Archive for the ‘Collaborative Tech’ Category

Virtual Worlds for Teaching – Wrong Question

November 9, 2007

OK, now I understand my objection to what people are thinking about Second Life and education. Look at this call for articles (below) for a special issue of Innovate. Its the same beef I have with Michael Wesch when he asks “What are we DOING to change how we are teaching” in light of digital tools and web 2.0?

How many times does the call say “content,” “delivery,” or “teaching” vs. the times it focuses on “learners” and “learning?” When it does wonder about how learning is assessed, do you get the sense it even considered a learning-centric means like a portfolio? Why does it refer to “student work” and “protection” rather than “student intellectual property” and its licensing?

The other day Gary pointed me to Barr and Tagg’s piece on the prevailing “Instruction” paradigm vs. the “Learning” paradigm.

Gary, Theron and I wrote an op-ed for the local paper when they got all excited about virtual worlds. And for EDUCAUSE 2007 Microsoft commissioned a piece (Out of the Classroom and Into the Boardroom) from a team that included Gary and me. We looked at the future moving beyond the current teaching-centric LMS — punchline: Dump Blackboard in favor of worldware and web-based collaborative tools (Google Docs, SharePoint, Blogger).

I think maybe its time for me take the challenge to write a piece proposing a learning-focused use of Second Life — or more likely, setting out the features that are necessary and sufficient in a virtual world for learning-centric activities to happen.

I think there would be two sections:

  • What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for (sustained, if not lifelong) learning centric activities to proceed
  • What are the virtues that virtual worlds offer to learners and learning that are not met in the “regular” virtual world of Web 2.0?

The Innovate call for papers:

Innovate, published as a public service by the Fischler School of Education
and Human Services and sponsored, in part, by Microsoft is soliciting
manuscripts for a special issue on academics in virtual environments. This
issue focuses on the use of Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) as an
enhancement to K-21 education. A MUVE combines graphics and audio with the
ability to communicate with multiple users in real time within the context
of a 3-D virtual environment. MUVEs are not necessarily considered games,
as programs like Second Life and There have no end goal or objective.

Harvard’s CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion course opened the
doors for other academics to use virtual environments to enhance teaching
and learning. In the past two years, over 300 colleges and universities
have claimed virtual land in an attempt to enhance content delivery. This
virtual land and its future development occurs only a computer network.
While critics and skeptics exist, many educators are looking to take the
plunge and discover the potential of virtual-based teaching.

Submissions for this special issue may address, but are not limited to,
these key issues:

1. Does teaching in virtual environments enhance course content? If so,
how? If not, why not?

2. How is learning assessed within virtual environments? Are these
assessments comparable to existing forms of assessment?

3. What are the ethical considerations of creating virtual content? What
are the practical concerns? If a university funds virtual projects, who
owns the content? Who should own the content? How are students protected?
How is student work protected?

4. Are there best practices for teaching or research in virtual worlds?
What are some strategies for beginners?

5. What are the challenges of teaching in virtual space? How are these
challenges addressed?

6. How are virtual projects funded? What avenues for support exist?

7. What pedagogical approaches are central to the delivery of materials
within virtual worlds?


THEIR VIEW: A place for new, old technologies to coexist

November 9, 2007

Reprinted from an op-ed piece published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

By Gary Brown, Nils Peterson and Theron Desrosier

Monday, September 17, 2007 – Page Updated at 12:00:00 AM

It is great news that Craig Staszkow can say with confidence that there are now “traditional online offerings.” (Daily News, Aug. 27).

In less progressive quarters much concern persists about the quality of this new “tradition.” Still, we’re not so sure about his characterizations of those online courses when he describes them as “stuffed into one dimension and driven by chat rooms, threaded conversation and question-and answer sessions with an unseen teacher assistant.”

Even as we come to understand there is a new tradition, it is still fair to say that the range of designs in those “traditional online courses” varies dramatically. In fact, many thoughtfully organized and well-facilitated courses are very rich and multidimensional. Examples of this success exist in Washington State University’s Center for Distance and Professional Education courses in operations management, where students have solved real business problems saving people’s real jobs as well as saving companies millions of real dollars. And there are great examples, for instance, from WSU’s Human Development Department where, in one course, students conceptualized and wrote new state laws to empower very real citizens.

We’re also excited as are Staszkow and Dave Cillay, the director of instructional development for WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education, about the potential of virtual worlds. The reality of the virtual is amazing. Research continues to confirm the viability of virtual reality, culminating in a recent study published in the journal Science. The findings challenge the “axiom that everything you are is anchored in your body,” says Vilayanur Ramachandran, the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego. He adds, “What you regard as you is really a transient construct created by the brain from multiple sensory sources.”

Information processing research has been pointing to this phenomenon for some time, finding again and again that our perceptions of simulations conjure up the same physiological responses – heart rate, skin conductivity, brain waves – as do “real experiences.”

So the question gains urgency, why use new technologies to create pseudonymous avatars and virtual worlds when the real world is rich with challenges?

There are good answers, of course, and Staszkow mentions virtual travel to Minnesota to inspect the bridge and build new virtual bridges as one example. Great, but why stop there? How do we decide when to use virtual technologies to create new virtual worlds versus using virtual technologies to augment the world where we sit and ponder this question? Rather than make believe, why not use technologies that allow us to inspect the pictures and microscopic details of the collapsed bridge site and engage the reports and even the engineers who really have inspected the site? For examples of this use of the Internet to engage professionals, check out Brett Atwood’s WSU School of Communication’s students’ blogs and you will “see” where real professionals engaged WSU students and enriched their discussions about a real and complex copyright case.

Recently in the news, George Hotz hacked the Apple iPhone, unlocking it from the restriction that it only be used on the AT&T cellular service. While not condoning hacking, we note his blog provides a view into his collaborative learning process. Hotz understood the power of the real-world Internet, and elected to work the problem in public where he solicited and got feedback critical to his success. He collaborated with people from around the globe as each worked on different aspects of the problem.

John Gardner, the new WSU vice president for extension and economic development, also is blogging. He is exploring this global competency and establishing a vehicle to support his professional learning, inviting feedback on his ideas and directions for WSU. His blog is beginning to gather comments from a global community, a vast, multidimensional resource available to him now. Even as we wait for similar sorts of communities to gather in Second Life, they are flourishing in ways that augment the “traditional” Internet that is shaping and reshaping where we live, work, and learn.

New technologies don’t supplant old ones – note the pad and pencil by your phone. The trick is bringing them together in proper measure.

Gary Brown is director of WSU’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology. Nils Peterson is the center’s assistant director, and Theron Desrosier is a design consultant for the center.

A brief history of SharePoint at WSU

November 7, 2007

FacOps started it. They needed a document management solution that could serve as an integration platform for the wide range of data sources that they use to manage WSU facilities. They were running the 2003 version, and evangelizing it in various ways. FacOps, ITS and several Colleges that had started exploring SharePoint hosted the “SharePoint Summit” in the summer of 2004. ITS’s contribution to the show was a demonstration of how SharePoint could be used to re-implement the functions currently served by Oracle in myWSU. What I saw in that demonstration had some big implications for CTLT.

1) The myWSU demo had a link to a SharePoint site for a class and I realized that if SharePpint could be used for a class site, that potential would be discovered by some of the Colleges beginning to host it. I argued that the potential existed for Colleges to begin using SharePoint for classes and CTLT needed to be prepared to consult with faculty and/or provide students with helpdesk support. My subsequent exploration of SharePoint with the help of Roxie Mitchell from Microsoft (winter 2004-05) convinced me that SharePoint could serve as a Learning Management System at least as sophisticated as “The Bridge” [an LMS that CTLT had created in 2000 and was retiring in favor of WebCT (now Blackboard CE)].

2) The other exciting piece of the SharePoint Summit demos was the MySite feature. When developing myWSU, we had looked at Oracle’s personal site and collaboration tools. They did not seem completely developed when we looked (2003) and the licensing costs prevented WSU from acquiring them. The SharePoint Portal tools were coming as parts of centrally purchased licenses, which changed the cost. Since the licensing resulted in zero cost to Colleges, individual Colleges might launch their own portals with mySites. WSU’s history with the adoption of Microsoft Active Directory and Microsoft Exchange made me believe that College adoption of Portal and MySites was probable. Exploring this idea with those colleagues, I found that the challenge for Colleges to give students MySites was that the students might use College resources for non-College purposes. That suggested that students needed access to MySites as a central resource — and a role for CTLT to play.

Concurrent with these events, CTLT was exploring the Open Source Portfolio (OSPI) tools, looking for an ePortfolio platform to offer the university. The SharePoint platform as ePortfolio was more appealing than OSPI for several reasons: 1) support and scalability, 2) overlapping skills/training (if faculty were being moved to SharePoint for enterprise-wide business reasons, the skills they learned would transfer to ePorfolios without needing to learn another tools 3) worldware (skill students built in SharePoint would more likely be applicable on the job than skills built in OSPI. 4) Personal control of a collaborative resource that was outside of any course, and could span a student’s career at the university (and possibly beyond).

By Spring 2006 CTLT had formed a partnership with ITS where ITS would deploy, and CTLT would provide user support for, SharePoint 2003 Portal (and MySites) for all current students and employees. At the same time we collaborated to create a SharePoint LMS offering — with the rationale that if faculty had MySite, they would (and already have) used it for their classes. The problem for the institution with classes in MySites is that its harder to provide central support (such as automatically arranging the student enrollment) and providing backup for records retention (since quite likely that the institution will have no knowledge of the class in the faculty’s MySite). Bellevue Community College was a year ahead of WSU with SharePoint MySites, and was having this experience. Thus, the MyClass LMS offering was initially motivated by “self-defense” against classes in MySites.

SharePoint for classes, while powerful and using the same SharePoint skills and training, is limited because it lacks a gradebook for sharing scores between instructor and student and a quiz/testing tool, which is popular as a testing strategy in some online courses. SharePoint is presently better suited to courses with discussions, project collaboration, or for courses where the instructor needs to share documents to students and the interaction otherwise takes place in the classroom.

Beyond LMS white paper – posted for discussion

October 16, 2007

This is the collaboration site for the Beyond LMS white paper. We now have posted a 3rd draft (in PDF) of the document in the pre-press process nearly ready for publication.

Also of note are comments posted by the son of one of the authors, who is a student and provides some perspective on these ideas.

Three of Isaac’s comments caught my attention:

  • another thing, and i’m not sure if this was already addressed, is that you should make sure that students are able to post non-schoolwork content on the service
  • privacy concerns, ip control probably
  • would this site try to incorporate the aspects of facebook, or would it restrict itself to academic stuff?

There seems to be a theme here where Isaac is not sure that we really mean to expand beyond school to the whole learner, or that it is not the business of the institution to tell the owner of the space what should be used to best present themselves. I think this goes hand in hand with the IP and control/privacy concerns. That IP idea is a big one and one that really needs to get into both student and faculty heads — how can faculty think to submit student work to and transfer the IP? Both of these themes connect to “playing school”

In a conference call this AM, I recognized that the next step of this work is not technical, but winning more hearts and minds. WSU has some interesting examples to illustrate these points, we need to get them out into public forums.

eLearning 2.0 Talk for Educause

September 17, 2007

We (Ashley Ater-Kranov, Theron DesRosier, Jayme Jacobson and I) just put in a proposal for the Educause Learning Initiative 2008 Annual Meeting: Connecting and Reflecting: Preparing Learners for Life 2.0, January 28–30, 2008 San Antonio, Texas.

Our proposal is “ePortfolio 2.0: expanding our views of portfolio”

Abstract (50 words max)

George Hotz’ blog chronicling his iPhone hack demonstrates students can collaborate world-wide and create portfolios that make learning visible. Our research suggests students and faculty are equally adept at giving criteria-based feedback. Portfolios capturing learning process combined with criteria-based feedback have implications for teachers, course design and LMS platforms.

Research Results

Ater-Kranov, Ashley and T. Desrosier. Raising the Bar: Communicating High Expectations and Getting Results. Poster. Washington State University Academic Showcase March 2007.

Cho, Yoon Jung, A Ater-Kranov, and G Brown. Faculty Attitudes about ePortfoios: A study for the National Coalition for ePortfolio Research. Poster. Washington State University Academic Showcase March 2007.

Hotz, George. Finding JTAG on the iPhone. Blog. accessed Sept 10, 2007

WSU ePortfolio Contest. Making Learning Visible. Website. accessed Sept 10, 2007

Session Focus

Portfolios have been used in several ways beyond being showcase of best work, including documentation of learning growth and for personal reflection. In the Spring of 2007, the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology at Washington State University hosted an ePortfolio contest that asked students to document their learning growth. The result was a rich array of evidence of learning, and a wide range of portfolio documentation.

More simply, a blog can be understood to be a learning journal, and with suitable summary posts, might serve as a portfolio. George Hotz blog of the hack of the iPhone is one example that illustrates one person’s informal but substantial learning journey enhanced by a collaborative community.

Personal Learning Environments (PLE) integrate both formal and informal learning episodes into a single experience and often have a blog at their heart around which the user assembles a range of resources and systems to create a personally-managed space.

To the extent that users open their PLE space for inspection by others it becomes a multi-faceted journal that makes learning processes and outcomes visible. When the user presents that log of learning evidence the PLE becomes an extended portfolio view.

A key facet of the blog or PLE is that the user seeks critical feedback and collaboration on their learning objectives, which typically involves the creation of social networks that cross institutional boundaries and are intended to place the learner at the central node in a learning community. We have evidence that demonstrates that students are at least as adept at faculty at providing criteria-based feedback, which opens the potential that giving of critical feedback can be scaled much larger than what faculty alone can provide.

This presentation will explore the blurring of the lines between portfolio, blog and personal learning environments and a parallel blurring between novice and expert feedback when novice feedback is appropriately scaffoled and guided. We will invite participants to join in the exploration and the implications they have for teachers, course design, assessment of learning, and IT planning around LMS and other supporting tools.

We are going to be working on this (sketchy) proposal for Active Learning Strategies in the session and welcome feedback:

The audience will collaborate in an analysis and deconstruction George Hotz’ blog (ne portfolio) of the hack of the iPhone. Then the audience will participate in a collaborative criteria-based rating. Audience data about itself will be shared and discussed within the threads of the presentation. Following the session, the audience data will be posed for later review by the audience and others.

Beyond the LMS, issues for campus IT planning

September 12, 2007

I spent an hour today working on our Beyond LMS white paper. This link is to a site where you can look at our collaboration in progress.

The challenge I was working on is taking Gary’s outline and beginning to turn it into 4 pages (max) of engaging prose, that ideally can have pictures and other formatting to make an attractive handout for Educause. I used “track changes” It turns out that anonymous readers can NOT also see the version history (you can hover over the link to the document and see the drop down menu, but then you get challenged. (Arrrg! Microsoft, fix this. In a site with anonymous read access, that should mean all versions too!)

The specific issue I found myself wrestling with was how to turn elements of our thinking about education-futures into thinking that would impact an IT planner. The challenge was, we can do all the pie-in-the-sky educational rationalization we want about Personal Learning Environments and ePortfolios, if faculty are not moving away from the traditional LMS, what is the IT reality?

One IT planning issue would be to respond when faculty begin to change direction. Another would be to think through how IT should go directly to students (or how IT would prefer to cede student-student collaboration to Google).

Since the link above does not provide a means for public comment, use this post to address our collaboration.

PLEs and University IT Planning

September 10, 2007

Writing a synthesis on Personal Learning Environments (PLE) David Delgado says:

The course-oriented, teacher-centered approach of the LMS was not enough to cope with this new ideas in e-learning, and a new concept was used: the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning, they are distributed, social and learner-centric. They are composed of a suite of tools that the learner uses to learn whatever they want. So, the learner chooses their own personal learning environment, taking whatever tools that help them to achieve their own goals. Different people have different ideas to build their own PLE.

He goes on to say “I still use my old LMS to build formal courses, workshops and communities.”

Which points to what I am coming to think is the rub that we are trying to address in a white paper we are working on for Educause on LMS futures. The issue we are looking at is institutional planning around adoption, retention, retirement of learning management systems (LMS) and the question might be how should the institutional IT plan for PLEs (or can it at all)?

As PLEs are becoming better described and understood, and because they represent a different model space for learning than the LMS, it leads me to these questions:

  • How should institutional IT plan over the next 2- or 5-years relative to LMS/PLE? Might LMSes be retired? Might LMSes be used differently to interact with PLE thinking? Should the institution host PLEs, or portions of them, or is this an oxymoron?
  • What is the relation of PLE to course design? In the spectrum of pedagogic approaches (Teacher-Centered, Learner-Centered, Learning-Centered) where do current faculty fall? Where do LMS uses typically fall? Are LMSes destined to that niche by their design? PLEs are learning-centered in current use, would faculty adoption of PLEs move them (either PLEs or faculty) toward another point on the spectrum? If faculty fall at one point on the pedagogy spectrum and PLEs on another, what are the implications?
  • What implications are there for PLEs and university courses? Does the university have any role guaranteeing student course-related data will not be lost? How are things archived from a PLE-based course? Who owns the IP? How does the learner establish their identity within the PLE to the satisfaction of the university (issues of plagiarism, cheating, etc). What about other management and logistical issues that LMS solve now (enrollments, single identity, gradebook)?
  • What are the PLE implications for certifying students’ learning? Can the PLE be used to create a portfolio to document learning? Is there a role for standardized testing? Since an increasing number of students are “swirling” (taking courses from more than one institution at a time), does the PLE facilitate making learning visible and coherent?

    Thinking beyond the LMS

    September 9, 2007

    Last week Gary Brown and I ventured to Microsoft offices in Bellevue to meet with Chris Handley and Adrian Wilson and start a collaboration on what we hope is a white paper on our thinking about LMS futures. We now have a collaboration site and a set of notes from our meeting. The collaboration site is a child of my SharePoint 2007 mySite.

    This category of my blog will track our explorations of using the site to conduct our collaboration and to provide a vehicle to make my learning visible during this process. There are two RSS feeds from the site: Our documents and our reference links. For each of these resources (SharePoint “libraries”) I have added metadata (SharePoint “columns”) to help us keep notes about the item and what significance we think is has for our project work.

    I think our project is talking about ideas in a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and how they interact with the enterprise and its LMS. David Delgado just posted an interesting summary by of PLEs looking at his practice. I think I need to wrestle my thinking about ePortfolio against David’s about PLE.

    I will also track in this blog things I am learning about the SharePoint site where are doing the collaboration. Since the site itself is not open to anonymous comment (and I can’t figure out right now how to make the SharePoint blog allow anonymous commenting), this site can serve as a place for you to trackback or comment.

    Open Source Assessment and iPhone Hacking

    August 31, 2007

    In Half an Hour: Open Source Assessment Stephen Downes wrote:

    What we can expect in an open system of assessment is that achievement will be in some way ‘recognized’ by a community. This removes assessment from the hands of ‘experts’ who continue to ‘measure’ achievement. And it places assessment into the hands of the wider community. Individuals will be accorded credentials as they are recognized, by the community, to deserve them.

    We have been talking quite a bit the last few days about George Hotz and his iPhone blog.

    The important piece in our conversations is that its easy to ‘recognize’ Hotz’ achievement (and a wide community has), and in the way he structured his blog, its easy to ‘recognize’ that he is a thoughtful and collaborative worker, these last two skills being important traits for employers, and his portfolio an interesting example of how students might demonstrate these global competencies in authentic project-based learning.

    Worldware ePortfolios as tools for educational entrepreneurs

    August 21, 2007

    Recently John Gardner posted some thoughts on Entre/Intrapreneurs, and what roles especially they play in a university. This sent me to looking for the blog of Clayton Christensen author of Innovator’s Dilemma. What I found was not specifically Christensen’s blog, but an interesting group blog from his consulting organization. I added that to my blog roll because I’ve found ideas in the book shape my thinking about trends around me at Washington State University.

    For example, I’ve been thinking about Innovator’s Dilemma in the context of BlackBoard Course Management System and alternatives that may exist to that (increasingly expensive) tool. Alex Slawsby’s post gives me some further insights in applying the ideas of “interdependency” and “modularity” that I think play well with my own Web 2.0 and ePortfolio thinking.

    BlackBoard is an “interdependent” system (if I understand Slawsby), with many tightly linked modules. This produces an internally efficient product, but at a cost to the customer. We (WSU) the customer are looking for alternatives that are “good enough” and at lower price points. SharePoint 2007 looks to meet that goal. It also is an interdependent system, but less specialized, it is a collaboration tool used in many business settings. As a course management system, it does not have all the features of BlackBoard, but many faculty don’t use most of the features, so SharePoint may be “good enough.” And for the University, which can amortize the cost of SharePoint over many other collaborative uses, it might be at a lower price point as well. Ehrmann calls tools like SharePoint, developed for other markets and applied to education, Worldware, and argues that they deserve special consideration for being both valuable and viable.

    In a previous post, Slawsby discussed a potentially more disruptive, and more modular approach than even SharePoint to challenge BlackBoard’s CMS — online services offering free storage or other free resources (eg Google Docs). These ideas begin to beg the question, what part of the instructional IT should be outsourced completely?

    I would have previously said that the University can’t outsource its instructional applications, because the University needs to manage the identity (the login ID) of its students — because it has scores and grades tied to those student identities. I would have said, “You can’t have a student just using Blogger, how would you know who they were or that the work was authentically theirs?”

    Enter the student, who is increasingly “swirling” (taking courses from two or more educational institutions concurrently). The student is treating the university programs as modules (Slawsby’s term), mixing and matching courses to make independently concocted programs. The student may use one institution as a home base, bringing in credits toward a degree, or may be jumping around, ultimately looking for someone to credential the melange.

    I recently wrote about an electronic portfolio as the core learning platform. In that thinking, the portfolio serves as the place to present to a specific audience the collection of learning experiences and the value and meaning that come from those experiences. Those experiences are probably not test scores or even a transcript, but more authentic products of learning, work, and avocational activities. Such a portfolio should not be a broadcast, but more like a blog, be open to comment, a place for the learner to present her current state of thinking and seek input to evolve understanding.

    Which brings me back to my interest in Dr. Gardner’s post on Entre/Intrapeneurship in the University. He says, “It [entre/ intrapreneurship] must be embedded in our WSU culture and our curriculum.” Given that swirling students are already acting like educational entrepreneurs, and Google continues to move in directions that allow those students the potential outsourcing of elements of our instructional IT, I think the time for Dr Gardner’s conversation has already arrived.