Networks of Personalized Learning

3 12 2010

I started a discussion on my Facebook profile about the effects of technology on our social life. The question is: Are modern tools of technology isolating us from one another?  I thought that technology is isolating us from the others. I asked this question through Facebook to get my friends’ ideas before writing this blog. Then, I decided to look at all the forum and blog pages to see what people think in Turkey and in US about the effects of technology on our social life.

It is obvious that so many people have resistance to adapt technology to their social life. On the other hand, the common approach is that we have different kind of social interactions with the information technologies, and it is not fair to define our new communication styles as isolation.

Let’s take a look at US. Before coming to home today, I went to Starbucks to read my assignments and observe the people there. Starbucks is one of the best places for an international student to understand people’s relations in US. When I finished reading the “technology doesn’t isolate people” (2009) article, I looked at people around and recognized that at least 80% people in the Starbucks working on their computers without speaking each other. However, the idea in the article states that “contrary to popular belief, the Internet and mobile phones are not isolating people but enhancing their social worlds”.

Question: What is being social? “People who have mobile phones and take part in a variety of Internet activities are associated with larger, more diverse core discussion networks.” This is the new definition of being social in the 21st century and the article interprets the results from this perspective.

I am still trying to find answers. Information technologies changed how we live, and changed the definition of terms we had before. One of my friends answered the first question on Facebook. She thinks that “It exactly depends on how people see it and use it. Do you use it to make distances closer as many of us do by being in a daily contact with families in Turkey or do you use it to get away from people? ”

References:  1. Social Isolation and New Technology: How the Internet and Mobile Phones Impact Americans’ Social Networks, Pew Internet and American Life Project, November 2009 (89 pages http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2009/PIP_Tech_and_Social_Isolation.pd

2. Patrick May, Tech Tools May Help Pull People Together, Mercury News.com, November 4, 2009, from  http://smart-grid.tmcnet.com/news/2009/11/05/4466466.htm





Podcasting, Webcasting, and Coursecasting

2 12 2010

Podcasting is the use of audio and video files on the web. It is different than just putting these files into websites. The podcast creator adds RSS feeds for the listeners to follow the podcasts. There are three steps in podcasting:

1)      Creating the file: This process needs some effort because content is needed first. Adjusting the sounds and videos, and creating the final production are the next steps.

2)      Putting the podcast file into a website: When the podcast is finalized, the next step is publishing the file and letting audience to know. Thus, listeners can add the RSS feed on their blogs and web pages.

3)      Aggregation: Aggregator is software which follows the podcasts for the changes, and updates the listeners’ list.

Since there are not much literature and formal evaluation of podcasting for educational purposes, there are some criticisms on the outcomes of podcast. Podcasts are used in education for three different purposes.

  1. Delivering the lecture
  2. Delivering the supplemental materials
  3. Assigning students to produce podcasts

Delivering the lecture:

This is the common use of podcasts in education. Students like lecture podcasts because of the availability and portability of mobile devices. Also, they don’t need to check several websites. The content is coming to their own blog or web page through the RSS feeds. Despite these advantages, it is still criticized because the formal evaluation of podcasting is not well-defined yet. Ashley (2007) argues that students don’t pay attention to podcasts from the beginning to the end. Only 20% of the students listen more than 75% of the content. Many only listen some of the specific parts of the podcast to get familiar with the content.  Another assumption is that students don’t go to class if they know that lecture will be delivered via podcast. However, no study evidently shows the negative or positive effects of podcasts for education.

Delivering the supplemental materials:

Using podcasts as additional materials have more positive effect to student performance and learning outcomes than using as lecture delivery method. These additional activities involve using podcasts as brief reflection for the class and remembering important topics after the actual class lecture.

Assigning students to produce podcasts:

Teachers assign students to create podcast as practice for the content and as an assessment. Ashley (2007) states that students see creating podcast valuable.  Students think that creating podcasts improve their technical, listening and presentation skills.

As a summary, the answer for the benefits of podcast for education is still not clear. Teachers should know their class context and content, and evaluate the advantages and limitations of using podcast in their class. I think educators can motivate and get students attention by using different methods like podcast.

Reference: Deal, Ashley (2007, June). Podcasting. A Teaching With Technology White Paper. Educause. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://connect.educause.edu/files/CMU_Podcasting_Jun07.pdf





Interactive and Collaborative Learning

29 11 2010

It is important to choose an appropriate type of virtual tool for interactive and collaborative learning experience. Virtual classroom systems’ features in terms of facilitation of communication, presentation of course content and logistical requirements are important to consider in an online class context.  Virtual tools are mainly divided in two categories:  asynchronous and synchronous. Breeze, Eluminate and Dimdim are the examples of synchronous interactive and collaborative learning tools and they all have some challenges and advantages.

One of the challenges is building a community between the students, and between students and a teacher.  Without feeling the presence of others, students can have difficulty to collaborate and to interact with class members.  The contacts through voice, chat and emoticons are important. Since there is lack of face-to-face communication, it is important for teachers to have presence to encourage students’ participation, and to answer their questions. This definitely takes more time and effort for teachers.

Advantages are also important to consider. It is clear that using online tools are not an opportunity; using them are requirements for the 21st century teachers. If a teacher limits his/her methods with traditional ones, this means that they lose the chance having more knowledge and skills for students. Online collaborative tools give us the chance to have more people in group discussions. They allow quite/shy students to chat and write their ideas. They have freedom on place and time. Asynchronous learning environments allow people to write their ideas anytime they want and reread them later. And finally, I believe that students who are using and exploring online tools will be more comfortable with technology after some time.





Mobile, Wireless, and Ubiquitous Learning

23 11 2010

The term mobile learning refers to the use of handheld devices such as ipad, kinndle, cellphone in classroom. School administrators use SMS technology to inform parents. Teachers use cell phones’ voice mail to inform students for the homeworks. Students use cellphones as dictionary. Children like playing games on their cellphones. Everybody use Iphone for everything.

Mobile devices and technologies are very common in all the societies and rapidly influencing how people communicate. These changes also affect how people learn and how can be learning delivered. Information is open to everybody and teachers’ roles are changed. 21st century teacher should  not be the provider of the knowledge, instead should assist students to find the reliable and high quality resources. In terms of mobile learning, teachers’ role should be a consultant for students to use portable devices more effectively and efficiently. With these all portable devices, people reach the information from anywhere. You don’t need to be in the class to learn.

Despite all these positive changes, mobile learning also have some challenges. First, there is still no clear definition of mobile learning because mobile learning is personal and concepts are not well defined. Since concepts are not defined, evaluation off mobile learning is problematic. Second, mobile devices are everywhere and anywhere, and transforming how people communicate and learn very fast. The interaction between the people and technology are more active than ever. Therefore, the role of education is challenging. We see from all these examples that mobile learning is still immature.

For the future, mobile learning definitely needs standardization. All companies develop their applications and technology with their own specific standards, and one application is not working for others. Next, we should bridge the online learning and mobile learning terms, and have mobile learning courses. While having mobile learning courses, we should also consider the research on the pedagogy of mobile learning. Students and teachers should be trained to use these high-tech devices. And at last, we should define the evaluation strategies.





Blogging

20 11 2010

Blogging is sharing voices with other people. Bloggers have blog pages because they want to motivate or influence others, stay in touch with family and friends, meet new people, document ideas and events, and entertain. Most of the bloggers are young people under age of 30 (Lenhart & Fox, 2006). Bloggers also follow diverse sources of information such as online/offline newspapers, other blog pages, podcasts and vidcasts. However, they prefer reading and watching news online because these resources are more convenient, have various viewpoints and in-depth information. I think bloggers are the modern people of this decade because they like to create and share what they make. Primary motivations for bloggers are to reflect what they personally experience and to record them.  In addition to writing their personal experiences, bloggers like to write about entertaining topics, sports, politics, and general news (Lenhart & Fox, 2006). Bloggers mainly inspired to write about events they are influenced. Bloggers are also influenced from other bloggers though discussions and postings.

As a reflection, blogging is an opportunity to learn from others, have community of knowledge and create new meanings. Also, reading and writing blogs motivate us to write more and improve our writing skills. Conversations through blogs have the opportunity to speak up freely. To use blogs for our classes, we should first encourage our students to read blogs they are interested, and to comment on these blog pages. At the end, I am sure they will start writing blogs themselves.

Reference: Lenhart, Amanda, & Fox, Susannah (2006, July 19). Bloggers: Portrait of America’s new storytellers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Report. Retrieved on June25, 2010, from: http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2006/PIP%20Bloggers%20Report%20July%2019%202006.pdf.pdf





Alternate Reality Learning: Massive Gaming, Virtual Reality, and Simulations

13 11 2010

There is a need for game based learning environments because games have potential for learning. Games create places for students to learn, to have fun, to compete with other students and to reach personal goals. These are the motivating factors.  In a learning proposed game, students understand the game features and context first. Then, they use the game as their creative face, and create their own environment while interacting within the community. Also, games function as spaces for players to adapt and develop new identities.  For example, my cousin plays World of Warcraft, and he says that when you he has a powerful avatar in the game, he feel he has a better position between his friends in real life, which means he creates a more powerful identity.  Another good part of learning with game is failing part. If a student loses money in a game, s/he can try again. This is maybe the most beneficial part of learning with games because real life does not give us that much chance to fail. Making more and more practice, playing again and again, and students can become better players and learners.

When students start playing a game, they see the game as a rule system first. Kill the monsters, get money, and buy new weapons. However, when they provide and get feedback from others inside the game community, the social interaction create a new meaning for them. Changing the idea of rule system to an interactive community, games become a supportive and enjoyable mechanism for disengaged students.

As a summary, to develop game based learning spaces, educators should develop virtual worlds worth understanding. Learning spaces should provide interactivity, support new types of experiences through the learning space, and encourage participation.





The Future of Shared Online Video

5 11 2010

The idea of Youtube started in a home party. One of the co-founders of the Youtube realized that people were trying to find ways to share their party videos. Today 57% of the internet users watch and most of them share videos in Youtube (Madden, 2009).  It is a very easy tool. As a regular person and an internet user, you just need a video recorder, and you can be a music star or an actor with it. Youtube has a very user friendly interface and this makes it easy to use. People do not need to think about the video type and technical information. The system converts the videos and provides links to the users. With the links provided, users can share videos with their friends.

Mary Madden (2009, July 25). Online Video. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew Internet & American Life Project

What Youtube provides us? It has engagement inside. People share videos and write comments. People learn from each other. Youtube has fun inside. People watch comedy videos and become happy. Youtube has learning inside. Distinguished professors share their talks; countries share their touristic places; teachers show examples of their content, motivate students and get their attention.

How Youtube is changing the condition of learning? Is it a better and faster way to learn?  What do you think?

Reference: Mary Madden (2009, July 25). Online Video. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2007/PIP_Online_Video_2007.pdf.pdf