Friday, January 29, 2016

Kat's Captivating Exciting Conference! - KSU University Rooms 1/12/2016

I am late on posting this, and I apologize for that! But, on January 12, Dr. Powell and I attended Coles College of Business's mini-conference on teaching techniques.

The Interactive Syllabus

Tammy Powell presented on the interactive syllabus, which she says it more appropriately called the "engaging syllabus." An interactive syllabus is a syllabus that provides course information so that it is more engaging and can be manipulated by the learner. 

So why use the interactive syllabus? Tammy says that they can grab your students' attention so that they are more likely to spend more time looking at the syllabus, which fosters student preparedness and success because they are more likely to remember the information on the syllabus. She also said that your students are more likely to be engaged with the course content because the interactive syllabus caught their attention, and the engagement encourages them to communicate with the instructor. 

In creating and implementing an interactive syllabus, you should use it in addition to, and not as a replacement for the traditional syllabus. You can use Publisher, InDesign, Populr, Smore, and other tools to put the content from your syllabus into the interactive syllabus, adding color, pictures, and interactive content along the way. 

Using Protocols to Structure Discussions

Julie Moore in Bagwell College of Education presented on protocols for structuring discussions in class. This is a technique that is very common in K-12 education because it structures conversation, is done in steps, is time-bounded, is focused on work and not person, and ensures equity of voice.

To better explain protocols, Julie had us participate in the following example:

In groups of three:
  • Number off 1-3
  • Question Posed
  • 1 minute of think time
  • 1 minute -- person #1 responds to question, others just listen
  • 1 minute -- person #2 responds to question, others just listen
  • 1 minute -- person #3 responds to question, others just listen
  • 1 minute -- conversation/discussion
  • Debrief
Silence is okay
Question: How do you use discussions in your teaching (face-to-face and/or online)? For what purposes? How are they different in face-to-face settings vs. online?

As you can see in the protocol above, they are very structured ways of having discussion. Julie's tips for protocols include:
  • start with a simple protocol with few steps
  • start with text-based protocols
  • try it out with others before doing it in class (include debrief)
  • experiment with a face-to-face small-group assignment
  • observe others facilitating 
  • look for protocols that serve your purpose
  • double-check directions: be specific and detailed

Choosing Interaction Tools

Saurabh Gupta from Information Systems presented on choosing the appropriate interaction tools for your classes between wikis, blogs, and discussion boards. He gave us an evaluation of each type of tool:
  • Wikis
    • Communication support: medium
    • Process structuring: low
    • Information processing: high
  • Blogs
    • Communications support: low
    • Process structuring: medium
    • Information processing: low
  • Discussion boards
    • Communications support: medium
    • Process structuring: low
    • Information processing: low


Jim Cope from the Distance Learning Center gave 10 tips for creating accessible course content:
  • Accessibility statements
    • include the accessibility 508 compliance statement
    • include disability accommodations statement
    • include links to vendor accessibility information for all external tools in your courses
  • Semantic structure (or styles)
    • create your structure in Word, Open Office, HTML, etc. using the styles tags and functions for titles and headings
    • use strong and emphasis tags for bold and italicized text
    • if you use a table of contents, it should be based on the heading structure
    • use a table of figures as needed
  • Lists and tables
    • use true list functions for bulleted and numbered lists
    • use true tables and columns for appropriate information
  • Readability
    • divide large blocks of text into smaller and more manageable sections
    • avoid complex sentences
    • use sans-serif font at 12 points
  • Text equivalents
    • include alternative text for images, charts, graphs, or any other non-text element
    • if alt text is not enough, include long description
  • Avoid color coding -- do not use color as a way to convey meaning
  • Sufficient color contrast
    • make sure background and text have enough color contrast to be read easily
    • make sure background colors and patterns do not overpower text
  • Descriptive hyperlinks
    • avoid vague descriptions like "click here" or "email me"
    • avoid using the URL
    • hyperlink text should describe the destination: website name, document name, or other resource
  • Accessibility checkers
    • use the software's built-in accessibility checker (Word, Open Office, Acrobat, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)
    • follow the repair recommendations provided by the accessibility checker to fix errors
  • Multimedia
    • for audio-only, provide a text transcript
    • for video-only, provide a video description
    • for audio and video, provide closed captions, text transcript, and/or a video description -- you can combine the text transcript and the video description into one file

Monday, January 25, 2016

Online Educa Berlin - 12/2-12/4

Guten Tag, Willkommen in Berlin!

At the beginning of this month, Dr. Tammy Powell, Dr. Stephen Bartlett, Dr. Vanessa Slinger-Friedman, and I (Tiffani Reardon) attended Online Educa Berlin in Berlin, Germany. Let me just say, Berlin is absolutely beautiful in December, and I had a fantastic time!

This having been my first time out of the United States, I can confidently say that this is not the end of my world travels. To start, let's talk about the conference. 

Day 1

On the first day of the conference, there were tons of pre-conference workshops that you had to sign up for ahead of time. I signed up for one called Beyond Digital Storytelling: DIY Creation of Interactive Exhibits as Educational Tool, run by Dick van Dijk from the Netherlands, Suzanne Heerschop from the Netherlands, and Thomas Kubitza from Germany. The workshop introduced meSch, an authoring tool that allows the user to create interactive exhibits in a way that requires minimal technical knowledge and coding. 

While meSch is currently mostly used in a few museums throughout Europe, they are trying to break into the formal education world. 

After the digital storytelling workshop, I went to a newcomer's workshop where I met and networked with people from various countries. One other person was from the US, and works in DC. There was another person who is from California, but is now based in Madrid with his company. I also met 2 people from Germany who work together, but one of them is from the US as well, and I met 1 more person who was from Germany and just there to meet potential clients for his freelance company. 

Day 2

On the "official" first day of the conference, we all attended the opening plenary, which was about accelerating the shift to digital learning. The plenary was with 3 panelists, who each had their own take on digital learning. 

David Price, co-founder of We Do Things Differently, talked about people-powered innovation and social learning. Price says that there are four main characteristics of people-powered innovation:
  • Need
  • Jugaad - making the most of what you've got; good enough
  • Hacker Ethic - that peer review restricts research and innovation; i.e. Wikipedia vs. Citizendium
  • Urgency
Price also talked about learner agency and social learning. He believes that learner agency is the next big step in learning, and he outlined the six "do-its" of social learning:
  • do it yourself (agency)
  • do it now (autonomy)
  • do it with friends (collegiality)
  • do it for fun (playfulness)
  • do unto others (generosity)
  • do it for the world to see (high visibility)
So from Price, we learned not to be afraid of the professional amateur, to de-regulate where possible (welcome educational hackers), and not to be in denial about social learning. 

"Those who seek answers need to be part of the solution."

Cory Doctorow, the writer, blogger, and activist owner of, talked about surveillance.

He pointed out some of the famous cases of people facing charges because they used surveillance to spy on people inappropriately, including cases where it was done by teachers.

He talked about how kids are often used as "beta testers" of surveillance when they are issued devices from school because kids are often viewed as criminals before they have even done anything wrong.

Finally, Doctorow also talked about digital locks, which are codes in the surveillance that essentially make it so that just because you own it, doesn't mean it's yours. A good example of this is the law that says that you cannot root your phone, and the limitations that are put on Apple phones that make it so that you can't actually use it to it's full potential, even though you own it.

"We as a society have a hard time progressing in the presence of surveillance."

Ian Goldin from Oxford University re-iterated the notion that technology changes everything. 

The Art of Being You

After the plenary, we broke off into our own sessions, and my first session was one called "The Art of Being You: Online Authenticity in Learning and Life," by Charlotte Web from the University of the Arts London. She essentially talked about how hard it is to be authentic online because it can be seen by anyone, including your boss, your teachers, or your students. She talked about the care you have to take in posting online and the censoring you have to do of yourself to maintain a professional, yet "still you" appearance. 

What was interesting about her presentation was that the presenter wasn't actually Charlotte Web. Throughout the whole presentation I kept thinking to myself, "man, this girl sounds like she is reading me a bedtime story." I mean, she kept her voice so soft the entire time, with no emotion at all, and I felt like I was being read to. We come to the end, and she tells us that she isn't Charlotte Web, and this isn't her presentation. Charlotte Web was in the audience, and came up to answer questions. Explains why I couldn't connect the speaker to the presentation! She wasn't authentic!

Artificial Intelligence in MOOCs

I went to another session on improving MOOCs with artificial intelligence by Luc Steels from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels Artificial Intelligence Lab. This session turned into more of a "quick overview of MOOCs in 20 min."

Key properties of MOOCs:
  • short lectures, exercises, extra materials
  • grading and feedback by other participants or computer programs
  • free of charge
  • no entry barriers
  • social media
Key problems of MOOCs:
  • drop-out rate (about 90%) - how do we keep students motivated?
  • grading and assessment - peer grading and comprehensive assessment quality
  • contextualization - integration of local context (there are students from all over the world)
  • business model - stable organization
How AI can help:
  • Motivation
    • smaller groups of similar interests
    • personalization
    • personal feedback
  • Assessment and grading
    • more sophisticated feedback
    • improve peer grading

Day 3

The second plenary came from Anka Mulder from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Lia Commissar from Wellcome Trust in the UK, and Toby Walsh from the University of New South Wales in Australia, and they talked about how to solve low income performance issues in education.

Education and neuroscience: issues and opportunities
  • what's neuroscience got to do with education?
    • science of the brain
    • bridge between brain and education 
  • neuro-myth: it is true that we have a preference for learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic), but research shows that you do not learn better with your preferred learning style.
Universities must be bold
  • What if students choose courses from all over the world for a degree?
  • What if companies recognize non-accredited degrees?
  • What if Facebook or LinkedIn became the gatekeeper for learning?
The impact of AI on education: will our jobs be gone with robots?
  • learning needs to be lifelong - to keep your job, you need to keep yourself abreast of the latest technology
  • AI's will turn MOOCs into POOCs
    • Personal Open Online Courses
    • Choose your own trajectory

Skills-Oriented e-Learning

After the plenary, I went to a session on skills-oriented e-learning, which reminded me a lot of credentialing and webinar-style learning. 

Dr. Eran Gal from Holon Institute of Technology in Israel talked about the gap between e-learning and what the market needs. 

So what does the market need?
  • experience
  • subject matter
  • degree
  • authoring tools
  • tech skills
He talked about the ATD Competency Model
Qualification Program
  • integrated project with partner
  • e-learning industry
    • literacy (tech)
    • design
    • programming
      • learning and development base
      • academic base
Sandra Bas from Amsterdam RIPE NCC Academy for Professional Learning talked about virtual learning communities. 

RIPE NCC is a regional internet registry - they distribute IP addresses. ARIN is the US version (there are 5 in the world).

RIPE NCC Academy is a virtual learning community - started because some countries were unsafe to send trainers, or people couldn't attend sessions.

Quick, easy way to learn skills
  • main principles
    • open courses 24/7
    • workplace learning
    • learning support
    • certification
  • challenges
    • cross-department project
    • contact production
    • staff training
    • promotion
Arseni Shylan from Softarex Technologies talked about the evolution from eLearning to easyLearning. 

He talked about the migration from the analog era to the digital era and the migration from offline learning to online learning. He then went into how to choose the right tools for the right purposes. 

Selecting the right tool
  • budget
  • open source
  • technology
  • legal
Jane Richardson from Oracle Academy talked about teacher training online. She said that there is a skills gap in IT professionals, and Oracle Academy is trying to teach educators how to use tools inthe classroom. She said that Oracle Academy meets national learning outcomes in their certification program, and that they are recognized by businesses, but not education. They are trying to bridge the gap. 

Overall, we all had a fantastic time presenting and learning in Berlin, Germany!