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Guest blogged on Opentextbooks.org

Guest blogged on Opentextbooks.org

FWK Cover

I wrote a guest blog for the College Open Textbooks Blog where I interviewed Dr. Miles McCrimmon about his recently published open textbook, The Flat World Knowledge Handbook for Writers. You can see that post in its entirety on the College Open Textbooks site. Enjoy.

 
 

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Getting Connected (#cck11)

It’s winter. I hate the cold and the grayness of it all. I hunker down and hide out from the blahness of it all. I become a hermit. And for those who know me personally, they know that THAT is the exact opposite of who/where I like to be. I’m a chatty-Cathy-sunshine-flip flops-cycling-beach kind of girl who just happens to be a bit of a tech geek as well.

When the weather closes in on me like this, I find that I reach out virtually a lot more. I connect with new friends on Facebook, I look for new people to follow on Twitter, and I find blogs – reading and leaving comments more often, as well. In general, I grow my personal network in the cold months. In simplest of terms, I think this is what Stephen Downes (2008) is describing as knowledge formation in his explanation of “What is Connectivism?” in this Ustream video shared in the #CCK11 MOOC which started Monday. It’s being facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes.

For me, when an idea seems complex, the simplest way to conceptualize it is to associate it with something I already understand. Back in high school, we watched a couple of films about the brain, and with cartoon animation simplicity, the concept of neural pathway formation was explained. As Downes described Connectivism, images from those old films popped unbidden into my head.

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It makes sense though – Connectivism is about growing the number of interactions between two nodes which creates connections. In the brain, more neural pathways means increased potential for learning. The more those pathways are used, the easier a skill may seem (like riding a bike or driving – both are difficult at first, but subconsciously easy after practice).

So, what does all this mean to me…hiding inside on this 36 degree, dreary winter day? It means it’s time to connect both digitally, which I’ve done here, and physically, which I’ll be doing as soon as I tie my tennis shoes and head to the gym. I’m not sure if this is exactly the types of connections Siemens and Downes have in mind, but this end user needs both.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in #CCK11, Year Two

 

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In Solidarity – I am Saving Universities a Ton of Money

This post is quoted in its entirety from my online colleague Dr. Kay Lehmann‘s blog posting. Since we work together online, and I share the sentiment, I am reposting it in solidarity.

I am saving universities a ton of money as an online adjunct

An Important email message today about sick leave policy from one of the universities I work for starting me thinking. I am saving these universities SOOO much money by working at a distance. As an online adjunct very little is provided to me… thus was borne this open letter…

Open letter to University administrators and human resources personnel who have adjunct instructors working at a distance:

I am the faceless, nearly nameless, person teaching tens, if not hundreds, of students for you each year via your online courses. Since I never set foot on your campus and in fact probably live hundreds or thousands of miles away, I am saving you a lot of money. Clearly I am saving you money when compared to tenured faculty but even compared to the meager existence of a local on-campus adjunct, the saving from my work is substantial.

For clarity’s sake let me define who I am since you probably don’t know me at all. I teach online courses via my own computer from my home. You pay me by course, or by student. This is my full-time job but I work for several universities in order to earn a full-time income. And following this rant about how much I am saving you, I will detail the benefits gained by working as an online adjunct.

Like most adjuncts face-to-face or online you likely do not pay me any benefits. No insurance costs or pension fund contributions must be funded on my behalf. Sick leave doesn’t apply in my world, nor does paid vacations or holidays. My courses do not close because I am laid up with the flu, I cannot close the course site and say ‘take the day off’ and I cannot ask someone to cover my class and teach it for me because of illness or injury. I teach from my sick bed, and while on vacation, and over holidays. In fact graduate students in online courses tend to do more work and ask more questions over holidays, weekends, and during traditional vacation times because they have extra time for their coursework. And I cannot even imagine a scenario where I would file an L and I claim for injuries sustained on the job.

There is no physical classroom to be provided for myself or the students. No utilities to be paid, equipment, furnishings, or physical presence to be maintained. In fairness you do pay for a learning management system where my course is housed. I have no idea what the balance in costs is between a physical classroom and the cost of one course on a learning management system so perhaps this is a fair trade.

No office space, even office space shared with other adjuncts, must be provided. You don’t provide a computer or Internet access for me to do lesson planning, grading, or other teaching functions which require electronics. I provide my own equipment, keep my software up-to-date, use my own phone for calls to students, and pay for my Internet access while at home and on the road. Some universities do offer discounts on software or reimbursement for phone calls and postage. The hassle of filling out your paper forms and mailing them to you with receipts to get reimbursed isn’t worth my time.

You have no costs for meetings or professional development. I have not consumed a cup of coffee brewed by your staff during a meeting because there are no meetings. And rarely is any professional development offered to online adjuncts. A few offers to audit a class are just about the only costs for PD that you have incurred for me.

You may offer technical support to help me with media creation, troubleshooting, and other issues but I usually figure things out on my own with the help of my PLN. To be honest your technical support people often assume a level of digital stupidity that takes so long to dispel it is easier to figure things out on my own. One does not teach online without some level of competency using a computer and Internet-based tools.

To summarize, I earn few, if any, benefits. I don’t get health insurance, take sick leave, or get paid vacation. You don’t have to provide a parking spot, chair, desk, or a light bulb. I don’t eat doughnuts at meetings or run off 20 copies of a 10 page syllabus. I do provide excellent service to your students and take pride in doing so. Perhaps you should thank me for my generosity and willingness to teach online courses in your institution.

Instead, for this excellent customer service, you continue to spam my inbox with email about local face to face meetings, policies, and politics; none of which have ever applied to me. I am your ever-growing future workforce…it is high time you figure out who and where I am.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2010 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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‘Twas the Night

My friend Jane Bozarth pointed this out on Twitter yesterday, and I couldn’t help but share it for the holiday season. Congratulations to David Kelly on such a fine piece of Instructional Design “literature”. Enjoy!

Christmas Tree

Just a little (relevant) holiday fun…


Twas the Night Before Social Media

‘Twas the night before SoMe, and all through land,
Most training was lecture, engagement be damned;
Be it classroom or e-learning, the results disappoint,
and for some reason it all was made with PowerPoint.

 

The learners were sleeping, or else they were vexed,
by e-learning courses of “read, then click next”;
The trainers were talking, then talking some more,
Not realizing the learners felt it all was a chore.
The rest can be found here.
 
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Posted by on December 4, 2010 in Best Reads, miscellaneous

 

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eLearning Instructional Design

My 10 Commandments*

BibleImage via Wonderlane

Thou Shalt:

1. Engage, engage, engage.

eLearning can be a cold, lonely place. Interactivity, graphic images, audio/video, and even themes are fun and motivating, making abstract concepts more concrete and increasing learning. Use of games or game-influenced designs, based on exploration, problem-solving, and trial and error, where students get lost in the fun and forget they are learning, work well even in higher education.

2. Chunk – in bite-sized chunks.

Research shows, time and time again, online students resist long “anything” – long passages of text, long modules, long tests, (long blog posts), etc.

3. Create/use authentic, meaningful, and relevant content.

Even more so than the f2f classroom, online and hybrid courses need to justify the real world application of skills and activities to motivate and engage students. Designing activities so the connection to the real world is integral to the activity (like simulations) is even better.

4. Discuss, with guidance.

Students need open-ended, thought-provoking, relevant prompts to get discussions going. We can do more than post “Discuss Chapter Two”. Gently elicit more from students who simply post “I agree” by replying “Tell me what you specifically agree with and why?” or a similar response.

5. Measure and assess with alignment.

Are your objectives measurable? (Can you visualize someone performing the task stated in the objective – if not, it is due for an upgrade). Does your assessment measure what your task is asking students to do? Alignment between the objective and its assessment is critical to student success. And speaking of assessment – let’s get creative. The real world doesn’t check knowledge in ten question quizzes – it does so through the application of learned concepts. Student engagement goes through the roof when assessments become authentic.

6. Use more than text.

Students score significantly higher with audio and/or visual cues embedded within the content, audio feedback on work turned in, visual feedback (i.e. screenshots) on submitted work or for further explanation, than text alone. Providing formative feedback in an audio format prior to a summatively graded activity is a highly effective method of improving student performance.

7. Know your audience.

Today’s students are mobile (as in phone). And as such, they are less apt to use email as their first or even second line of communication. They text, they chat, they Facebook. They are social. Give them an opportunity to form a community in your course like they would f2f in a class. Provide a “lounge” forum for non-course-related discussion. Incorporate other social media that is course-related like Diigo to have students collaboratively research and share notes across the web. Research consistently shows student perceive courses as more meaningful when authentic, problem-based, collaborative activities involving learner-learner interaction are the norm.

8. Be accessible

Design courses for accessibility from the beginning. It is easy to do it then. It is much more difficult to retrofit a course on the fly. Assistive technologies alone cannot remove all the barriers in a badly designed course site.

9. Provide opportunities for your students and yourself to reflect.

Reflection gives students the opportunity to explore course ideas deeply, make cross-curricular and real life connections, as well as express fears and concerns. It is one way asynchronous courses are able to connect learner to content and learner to instructor effectively. In addition, being a reflective practitioner gives you an opportunity to explore what is and is not working about the course, to generate new ideas while topics are fresh in your mind, and to note areas in which you need to do more research.

10. Eliminate tedium (yawn).

Being an online student is challenging enough. The least we can do is try to make the process more interesting than reading the IRS Tax Code.

*Inspired by The 10 Commandments of eLearning

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2010 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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Open PhD – Year One in Review

Learn at computer

CC-BY-SA Lumaxart

It shocked me to realize an entire year has passed since I embarked on this journey last September 22nd. I have learned a lot, often in unexpected ways and from unexpected sources. I decided a progress update was necessary for those following along.

First, a bit of a recap. On that fateful declarative day, I wrote this:

I am going to create my own Ph.D. program via open education using open courseware. My degree will be in Educational Technology with an emphasis in (what else?) Open Education as the Great Equalizer. As the tag line to my blog states: it will be all the learning, with none of the “doc”-uments. (Or none of the “cred”-entials). But I will have the knowledge; and, in the end, isn’t that the most important thing? (Oh, and I will still have my $45,000).

In the next few posts, I will lay out my 4 year plan – with help from the Twittersphere, blog readers, my advisors, and hopefully some subscribers. I plan on completing research and a dissertation as well – no shortcuts here. My first advisor – Dr. Kay Lehmann is a blogger, online instructor, book author, and course developer. I look forward to finding a few more Ph.D./Ed.D volunteers in my grand experiment.

Will this work? Can it be done? Can we make it rigorous enough to be equal to an actual online Ph.D program? Join me on this journey. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

I really had no idea how big the #opened movement was at that time. I learned very quickly. That first blog post went a bit viral, and one week later, I had more than 1,000 unique hits. Commentary to that first post has reached 50+ and I still get a new comment every now and then on it. Lesson #1 – this is a big idea!

Several posts later, I went on to define my plan, define exactly what was (and was not) an Open PhD, and layout the open courses I wished to pursue. Lesson #2 – finding graduate level open courses is not easy

You might be wondering where all my exploration has led me. I admit to feeling like I haven’t made a lot of progress through the courses I chose, but Year One became more of a research/intern year instead. And I am okay with that.

During my research to learn more about Open Education Resources, I have made some powerful connections in the Open Textbook movement. Judy Baker (@educ8ter) and Jacky Hood (both of Foothill-DeAnza College District) brought me into the Community College Consortium for Open Education Resources and College Open Textbooks. What a find! After attending several workshops (online and f2f), I volunteered to help the collaborative and soon found myself with a contract as a trainer and instructional designer for COT’s Moodle workshop.

About the same time, I noticed Cable Green (@cgreen) of the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges out of Washington State was spearheading an OER initiative to help lower the costs of textbooks and improve retention for community college students. As an adjunct online instructor in Washington and an Open PhD student, I wanted to be a part of this! Several months later I was (and still am) working as one of ten instructional designers to the Open Course Library project.

The Open Course Library project is about designing 81 high enrollment, important general education, and pre-college courses for face-to-face, hybrid and/or online delivery, to improve course completion rates, lower textbook costs for students, provide new resources for faculty to consider using in their courses, and for our college system to fully engage the global open educational resources discussion.

In addition, I’ve remixed the COT workshop to provide an open course workshop on open textbooks for Washington State community college faculty. That workshop will debut soon. (Ironically, for expediency it will be housed behind the state’s “closed” Angel LMS system …for now). A version of this same workshop is being held on P2PU and led by COT’s associate director, Una Daly (Adopting Open Textbooks).

Speaking of P2PU, it is one of the many open learning initiatives I have become acquainted with this year. Stian Haklev (@houshuang) has contributed many good ideas to this project and I look forward to having time to give back at P2PU – perhaps inaugurating a DIY department :-). I’ve also exchanged dialogue with other “Open” students – each figuring out this idea in their own way. Parag Shah in Computer Science, Leigh Blackall, Jason, Dan Pontefract, and the DIY Grad School among others. Lesson #3 – Open PhD’s require getting “connected”.

And “connected” I have become – from Curt Bonk, Stephen Downes, and George Siemens to Clark Quinn, Marcia Conner, Jane Bozarth, Jim Groom, Dean Shareski, and so many others. Between Twitter, LinkedIn, and resources like eLearnMag, Learning Solutions, and many blogs, I am connected to the thought leaders in not only open education, but educational technology as well. Social media is the lifeblood of the DIY student – providing that necessary component of discussion and debate.

With those connections has come the opportunity to write. My co-author and colleague, Dr. Kay Lehmann, and I have published this article about Twitter in higher education, and a chapter about Twitter in higher education for a peer reviewed book Educating Educators with Social Media (in press – due Jan 2011). I even had the thrill of having this Open Phd project mentioned in Anya Kamenetz’s (@anya1anya) book DIY U:Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. (More a study of the funding of education, there is a nice section of resources in the back).

Where do I go from here?

Solving the puzzle of recognition for the work put into an “open” degree is a vital part of my journey. I get questions regularly from readers with similar ideas – all wanting to know if their efforts will be recognized by the employing world. The real answer is – I don’t know. In the ed tech field, knowledge has currency, but in other fields, sheepskin carries the required validity. Other “open” arenas are wrestling with the same idea – and certificates of competency are emerging from some (like Pippa Buchanan’s School of Webcraft). I will blog more about this later and hopefully we can crowdsource some good ideas to move forward with.

I also want to focus my energies towards completing more of my “course load”. Specifically, project management and applied multimedia technology are the areas in which I need more depth. If you’re interested in learning about these two areas also, drop me a comment – we can form a virtual study group.

And, frankly, I need to update my blog more often…it keeps me moving forward.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions, and feedback! You are all part of my Open PhD journey.

Lisa

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Year One, Year Two

 

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Dear Professor, Are You ‘Google-able’?

I have three college-aged children (and thank you to those of you who immediately thought she doesn’t look old enough to have three college-aged children). None of them use or own phone books. In fact, none of them have a traditional Ma Bell kind of telephone. They have a cell phone and a laptop…period.If my kids can’t locate you or your business on the web, you don’t exist to them.Period. (If you are a pizza store and lack a website, you are missing a tremendous amount of business from my two boys, by the way). Recent Pew Research results suggest that 93% of all Americans under the age of 30 are cell phone users. Pretty sure most of them have laptops, too.

My kids are not atypical. In fact, they are the norm – and becoming even more normal as the connected generation expands. According to the CTIA end-of-year survey for 2009, a staggering 285,646,191 million Americans have a cell phone connection. This is up 15 million from the same time 2008. And the Pew American Life research reports that young teens are the largest growing demographic of cell phone ownership. But it’s not just about cell phones – it’s about smart phones, wifi-enabled laptops, and even wifi-enabled gaming devices. Students are online all the time. Like it or not.

What does all this have to do with higher education faculty? Well, aside from the Ed Tech departments, very few faculty (adjunct and tenured) make the effort to cull together a web presence searchable by their students.

So what, you say, peering over your use for word-processing-only desktop computer next to your rotary phone? Don’t professors have enough to do between research, writing, teaching, and all those administrative committees? Perhaps, but ultimately, faculty have the responsibility to be available to their students. I believe they also have a responsibility to be transparent – professionally speaking. Future students should be able to check them out, look into current course offerings, current/past writings, current/past research, and how available the instructor made him or herself to student questions and concerns.

In the past, students could use print faculty directories to find office phone numbers and locations – but let’s be realistic. Students don’t use these booklets, faculty in their cubicles do. Students “Google”. Having a faculty directory on the school’s website is a step in the right direction – but often these data bases are not searchable by Internet search engines, and, even if they are, the results are often not much more than a name and phone number with an occasional email address. This is not the kind of background surfing future students want.

This is also not what you as a professor should want because when you lack a web presence, the next stop for most students is sites like RateMyProfessor.com. RateMyProfessor is crowd-sourced ratings and comments about professors from virtually every institution of higher education in the country. It is not normed, and all your students from a particular section are not surveyed. Essentially, it boils down to those students with enough motivation (the gamut from Loved the class! to He sucked!) to go to the website, locate the professor’s name, and add the rating and comment. Average performances do not seem to create this kind of motivation – so often professors can have A ratings alongside F’s. Not very helpful to students looking to know what a particular professor is all about, and certainly not helpful to a professor’s reputation with a myriad of mixed messages.

Higher education faculty need to consciously create a professional web presence. Below are some tips to help make your Google quotient rise:

  1. Create a landing page – and keep it updated! A landing page is a single web page that includes a short bio, contact information (email and office phone and address no home addresses), and a professional looking head shot. You will want the rights to the head shot so you can use it with all your professional web activities. For adjuncts, I suggest creating your landing page on a personal site like GoogleSites or on the space provided by your home ISP – that way you won’t have to backtrack and change your landing page URL on all the websites to which it is linked. Here is my UW-Stout landing page.
  2. Link, link, link. Use the URL landing page link as your link on all professional websites which ask for your own homepage address.
  3. Visual Identity. Use the same headshot. As your image becomes identifiable with your web identity, it will help students instantly know that out of all the search results, you are the Lisa Chamberlin  that works on Open Education issues and not Lisa Chamberlin  that is a Nashville recording artist (Yep, that’s who I compete with for the top 10 Google search results for my name – ouch!).
  4. Multiple Accounts/Similar handles. I teach for a variety of institutions and do contract work for others. As I choose email addresses, Twitter names, etc., I try to always use something similar to chamberlinonline@whatever.edu or a derivative of it. Overtime, students and colleagues begin to expect the “chamberlinonline” portion and makes it easier for them to find me.
  5. Network. Whether you choose to use a resume/contact linking site like LinkedIn.com or build a network of digital colleagues via another tool like Twitter, do build your digital personal learning network and follow the “web presence” standards above when registering for these sites.
  6. Add an RSS Feed (Thanks, Stian, for #’s 6 and 7). Allow interested students, colleagues, and the like to stay up-to-date with your current publications.
  7. Provide links to your research from your landing page. Even better, provide Open Access to your published research when you do provide the links.
  8. Poll your current students. This is one of the most powerful and eye-opening steps of building a web presence. Ask your current students if they Googled you. Ask what they were wanting to find out. Ask what they did find out. Strive to make their search goals and your web presence goals align as closely as is comfortable.

To the students of the connected generation, professors who deny access to technology within their courses or deny being accessed by technology within their profession, are a dying breed. They are seeing these professors as less and less relevant and out of touch with modern society. Like it or not, technology is the next evolution in education – professors must evolve or become extinct.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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