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.