From Student Work to Exemplary Educational Resources

James Levin, Nicholas Burbules & Bertram Bruce write in E-Learning, 2(1):

Abstract Within the existing system of education, student work rarely has any value beyond the particular course that it is created for. The work is graded and then usually discarded. The authors describe in this article a way that student work can be systematically made available for use by others beyond the immediate learning context within which it is created. They provide a case study in which this mechanism worked. They describe the benefits and costs of doing this, along with the broader implications this systematic publication of exemplary student work might have for the changing relationship between learning and doing, between education and the rest of society. This publication mechanism, called OPEER (open publishing of exemplary educational resources), can enable education to have an additional major positive impact on the rest of society, creating and maintaining quality assured resources at a minimal additional cost.

I have taken a few steps along this path in courses where students have produced materials for teachers or written papers that have later been published. I’ve thought about pushing it further and this paper may renew my enthusiasm for treating education as a genuinely productive activity.

Via OLDaily

Invisibility of knowledge work

Jim McGee writes at Enterprise Systems about The Invisibility of Knowledge Work:

For all the productivity gains that accrue to the digitization of knowledge work, one unintended consequence has been to make the execution of knowledge work essentially invisible, making it harder to manage and improve such work. Attacking that invisibility opens an important path to making knowledge work manageable and improvable.

Knowledge work is better understood as craft work; its products are valuable because they are creative and original. Delivering identical consulting reports to different clients is grounds for a lawsuit, not an example of good knowledge management practice.

In moving to e-mail, word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation tools, maintaining (preserving?) visibility of your knowledge work (at both the individual and workgroup level) requires conscious effort. An office full of papers and books provided clues about the knowledge work process; a laptop offers few such clues. A directory listing is pretty thin in terms of useful knowledge sharing content. In an analog process, it’s easy to discern the history and flow of work. When an executive takes a set of paper slides and rearranges them on a conference room floor, a hidden and compelling story line may be revealed. You can see, and learn from, this fresh point of experience. That’s lost when the same process occurs at a laptop keyboard at 35,000 feet. The gain in personal productivity occurs at the expense of organizational learning.

There are some lessons here for the way we work as academics. So little of what we do is visible that we can sometimes find it difficult to follow our own trails let alone those of others.

(Via elearnspace.)

Standards for online content authors

Rachel McAlpine in New Zealand provides some Standards for online content authors:

The standards on this page include non-technical standards relevant to all web authors and technical standards relevant to some web authors.

I suggest you pick and choose from the long list, adapting it to your needs.

The trend is towards using content management systems, which give web content authors more control and more responsibility. That’s why I made the list pretty inclusive.

The material here is arranged in a series of check lists and looks like it will be genuinely helpful to those putting material, including courses, onto the web.

(Via elearningpost.)

SITE 2005

This post is something of a departure from my usual quick notes about other sites. It’s a very minor revision of my mandated report to the Faculty on conference travel.

I spent the week from 26 Feb to 7 Mar traveling and attending SITE 2005 – the 16th Annual Meeting of the Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education in Phoenix, Arizona. This was the 8th SITE conference that I have attended. Annual attendance has afforded me the opportunity to develop strong networks with leaders in the field of ICT in teacher education and to play an active role in the affairs of the society. The majority of attendees at SITE are from the USA, with smaller but significant contingents from other parts of the world, especially the UK. Attendance had grown from around 600 in 1998 to around 1500 in 2004. The slightly smaller number, around 1200, in 2005 reflects the end of the PT3 funding program in the USA.

Many of the same issues surrounding the uptake and impact of ICT in education, especially teacher education, have persisted over the years. At the same time online and distance education issues have assumed a higher profile and, over the past couple of years, there have been significant numbers of papers around ePortfolios. A new area drawing strong interest this year was the role of games and simulations in education.

The SITE Proceedings will be available in the AACE Digital Library which is easily searchable at

What follows represents some of my thoughts on highlights from sessions I attended.

The keynotes this year were consistently thought provoking. The first day keynote from Yong Zhao of University of Michigan presented some of his work on an ecological approach to studying ICT in education. I had read some of the published material but it was stimulating to hear a first hand account of the research approach which treats ICT and its particular uses as new species attempting to establish in the existing ecology of the school. The parallels are convincing and the approach encourages researchers and implementers of ICT to take a more holistic view rather than focus on isolated implementations of technology.

The second day keynote was given by Ian Gibson, from Wichita State (formerly from USQ), the incoming President of SITE. Ian’s presentation included live connections to contributors from around the USA and from the UK. His challenge to the audience was to look beyond the technology to the effects that it could have. His examples included the work of the Global Nomads Group which is working with youth around the world to establish links that promote greater levels of understanding.

The third day keynote was given by Eduardo Chaves, a philosopher from Campinas University in Sao Paolo, Brazil. He spoke about the preconditions for ICT integration in education, arguing that true integration requires a change in how we conceive education and that it may be easier to achieve the shift in thinking in countries where the current education system is less effective and people are therefore more open to radical change. He presented a view of education as more about learning than teaching and of learning as integral to life. ICT is disintermediating, makes information more readily available to all and removes the need for memorising facts, allowing the focus to shift to solving real problems of the learner.

The final keynote was presented by a panel comprising Glen Bull, Peggy Roblyer, Ann Thomson and Lynne Schrum who, as editors of the key journals in the field, spoke about the need to develop a research agenda that would focus more closely on the impact of ICT on learning. This is an urgent need in the USA where the NCLB program is requiring “scientific research” to justify funding but it is equally applicable in other parts of the world. They outlined a project that, through a series of sessions at various conferences and through editorials in the journals, will work to develop a research agenda.

I attended several presentations related to ePortfolios in teacher education. The most significant was a symposium led by Helen Barrett who has been an active figure in ePortfolios for several years. Helen outlined some background about the nature and purposes of portfolios. Neal Strudler (UNLV) and Keith Wetzel (ASU) spoke about the preliminary results of their joint sabbatical project in which they have been researching ePortfolios in 6 US universities that have “mature” implementations of ePortfolios across entire programs. The initial evidence suggests that there is a wide variation in how ePortfolios are envisaged and implemented. They hope to develop guidelines for institutions seeking to introduce ePortfolios and to provide a useful basis for cost benefit analysis of ePortfolios. There appears to be clear evidence that successful implementations require significant resources and methods that ensure broad faculty support and seem to work best when the program includes an ICT course to develop skills that are reinforced in later courses as students work with the portfolio. Joanne Carney (WWU) described a research project related to ePortfolios and outlined some factors that needed to be considered. I attended a later presentation by Neal & Keith in which they presented the results from a survey of US universities which they conducted as part of their search for ePortfolio cases. There were few teacher preparation schools that had “mature” ePortfolio programs despite the expenditure of considerable time and funding on development.

I attended a symposium on games and simulations in education. The session was very well attended and covered some aspects of learning from games and degree programs being mounted to prepare games developers. There is strong interest in the potential of games to reach learners of all ages. Other departments at USQ have researchers (notably Penny Baillie-de Byl of Math & Computing) working in games development and it might be productive to engage in discussions about how we might work with them on the development and evaluation of games in education.

Following Ian’s use of simple video conferencing in his Keynote, I attended a session which reported on the use of video conferencing (iSight/iChatAV with Mac laptops and/or Marratech conferencing rooms) for remote supervision of professional experience. Students had opportunity to invite university supervisors and/or peers to observe classes that were beamed directly from the classrooms. The project was conducted in Wyoming where the population is relatively sparse and students are often a considerable distance from base for their experience. The use of video conferencing was perceived by students and cooperating teachers as less intrusive than a supervisor visit and, in some cases, saved supervisors several hours of travel in each direction. There may be value for USQ in trialing such a system.

An invited session by Judi Harris (College of William & Mary and known for her virtual architecture work on patterns of telelearning) was an unanticipated highlight. Judi led a conversation about what is meant by ICT integration and how we might better approach it in schools. The thrust of her argument was that the overlay of constructivist pedagogical assumptions that is common to most people promoting ICT might be blinding us to alternative applications that would be initially more acceptable in some contexts. She challenged us to consider meeting teachers where they are and helping them to use technologies that fit their pedagogy as a first step.

I was involved in four presentations, two with Petrea (Jerry Maroulis is third author on one), one written with Margaret Lloyd of QUT and the fourth as sole author. The first presentation with Petrea presented some results from the IRGS funded project we undertook with Jerry & Louise to look at final year students’ intentions for ICT integration during professional experience, the actual experience and the facilitating and inhibiting factors. We had a constructive conversation with Keith Wetzel (ASU) who thought that the evidence suggested our students may be attempting more with ICT than they might expect from equivalent students. One of the goals of our IRGS study was to establish baseline data against which we can compare results for the new program in coming years.

The second paper with Petrea presented results from the survey of staff that we conducted in 2004 to look at integration of ICT within the BEd courses and staff perceptions of their personal capability with ICT and priorities for development. The response from the audience confirmed that the relatively low levels of self-reported capability with applications beyond WP, PPT, email and Internet searching were typical of many teacher education faculties. there was some useful discussion of approaches to developing capability.

My paper with Marg Lloyd used activity theory as a framework for comparing data from previous studies Marg had completed with QUT colleagues with a view to finding common explanations for low levels of ICT adoption by some teachers. Our conclusion was that the teachers in the study were, in activity theory terms, confusing the tool with the object. There was some useful discussion of similar observations elsewhere and approaches to working with teachers who appeared to be reluctant to adopt ICT.

The fourth paper I presented discussed the potential for development of an online community to support doctoral students in our program at USQ. Again there were examples of similar challenges being faced elsewhere and some useful comments about approaches that appeared to have borne some benefits.

In addition to attending 35 to 40 presentations I also attended several committee meetings and met with the editor of the journal, JTATE, for which I review. Since 2002 I have been SITE Vice president of the committee for Graduate Education and Faculty Development. I chaired that meeting again this year and attended others dealing with the conference and distance education. The committee I chaired sits with several others within the SITE Information Technology/Generalist Council. Ian Gibson has chaired the council since 2002 but vacated that position on taking up the Presidency of SITE. I was elected unopposed as chair of the council which is the second tier leadership structure of SITE.

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

George Siemens writing in the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning concludes:

A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.
Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.

The article sketches an outline of an alternative to behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism as theories of learning. Much more work would be needed to expand these ideas to provide a complete theory of learning but this is a useful start. There are interesting parallels between the idea of “connectivism” and recent thinking about aggregation of various services as an alternative to the LMS.

(Via OLDaily.)

Blogs in Higher Ed: Personal Voice as Part of Learning

By Ruth Reynard in eLearning Dialogue:

The use of Internet technology to facilitate interaction, communication, and collaboration is well documented but its use in establishing and developing ‘personal voice’ as part of learning is also now being addressed through the use of blogs. Finding personal voice as a pedagogical method is important to establish learner identity and focus, and journaling has long been recognized as an effective way to provide space for this to occur. The blog, however, provides a context in which personal voice can be ‘published’ by the student, which means that attention is given to content, relevancy, and connection with learning outcomes to a higher degree than a traditional journal submission. The idea that more than one person will view the work is quite powerful in promoting a sense of ownership from the student. Teachers can also benefit from ‘hearing’ the personal voice of their students to begin to really understand the learning path of each student through a course.

This is a useful input to thinking about the potential for educational use of blogs.

(Via EduBlog Insights.)

Why do teachers get to learn the most?

From Athabasca via e-JIST

A common report from anecdotal writing over many generations of educators is that it is the teacher who usually learns the most during the process of gathering content materials, designing, teaching and evaluating student performance. In this project we address this issue by developing an innovative instructional design in which collaborative groups of students working at distance create, share and assess learning content (in the form of learning objects) with their peers through online learning portals. The results of this process are assessed via surveys, discussions, reflective essays and peer evaluations. We conclude that instructional models based upon student construction of content and orchestration of learning activities can reduce instructor workload, provide opportunity for students to acquire new skills while increasing their subject content knowledge, and create a lasting legacy of re-usable learning objects.

ePortfolio challenge

From Auricle

Ok, let’s say we’re keen to see our students value and use e-portfolios. Or, let’s say we’ve developed an educational programme that ‘requires’ them to use e-portfolios.
Are you prepared to practice what you preach? Will you keep your own e-portfolio and allow, say, your mentor, manager, supervisor, or peers, to view and make judgements on the quality of your entries? Better still, let’s build it into your annual appraisal!
Still comfortable?

An interesting piece that concludes with a provocative challenge

Media literacy

Via Mathemagenic
Media literacy: from reading to writing and beyond
Richard MacManus:

I’m currently reading Lawrence Lessig’s new book, Free Culture, which is available as a free download under a Creative Commons license. I’m only up to pg 64, but already I’ve discovered some great new ideas. One of them is “media literacy”. This is the best definition I’ve found so far of media literacy:
“The ability to read, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of media forms (television, print, radio, computers, etc.).”