Wednesday, October 17, 2012


"In every job that must be done There is an element of fun You find the fun and snap, the job's a game " ---Mary Poppins (Disney)

Hello Readers! I've neglected you. But don't you worry, I am back! A year off to have and get a life started has also been filled with research and presentations. There will be a gradual shift over the next few weeks into a less formal tone. I am currently exploring Augmented Reality in Apps and other modalities. Gamification of education and the workforce. Again, as always, these are MY words and opinions...and yes I find research too. But though the explorations are part of our Tennessee Board of Regents mobilization, they are my take on the things we are learning and my experiences with them. So subscribe and thrive my fellow educators! Kat (AKA the Digital Mary Poppins)

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Power of Education: Service Based Learning

On a lunch break reading fest, I decided to put some of my thoughts out as I have garnered it all together: What are we doing right in Education? I think we are doing many right things. Chief among them is the learner centered focus most establishments are adopting. After all, if the learner fails to learn at least one thing, we are failing them. What aren't we doing? We have given them resources, we have given them projects, we ask them to blog and wiki and journal to their heart's content, but we do not always teach them how to apply it to the world. I began thinking about the trend for service based learning. Some groups adopt and incorporate service based learning naturally. Their discipline is primed for community service projects. However, what I most want to see, is a modeling of service based learning at a university level. In one institution, we have 200 or more brilliant professors and 10,000 or so bright and creative students who could power a think tank to solve a problem. Instead of reading a book, why not pick an issue and write a book. Have each discipline place research and summaries from their perspective on the issue. Give the leaders in the community a multifaceted view of the problem at hand with possible solutions. Such a compilation would be invaluable. We teach students how to find information everyday, but we do not teach them how to draw it together to solve something. Current trends involve group work in multiple industries. A project like this could teach them how to work in the world they will be heading into. A project like this could engage them in the world. Engagement=learning from all the metrics currently published. What better way to engage and demonstrate that things can change and each hand brings the change than a project set to solve for X in a current community problem. Water quality Unemployment Overcrowding Diversity issues Show them they have a voice on these issues, make their research matter, make a change.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Siri-ous Conversation

Hi Tech Fans!

Today I am taking a ten minute break to tell you about Siri, my newest purchase.

Now, all of you may have her in your pockets at the moment, but I want you to think about her for longer than a minute.

Those who have her will probably be the first to tell you that dialect is still an issue. I am from the south and I can definitively say that she is on an 80/20 accuracy rate with me. I find that if I am not enunciating, I run into the same old 'Dragon Naturally Speaking' issues of old.

However, I have hope.

Siri is in the cloud and I am not the only one training her. She is an intelligent agent learning from hundreds of thousands of others. Like a child she takes in the corrections and modifies her behavior and learns to give better answers thanks to the Nuance server in the background. That being said, remember that you have to touch the cloud to use her, so do not go buy the iPhone 4s if you are not going to get signal from your phone or a wi-fi hotspot.

What I find most hopeful is that if Apple can work this out, their products would have an ADA upside for education. Being able to take speech to text into everything from email to apps means a great deal to the way teachers work with students with disabilities. We also know it helps those without them, too. Apple devices already have some voice options built in and can read text to you as well as display closed captioning on files that have been captioned. This is a far cry from a Kindle or other eReader. I have hope then, that in the future Siri will help us close that gap. But, who knows which direction the wind may blow.

Limitations? Of course, it is not the 25th century yet. If you have Siri, she won't work in a crowded room or a noisy space. So, her best place is in your car....without the kids. My kids constantly kill her ability to understand by leaping into the conversation.

Another note about the car. I have a Ford Fusion with Sync technology. Eerily enough, she sounds JUST like the voice on Microsoft's Synch. They should have auditioned a different actress. I get confused as to whether Siri or Synch is talking to me.
PS...if you don't have Synch on a vehicle, you need to try it.

I have been saying for a very long time that if the government wants ADA solved, they need to pour money into captioning systems for the schools that are uniform and trainable for dialects. I hope that maybe they might get their heads together to do this with Apple since Apple has pushed forward. No, I am not saying it has to be an Apple world, but if you find something that works, commit and make it the 'best' it can be to do the thing you need. If Dragon wants to lead the way..go Dragon!

Institutions have little money, but we have lots of labor force in students. Start a project HERE at Austin Peay State University. Put the money into a future we can share with other institutions. Don't spread out your grants to solve little issues, solve the big issue. You want websites compliant and podcasting to be captioned. Harness Siri, or harness anything that leaps us forward.

Computer navigation will never be all voice for those with sight, but we will use it too. Using Siri for a week has made it apparent to me that voice activation and navigation are a portion of the issue at hand. We still will need more tools to meet the government mandates, but let us start with the first step, then the next will be easier. Access begins with innovation.

Stepping off the soap box, I have to say, Siri IS cool. Anyone complaining usually is jealous. She is fairly quick compared to other voice activated phones. I also find she is pretty accurate once you say it in a voice she understands. I also realized I mumble. ***mmmff

I like that I can tell her to tell my husband to pick up milk without typing all that. I like that I can make my appointments without the fifteen clicks to set them up on ANY smart phone. I like that she knows if something is going to be an issue for me. That is what technology is supposed to do, enhance, not run your life.

I am sure I will have more to say as I get more comfortable with the new technology, but the phone is light, the screen is wonderful, and Siri is HELPFUL for a wife and mom of three boys who also works in technology, a fast paced field.

For a good read:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ePub to iPhone a 5 minute Thought

So I managed, yesterday, while using some good info from Tim Matheny from Apple, to make my first ePub for my iBooks app with Pages.

Sweet process really, and yet another prelude to why the publishing industry is changing.

I know that many of you are techies like me, but I had another life before this one, one in the arts. That life often makes me think about how what I do affects the industries around me that use print. Many of my Printing counter parts are getting laid off as companies dissappear that do ink press old fashioned books.

I do love the feel of a good book, but as prices soar on printed vs digital copies, I have to accept that I am part of that reason.

Apple has made it easy to be your own digital content specialist. You don't need a publishing house standing beside you to tell you your work is going to be the next big thing. You just need a place to make it, a place to put it for distribution, and a tweet or a FB post to alert those who might be interested where it is with a clever hashtag or social ad campaign.

Apple has the digital trend for multimedia creation and social networking mapped out and has given us the directions so to speak.

I wonder sometimes how the digital story telling in 140 characters or the longer video and audio pieces will change the collective conciousness of the world. Multiculturalism becomes a two second search. Even the Library of Congress is keeping our public tweets as some sort of time capsule.

Sounds silly to search tweets for history, right? Silly or not,our children may very well be citing tweets in their term papers in 2020.

I think about how twitter and FB will change APA and MLA and whatever current citation is the trend or norm. With Tagging and things like Creative Commons, it is possible today to build a program that tags all you publish and can also read the tags of others. Citation pages could, in theory, build themselves.

You laugh, but the technology is already out there, no one is leveraging it. If you do leverage it, tell them you found it here:)

Think of what 'cite as you write' could become? Imagine the freedom to talk about the connections and ideas with creativity instead of fear. I think that is the largest intellectual turn off for students, after all, the fear of plagiarism. What if all the research you used filtered into citations by tagging? What if simply # the source worked?

Either way, the ability to whip out my own short book with images, links, etc in about five minutes was revealing and heart stopping all at the same time. The world isn't the same and it is moving faster daily. Ms. Self from 8th grade probably wonders what her students are doing because they can't cite a source. I wonder sometimes at the University level what my students are doing that can't cite a source, for that matter.

I wonder sometimes if the method is important or if it is more important that they just note where they got it? That is a much longer discussion, isn't it?

Prelude to the next entry:
Are you ignoring mobile trends or portable devices in your industry or school? You should be reading anything you can get your hands on! The beauty of mobile and applications are focused shared pockets of learning and earning. More on the next post... meanwhile...go make something in Pages with ePub ok?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lessons From the Game Culture for Education

The keyword for this article is: Experience

Used in a sentence: Learning should be an experience.

Too often, we define learning by objectives, assessments and due dates. The experience of learning can be described but not explained by statistics.

Instinct is that mysterious little place where your gut meets your mind for a long conversation. Through experience, we encode methodologies, comprehensions, and understanding in milliseconds that will unlock our natural instincts or life skills. What takes us hours to get when we read, takes only moments when we can experience the lesson.

Gaming theory, problem based learning, and inquiry based learning are all new fangled terminology for the basic notion of learning through experiences that pull on those dark and deep corners of our genetics to wrinkle our brains like a circuit board for survival; a deep learning data base that can save us when knowledge and its application become an instinct that hones and directs our reactions for optimal results.

We set our students up to fail, we break their notions of the world, and then ask them to take that understanding and re-experience the lesson. We ask them to remember what happened and apply it. We ask them to give us new insight because their point of origin in the lesson is different than ours. We build new lessons for our students and ourselves to test the idea. We keep the things that work, they keep the things that work.

As a high school student and as a college student my Friday and Saturday nights were usually spent curled up on a floor with dice in hand listening to a story, a puzzle, a simulation of life. I had to work with 5 or 6 different guys with different skills to achieve a goal. I became a leader, a problem solver, and eventually a story and puzzle giver myself. The prior is the cycle of student and teacher in a microcosm through 'safe' experience.

Don't get me wrong, playing a game, any game, has an experience that mimics real world dynamics. Group work, problem identification, research and team effort to achieve a solution are regular everyday tasks for a 'gamer'. Gamers are PBL compliant.

I spend most of my day absorbed in this or that technology trying to find things that will create experience for learners. However, these technologies, no matter how cool they are can still fail students if the instructor will not put their game face on and 'play'.

What I mean, is that we, as instructors, get too caught up in the business of teaching and learning that we fail to think outside the box to gain a new learner's attention. For example, a lecture is a wonderful building block that can be recorded and viewed later or given in real time. However, that lecture is not what teaches the student. The student learns when we put them in situations, real or simulated, that show them and ourselves the value of the application of the knowledge. Success and failure both are valuable. The instructor mediates the experience and then helps the student be more successful through pointing out what was missed or additional resources. Sometimes their classmates as peers are effective teachers as well. I think you get the point, experience is the heart of learning, it is the best teacher. Flat knowledge in books or lectures are leap points for learning, but activity is the key to success in the learning cycle.

When I played a game like Dungeons and Dragons, there were lots of things to read, tally, chart, and remember. All of those things I could recite in my sleep. But they did not matter and would have faded away if I hadn't needed to know them for my favorite Saturday night activity; survive a team members folly because he forgot the most basic of gaming rules, let sleeping trolls lie.

The same thing happens for our students.
FACT: C6H12O6 is simple sugar.
Yeh, what is your point?
Well . . . if you know the formula for simple sugar you can figure out how to lose weight. Try coding the formula backwards, and remember that your body is built to accept Carbon first in food. Now if your body doesn't think your backwards chain is food, what happens?

It is the application of the knowledge and the consequences of using or not using the knowledge that make it important to the student to remember. Experience is the best teacher.

Too bad some people have to wake that troll up a few times to learn that trolls are best left to their dreaming. Just kidding. (Maybe not.)

Gamers are better learners and teachers. They become good leaders. Gamers have honed their problem solving skills and decisive actions through practice in safe environments. Trolls exist in real life, too. I think I saw one at the store the other day actually. Teaching your students how to 'play' is the most important gift you can give them for success in their professions and personal lives.

I know I say it often, but the most important book for you as an educator to read this year is Wikinomics by Tapscot and Williams. If you want to understand the world your students will work in and how the skills gleaned in problem based learning translate to the real world, you must read that book! Web 2.0 is not some term to keep the masses down, it is the battle ground in which we can lift them up and abolish the digital divide. (That is a whole other article though, isn't it?)

Now, I have homework for you. Using the above information, how can you take a series of definitions, statistics, and flat knowledge to engage your students in a common experience to generate deep learning in a F2F (Face to Face) or Online course.

Send me your ideas and I will post the best ones next week!

Why this is important to you:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

eReaders and eBooks in Online Education

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one..."-John Lennon

This is a quick blog, mostly to get everyone thinking outside the 'reader' for a moment.

I think sometimes we let technology drive how we work instead of driving technology the way we work best. There are a great deal of sites out there for free e-text books or even company generated text books for various e-readers.

Though the eReader idea is a step up from the mass killing of trees and buying and re-selling of paper text books, it still forces the student and instructor to interact with content in a prohibitive and less productive way.

We place courses online and ask instructors for self-generated material, but still use an external book or an embedded ebook.

I challenge all of us to re-think this.

Shouldn't the course BE a book? Why send them out to an eReader or a textbook? Why embed a book that is a series of web pages that must be read outside the lesson it is tied to?

Course Management or Learning Management systems allow us to write, link out, and create lessons all in the same space. Students pay us to be content matter experts in our subject areas. They chose our school, our program, US.

Think about this, in one department you may have three to five Doctorate level instructors who could, no doubt, create a 'book' that looks deceptively like a course with material that belongs to the University. Maybe they get paid for the creation like a course development. Now your students do not need a text book OR an eReader.

Even better, immediacy is the by product of a 'course book', for lack of a better term. Now you can pre-assess, read, post assess, and contribute assignments directly from the content module for that week. No surfing around, navigating an external object, etc. Students read it, they respond, right there.

Now, let us take this one more step. In Desire2Learn 9.0, for instance, you can create Learning Objects that can be tied to Learning Objectives. You can then create a curriculum map that is monitored through reporting to track and predict the success of students in your program. Your eReader can't do that.

All this being said, it would take a 6 month process for several people to get it going, but once it is built, it would be easy to maintain. Better yet, be sure its SCORM and Global IMS compliant as well as ADA and you can take the course-book anywhere.

Like I said, it is only daydreaming. As I connected the dots at Fusion 2010, I thought about my own course evaluations when I first began teaching. Students really hate text books and PowerPoints. They like rich content and discussion. Are we servicing them by handing them another book? Do we need to think outside the book?

Anyway, that is my thought for the day for all you avid fans.

Thanks to all of you who vist and share!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Evil Empire of Educational Technology or Just Bright Business?

Joshua Kim puts some perspective on the new Eluminate, Wimba, and BlackBoard Merger here:

Let us take a moment to reflect on the last four years in elearning technology.

When I began in the industry in 2006, we were a BB institute (BB 6.3) with building blocks for Learning Objects for journals, blogs, wikis and for their really cool BackPack. I added within the first year Wimba's Live Classroom to our Voice Tools. Wimba as a building block inside of BlackBoard was beautiful. The system itself was fairly easy to navigate and Wimba just gave us one more way to communicate.

Were there headaches? Yep! Like many companies, Wimba had based their platform on Real Player for video at the time. Teaching students to use Real Player with a special set up, I piloted several sections of Speech with a brilliant co-worker. It was hard, but really gave our students a cheaper option than buying a 200 dollar video camera.
Alongside our work were teachers using TeacherTube and YouTube as well as other free wares. I championed Wimba to others, others picked up Wimba, Wimba got better.

We now are a D2L institution. Wimba doesn't quite work so beautifully there. Faculty have to see the ugly admin side of our server, and so do students. No pretty web interfaces or easy point, click, and do for us! I waited, waited, and then waited some more for the promised integration from both sides. With Wimba's sale to BB I wonder now who was telling the truth about WHY that integration was not taking place.

Lesson Learned: These are businesses and they DO NOT care about education no matter their creative little blurbs about being for people or being innovative.

Education should take a leaf out of this book and start creating our OWN solutions. We DO care about teaching and learning and we won't constantly be asking a vendor to reshape a tool because no programmer ever asked a teacher how it should work.

Overall, I know it was good business sense that created the agreement between Wimba, Eluminate and BlackBoard. I almost hate myself for, by proxy as a user of both, helping them understand how cool each other really were when combined. I noted in a journal almost two years ago that the natural evolution of the LMS would be something like Wimba with Learning Objects tools. The LMS would be only a repository and grading system wrapped around our more experiential tools. Discussion boards are boring, text is flat.

The only consolation that I have at the moment is that D2L, though corporate, is doing a better job of listening and opening up after the lawsuit. New products that BB has never even thought of, D2L is working on. I am proud to have worked with the D2L on the work that created the Course Builder and Design Wizard. These are tools for teaching that were informed by teachers.

The new external link integrator is another good sign for open practices that did not exist before.

I temper my praise with the Lesson Learned from above.

So, where are we? We should be in a state of constant vigilance. Watch what companies are doing, keep your RSS hot with their movements. Every year we have to renew contracts and make technology plans. We are business forecasters who make self fulfilling prophecies by what we support and do not support. When you see good practices and expected transparency, stick around. When you see doors between you and the person you are trying to reach, think twice. Contribute to growth, but make them pay YOU for your advice.

I never thought I would need a business degree or an economics background to teach, but I am finding on a regular basis I am becoming a paralegal (another article for certain). We should be requiring disclosure in our contracts! We should be leaving better 'outs' for when company directions are not matching our own. We should be mercantilists in the strictest sense!

How about clauses that give us money off our contracts for significant suggestions or development ideas or integration work from our institutions that are the result of collaboration with the company we purchased the product from? Why not give your clients the rewards? It at least makes us feel a little better about your company and our choice to use you.

As you can see, I am disillusioned though I understand the machine in elearning that has broken my heart. I really did believe that 'People teach People', and perhaps they do. However, I would also say, 'Businesses Make Money'. It was a smart move, but the rest of us will survive and find something else.

I close this article with a quick note that Wikinomics by Tapscott and Williams is the model we as educational institutions need to follow if we are looking at smart business practices for education. Collaboration is our only hope in keeping up. Take cues from community user groups and make your own communities. If we must predict the future, then let us write it together. If there is a problem, there are thousands of experts hanging out waiting at the FAQ.

We are in the business of education, and education has no room for business practices that are shady, veiled, and affect our ability to support the students we care about. Deals behind closed doors with a Thank You note afterwards are not how you treat loyal customers. You should talk to your customer base before merging or changing your paradigm drastically. You have a right to make a dollar, you do not, however, have the right to make a dollar by selling my server space!

Collaboration means openness, peering, sharing, and globalization according to Tapscott and Williams. Dear Wimba, you failed on openness and I will miss the warm fuzzy I used to feel before you became, "just a company."