Week 15 Personalized Learning and Prediction of the Future

Five ways to make learning more personalized:
I think what we call “personalized learning” refers to the learning that gives learners more freedom and choices on locations, time, learning contents and interpersonal relationship.

1.       Distance learning can break the restrain of locations.
2.       Mobile learning can break the restrain of locations, as well as time. As long as learners have a mobile learning device and internet access (not necessary, since e-books and podcasts can be downloaded in advance), they will be able to learn anytime and anywhere as they want.
3.       As for abundant learning contents for learners to choose from, OER is definitely a necessity for meeting such a need. The more prosperous the OER is, the more choices that learners will have, and the more personalized the learning could be.
4.       Through using SNS, learners may easily find the person or people they need to ask for an answer or they want to collaborate with.
5.       To realize the above means, I think probably schools and policy makers should take the first step to eliminate, reduce or at least revise current assessing standards and criteria in our education system. Without doing this, personalized learning, especially in k-12 level, may never be achieved.

Five predictions of the learning in the future:
1.       Mobile learning will gain increasing popularity. Actually, it is gaining more and more popularity now. People are crazy about iPad, iPhon and Kindle currently and the technology is ready to provide more convenient and cheaper internet access. Last week I got an ad. from ATT, which is “Say goodbye to searching for Wi-Fi when you upgrade to DataPro 4GB for just $45 per month and unlock your personal mobile hotspot. You'll be able to connect multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices to the Internet from wherever you are”.

2.       With the more convenient and cheaper access to internet, I think distance learning in rural areas and developed countries will keep developing at a fast pace.
3.       E-book will be used by vast majority population, and the interaction and animation features in E-books could be expected to bring more surprises and exiting learning experiences to readers.
4.       Think about what will happen if the SixSense technology can be realized in the near future? We will never need an e-reader anymore.
5.       How about do an even bolder guess: what will happen if we integrate SixSense technology with Augmented Reality? Learning will be full of fun, full of imagination and possibility!


Week 14 Podcasting and Webcasting

Our TA Shuya brought up a very insightful question in the class. Will the popularity of shared online videos cause podcasts to obsolesce? To answer this question, I think we’d better analyze the pros and cons of each of these two media.

Online Shared Video
Require less effort on recording and editing

Take less time for upload and download

Take up smaller saving space

Can be prescribed
(automatically download)

Can be listened while driving

Transcript are usually offered

Transcript can be edited in a word spreadsheet

Catch attention quickly

More engaging

Good at explaining complex and abstruse concepts

Some have subtitles

Wildly shared in blogs, Facebook, Twitter and many other Web 2.0 platforms

Some podcasts lack of editing

Listeners easily get bored

Hard to explain complex and abstruse concepts

Require more effort on recording and editing

Take more time to
upload and download (some are not allowed to download)

Take up larger saving space

Cannot be watched while driving

Subtitle cannot be edited

The above compare and contrast informs us both media have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages explain the existing of each of media, while the disadvantages ask for the existing of the other. (Note: here the number of pros and cons cannot lead to a conclusion as which one is better, which is worse, because this is not a quantitative analysis, and I might lose some important points.) What conclusion we can make here is podcast will keep benefiting learning if we can appropriately apply it based on our understanding of its pros and cons.

The other topic of this week is webcast. I read the article, College 2.0: More Professors Could Share Lectures Online.But Should They?, which presents how professors from two camps are wrestling on the issue of videotaping and webcasting classes.

It may be helpful for considering this issue if we list those opposite propositions in another table.

Share Lectures Online
Not Share Lectures Online
Coursecasting equipments are ready or getting ready.

Equalize access to high quality education

Student would get an earlier and better sense of what they want to major.

Help students preview and review classes.

Students involve more in the class because professors offer quizzes, take attendance and showing up part of the grade to avoid skipping class.

Professors watch other’s course videos in order to improve teaching.

Professors play past recordings and focus more on organizing discussion and group projects.

Some professors are “camera shy”.

Professors would face mockery.

Classroom is a “sacred space” that may need to stay private to preserve academic freedom.

Give away too much educational content

Need time and effort to manage the recording process

Students may skip class or choose home schooling at the college level.

Copyright and intellectual property issues

Student privacy needs to be protected.

Whether we should webcast courses to the public seems to be a more controversial issue. It involves various personal, cultural, technology and policy factors. However, as an advocator of OER, I propose that if all or most needed factors are available, we should do our best to open access to the corse. 

Week 13 Points about Educational Blogging

Downes, Stephen (2004, September/October). Educational blogging, EDUCAUSE Review, 39(5), 14–26. Retrieved on June 25, 2010.

Although it has been 7 years since Downes wrote the above article, many of the viewpoints in this article are still relevant today, and the questions and issues he pointed out are still worth thinking. Below are some of the viewpoints and questions and issues about Educational Blogging.

5 major uses of blogs in education:
First, teachers use blogs to replace the standard class web page. They post class times and rules, assignment notifications, suggested readings, and exercises on such blogs.
Second, teachers link course blogs to Internet items that relate to their courses.
Third, blogs are used to organize in-class discussions.
Fourth, some instructors are using blogs to organize class seminars and to provide summaries of readings.
Finally, students may be asked to write their own blogs as part of their course grade.

Blogs and student writing:
Blogs encourage students to write. It offers students a chance to a) reflect on what they are writing and thinking as they write and think it, b) carry on writing about a topic over a sustained period of time, maybe a lifetime, and c) engage readers and audience in a sustained conversation that then leads to further writing and thinking. But in order to help students write blogs, some educators suggest students starting with reading blogs of others.
Students should write blogs with passion. If they are not willing to write but required to do so, they can never be bloggers, since they write just for their teachers.

Questions and issues about educational blogging:
What happens when a free-flowing medium such as blogging interacts with the more restrictive domains of the educational system? What happens when the necessary rules and boundaries of the system are imposed on students who are writing blogs, when grades are assigned in order to get students to write at all, and when posts are monitored to ensure that students and teachers don’t say the wrong things?

Success factor of educational blogging:
If a student has nothing to blog about, it is not because he or she has nothing to write about or has a boring life. It is because the student has not yet stretched out to the larger world, has not yet learned to meaningfully engage in a community. For blogging in education to be a success, this first must be embraced and encouraged.

Week 8 Read and Edit Wikis

In my final project, I interviewed seven people from different age groups (from 19 to 75) on how they use learning technologies in their daily life. I asked them whether they have taken an online class, had online collaborative learning experience, read e-books, subscribed podcasts and used Open Education Resource Wikis. It is only to Wikis that everyone said YES! They said they always go to Wikipedia for definitions and other information when they don’t know or feel confused about things. (Only one person was not sure which websites he was led to when he searched for definitions and explanations, but based on his description, I think he should have used Wikipedia).

However, when I took one more step, asking whether they have edited wikis, only one person said yes. He edited a wiki page about Taekwondo due to his rich knowledge and experience in this sport. (He is a Black Belt and has taught Taekwondo for many years.)

My personal experience also proves that reading Wikis is common/easy, but writing Wikis is another story. Why people hesitate to put their words on Wikis? First, I think some people are not aware that Wikis can be edited by users. One of the people I interviewed told me she just found out that she can create an account and log in Wikipedia. Second, even though some people are aware they can edit Wikis, they don’t know how to edit. This is partly because of technical reasons, but more possibly because of lack of expertise. The person in my interview edited on the Taekwondo page since he was confident that his knowledge could improve that page. Finally, some people hesitate to edit Wikis due to language barriers. (I don’t know whether Wikis are able to automatically translate writings in other language into English…)

Based on the above analysis, I am wondering whether students should still be encouraged to edit Wikis. My thought is that students under Graduate (Master’s and PHD’s) level don’t have to do so, if they are not confident about their knowledge and writing skill. There are many ways to encourage students to explore knowledge and improve writing skill, like Google doc for collaborative writing, and blogs for knowledge reflection and discussion (through comment). It doesn’t have to be Wikis. Given that most people resort to Wikis as the most starting point for knowledge and information acquiring, editing it means taking social responsibility.  If requiring students edit Wikis, teachers should ensure the accuracy and reliability of the content before it is posted.

So, who should take more responsibility in editing and supervising the contents of Wikis? No doubt, they are experts, scholars, professors and researchers in specific fields. This group of people should realize that there are more eyes looking at their works on Wikis and contributing on Wikis is one of the most important actions to sustain OER and further than that, to create the flow of knowledge.


Week 9 Young Adults and Shared Online Video

Data about shared online video:
According to Mary Madden (2009, July 25):
1.      76% young adult internet users (ages 18-29) report online consumption of video, compared with 57% of online adults ages 30-49, 46% ages 50-64, and 39% ages 65 and older.
2.      For adult internet users, 31% watch comedy or humorous videos. For young adults,56% watching humorous videos.
3.      67% video viewers ages 18-29 send others links to videos they find online.

According to Kristen Purcell (2010, June 3):

Based on above data, what conclusion can be drawn? Do you think if online educational videos contain entertaining elements, they will gain popularity rapidly among young adults? I do not only think so, but also have a personal experience as a proof to this conclusion.

One successful example of online video program for young people

This summer, an online video program, OMG American English! attracted me. This is a daily (Mon though Fri) updated English learning program. Every weekday, a lovely American girl, Jessica Beinecke, who speaks fluent Mandarin, sits in front of her web camera teaching American idioms and slangs around a topic to Chinese viewers. Those topics are closely related to Americans’ daily life. For example, the first OMG video that I watched is talking about Yucky Gunk (sleepies, earwax, booger, snot, drool and slobber, ect). 

Other topic includes Bust My butt, You’re such a PEACH! Blinding Date, and Sick As A Dog, ect. You may think these topics are too informal to be taught in an English learning program. But remember, OMG American English is in form of shared online videos! and young people love humorous online videos! In addition, the expressions taught in this program are indeed what Chinese young learners need. They need authentic English to fluently communicate with native English speakers, and they are eager to know the real American culture. Because of the perfect combination of the informational (useful expression which young learners need) and entertaining (funny topics and Jessica’s signature peppy and comical reaching style) features, OMG American English has gain great popularity among Chinese young people within a short time after it debut. I shared the video “Yucky Gunk” on my personal social networking page, some of my friends responded that they also like it.

Some topics from OMG American English


Week 6 Open Education

Last year before I came to US, some Open Education Resources had gained great popularity in China. Chinese people, especially Chinese college students, enter into classes of Yale University and MIT by watching various course videos released by these two institutions. Some people watch these course videos simply because they want to improve their English, some do so because they are curious about what these classes look like, some students watch these videos to get prepared for their study in US, while others just want to experience the western education in this way because they know they probably never have change to go abroad.

Now opening Apple’s Chinese webpage, you will say Apple is selling IPads in China through taking advantage of OER. The advertisement says, “click the iTunes U icon, you will get tons of course materials from top universities all over the world”. I am wondering whether Apple has sponsored any of these universities which open their courseware to the public.

I think OER is one of the most amazing things in this world. It benefits the whole society through equalizing the access to high quality educational resources, and promoting the value of learning and sharing. It is as Mimi Ito proposed that OER “breaks the stock of knowledge and creates the flow of it”.

However, till now not every unit or institution is capable or generous enough to open their educational resources. They worry their openness will take their students away and strain their revenue. Besides the challenge of opening new sources, OER is facing the threat of maintaining the sustainability of existing resources. According to Atkins, Brown & Hammond, (2007), Transformative Initiatives may bring good solutions to these two challenges, but the specific approaches it suggests, e-service, cyber infrastructure-enhanced science, and cyber infrastructure-enhanced humanity, are so abstruse too me. Recently I read David Wiley’ s blog, he brought up two practical and effective solutions, which I think if applied, will exert huge propelling forces: 1. consider creating, sharing, and reusing OER in the tenure and promotion process to engage more faculty in the OER movement. 2. US News & World Report include “embodied in OCW/OER projects” as a part of the institution ranking formula to involve more universities and colleges in contributing to the OER construction.

Atkins, Dan, Brown, John Seely, & Hammond, Allen (2007, February). A review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, new opportunities. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (84 pages). Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://www.oerderves.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/a-review-of-the-open-educational-resources-oer-movement_final.pdf


Week 5 Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning

Looking through the tidbits, websites and videos attached on the syllabus of R685 about extreme learning and adventure learning, I got greatly excited. I was sailing with 16-year-old AbbySunderland on the ocean, riding a horse with Albert Yu-Min Lin through Mongolian Prairie, exploring Arctic with a group of polar scientists, and searching shipwrecks and coral reefs on 2011 expedition of Nautilus. These resources bring me lively understanding of Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning.

What are Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning? Very different from traditional classroom, learning Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning happen in special settings, on mountains, under the sea,  or inside deserts. There are no teachers and textbooks, even no learners. In Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning environment, learners are explorers. They start off from a mission, (e.g. Yu-Min Lin went to Mongolia in an effort to enable international protection of a sacred region), an interest (e.g. Members of the 2011 Nautilus expedition), or a strong will to challenge themselves (e.g. the sailing girl, Abby Sunderland). Through interacting with the nature, solving real problems and challenging themselves physically and mentally, they achieve knowledge and skills which traditional classrooms teaching may never offer.  

What can be learned in Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning? Generally, explorers’ problem solving skill and surviving skill in extreme environments can be improved. Specifically, explorers learn knowledge and skills closely related to the learning settings where they are adventuring.  For instance, Abby Sunderland developed sailing skills while she was on the ocean, meanwhile her knowledge about astronomy and geography, which she needed for her sailing each day, must have been improved.

Why choose Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning? In Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning settings, learners are highly involved in the learning context. We call this Situated Learning, which closes the gap between learners and learning contents, making learning engaging and easier. In addition, through exploring the nature, learners become more capable in dealing with real world issues and taking challenges.
How to start Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning? Not everyone has the opportunity and encourage starting a journey of Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning. However, with the help of new social networking technology, involving in Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning is becoming more possible. CoachSurfing.org is a social networking website working on creating Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning (more exactly, Situated Learning) opportunities.

How to bring Extreme Learning and Adventure Learning in classrooms? Faculties and technologists from University of Minnesota are currently working on incorporating geospatial technology, such as Goolge Earth, into K-12 geography classrooms to have students involve situated learning. They assign students real world problems, such as where to build a hospital in San Francisco based on authentic factors of seismic activity and population density, and encourage them apply geospatial technology to solve these problems. Click here to check more. 


Week12 Two Magicians and Their High-tech Magic

Recently two geniuses walked into my eyesight through R685 (Dr. Bonk introduced them in the class). Both of them amazed me with their exciting innovations with new technologies. I would like to call them MAGICIANS, because of their astonishing creativity and bold imagination. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw their high-tech presentations.

The first magician is Craig Kapp, a professor as well as a researcher in the fields of computer science and digital Technology. Currently, he is working on applying Augment Reality into educational settings to facilitate teaching and learning. The topic of his presentation in R685 was Visualizing the Future:  How Augmented Reality can empower faculty, inspire students and bring ideas to life in the classroom. Thanks to his presentation, I was in my first time being clearly acknowledged what Augmented Reality is and what value it may bring into education. Augmented Reality plays magic to visuals. Shown with a specifically made card or on a special tablet through a web camera, images on a piece of paper or in a book suddenly become “ALIVE”. They stand up, turning into 3D visuals (more exactly, 3D objects). Imaging how amazing it could be when chemical symbols in your chemistry textbook become 3D models, Jack’s beanstalk growing up directly from the story book or little red riding hood running on pages! I think the great value that Craig’s innovation in education is that it will make learning more engaging, release students’ cognitive load of understanding complexities, encourage imagination and inspire creation.

The other magician is Pranav Mistry, an Indian computer science majored graduate student from MIT. His magic is SixSense. This technology embeds computer functions into human bodies: with carrying a small camera and some other necessary computer components, our fingers could work as a mouse and our palms could be used as a keyboard and a screen. SixSense exerts the great potential of mobile learning and breaks down the barrier of accessing information without appropriate devices. Since SixSense can turn our bodies into a mobile device which has comprehensive functions, we will not need any extra devices anymore, such as expensive Apple productions.

Although Augmented Reality and SixSense technology are under two different topics in R685, I put them together in this posting because Craig and Pranav have great similarities in terms of creativity and enthusiasm of applying new technologies in learning; in addition, I imagine what will happen if we combine these two magic together: the convenience and fun of leaning will be everywhere! Students will be able to watch free 3D movies all on their palms; science teachers may never need to purchase geometry and chemical models for their classes; students majored in fashion design, engineering design and architecture could exam their designs from 360 angles anytime from they start drawing the design sketches. 

Week 11 Serious Game

This week is a game week. Not only R685 talked about games, the other course (S516 Human Computer Interaction) that I am taking this semester from School of Library and Information Science also lectured on games and game design. A guest speaker from Microsoft was invited to give us a talk on his experience of designing a serious game for the Fire Department of LA about ten years ago. Before this speech, I never knew that Microsoft has included game design as part of its business to help clients solve real world issues. This speech presents the great potential of implication serious games in diversified areas in the future.

I searched “serious game” online. Wikipedia defines “serious game” as “a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The serious adjective is generally prepended to refer to products used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, religion, and politics”. Interesting examples of existing serious games are:

·        1.  DARWARSAmbush! Convoy Simulator developed as part of DARPA's DARWARS project, designed to create low-cost experiential training systems. 

·        2. EteRNA, a game in which players attempt to design RNA sequences that fold into a given configuration. Designs are evaluated to improve computer models predicting RNA folding, included selected designs actually synthesized to evaluate RNA folding dynamics against computer predictions.

·         3. FloodSim , a flood prevention simulation/strategy game designed to inform the people of the United Kingdom about the dangers of flooding as well as to help gather public opinion on the problem that flooding presents to the UK. The player takes control of the UK's flood policies for three years and attempts to protect the people and the economy of the United Kingdom from damage due to floods.

·        4.  FoodForce , a Humanitarian video game. The UN's World Food Programme designed this virtual world of food airdrops over crisis zones and trucks struggling up difficult roads under rebel threat with emergency food supplies. 

·       5.  IBMCityOne, designed by IBM as part of the IBM Smarter Planet initiative. The game is designed to educate the player of the complex systems and how they connect in a modern city.

·        6. IntelliGym, a series of computer based cognitive simulators that trains athletes and designed to enhance brain skills associated with sports-related performance.

·         7. MicrosoftFlight Simulator developed as a comprehensive simulation of civil aviation. Notably one of the few flight simulation games that does not concentrate on simulation of aerial warfare.

·         8.Time out, is a point and click game dealing with diabetes.

Reading through the descriptions of above games, I think no one would deny the great value of serious games to individuals as well as to the whole society. As a future instructional designer, I believe the power of serious games in education and training. If people can learn new knowledge, concepts, social trends and problem solving skills through playing games, educators should definitely advocate this way of learning and create more learning opportunities of using games, because games provides learners what traditional lecture couldn’t offer , engagement and simulation, two major feature of games which ensure the effectiveness of learning. 


Week 4 E-assessment and Technology-mediated Feedback

As online learning gains popularity, how to effectively assess teaching and learning outcomes in web-based environments becomes an important issue that educators should carefully think about.  The article, No such thing as failure, only feedback: designing innovative opportunities for e-assessment and technology-mediated feedback (Miller, Doering and Scharber, 2010), brings us fresh ideas on this issue.

This article takes three real teaching cases as examples to illustrate how to appropriately implement e-assessment and technology-mediated assessment to support specific learning tasks. Each case enlightens me from different aspects.

Case 1. AvenueASL, an integrated e-assessment system developed to cap­ture, evaluate, and manage postsecondary ASLlearner video performanc­es. This case has me realize the importance of student self-assessment and the value of creating performance and feedback portfolios for students to keep them aware of their personal progress. The experience of self-assessment and regular looking up feedback portfolios encourage students to be more reflective regarding their ASL communication skills.

Pic 1 :This is the online assessment platform of AvenueASL. First, a curriculum-based communication task is assigned (left), and then student performance the task in front of a web-camera (middle), finally the instructor demonstrates the task and provides feedback in an other video. On this platform, quantitative and qualitative assessment tools are open to both students and instructors.

Pic 2: ‘My progress’ visualization from this student’s feedback portfolio enables him to trace his progress.

Case 2. GeoThentic, a hybrid learning environment designed to engage K-12 teachers and students with solving real-world geography problems through use of geospatial technologies. The innovative assessment and feedback designs attracts me because of two reasons: first, this case has teachers to assess their teaching skills while they are teaching the course; second, the web-based assessment system is accessible through cell phones, which makes more frequent and immediate feedback possible.

Pic 3: This is the interface of the Teacher-Reported Model (TRM) used in GeoThentic. Through applying this model, teachers can assess their current knowledge about the learning content, the pedagogies and technologies required in teaching this course.

Pic 4: Teachers can access TRM on their cellphones anytime and everywhere.

Case 3. AvenueDHH, a progress-monitoring environment designed to help assess reading, writing, and language development for use with deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) students. This case enlightens me also in two ways. First, it emphasizes on goal-setting and progress-monitoring in the whole process of teaching and learning. Through the continuous measurement of student progress and goal prox­imity, students are motivated; meanwhile, the instructors are able to modify their instruction accordingly to better meet student needs. Second, this case successfully applies a series of simple and effective assessment visualizations, which makes the assessment results easy to interpret by instructors, students and parents.  

Pic 5: Visualizations clearly show current student progress and goal proximity. Green circles represent students who have achieved proficiency, blue circles represent students on the verge of achieving their goals, and red circles represent stu­dents who are struggling with their tests.


Miller, C., Doering. A, & Scharber, C. (2010). No Such Thing as Failure, Only Feedback: Designing Innovative Opportunities for E-assessment and Technology-mediated Feedback. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 21(1), 65-92.


Week 7 Mimi’s Presentation and Young People Online Learning

Mimi Ito left me deep impression since last year when Yue (one of our TA, who took this course last year) showed me a presentation video from her. I like her not only because her intrinsic charm and intelligence, but also her optimistic viewpoint of young generations using new technology. She believes that young people always tend to learn from peers and this positive peer influence can be enhanced through online interaction. While many educators and parents are worrying and even trying to prevent kids from online sociality, Mini’s viewpoint becomes even more avant-garde, and meanwhile encouraging.

It was a great pleasure to attend Mimi’s presentation at IU. This time she stressed three issues relating to young people’s online learning: “Knowledge: flows vs. stocks”, “Learning: peer based vs. top down”, and “Assessment: learner driven vs. institution driven”.

Among these three issues, I agree most on her proposition that educators and schools should propel the flow of knowledge, instead of stock knowledge as private property. While we complain young people idling away online, we should ask ourselves whether we have prepared engaging learning resources for them to explore. Just as MIT opens its course resources to public, our whole society should take responsibility to build and maintain a healthy online environment which offers rich learning opportunities and resources to young people.

I have less agreement on Mimi’s the other two propositions. For the more appropriate mode of online learning of teenagers, although I admit the effectiveness of team work, group discussion, and other types of peer-based learning in motivating young learners and contributing to their achievement, I don’t think this effectiveness can be ensured without appropriate guidance and supervision from teachers and parents. Young people lack of experiences in project management, dealing with interpersonal relationships and troubleshooting. They become interested in things quickly, but also lose interests quickly.  In addition, most of the examples that Mimi provided about teenagers online learning are about creating media productions and creative writings, the most fun part of learning. However, there are other abilities young people need to develop, such as logical and mathematical skills. Therefore, teachers and parents should use online resources to stimulate young people to explore what they haven’t built interests or feel difficult, while to keep enthusiasm in what they love to do till achieving productive learning outcomes.

My opinion on the assessment of young people online learning is similar to how I look at their online learning. I agree that the assessment metrics should be created based on young learners’ actual abilities and performance levels, and that peer evaluation is important for young people to reflect on their previous works and being more motivated to do better jobs. However, I don’t think peer assessment can be always accurate and effective. So, for appropriate assessment of young people online learning achievement, I also advocate of the intervention, or say facilitation, from grown-ups. At least, some ground rules about peer assessment should be set up for young people to take as references. 


Week10 Quotations about Online Collaborative and Interactive Learning

Decades ago if you say people live far away from each other can learn through collaboration, no one could believe. Now this is not an imagination or an illusion anymore. People separated by geographic distance enjoy interactive and collaborative learning enabled by new technology. It is just as Lee and Hutton (2007) point out “The technology provides for dynamic learning and understanding through collaborative, substantive discussions”. Technology makes collaborative learning not only possible, but also dynamic. You may wonder how distance learning can bring even better interactive and collaborative learning experiences and outcomes than traditional learning. Lee and Hutton’s article shed light on this topic: “The technology allows for integration of current, real-time information and ideas that can challenge students to generate new understandings”. New technology brings rich information and learning patterns into online classes, which gives learners more flexibility and choices.

Online learning takes older working professionals back to classrooms (although they are virtual) and equips them with updated knowledge and skills. Chen, Gonyea and Kuh (2008)’s article describes older distance learners as “differ from younger online students in noteworthy ways. Older students report greater gains and are more likely to engage in higher order mental activities such as analysis and synthesis as part of their studies. However, they are less involved in activities that depend on interacting with others, such as working with other students on problems or assignments”. I agree that older distance learners are more mature and successful in online learning, but cannot reach consensus with these authors in saying older students are reluctant to interact with other students. I had experience taking online classes and working with older working adults in team projects. According to my observation, these older students actively involved in teamwork, and because of their maturity and working experience, they positively influenced other younger members and led their teams to achieve better learning outcomes.

Online learning also bring people together who may never have chance sit in a same physical classroom. Now, thanks to internet and other relative technologies, people from different countries learn through collaboration, sharing learning resources and exchanging perspectives. “Emerging technologies today offer multicultural educational events that can foster shared understanding, dignity, respect, and the exchange of highly current and intriguing information” Lee and Hutton (2007). Therefore, technology has not only helped people overcome the problem of geographic distance, but also problem of social distance (Park and Bonk 2007).

Online collaborative learning takes advantages of advanced technology to ensure flexible and productive learning experience. However, instructional designers and teachers should realize that “the success of online courses depends on the appropriate use of pedagogy and related technologies, not just on the introduction of technologies themselves” (Lee, Magjuka, Liu and Bonk, 2006).  It is only when technology and pedagogical strategies best match students’ characteristics and the specific learning tasks that online collaborative and interactive learning will exert its effects.

Chen, P., R. Gonyea, and G. Kuh (2008). Learning at a distance: Engaged or not?. Innovate 4 (3). Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://www.innovateonline.info/pdf/vol4_issue3/Learning_at_a_Distance-__Engaged_or_Not_.pdf

Lee, M. & Hutton, D. (2007, August). Using interactive videoconferencing technology for global awareness: The case of ISIS.  International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 4(8).

Lee, S. H., Magjuka, R. J., Liu, X., Bonk, C. J. (2006, June). Interactive technologies for effective collaborative learning. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning

Park, Y. J., & Bonk, C. J. (2007). Is life a Breeze?: A case study for promoting synchronous learning in a blended graduate course. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT), 3(3), 307-323.


Week 3 E-books

Talking to e-books, People may bring up these two questions:

1.       Are e-books better than printed books?
2.       Will e-books replace printed books one day?

The answer to the second question greatly depends on the answer to the first question, so are e-books better than printed books?

Compared to traditional printed books, e-books have obvious advantages in following ways: E-books are easily to achieve and carry around. They are searchable, so readers can quickly locate information without out turning page after page. Videos, audios and animations can be embedded into e-books to engage readers through interaction with information. E-books usually contain links, through which more relevant information can be explored on internet. In addition, e-books give readers freedom in choosing font size and page colors. Last but not least, e-books are environmental friendly, since they do not require any papers/trees.

E-books have plenty of advantages, but they are not perfect yet. According to Anuradha and Usha(2006), the possible factors that prevent people from reading e-books include the cost of e-books and e-book reading devices , the incompatibility between different suppliers,  the hardness of reading and browsing e-books and inherent habits of reading traditional books.

It seems that technical barriers and people’s reading habits are the main causes of the weaknesses of e-books. But as the fast development of technology, I think e-books will soon overcome all of technical barriers and bring readers satisfying reading experiences. At that time, e-books may really replace printed books, just like how printed books replaced books written on clothes or animal skins.

PS: 3 related points

1    Nook Kids
A couple of days ago, I watched this advertisement of Nook Kids on Barnes & Noble’s website. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nookcolor/kids/index.asp?PID=35665 I was so amazed by the changes that e-books are bringing to children’s picture books--those still pictures start moving! But at the same time, I wonder if one day kids will lose picture books forever, because there will be no clear difference between picture e- books and animations.

2.       Books after e-books
If e-books replace printed books, then what will be the next generation of books which are going to replace e-books? MIT student Pattie Maes is working a new HCI technic, SixthSense.  http://www.ted.com/talks/pattie_maes_demos_the_sixth_sense.htmlAccording to Pattie, people will have no need to use computer screens or other reading devices in the near future, since SixthSense can project any images on any surface, such as a wall, a piece of paper or even our hand. So the next generation of books after e-books will have no specific texture/surface anymore.

3.       Timeline and digital map
I found timeline and digital map are fabulous contents for e-books. Appropriate applications of these two things in history and geography e-textbooks will greatly enhance students’ learning interests and outcomes.

K. T. Anuradha, & H. S. Usha (2006). Use of e-books in an academic and research environment: A  case study from the Indian Institute of Science. http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/5890/1/ebook1-final.pdf


Week 2 Views About Technology Generations

In order to design quality training and teaching courses, instruct designers and teachers should clearly know the learners’ interests, learning habits and preferences. Dividing students into generations and analyzing these features of each generation seems to be an efficient way, since learners in a certain program are usually of a same age group.

The comparison and contrast of Boomers and generation Xers, which was introduced in the class, is pretty interesting. Boomers are conservative. They see computers as a “nice to have” tool and conceive that learning is based on specific events; they think simulation and gaming are less serious and prefer less interaction in distance learning; they expect the traditional instructor-centered learning pattern and learn in a slow pace. Opposite to boomers, Xers are adaptable and creative. They consider computers as a “need to have” tool and seek continuing opportunities for education and training; they enjoy learning in simulation and games and interact with the outside world in a rapid-fire style; they are good at multitasking and  require autonomy and flexibility for their own-paced learning.

The above description accurately captured the general differences between these two distinct generations. But if looking further, we will get a more comprehensive view about new millennium generations:

Frist, there is no clear boundary between different generations. If you look around, you will easily find that some people stand out of their original generation group and show features of groups. For example, some of my Boomer professors are fascinated with cutting edge technologies. They use cellphones to check emails frequently and grade assignments on IPads. On contrast, some young people are keeping old fashions. Due to economic pressure, some of my peers keep using simple cellphones and only purchase basic cellphone service. So whether a person is typical to his generation depends on his characteristic, career and social-economic status.

Second, the division of generations varies from culture to culture and from country to country. According to my class, Boomers were born between 1943 to 1960, while Xers were born between 1961 to 1981. However this should be only applicable to US and other developed western countries. For China, where I come from, it seems that people having Boomers’ features were born between 1961 to 1981, and the people born after 1981 are living in the Xers’ life style. Therefore, on a same time point, Chinese are one generation lagging behind Americans. That means there are generation gaps between cultures and countries! This is totally understandable, because different countries (cultural varieties) are developing at various paces due to their social-historical differences.

Third, technology influences the width of the age gap between two contiguous generations. Generally, we think at least a 10-year age gap is necessary for distinguishing two generations, but as the quick development of technology, this gap is narrowing. I taught in a high school when I was in my pre-service teacher program. Those students were only 6 years younger than me. But you may never imagine how astonished I was when I saw them taking photos of the teachers’ notes from the blackboard through using their cellphones. They got the notes within only a couple of seconds, but it once took me hours to write them down when I was in high school. On the other hand, some real well-designed technological devices enlarge the age gaps, like televisions. It attracts people from babies to the olds, merging different generations as a whole.

My last point actually is about a challenge emerging from technology generation issues. Even though the realization of generation differences can help instructional designers and teachers to design and deliver effective trainings and education, because of the inherent generation gap between teachers and students, it is never easy for teachers to step out of their own generation circle, go across the age gap and think from their students’ needs, habits and preferences. It requires great amount of awareness and patience.