Friday, June 18, 2010

Where is the Media?

Today, our class spoke via video conference to Julie Lindsay from the Flat Classroom Project. I feel that I've begun to use the word "inspirational" too much in my class blogs, but once again, I found myself moved by what I heard. In addition to hearing Julie talk about her experiences with the program, we viewed video created by students from around the world who shared stories in their own words of what their lives are like. We also saw examples of how students across the globe were working together, learning more about each other and perhaps developing friendships and respect for their differences.

Like many projects, Julie shared that the program started small, a conversation between the students of two colleagues who had the same view of the world. It has since grown into something that should be celebrated. As I listened in awe to what is taking place, I wondered why this program is relatively unknown outside of the educational community. Where is the media coverage of something this transformational and important to the world? The story needs to be told.

Image from Microsoft Office clipart collection

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Virtual Worlds - Exciting or Lonely Places?

Yesterday, our class visited Second Life and I'm still struggling to resolve what I think about it. The technology behind it is certainly remarkable and the locations built by others are imaginative and enjoyable to navigate. In addition to entertainment, there are sites that are very educational. I enjoyed my travels there with my avatar and found myself lost in the experience, not even hearing the conversation going on around me. Yet, while I can't explain why, the experience also seemed lonely and empty. While fascinated, I wasn't quite comfortable being there.

I plan to visit again to explore and try to resolve these thoughts. I also plan to think through practical applications of Second Life in higher education, academic as well as business (i.e., admission process). What has been your experience with exploring virtual worlds? Can you offer me your insight?

Photo from Personal Library

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Improving the Quality of Life through Technology

This morning, our cohort visited with the President of Virtual Interactive Families to learn more about their web-based interactive system that brings families together. As their web site reads:

“We are Virtual Interactive Families dedicated to improving quality of life and strengthening the family unit…even in our days of a mobile society. Distance is not a problem. You can still read the bedtime story, join the birthday party, collaborate with a colleague, or deliver training from a distance. Our service allows families and loved ones to stay connected through their own Internet-based page, created for you at the time of membership purchase. It allows you to connect with others from a distance in real time audio and video. Only one party needs the membership---you invite others to be your guests. Our specialty is providing senior care and housing organizations with connections so your residents do not feel isolated…..”

I found the mission and goals of the company inspirational. It is not often that you hear about bringing technology to the elderly to improve their quality of life! Very admirable.

The video conferencing system was well thought out from a technical standpoint. It can be accessed from a browser with no need for additional software or plug-ins. The system uses standard IP ports, making it compatible with most firewall configurations. The encryption feature also allows the system to be used in business or medical settings where security and confidentiality are required. The quality of video was quite sharp, with the user interface easy to navigate.

Thanks to Virtual Interactive Families for a thought provoking and inspirational visit!

Image obtained from the Microsoft Clip Art Gallery

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Web 2.0 - Questions and a Plan .....

Today's on-site EIT class was terrific. The information being presented continues to be exciting and it was great fun to officially meet my fellow students, whom in many ways I was already getting to know through their posts and online dialogue. One of the highlights of the day was listening to CoolCatTeacher. Her mastery of web 2.0, her communication style and her obvious talent as an educator was impressive and inspiring.

As the day progressed and the class worked through tools and strategies, I couldn't help but think of potential implementations for the organizations that I am affiliated with. After years of experience delivering on-site technologies, web 2.0 and cloud computing adds a completely new dimension for me to consider. As always, new possibilities come with new questions and challenges to work through. Some of the questions currently racing through my mind include: What are appropriate and acceptable uses in a business environment? What are the criteria for determining what qualifies for cloud computing and what doesn't? What are the legal implications of storing data off-site and do service provides offer the protection necessary for compliance?

Being the (uncontrollable?) planner that I am, here is the beginning of my high-level strategy to answer these questions and to start the implementation process.....

  1. Create a Personal Learning Network (PLN) to begin researching, discovering and reaching out to learn how others are implementing these technologies in the same environment.
  2. Gain experience with web 2.0 learning communities by working with colleagues to build an IT focused learning community.
  3. With the knowledge gained, establish best practices, including appropriate uses and boundaries, for web 2.0 implementation in a business environment.
  4. Using the established best practices, identify and implement web 2.0 solutions for each of the organizations supported. Examples may include RSS feed for employment opportunities, learning communities for staff development, social bookmarking for athletics staff, etc.

Are there other strategies and/or tasks that should be included in this plan? What other questions need to be addressed prior to implementation? I've many questions to answer and am anxious to begin!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Pace of Change: Are we institutionally prepared?

To my fellow bloggers:

I would like to open by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts and have learned so much from them! I really appreciate your unique experiences and expertise, and have also found myself admiring and enjoying your writing skills, as well as your sense of humor and style.

As I read your posts, I can relate to the general feeling that technology and new ways of learning are moving faster than we may sometimes be institutionally prepared for. In different ways, we all have stated that there are many questions to answer and clear goals/directions to set before deliberate change can occur. (Change is occurring all of the time, but it is not always deliberate.) :-)

As the Chapters 3 and 4 of the Web 2.0 new tools, new schools textbook reveals, there are many tools already available to support a learning communities approach and the offerings continue to grow at a fast pace. Lack of tools doesn’t seem to be at issue. Educational professionals have been sharing that the challenges establishing this new learning environment seem to center on (1) finding the time to stay current, (2) the lack of an adequate support structure and (3) legal/ethical issues.

As we all know, the pace that technology changes is fast and can be difficult to keep up with. As “Tentative Technologies” recently posted, it sometimes seems that by the time we know that an issue or technology requires structure, the “horse is already out of the barn.” The technology is already in use and we are late getting there. Add this to already growing workloads and it is difficult to find the time…yet it is critical that we do!

All agree that training is critical to success. As "Dangerously Irrelevant" and "Camilla's Ponder" both post, learning technology sometimes falls to the educator as staff training and development opportunities are not always readily available. Additionally, IT staffing and support seems to also be in question as roles and responsibilities are being redefined and the qualities necessary are explored, as discussed in "Chelsey's Chatter" post regarding Technology Administrators. As "Dangerously Irrelevant" posts, “Education needs geeks, but we need a special kind of geek who is one of us" guiding change.

Finally, while some concrete laws are in existence and have been clearly interpreted for us (i.e., FERPA), legal and ethical questions still abound. As “BlamSpot” recently pointed out, social responsibilities and etiquette need to be clarified. Proper use of social networks, mobile devices and other new technologies in an educational setting needs to be defined.

While these are challenges that we all encounter and are discussing, it is readily apparent that there are many, many individuals enthusiastic about the possibilities. Excitement is contagious and the anticipation of learning about new technologies and being a part of the coming change that will make a real difference to people has been expressed in so many ways. As our "Disrupting Class" textbook indicates “education keeps reinventing itself as the population changes what it wants from education”. It is exciting to be part of an industry that is continually looking for ways to improve.

In closing, as I think about my current position, an individual whose role is to provide the environment necessary to facilitate business and learning processes, I often wonder what concrete things I can be doing to help meet the challenges and provide a robust learning environment. As educational professionals, what specific things are you looking for from your IT support staff that will help facilitate the building and support of this new learning environment?

Image obtained via Creative Commons. Calgary, Alberta. Copyright 2010 D. Darwent. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Virtual Courses Challenge Beliefs about What a University Is...

During last night's VoiceThread discussion on the video Learning to Change, Changing to Learn, a classmate shared that it was difficult to implement web 2.0 technologies in K-12 settings and mentioned the fact that higher education also hasn't changed as quickly one would expect. That observation was underscored for me this morning when the printed version of The Cronicle of Higher Education was delivered to my desk.

The lead story of the issue:
"U. of California Considers Online Classes, or Even Degrees
Proposal for virtual courses challenges beliefs about what an elite university is—and isn't"

The article details the ambitious and controversial efforts underway to pilot a project that will offer select undergraduate courses online. University faculty and staff are engaged in serious debate and discussion as to the effectivenes of this style of education and what it means for the identity of the University. Some fear that the effort may fail due to bureaucracy and the belief that the "status quo" is working and shouldn't change.

I have to wonder if the best approach for higher education is to offer variety, selecting the style that best fits the need. Not simply choosing one method over another, but a deliberate selection of an appropriate approach based on subject matter and requirements.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this program! Can a university successfully change when that change is delivered in small a pilot approach a good way for an institution to "get its feet wet"? Will the project ultimately succeed? Will the identity of the University change? What will be the direct impact on faculty and students? What will the impact be on the budget?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Audio Adventures with VoiceThread

I just completed my first session in VoiceThread and had a blast with it! What an awesome tool for sharing media and facilitating conversation in a fun, organized way. Not only can ideas be easily shared in the manner of your choice (audio, video, text, phone), but they are preserved for later review in a secured environment.

I plan to review its use at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill to learn how it has been used in higher education.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Using New Tools

Having been in the field of information technology for a few years now, one thing I've learned is that there is always something new to learn! While I've been a part of the Instructional Technology Masters program for only a short time, I've already been exposed to new tools that I am using in the development of training for UNI staff. One such tool is Jing from TechSmith, which I am currently using to develop online training for the use of Identity Finder. It's always fun to learn new tools while working on a project that will be put into production.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Collaborative Discussion Tool Comparison


Last week, our class met online and utilized Blackboard's chat/discussion tool to converse. Having previously used chat tools, I was very comfortable using this technology. The pace is fast and many simultaneous conversations take place. The ability to track numerous conversations is essential to avoid missing something shared. Due to the fact that individuals are speaking (typing) at the same time, typical conversational etiquette doesn't seem to exist and participants must rely on emoticons to express intent. I enjoy the fast pace and appreciate the fact that entire conversations can be saved to a local file for later review.

In my current position, this technology is used to speak with other staff about specific issues or to ask questions that can be quickly answered. It has replaced email and the telephone for those quick questions and conversations that often take place. It is not used for longer, more in-depth conversation.

Video Conferencing:

This week, the class met online using Adobe Connect. Students used web cameras and microphones to communicate. Video conferencing provides more of a face-to-face conversation experience than chat. It is easier to understand intent and meaning when facial expression can be seen and tone of voice can be heard. As compared to chat, the pace of the discussion was slower as individuals waited their turn to speak. While I enjoy chat, I found video conferencing to be a much better option for deep discussion as I tended to process more fully what was being said.

In my current position, this technology is used to conduct meetings and training sessions between individuals and groups at remote locations. It has even been used to bring keynote speakers to the University. Typically, the screen sharing (including PowerPoint) feature is used for visual and a speaker telephone is used for voice. This combination avoids the latency issues that were experienced during class, possibly due to varying Internet connection speeds.


The chat and video conferencing tools are both effective means of communication and learning when used in the appropriate setting.

The Learning Begins!

Hello, this is my inaugural blog posting! I am a new member of the Educational Technology Masters Program and am using this medium to record and examine my learning/growth process. Before beginning, I'd like to thank Dr. Leigh Zeitz for the name of my blog! He made the suggestion and I enthusiastically adopted it.

A little about my background... To date, my technical experience consists of supporting university business functions and operations, as well as systems and network administration. I have joined this masters program to develop the skills necessary to integrate technology into academics and learning. I am particularly interested in distance education.

At the onset of the program, students studied the definition of Educational Technology and participated in activities to identify individual learning styles. Students have also been exploring emerging technologies that can be used in support of learning communities. Blogging and social networking are new experiences for me. I understand the important role these tools play in the learning process and am anxious to begin using them on a regular basis. As I progress through the program, I am also anxious to look back at these early days to reflect on what I've learned and the changes that I've made.

Until next time...