LMS – Blackboard, Schoology, Canvas, Edmodo… an instructor or even the student needs to choose to commit.  What that looks like… it could be different for everyone, but there are some solid foundational elements.  As an instructional designer, finding the balance of what is good for the objectives vs what is just “fluff” could be a challenge if the right set of exeptations and the right tools are not thought about and placed in the right context.  With online learning and the use of these tools, I find it extremely detrimental to my own learning if the scope and sequence doesn’t make sense.  I don’t want to spend tons of time trying to figure out a sequence… and make sure the sequence works.  Putting content somewhere because it is “easy” for the instructor… not good.  I like canvas, but things are intertwined and connected.  I am not sure whether or not the LMS does this or it was just good pre-planning by the instructor.  It is like a flow map of objectives… I have to have a curriculum map of where I am and where do I want to be.  If I spend all of my time lost, no one gets anywhere.  Open source is great.  Chasing the technology for the sake of just using it – not so great.  Making sure I meet goals and objectives is a good thing and there are great tools that provide this.