Saturday, October 30, 2010

Readability and eLearning

There’s a lot of information out there about reading levels and readability indices, and what your target should be for an eLearning course. If you run your script through a readability tool and you don’t like the result, try applying one or more of these tips to your script then try again.

  • Be direct and concise. Get to the point right away, and look for ways to say the same thing in fewer words. This is great advice for many types of writing, and particularly important when designing training for busy adults. Two things in particular to watch for in training materials are sentences written in third person or passive voice, which are typically wordier and not as precise as first person or active voice.

    • Example of first vs. third person: “you” vs. “the employee”

    • Example of active vs. passive voice: “Always wear safety goggles when operating the saw.” vs. “Safety goggles should always be worn when the saw is in operation.”

  • Watch sentence length. An average of around 20 words per sentence is a good guideline to follow – but use variety in sentence length and structure to help hold your learner’s interest.

  • Provide context and transitions. This may seem counterintuitive when you are trying to reduce word count, but these are not “empty calories” in your course. Providing those vital connections between ideas greatly aids comprehension.

  • What DOESN’T need to be included? If learners don’t need to know it to meet the learning objectives of the course, why risk either boring an advanced learner or confusing a beginning learner? Leave it out, or include it only in a Job Aid.

  • Use informative graphics. A great way to improve a course is to try to replace as much of the screen text as possible with graphics. Not clip art or happy, smiling people kind of images, but graphics that clearly illustrate the concept, task, or behavior.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Welcoming Mobile Technology

During a nine-week period last school year, teachers and administrators at Port Clinton High School reported more than 600 discipline issues related to technology and the use of cell phones on campus. "That's a huge number, considering that our total enrollment is only 590," said Ralph Moore, principal at the Port Clinton, OH, school. "And that number doesn't even include the students that we didn't catch."

Moore, who in previous administrative positions may have taken measures to ban the devices that were causing many of the issues, took a different stance this time. Working with the school's tech-savvy assistant principal, he sat down and tried to come up with a solution that would allow technology on campus while also reducing the high number of violations that students were racking up.

Teachers got involved with the problem-solving exercise, said Moore, who turned to the instructors for their input on how to integrate technology without disrupting classroom and learning time. Administrators also gathered input from the student body, which was given the heads up about a new wireless system on campus and the rules and policies that its users would be required to follow.

"We decided to try an open-access agreement, with some limitations," said Moore. "We told students that we were going to roll it out for the last few weeks of the [2009-2010] school year, and that if it went well we'd write up a new policy and implement it." The policies were written up over the summer of 2010, revised several times and reviewed by administrators, parents, staff and students before being put in place for the 2010-2011 school year.

Moore said the new wireless system came about after a $43 million building bond was issued in November 2009 to upgrade the school's facilities, which were built in 1964. "We're fortunate enough to live in a community where--despite what's going on with the economy--everyone is very supportive of education," said Moore. In need of an improved Internet access solution--either wired or wireless--he said, the district's technology coordinator and superintendent looked at the options and decided to go with the latter.

"They felt that wireless would give us the most flexibility between our existing and new buildings," Moore explained. The network, security firewalls, and Web browsing filters were already in place, he said, "so it was just a question of basically providing our students and staff members with additional Web access and allowing them to log onto the existing network."

That's exactly what students are doing these days at Port Clinton High School, with a few restrictions. For starters, every device must be "approved" for use on the network prior to logging on and marked with a sticker that administrators place on the back of each approved smart phone, iPad, iPod touch, or laptop. Individual teachers develop their own classroom rules regarding the use of technology, with some requiring all phones to be on silent or vibrate while in class and others prohibiting the use of such devices when class is in session.

The WiFi and device registration process takes just a few minutes and is handled by the school's technology director. At that meeting, students sign a registration form pledging that they will use the WiFi in a positive manner and not in a way that is prohibited by the district. Students are assigned a user name and password for the Internet access, and their devices are adorned with a sticker showing that they completed the registration process.

Moore said the signed agreements are then sent home for parental signatures and then kept on file in case a problem or question arises in the future. "The agreement basically says that the student has read and understands the rules and that he or she will abide by them," said Moore. "Once the form is submitted and the passwords are handed out, the student is good to go."

So in an era when schools nationwide are torn between banning personal devices on campus, Port Clinton High School is already seeing positive results from its contrarian approach. Since the start of the current school year, for example, there have been fewer than 20 technology-related violations reported. The open-access approach has also created a sense of responsibility among students, who have come to appreciate the opportunity.

"I'd say 99 percent of the students who registered their devices are doing what we asked them to do," said Moore, whose IT team is now struggling with issues like how to filter popular sites like Facebook and YouTube. "These can serve as good educational resources," said Moore, "but there's also stuff on those sites that you don't want students to be able to access."

Even with that challenge on his staff's agenda, Moore said he doesn't regret the decision to embrace technology and open up the campus WiFi to students. "Every school district I've ever worked with has had extensive rules in place prohibiting the use of cell phones, iPods and other technology on campus," said Moore. "Instead of taking that stance, my staff and board collectively decided to find ways to enable technology in such a manner that would provide opportunities for our students."


E-learning program for new graduate doctors to ensure safety prescription

A new software based program has recently been created for new graduate doctors to ensure they prescribe safely from day one on the wards.

The SCRIPT (Standard Computerised Revalidation Instrument for Prescribing and Therapeutics) project has brought together a team of experts from Aston University (UK) and Birmingham and Warwick Medical Schools (UK) to create this innovative, e-learning toolkit.

Doctors who have recently graduated from medical school have to prescribe safely from day one on the wards. Their task is made harder by the many new drugs that have been introduced, as well as the rapid throughput of patients who are often sicker and older and who are more likely to suffer adverse drug reactions (drug side effects).

Sub-optimal prescribing among new doctors in their Foundation Year 1 (FY1) stage is common, and can result in the underuse of effective medicines, adverse drug reactions and medication errors.

Up to a quarter of litigation claims in the NHS stem from medication errors (Source: An Organisation of Memory, 2000, London: The Stationery Office),therefore emphasis has now been placed towards ensuring that patients in hospitals have safe care by improving the knowledge and skills required for safe prescribing in FY1 doctors.

"Medical schools educate on the theoretical side of medicine, but actual prescribing in practice is very difficult'," says Dr Philip Thomas, a Junior Doctor in the West Midlands.

The SCRIPT (Standard Computerised Revalidation Instrument for Prescribing and Therapeutics) project which was funded by the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority (SHA) has brought together a team of experts from Aston University (UK) and Birmingham and Warwick Medical Schools (UK) to create the innovative, e-learning toolkit in response to the challenges of safe prescribing.

Continue Reading


Thursday, October 28, 2010

How a Web 2.0 Tool Can Promote Learning in the Workplace

Can social networking technologies foster effective workplace learning? This was the question I posed to myself as a graduate student studying organizational psychology and adult development. Having prior experience in human resources, I knew about the rising trend of integrating social networking technologies into the workplace, and I wanted to explore how this particular type of technology could potentially promote workplace learning.

I chose to focus my analysis on Rypple, a social networking tool intended to facilitate feedback, not because I had any affiliation with the company or its investors, but simply because some of my HR contacts had recommended it. And though I later discovered similar web-based collaborative tools, such as Yammer, Braintrust, and WizeHive, I continued with Rypple because, by the time I learned about these other products, I was already far along with my initial research. Part product review and part musing on organizational culture, this article provides an overview of Rypple, gives recommendations for organizations seeking to use the tool, and suggests tool improvements. Though it focuses on one specific product, it is my hope that the general ideas may be valuable for all organizations considering adopting any type of social networking web tool.

What Is Rypple and Why Use It?

Resembling popular online social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, Rypple attempts to make ongoing professional assessment easy, fun, and informal. It does this by enabling learners to submit brief (400 character) posts for four main functions:
1. Feedback. Learners ask for anonymous feedback from colleagues. The feedback seeker can follow up with individuals and the group to whom she sent the initial feedback request.2. Kudos. Learners send kudos to colleagues publicly recognizing a job well done or privately offering constructive criticism. Learners can personalize kudos with specific designs.

3. Coach. Learners schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with colleagues, which can be held face-to-face or by phone or videoconference. Participants can record notes and action items.

4. Actions. Learners publicly post actions, or short-term goals they are committed to achieving by a specific date. Learners also have the option to keep their actions private.

These four functions closely resemble the concept of reflective practice, a process that combines reflection and action in order to increase a professional's self-awareness and, in turn, enhance her ability to grow and develop (Osterman and Kottkamp, 1993). Rypple's functions also encourage teaching, an important factor in creating an ideal educational experience (Garrison and Anderson, 2003). Any Rypple learner may also assume a teaching role, for example, by providing guidance and sharing expertise through the coaching function. By enabling employees to be both learners and teachers and by promoting feedback, coaching, and goal setting in a social and safe environment, Rypple has the potential to foster greater employee reflection, interaction, collaboration, and development. For this reason, Rypple might add value for organizations wishing to achieve any of the following goals:

  • Coach, motivate, and align teams (particularly global/virtual teams)

  • Generate a more reflective and transparent organizational culture

  • Increase staff interaction and communication

  • Enable ongoing professional development

  • Engage tech-savvy employees

  • Track employee morale

How Can Organizations Make the Most of Rypple?

Organizations adopting Rypple should carefully consider how they want to use the tool, as this will ultimately determine the extent to which Rypple promotes learning. The Teaching for Understanding (TfU) framework (Wiske, 2005) offers a useful guide for organizations thinking about integrating technology into their workplaces. Let us consider how organizations may apply the key features of TfU to help employees gain the most from Rypple:
Generative Topics. Learning is likely to occur when learners explore topics meaningful to them. Organizations should consider encouraging employees to use Rypple's feedback and coach functions to discuss issues that will significantly impact their work. Organization leaders might model this process by sending feedback requests that are compelling to colleagues, that can be approached from a variety of angles, and that foster reflection.Understanding Goals. Many organizations may adopt Rypple without first thinking carefully about what they hope to get out of it, focusing instead on keeping up with the growing corporate social networking trend. Having a publicly stated goal will help employees focus on using the tool in a manner that works towards achieving this goal. Organization leaders might also encourage individual employees to consider what they personally want to get out of Rypple and to publicly record these goals as actions within Rypple itself.

Performances of Understanding. Rypple provides space for employees to reflect on their own and their colleagues' work. While reflection is critical for learning, acting upon newly gained knowledge is also important. As a result, organizations should develop ways to extend Rypple's reflection-inducing functions so that employees can practice what they have learned in their actual jobs. For example, if an employee is working with her Rypple coach to improve her negotiation skills, the organization needs to enable her to practice those skills on the job, perhaps by assigning her a project that requires her to negotiate with business partners.

Ongoing Assessment. Rypple's feedback and coaching functions offer the means to regularly assess employee learning. It will be up to the organization leaders to use these tools to gauge levels of employee learning. They might look through the company's activity feed to see the depth of employee dialogue and to ask managers to reflect on the quality of their coaching sessions. However, it is important for organizations to keep this assessment process informal. If assessment becomes too formalized, employees may not feel comfortable disclosing weaknesses and questioning their practices.

Reflective Collaborative Communities. To make the most of Rypple's interactive and collaborative capabilities, it is necessary for learners to develop "norms that include respect, reciprocity, and commitment to cooperation on communal accomplishments, not just on the advancement or improvement of individual performances" (Wiske, 2005, p. 8). The organization that adopts Rypple may be wise to work on instilling these norms and values into its culture before attempting to integrate Rypple into regular workplace practices. Establishing a culture of self-managing teams that are responsible for executing tasks as well as monitoring and managing their team performance (Hackman, 2002) could make a product like Rypple most effective.

Organizations should also bear in mind that they may have staff with differing levels of comfort with technology. To avoid alienating employees who may be uncomfortable using a tool like Rypple, organizations may need to offer training sessions and promote Rypple strictly as an optional tool.

How Might Rypple Improve as a Workplace Learning Tool?

Rypple has many positive features. For example, it is highly accessible and is available on any electronic device with an Internet connection. It is also low cost: individuals can join for free or organizations can pay a monthly fee (starting at $20/month) in return for extra functionality and support. Rypple is highly interactive, giving learners the option to create specific groups and to interact within these groups publicly or anonymously. The company also provides training by sending new learners opt-out emails with tips on how to use its functions and by offering free webinars and articles on leadership, coaching, and feedback. Further, learners can conduct basic analytics by exporting reports on kudos, actions, coaching, and feedback activity to a spreadsheet. Finally, Rypple claims to be private and secure, using the same security technology as do bank and e-commerce websites.

Despite these positive features, however, there are several areas for improvement:
Robust search function. Rypple could better harness the collective knowledge of organizations by offering a more robust search function. For example, if a Rypple learner wants to improve her presentation skills, it might be useful if she could search for previously posted suggestions for presentation best practices. A robust search function would thus broaden Rypple from a communication and interaction tool into a knowledge-based repository that captures and organizes institutional knowledge.

Attachment feature. Another way to capture institutional knowledge might be through the creation of an attachment feature. Enabling learners to attach files to posts could expand feedback questions and deepen responses. For example, soliciting feedback on a presentation with the original slides attached could enable the feedback seeker to pose a question about a certain slide while also allowing responders to comment without having to rely on memory.

Edit/remove function. The tool might foster greater trust by providing learners with the ability to edit and remove posts. In the present version of Rypple, if a learner misspells part of her kudos there is no way for the sender to edit her mistake. Further, if a learner receives public kudos that she does not wish to appear in the company activity feed, there is no way for her to remove them. Adding these two functions might improve the level of learner trust, which would likely lead to greater disclosure and open reflection and, in turn, greater learning.

Personal profiles. Rypple could improve social presence (Garrison and Anderson, 2003) by offering learners the ability to create personal profiles and publically stating their overarching learning goals to the rest of their team.

The above suggestions are not intended to propose that Rypple become something that it is not. Rather, they provide ideas that may help Rypple better enable organizations to have greater feedback exchanges that can promote deeper learning.

Social Networking and Workplace Learning

Can social networking technologies foster effective workplace learning after all? After spending a semester studying Rypple, my answer, in the typical fashion of a social science graduate student, is: it depends.

The ultimate effectiveness of Rypple and any other social networking tool depends on the interactions between the tool, the context, and the learners. An organization cannot rely solely on a technological tool to foster workplace learning. Rather, the organization needs to take strategic steps to facilitate the learning process. While it may be inexpensive to adopt a social networking web tool, organizations should take into consideration the start-up costs of time and energy required for successful integration. An organization unwilling or unable to devote the time required to thoughtfully strategize how to implement the tool will be unlikely to reap the tool's benefits. On the other hand, when used by organizations that have worked to establish a base-line culture of reflection and collaboration, social networking technologies, such as Rypple, could certainly enhance workplace learning.

About the Author

Chelsea Pollen, M.Ed, is a recruiting specialist at Google Inc.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Apple Adds Special Education Section to the App Store

apple_logo_silver_oct10.jpgApple has created a custom area for the App Store titled "Special Education: Learning for Everyone." The new section contains five subsections: Communication, Hearing, Language Development, Literacy & Learning, and Organization.

The apps featured include speech-to-text app Dragon Dictation, assisted hearing app iHearClearly, and handwriting tool iWriteWords, as well as a number of other gaming, reference, and productivity apps.

Mobile Learning for All Learners

itunes_specialeducation.jpgWhile cellphones in the classroom might not be routinely accepted, mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous as educational tools. And some educators have found the iPad in particular to be well-suited for Special Education programs, as it can provide multiple paths for engagement and expression for struggling learners and special needs students.

Until now, the lists of recommended app for Special Education have been scattered across educators' blogs. So it's promising to see the recognition in the App Store that this is an important market.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mobile Learning Technology in Class

What Mobile Learning is All About

Technology has reinvented and made efficient a great number of things that affect human life, such as communication, research, and even education. Schools no longer become the sole place where learning is made possible for students. Distance Learning and Virtual Learning Environments proved that even at home, education is possible. That is the concept of M-Learning, or Mobile learning.

Mobile Learning aims to utilize handheld gadgets or technologies such as mobile phones, PDA’s, netbooks and notebooks, IPAD’s, and smartphones to facilitate learning wherever and whenever possible. This methodology involves uploading and downloading materials via wireless networks, and linking them to several institutional systems such as the Virtual Learning Environments. Through mobile learning, teaching and learning are enhanced and made possible anytime and anywhere.

Sample Activities in M-LearningPanini Keypad

Here are some M-Learning activities, and how they may be related to Bloom’s taxonomy of learning:

1. Listening to downloaded audio clips and E-books

  • Low levels thinking skills: Recalling and comprehending the information heard

  • Medium levels thinking skills: Applying a procedure for a recipe that was listened to

  • Higher levels thinking skills: Analyzing, critiquing, and discussing a material heard

2. Watching a downloaded educational video

  • Low levels thinking skills: Comprehending and remembering specific details about the video

  • Medium levels thinking skills: Creating an interactive game or blogging about the video watched

  • Higher levels thinking skills: Evaluating and producing summaries by using a blog or wiki

3. Downloading relevant information to the phone

  • Low levels thinking skills: Reading the downloaded texts simply for the purpose of recalling and comprehending them

  • Medium levels thinking skills: Analyzing the texts and applying the information in real-life situations

  • Higher levels thinking skills: Synthesizing, interpreting the texts and conducting a debate about the topic

4. Recording audio clips using PDA, smartphone or MP3 player

  • Low levels thinking skills: Listening and comprehending the message of the recorded audio clip

  • Medium levels thinking skills: Analyzing the main points of the recorded audio clip by formulating questions about it

  • Higher levels thinking skills: Critiquing the message of the audio clip and creating a blog to express one's opinion

Assessment and Success in M-Learning

One way for the students to be assessed is through E-portfolios. Evidences of learning (photographs, videos, and texts) are collected and uploaded to their E-portfolio. The tutor simply evaluates the evidences and sends feedback to the students. Various types of students, such as those with learning difficulties, or those who are work-based reap the benefits of M-Learning. Studying becomes engaging and more convenient to them.This innovative method makes learning individualized; and the completion of the coursework is hastened, but with high standards.


Photo Credit: WikiCommons

University of Adelaide?s Faculty of Science going Mobile

From next year, the University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science will be moving towards mobile delivery, with all first-year students provided with iPads, and textbooks replaced by digital materials. They will be the first Australian University to begin delivering in this way, and this is the first step towards an overhaul of their teaching strategies, including moving to fully online delivery of first-year Science courses from 2012, according to Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty. To help ensure that teaching materials and activities are compatible with the iPads, teaching staff will also be receiving the devices.

iPad in use

I have a modicum of skepticism about some aspects of this planned course of action, however. Firstly, the focus on iPads might force thinking around mobile learning into a iPad-shaped box, rather than encouraging the development of mobile learning activities and resources to suit a wider range of devices. This is already apparent in the kinds of materials they describe as being prepared for their iPads:
“The aim is to transfer all learning content to an electronic version which includes many currently printed textbooks for first-year students sometime in 2012.”

Aaargh. Transferring learning content to computers, including textbooks, does not equate to e-learning. Transferring learning content to mobile devices is unlikely to result in quality mobile learning. The REAL task here should be to develop new learning activities and resources that target the required learning outcomes and utilise the affordances of mobile devices, rather than thinking that an electronic textbook on an iPad is somehow better that a paper-based textbook. Instead, the focus appears to be on the *delivery* of content, rather than ways in which students can interact with, and create on, iPads:
“The online material will take a variety of forms with students being able to access lecture notes, audio, background documents and textbooks through tailored web-based apps. This is in addition to all the student services currently available through the MyUni website such as timetabling, video downloads, slides and email.”

THERE IS NOTHING NEW or innovative about ANY of those content sources or activities. All that’s happening is that they’re being displayed on a shiny new device, instead of a laptop or a desktop computer, and they’re accessed through “app” buttons. Contrast that philosophy with a learner-centric pedagogical model in which learning activities are developed that use key affordances of the iPad: for example, designing activities where students annotate or complete worksheets or experiments using an app like Noterize; or focusing on using mobile devices equipped with cameras to document science experiments or field trips using blogs, images, and video.

I hope the University of Adelaide will take time to consider how learning with technology is much more than learning ON technology. A successful mobile learning strategy requires working with the inherant strengths and limitations of mobile devices to enhance learning and engagement – not just trying to do the same thing as before with the new tool!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How can I identify common safety violations found in facilities that use flammable fuels, solvents or chemicals?

Answered by Glen Carter, chief technical officer, Justrite Manufacturing Co., Des Plaines, IL. Safety managers can use the following "Quick Checklist" to identify the most common safety violations concerning flammable, combustible and hazardous liquids. Following it can quickly and effectively make your operations compliant with OSHA and industry best practices.

    * Look around – are flammable, combustible and hazardous liquids stored in open containers? This violates OSHA and Environmental Protection Agency regulations. All hazardous liquids should be stored in functionally closed containers. Ensure the lids on those containers are closed adequately, and repair or replace containers as required.
    * As an industry best practice and to meet OSHA regulations, flammable and combustible liquids should be stored in a safety can approved by Underwriters Laboratories and FM Global. Safety cans that have been in service should be inspected to ensure the lids operate and close effectively, a flame arrester is present, and that they do not leak. Replace all safety cans that no longer function properly.
    * Look for fluid-soaked rags. They can represent a fire hazard if they are left lying around or are not discarded in approved containers. Use UL- and FM-approved oily waste cans. Always make sure to empty the containers each night, or at the end of each shift, into a safety container located outside the building.
    * Do you have other combustible waste in open or overflowing containers? Replace these containers with UL- and FM-approved waste receptacles. This is important to your operation's fire prevention plan.
    * Drum storage usually indicates the storage of bulk flammable, combustible or hazardous liquid. For EPA compliance, make sure you pick a spill protection pallet for your needs:
          o For indoor applications, choose a polyethylene or metal spill pallet. Base your decision on chemical compatibility.
          o Do you have outdoor drum storage? A covered pallet can offer spill protection and protect your sump from overflow due to rain as required by a responsible spill prevention plan.
    * Drum storage of flammable and combustible liquids should include a safety drum vent on each drum to ensure OSHA compliance. FM-approved safety drum vents provide emergency pressure venting in the event of a fire and the vacuum relief required for dispensing operations or to prevent the drum from crushing in the event of sudden cooling. Vents are available for horizontal or vertical stored drums.
    * If your operation requires dispensing of flammable and combustible liquids from a horizontal drum through a faucet, you need an FM-approved self-closing faucet (required by OSHA).
    * FM-approved flammable safety cabinets help organize flammable and combustible liquids, increase the amount of flammable and combustible liquids stored in an area, and provide a margin of safe egress from an area by personnel in the event of a fire. Replace existing safety cabinets if the doors do not operate correctly or if they have been modified.
    * Always properly ground or bond containers when dispensing Class I flammable liquids.

By following this checklist, you can solve the most common safety violations in the handling of flammable, combustible and hazardous liquid, which will make your operation a safer one. Editor's Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement. Source:

World's Best Classrooms Are Light on Technology

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="305" caption="Smart phones, iPads, Microsoft Word: None of them are in the world's highest-performing classrooms. (Photo: Mark n Emma/Creative Commons)"][/caption]

American students need a 21st-century education to thrive in our 21st-century world.

That’s the premise behind a slew of initiatives to incorporate more technology into classrooms.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last week announced its $20 million Next Generation Learning Challenges to encourage the development of education technologies that will deepen student engagement.

"The kind of technological revolution that has transformed business, government, healthcare, and many other areas has not occurred in our schools,” Bill Gates wrote on his blog. “What’s needed now are creative, smart new solutions.”

Over at Slate, Amanda Ripley had an idea: If we want our kids to compete with students from the world’s top-performing countries, why not look to their best schools for inspiration?

The conventional wisdom might expect these high-achieving classrooms to look like futuristic learning centers brimming with laptops and interactive whiteboards.

Instead, Ripley discovered that classrooms in countries like South Korea and Finland look much like American classrooms have for the past 100 years: children sit behind rows of desks facing a teacher and a chalkboard.

"In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms," said Andreas Schleicher, an education analyst for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). "It does seem that those systems place their efforts primarily on pedagogical practice rather than digital gadgets."

South Korea consistently ranks among the top countries on international exams, and many Korean children use iPods and iPhones at home. The only computers they use at school are outdated PCs clustered in computer labs they visit once a week.

Still, Korea produces graduates who possess advanced math and science skills that are prized by today’s employers.

Ripley suggests Korea's edge may be in its longer school days. Korean children attend school eight to nine hours each day, and then face parental pressure to study well into the night.

But in Finland, which ranked first in math and science among 30 OECD countries in 2006, kids have one less year of schooling than their American counterparts, do less homework, and rarely take standardized tests.

Perhaps the secret lies in teacher talent.

The recent McKinsey report found that teachers in countries like Singapore, Finland and Korea are recruited from the top third of their college classes. In the U.S., most teachers come from the middle tier or lower.

How do the best schools in the United States rank for technological advances?

Ripley visited several and found extraordinary teachers who coached their students to success using nothing more sophisticated than an overhead projector.

In the meatime, integrating technology into traditional classrooms is a growing trend in U.S. public schools.

Anthony G. Picciano, a professor of urban education at the City University of New York,estimated that 1 million elementary and high school students engaged in online coursework nationwide in 2007-08. That’s a 47 percent increase over the year before.

In New York City, where the Department of Education is spending nearly $7.2 million on technology-based learning programs for 13,000 students, teachers told The Wall Street Journalthat computers are helping them unlock the potential in students who were previously disengaged and difficult to reach.

Even the federal government is jumping on the technology bandwagon. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a speech last March:

"In the 21st century, schools can't be throwbacks to the state of education 50, 20, or even 10 years ago… We must make the on-demand, personalized tech applications that are part of students' daily lives a more strategic part of their academic lives."

Is America’s focus on classroom technology a cure-all, or do we need to explore other avenues just as vigorously?


Friday, October 22, 2010

Panel: Troubles abound in online learning regulation

Difficulties in adopting national standards to regulate online education programs sparked a lively debate during a panel discussion at the Oct. 12 Presidents’ Forum on Online Learning in the 21st Century, hosted by Excelsior College.

The panel, moderated by Sally Johnstone of Winona State University, addressed the complexity of managing standards for online education programs across state lines. Panelists addressed struggles specific to their own states, as well as national issues to consider as the standards debate continues.

“I would characterize New York’s interest as being one of concern about the quality of education that New York residents receive, whether that education takes place in a traditional classroom setting or online,” said Byron Connell, associate commissioner in higher education for the New York State Education Department. “Therefore, our concern is that there be strong assurances of quality for online [education] programs across the country so we don’t sit there and fret over the quality of the education that our residents are engaging.”

David Dies, executive secretary for the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, echoed similar sentiments regarding standards for online education programs.

“It really boils down to a level of trust,” Dies said. “Do we have faith in the other states’ abilities, the functions that they’re performing, and can we in some way accept the work that they’ve done to satisfy our requirements?”

But regulating the industry has proven far more complex than some supporters originally thought.

“There are hundreds of online institutions. We don’t have the ability to perform as our statutes say we’re supposed to do, so we’ve had to find some creative ways to continue to perform our consumer protection responsibilities that are core to our operations,” said Dies.

In addition to the massive number of institutions offering online education programs, each state has different regulatory policies, making a blanket rule of law nearly impossible.

David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, is attempting to sort through the different attitudes toward online learning regulation.

“I’ve got two states that are what you might call accreditation junkies. They believe in pretty strong regulation of the for-profit sector,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of states that sort of do the job because they have to, and then I have three that are laissez-faire states. They don’t give a damn whether these institutions do much or not.”

And the lack of communication between the different states’ regulatory boards hampers the process, panelists said.

“There is an important issue not just in establishing some standards, but finding the right level of communication that these very different types of agencies and organizations within each of the states can actually utilize,” said Johnstone.

“I think that in New York we have a good notion of what we’re doing, and we have a good notion of what accrediting bodies are doing, but we have a very vague notion of what the other 49 states are doing,” said Connell.

“We’re such a diverse set of institutions and ways in which we govern ourselves [that] it’s hard to pull this together,” said Longanecker.

Not every online education program supports a set of universal online learning terms. Some for-profit institutions fear that these policies will just add another set of fees.

“Everything I’m hearing is just driving up my costs, which is bringing down my affordability, which is bringing down my access,” said Rich Schneider, president of Norwich University. “This is so redundant and so decentralized; it’s very, very expensive. … We are a quality institution, as many are. I just see that the role of the continued regulation is going contrary to what we’re trying to accomplish for affordability and access.”

But Longanecker said he sees this as a risk worth taking.

“The consequences of getting a bad education are so substantial, particularly the way students finance it today. That’s what raises particular attention to this; that this is considered a major opportunity in a person’s life, and if we do not serve them well, we are strongly affecting their capacity to have a good life,” Longanecker said.

Panelists also discussed the possibility of poor quality of education from institutions based outside of the United States.

“What do we do with the institutions that move to Jamaica and set up their distance learning from there?” asked Connell. “The 50 states can’t do anything about that. This is now an international issue that has to be addressed internationally, because we don’t have jammers on our borders to prevent online learning from being beamed in from other countries.”


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

CNN Student News Highlights iPods in Schools

This morning's episode of CNN Student News features a segment that should be shown to anyone who is opposed to the use of cell phones or iPods in classrooms. The segment highlights math teacher Robert Tang's efforts to use technology in his classroom. Watch the video below.

Note: Please try to see from 6.30 minute.

Creating a Digital Team Using Mobile Technology

I attended an information session at the University of Georgia last Friday. The usual pitch included all the great and notable things about the University and why students should consider attending the top rated school. The academic standouts and social opportunities were expected parts of the presentation. The unexpected came next. Among other things, one of the “highlights” they mentioned was the use of mobile technology within the classroom. The recruiter proudly told the story of a particular science professor who wanted to “connect” with his students. His strategy? Use the learning tool that each student had already brought to class – their cell phone. The professor trained both his teaching assistant and the students to be a “digital team.” At any time during the lecture, if a student had a question or comment, they would text it to the TA. When enough queries come in, the assistant would then stop the professor mid-lecture and share the feedback from the students so that the professor can adapt his instruction to review content, offer a different explanation or move forward in concert with the learning curve of the class.

It struck me – wouldn’t it be great if our high school students were afforded the same luxury in learning? One quick look around the room at the forty 17-20 year olds told me that texting questions was not going to be a problem. Getting that technique into a classroom could be. Luckily, we are taking proactive steps to allow these forms of digital integration into K-12 classrooms. The Digital Learning Council has been meeting to draft policies that will guide the development and implementation of digital resources to every student. The conversation has been focused on adaptive curriculum, but as we see in the Georgia example, digital technology can also be used to adapt the instruction, thereby creating a true, dynamic and engaging “blended model” of instruction. Soon we’ll see most lectures replaced or augmented by short-form video. Student will watch when and where convenient.

Go Bulldogs! – Thanks for the example and the encouragement to keep pushing this important initiative forward.


Learning and Development Trends

The 21st century is ushering in the new social learning revolution. Today’s workers come from a variety of cultures and generations, and we must address the requirements of this diverse, global audience. Companies understand that the current trends are all about interaction. The following are some of the trends we’re seeing:

Webinars. Virtual classrooms will continue to expand and technology will become increasingly more sophisticated allowing more interaction than ever before. Instructors still hold classes, only the participants don’t have to be together.

Video. Low-end videos include those you see on YouTube. All you need is a camera and some basic editing savvy. High-end videos are expensive, but the cost can be justified for certain types of training. You can include pauses where learners interact or perform certain tasks, and make the experience very participatory.

Social networks and social learning. This involves sitting at your computer or mobile phone and interacting with others. Social networks are creeping into companies and many have embraced Twitter within their own organizations. Others have created home-grown internal social networks. In addition to instant messages (IM) and chats, these are other avenues for people to get information and answers to questions quickly.

3-D. Although this technology is new for L&D, it’s expected to become the next generation of training.

Podcasts and blogs. These are associated with more formal learning and are gaining strong footholds in the L&D repertoire.

Simulations and virtual labs. These are used mostly in technical and scientific learning. You can make a quick simulation, drop it into the learning experience, and learners experience a simulated lab.

Suitcase programs. Curriculum is created and taken to offices around the globe. Local trainers deliver the program and sometimes one or two facilitators travel with the program. Some programs incorporate video and videoconferencing.

Expertise locations. This is where subject matter experts (SMEs) within a company, regardless of where they’re located, will be called upon to share their special knowledge and skills.

Mentoring. Mentoring programs are adding a lot of zest to L&D as companies are providing mentoring for orienting new hires, bridging the multi-generational and cross-cultural divides, transitioning people into management roles, and spearheading succession planning.

Mobile. Mobile technology is still evolving for training purposes. Presently, what may work well on one mobile phone, may not work well on another. However, components of more complex learning will work on most mobile phones and are being used now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mobile Learning in Classrooms: Benefits of m-Learning

Colleges and universities are using M-Learning to help students perform tasks by providing information, guidance, and learning experiences when and where required.

  • Puts training and performance support where the actual work takes place.

  • Allows students new skills or knowledge to be immediately applied

  • Enables student training when it is needed

  • Allows use of rich media when appropriate

  • Builds a community of practice

  • Connecting and continuously sync training to back-end systems

    Some of the examples of colleges using Mobile learning to thrived in educational environments

    • Hastings College used ipods with construction students

    • Leeds College of Building used netbooks and mobile phones with construction learners

    • St Helens College used Sony PSP’s with electrical engineering students

    • Walsall College used Nintendo DS games handhelds with some disaffected and disengaged learners where they reported: This programme has seen learners enjoying education again and the number of exclusions is down by 65 per cent.

      One of the better ways to find out the value of training in financial terms is to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your training programs. Mobile based training using iPad and other smart phones have proved to be very effective devices for future and have already made several significant claims: Saves time without decaying learning benefits; minimizes travel costs; minimizes time away from work; cost effective; can meet the needs of a geographically disperse employees; provides consistent course delivery or research materials; offer more individualized instruction; and consistently higher learning results can be achieved over traditional training.

      Studies over the past few years show the following results: better learning curve as compared to traditional instruction; students had doubled higher content retention for e-learning over traditional classroom instruction; students demonstrated greater gains in learning than did students who were taught by traditional instruction.

      While the most obvious impact of m-learning on ROI is the significant time and cost savings it can produce over traditional training, more significant impact on ROI can be achieved as a consequence of m-learning. 
      Well constructed and develop m-learning tools is not only faster than classroom training but also more effective in general. Numerous studies have shown that people learn faster with such trainings; student using iPad and similar smart phones can have easy access to materials and can use the time to accurately recall what they learned over a longer period of time, and are better able to transfer what they learned to actual performance.

      About emPower

      emPower is a leading provider of comprehensive Healthcare Compliance Solutions through Learning Management System (LMS). Our mission is to provide innovative security solutions to enable compliance with applicable laws and regulations and maximize business performance. We provide range of courses to manage compliance required by regulatory bodies such as OSHA, HIPAA, Joint commission and Red Flag Rule etc. Apart from this emPower also offers custom demos and tutorials for your website, business process management and software implementation.

      Our Learning Management system (LMS) allows students to retrieve all the courses 24/7/365 by accessing our portal. emPower e-learning training program is an interactive mode of learning that guides students to progress at their own pace.

      For additional information, please visit

      Media Contact
      Jason Gaya

      12806 Townepark Way
      Louisville, KY 40243-2311
      Ph: 502-400-9374

      The Future and trends in Mobile Learning

      In the early phase of 21st century mobile phones were considered as a status symbol now it’s a necessity. The present usages of mobile phones are not just limited to new modalities for communication; they are like a pocket computer with latest hi-tech technological mélange with amazing features. The growing demand for mobiles especially amongst the different groups has opened the thresholds for mobile development companies to develop dynamic and creative mobile applications on different themes and concepts. 

      Today’s youth live in a world enveloped and surrounded by hi-tech gadgets. They get information from online publications, publish their content on blogs, and share up-to-the-minute updates using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter etc. And for some years now they’ve been doing all this on their phones.

      Mobile learning can be augmented by using the functionalities of both handheld computers and mobile phones. With the inception of the iPod, “Podcasting” created new ways to distribute content. Similarly, convergent devices like the iPhone and smart phones using the Android, Symbian and blackberry operating system are extending the boundaries of education.

      In the 2009 Parent-Teen Cell Phone Survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, 75% of 12 to17-year-olds own cell phones (up from 45% in 2004).

      Duke University was the first to use mobile devices in the field of education. Mobiles are used to access symposia, class material, and school news through iTunes. The faculty and students carry the course material with them on their iPods with help of a specially build program called iTunesU.

      In 2008, Abilene Christian University came up with the first-in-the-world mobile learning initiative. It was an innovative initiative for students and faculty to try something new and unique, which was never tried before an experiment with new forms and very advanced next-generation digital platforms including the iPhone and iPad.

      Similar milestone was set by Hamilton County Virtual School working in partnership with Emantras. An application in the name of Mobl21, enables teachers to create and publish text, video, and audio content in the form of short quizzes, flash cards, and guides.

      The scope of mobile learning includes:

      • Enhance group collaboration among students and instructors using a Pocket PC.

      • Job training, learning with handheld or wearable technologies solves a problem of classroom education

      • Student can learn outdoors, for example on field trips.

      • Support informal or lifelong learning, such as using handheld dictionaries and other devices for language learning.

      • Provide audiovisual support in order to enhance training similar to a corporate business or other classroom environment.

      Most personal technologies can support mobile learning, including:

      • Tablet PC UMPC mobile phone, camera phone and SmartPhone

      • Learning Mobile Author, e.g. for authoring and publishing WAP, J2ME and SmartPhone

      • Utilize audio player, e.g. for listening to audio recordings of lectures

      • Handheld audio and multimedia guides at outdoors

      • Handheld game console, modern gaming consoles such as Sony PSP or Nintendo DS/Wii

      • 3GP For compression and delivery method of audiovisual content associated with Mobile Learning

      • Wi-Fi access to instructors and available of resources via internet

      In the past few years, mobile learning has certainly moved beyond the hype. The ubiquitous availability of technology, the advancement of technologies in smart phones, and the development of learning applications have brought mobile learning into schools and universities. On the contrary it is also important to have a clear understanding of how and where tomorrow's mobile technology can be employed to support valuable learning, as looking at the current trend the educational developments continues to be more technology driven rather than user learner driven.

      About emPower

      emPower is a leading provider of comprehensive Healthcare Compliance Solutions through Learning Management System (LMS). Our mission is to provide innovative security solutions to enable compliance with applicable laws and regulations and maximize business performance. We provide range of courses to manage compliance required by regulatory bodies such as OSHA, HIPAA, Joint commission and Red Flag Rule etc. Apart from this emPower also offers custom demos and tutorials for your website, business process management and software implementation.

      Our Learning Management system (LMS) allows students to retrieve all the courses 24/7/365 by accessing our portal. emPower e-learning training program is an interactive mode of learning that guides students to progress at their own pace.

      For additional information, please visit

      Media Contact
      Jason Gaya

      12806 Townepark Way
      Louisville, KY 40243-2311
      Ph: 502-400-9374

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      AACE Global TIME Online Conference March 28 - April 1, 2011

      Global TIME -- Global Conference on Technology, Innovation, Media & Education is an online conference, organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). 

      This annual conference serves to further the advancement and innovation in learning and technology. As the educational world becomes increasingly global, new ways to explore, learn, and share knowledge are needed. Global TIME is a means to connect and engage creative educators, researchers, consultants, training managers, policy makers, curriculum developers, entrepreneurs, and others in the topics and fields in which they are passionate. Global TIME offers an opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas, findings, and next steps.

      Global TIME, the premiere international conference in the field, spans all disciplines and levels of education and is expected to attracts many leaders in the field from around the world. For a list of countries represented at previous AACE conferences, see: Countries.

      We invite you to attend Global TIME and submit proposals for virtual participation. The Conference Review Policy requires that each proposal will be peer-reviewed by for inclusion in the conference program, proceedings book, and Proceedings access via EdITLib Digital Library.

      The scope of the conference includes, but is not limited to, the following major topics as they relate to Learning and Technology. Sub-topics listed here.

      • Advanced Technologies for Learning and Teaching

      • Assessment and Research

      • Educational Reform, Policy, and Innovation

      • Evaluation and Quality Improvement Advances

      • Global Networks, Partnerships, and Exchanges

      • Innovative Approaches to Learning and Learning Environments

      • Open Education

      • Technologies for Socially Responsive Learning

      • Virtual and Distance Education

      The Technical Program includes a wide range of interesting and useful activities designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information.

      • Keynote Speakers

      • Invited Panels/Speakers

      • Live Virtual Presentations

      • Asynchronous virtual presentations

      Accepted papers will be published in the Proceedings and are are internationally distributed through and archived in the EdITLib Digital Library. These proceedings serve as major sources in the multimedia/ hypermedia/telecommunications community, reflecting the current state of the art in the discipline.

      Selected papers may be invited for publication in may be invited for publication in AACE's respected journals especially in the Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia (JEMH), International Journal on E-Learning (IJEL), or Journal of Interactive Learning Research (JILR). See:

      Papers present reports of significant work or integrative reviews in research, development, and applications related to the educational multimedia, hypermedia and telecommunications/ distance education. All presented papers will be considered by the Program Committee for Outstanding Paper Awards. There will also be an award for Outstanding Student Paper (therefore, please indicate with your submission if the primary author is a full-time student).

      Award winning papers will be highlighted in the AACE online periodical the AACE Journal. See previous award papers featured in the EdITLib Digital Library.

      Register Here

      What is Mobile Learning?

      Mobile Learning, or M-Learning, has different meanings for different users. Mobile learning is a subset of e-learning, which itself is a subset of education, and has a distinct focus on learning through the use of devices that can be easily carried.

      What is Mobile Learning in Real-life?

      Here are a few examples:

      • Fourth grade students in Oregon use an iPod to record drafts of their papers, catching errors that “just don’t sound right” they may otherwise have missed.1

      • In 2004, Duke University began giving iPods to freshmen, which were used for everything from reviewing pre-loaded orientation information to field recordings of notes, sounds, and audio data.2

      • A few years ago, Merrill Lynch equipped its investment bankers with BlackBerry devices, and saw completion rates of required compliance training increase.3

      All of these are example of mobile learning: educational experiences made possible because of a mobile device.

      What Mobile Devices are Used for Mobile Learning?

      While there is no strict definition, mobile devices are any device that can be easily carried by a student. This includes smartphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). More specifically, many popular mobile devices include:

      Learning Experiences of Mobile Learning

      As I commented earlier, mobile learning has a number of advantages either as a supplement to or replacement of classroom experiences. Learning experiences may take a number of forms, at a variety of levels:

      Individual Mobile Learning

      • Original course work: usually in some combination of text, audio, and visual components. May include reading e-books or listening to audiobooks, listening to lectures, watching demonstrations, reviewing assignments.

      • Skill practice: writing drafts of papers, recording oral practicing of everything from vocabulary practices to speeches.

      • Research: using Internet access to find source content.

      • Content capture: taking notes, recording audio/visual content.

      Peer-to-Peer or Peer-to-Instructor Mobile Learning

      • Posting questions or work products on shared websites, sending files to peers or instructors.

      • Sending emails, IMs, texts to peers or instructors to get fast answers to questions, checking on assignments, setting up meetings.

      Group Sharing Mobile Learning

      • Using social networking sites/shared websites to collaborate with others anywhere in the world.

      These same levels apply if you look at the learning experience from the instructor level. The individual teacher can post assignments, lecture notes, and course content so students can access them anytime, anywhere. K-12 and college-level teachers can use mobile technologies to communicate and work collaboratively with other teachers on campus, across the country, or around the world.

      The technologies are especially useful to instructors working inside businesses since their “students” are, by definition, mobile, and it is often impossible to get business people together in a room for a learning experience.

      Mobile Learning in the Near Future

      Mobile device sales have exploded in the past few years and all estimates project continued exponential growth, which presents a tremendous opportunity for educators – especially as the price of mobile devices continues to decrease.

      1“Student Achievement Data 2009-2010,” iPod User Group, 2010.

      2“Duke University iPod First Year Experience Final Evaluation Report,” Duke University, 2005.

      3“Merrill Lynch: Bullish on Mobile Learning,” Kristofor Swanson, 2008.


        Thursday, October 14, 2010

        Augmented reality goes mobile

        Just a quick post to share some augmented reality resources I assembled usingTrailmeme. To access these resources, click this link. A map or trail of what you’ll find is shown below.


        Ushering iPad into the Classroom

        A number of built-in features, tools, and add-ons are helping to propel Apple's iPad into the classroom. Technology analyst Denise Harrison looks at the benefits of iPad in education and predicts some unanticipated applications

        Tablet devices are hardly new; Apple's own Newton, introduced in 1987, could fairly be called an ancestor to the iPad with its tablet form, tethered pen touch interface, and easy portability. Even though other manufacturers marketed tablets based on the Newton operating system, for a variety of reasons unrelated to the quality of the technology, the Newton never made it past the left side of the adoption bell curve.

        Apple iPad is smoothly and quickly gliding that slope. In fact, according to analysts, iPads will soon bring in more revenue to Apple than its traditional computers, coming in second only to the iPhone.

        What the iPad has that the Newton didn't is an existing user base and familiar user interface. For the first time, it is possible that the child who learns to play cartoons on a device (iPhone, iPod touch, and now, iPad) could be using the same touchscreen interface a decade hence to create a high school report. Uses for higher education and business could make the iPad, and iPad II, iPad III, etc., constant companions long into adulthood.

        iPad's adoption is aided by the fact that iPods and iPhones are plenty past "The Chasm," and users are comfortable with and supportive of the interface. Buying the iPad is viewed as a simple, logical step up to the latest model of iAnything. In addition, the developer community is perhaps more vibrant than any software community ever, owing to accessible development tools and the ready-made marketing channel that is the App store.

        The prognosis for iPad's use in the classroom is good, said Sandra Sutton Andrews, research director in the Applied Learning Technologies Institute at Arizona State University. "The concept is perfect for education--a lightweight computer, relatively inexpensive, capable of being used almost anywhere: in your hands, on a table, attached to a wall, built into a tabletop," she said.

        Andrews's job involves investigating uses of technology in education--especially emerging technologies. She designs and conducts research, teaches university courses, and works with K-12 teachers to help assess and satisfy technology needs. One of her next anticipated projects is setting up an iPad laboratory for a deeper examination of features and benefits.

        "Add to this the fact that creating apps [for iPad] is not difficult, and at that point everything changes in terms of possibilities," she said. "Educators are already finding new uses for the available free or inexpensive commercial apps and are creating new apps that teach, engage, and even collect data. What's more, the educators behind these apps are making their resources available at no cost to other educators."

        • Good, some would call it excellent, color reproduction;

        • Natural platform for e-textbooks;

        • Large, 9.7-inch screen with 1,024 x 768-pixel resolution;

        • 3G and WiFi for "always on" Internet access;

        • Accessibility (support for closed captioning, voice over screen reader, full-screen zoom magnification, and support for nine languages, for example).

        "Accessibility to [students] with disabilities is possible to a surprising degree, given that accessibility once lagged behind when new technologies emerged," said Andrews. "Apps for children with cognitive disabilities have already been created by your fellow educators. There are built-in accessibility tools such as zoom and high contrast display. The built-in VoiceOver screen reader works as well on the iPad as on the iPhone, and Dragon Dictation is also available."

        While iPad looks, on the whole, good for teachers, students, and classrooms, on the down side, iPad doesn't yet support Flash (an omission familiar to owners of other Apple iOS devices), and some complain about the dearth of physical connectors, such as dedicated USB ports and SD card slots.

        Sam Farsaii agreed the lack of Flash support is a negative. Farsaii, chair of ISTE's SIG1to1 special interest group for 1:1 technology in K-16 education, said he hopes the Flash player support problem will be addressed with HTML 5. Farsaii has a long list of what he likes about the iPad for education, including its portability and lightness, flexibility, and ease of use. He also cited long battery life, instant on, ease of software download, screen resolution quality, innovative software at reasonable price, and wide availability of freeware as advantages. His only other suggestion, besides adding Flash support, is adding a camera.

        Another complaint by some early reviewers is the iPad does not support full Mac OS X applications. This may not be such a bad thing, as we explore below, in a look at built-in features, optional accessories, and creative-yet-unadvertised possibilities of iPads in schools.

        1. Built-in Benefits That Ease Content Creation

        Easy positioning for comfortable use
        The iPad provides ease of use in two ways laptops do not. The form factor of a single light-weight (1.5 pounds with WiFi, 1.6 pounds with 3G) panel and touch technology facilitate class content creation from nearly anywhere--the beach, the subway, and the diner. One doesn't need to fuss with the cumbersome folding laptop screen (which, despite the nomenclature, users have had problems positioning comfortably on laps anyway). Users also don't need to concern themselves with setting the screen at just the right angle to avoid glare from lights or the sun. While the laptop's light weight provides portability, physical placement for use is still limited. iPad can actually sit on a lap, and is light enough to hold at an angle with one hand and work with the other, thereby leaving users unconcerned with the right surface at the right angle.

        Always-on Internet
        The second ease-of-use benefit of the iPad is availability of 3G and WiFi. Typically, an instructor working in, say, a coffee shop would begin a lesson and inevitably arrive at a point requiring Internet research. Lesson creation is put on hold until he or she has access to a hotspot or returns to the office or home for an Internet connection. The combination of 3G and WiFi means there is no need to pause work until an Internet hot spot is near in order to complete a project; an iPad user can seamlessly go back and forth between creating content and researching information on the Internet. (Notebooks and netbooks, of course, have the option of connecting via 3G, though this option is generally available through an add-on and is not an integrated feature of the device itself.)

        Long battery life
        The iPad's battery life is impressive: nine hours of battery on 3G and up to 10 hours on WiFi. Long battery life is convenient for content creation and playback; the iPad offers long periods of time between charges even when playing videos on full-color screens, which is a big drain on batteries.

        The combination of ease of creation, flexible positioning, large color screen, long battery life, and the always-on Internet connection present advantages over notebooks and mobile devices that aid instructors in creating content with more fluidity and fewer interruptions--a relief for those who prefer the satisfaction and time-savings of being able to focus, when possible, on one project at a time.

        2. Optional Accessories

        iPad Dock
        The iPad Dock could benefit from a different name since, unlike most docking systems for handhelds, the iPad Dock offers more than just charging and syncing.

        One of the more education-friendly features offered by the iPad Dock is audio, namely, support for external speakers. The built-in speaker is considered by most to provide better quality and greater volume than the iPhone internal speaker, making the iPad audio adequate for workgroup listening, but the iPad Dock's audio line out allows connection to external speakers, giving sound a boost and enabling the iPad to be used the same way as any audio source device.

        Next on the iPad Dock's plus list is the design. The iPad Dock doubles as a stand. When in the dock, the iPad sits upright at a slight tilt, comfortable for video viewing, and when paired with an external keyboard, the docked iPad can look and feel much like the screen for a desktop computer.

        VGA connection
        The VGA cable, which connects to the optional iPad Dock, is designed specifically for connecting the iPad to a TV or a front projector. Any visual on the iPad can be shown on a larger screen. Yes, notebook computers can do this too, but just as the iPad infused elegance into the creation process, the iPad does so for presentation delivery as well. Because of the form factor, which allows the iPad to be used with one hand, the instructor can actually walk around the room while continuing to control the projected images. He or she isn't stuck at the table or lectern where a laptop would normally reside.

        The iPad Camera Connection Kit
        In this age when students are taught to present content in visual formats, the digital camera and digital video camera are increasing in importance as classroom tools, yet sharing those productions with groups has not been easy. For the most part, photos are shared via phone or e-mail, and videos are shared via Internet sites such as YouTube. The iPad Camera Connection Kit, an optional connection to the iPad Dock, provides an easier, faster path from individual shoots to sharing with the class. Students connect the camera to the iPad, download images and videos, then using the optional VGA connector, students and instructors may display photos and play videos from the iPad on large screen TVs or projectors.

        Long power cord
        The peripheral 6 foot power cord is one of the most popular accessories so far. Anyone who has tried to power a mobile device with a short power cord appreciates the convenience of a long one. The popularity should hold true for educators as well, since most power outlets are located on classroom walls, and most classrooms are not equipped with table pop-up connection panels.

        iWork optional apps
        Apple offers several productivity applications that are tailored for the iPad and sold at the iTunes store. These three applications provide productivity capabilities similar to traditional Windows applications at fractions of the price ($9.99 each). Keynote, for example, is a drag-and-drop presentation creation app, and its presentations can be exported into PowerPoint. Pages is for word processing and supports Microsoft Word -supported file formats, including Office Open XML (.docx) and Office 97 or later (.doc). And Numbers allows users to create spreadsheets that can be exported into Microsoft Excel.

        Apps for that
        iPad application development for education will, no doubt, be hot. The ease of application development and the general affordability of the applications will be great news for instructors, whose toughest job could be deciding among them.

        3. Unintended-Yet-Beneficial Uses of iPad Features and Accessories

        Educators are discovering that students are not always fluent in traditional office-type applications the way the average employee is today. iWork, Apple's productivity software suite, could be the great equalizer and could even make knowing other productivity software irrelevant for many day-to-day tasks. iWork may not have it all, but it has enough, especially when one considers the price: Mail, maps, note pad app, and Web browser Safari are included; the presentation, word processing, and spreadsheet apps are just $9.99 each.

        The built-in calendar affords instructors the same features most computer calendars provide. Instructors can create events (such as test dates, presentation dates and times, and activities). We had a theory about how the iPad calendar might be used to keep students and teachers informed of lesson plans and important dates. We checked with Apple, and the company told us, indeed, the instructor can invite all students to an event, such as a due date, and, as students respond by confirming participation, the instructor will be able to know the student has been advised of dates he or she needs to keep in mind. In the case of K-12, parents can be invited to events as well to keep them informed of homework assignments, test dates, and due dates for special projects. As dates change, all parties are notified. Even if all students don't have possession of an iPad, they can obtain this information by accessing a shared iPad in the class (more below).

        If all students have iPads or access to iPads or other iOS devices, instructors can communicate with them as a group using Calendar or using individual or group e-mail, with all involved parties benefiting from uniform interfaces and functionality. These methods of receiving data, appointment requests, and messages might just help prepare young students for the work environment of their adulthood.

        iPad mounts
        Mounts designed for the iPad are hitting the market, and while a mount is a simple solution, this functionality will begin to encourage creative uses of iPads not found in the marketing materials. For example, iPad displays on inside or outside walls of the classroom can, at a glance, provide students and parents with curricula; assignments by week, day or month; test dates, and student presentation dates and times. By checking a mounted iPad daily, students and parents without their own iPads can access the same information about lessons and assignments as those who do.

        A table-top mounted iPad sits upright and might be used for calendar information, and also for on-demand videos related to current lessons or to facilitate group collaboration, for just two additional examples. Wall- or table-mounted, the iPad can show fun videos of class activities, list spelling bee results, display sports scores and team videos outside team rooms, and deliver a slide show of science fair projects. Any school-wide or group/class-focused information can be displayed on a mounted iPad.

        Using Calendar, an iPad mounted on a wall outside a meeting room could display room reservations, providing a rather affordable room reservation solution. Apple confirmed that, with shared calendars, a group of teachers and administrators who have been granted access to designated calendars will be able to remotely reserve a conference room. Other teachers will be able to see the times already booked and reserve their own times for using the room as well.

        Mounted iPads bring a number of potential uses for the classroom. Considering the affordability and the uniformity and ease of the iPad interface, we can expect K-12 and higher education educational technologists to use mounted iPads to bring many new applications to Apple's latest innovation.

        MobileMe software syncs between devices automatically, without having to physically connect those devices. This means that updating contacts, e-mail, and calendars can be done from anywhere to anywhere. Any update an instructor makes on a home computer, or an iPad, can update any other iPad or computer. A teacher, therefore, could change the lesson plan at home in the evening, and the updates will automatically appear on a mounted iPad or computer in the classroom set up for public, or class-wide, use and display. (Due dates of assignments, test dates, and other calendar invitations updated remotely will change for individual students as per usual e-mail functionality.)

        Another feature of MobileMe useful to the classroom is the cloud-based iDisk, which enables file storage and sharing online. This allows teachers or students to upload and share files that can later be accessed by students via computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

        USB support on the Camera Connection Kit
        The iPad Camera Connection Kit has two ways that users can import photos and videos from a digital camera: the camera's USB cable or directly from an SD card. The camera kit's USB capability has unintended, and beneficial, consequences not lost on fervent iOS users.

        Many fault the iPad for its omission of a USB port, but a number of clever people are finding ways to use that port in ways other than advertised. Chris Foresman, writing for Ars Technica, collected stories of successful experiments including the camera kit USB port to power USB speakers, headsets, microphones, and keyboards. As Foresman mentioned, it does bode well for expanded USB support in later versions of Apple iPads.

        Will It Float?
        Is iPad the killer app? For the general public, probably so, at least for a few years. For education, we won't learn pros versus cons until a few pioneers weigh in. Multi-touch has for some time been present in kiosks, Smart interactive whiteboards, and futuristic movies. The real killer app is touch technology, which is (finally) here to stay.


        Wednesday, October 13, 2010

        The problem with blended learning

        Once I get out from under the PhD, I’m hoping to expand an initial ideaattacking the rhetoric of blended learning currently in vogue in some parts of higher education. The purpose of this quote is to save a quote that I’ve just come across for that expansion, and also to summarise the idea.

        At the very least, this has helped me realise that it isn’t the original idea of blended learning that is at fault, it’s how the idea has been translated into action within some institutions. i.e. as a fad, with little understanding of the complex complexities and even less engagement with them.

        Blended learning described

        In describing blended learning, Garrison and Kanuka (2004) offer this
        A blended learning design represents a significant departure from either of these approaches. It represents a fundamental reconceptualization and reorganization of the teaching and learning dynamic, starting with various specific contextual needs and contingencies (e.g., discipline, developmental level, and resources). In this respect, no two blended learning designs are identical. This introduces the great complexity of blended learning.

        This is a significantly more nuanced understanding of blended learning than is typically used. In such typical rhetoric, blended learning is typically equated with the adoption of an LMS. Any “fundamental reconceptualization and reogranization” of learning can only occur within the confines of the LMS.

        More broadly, it can only occur within the confines of the existing practices within the institution. Practices that typically include workload calculation formulas that have the provision of lectures and tutorials embedded within them. Institutional management don’t engage with the complexity of Garrison and Kanuka’s conception of blended learning.

        What’s worse, the idea that “no two blended learning designs are identical” clashes horribly with the commodification of learning and requirements for accountability.


        Garrison, R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-104.

        Tuesday, October 12, 2010

        Gates Foundation launches $20M fund for tech ventures to improve education

        The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Monday a $20 million project to fund Internet and other high-tech ventures aimed at boosting the nation's troubling college graduation rates.

        Through the use of the Web, social networks, games and gadgets, the foundation said technology provides new opportunities to keep students engaged in their studies and provide more flexibility to attend classes online.

        At stake is a brewing educational and economic crisis, the foundation said. Only half of Americans at age 30 have a college degree. But in eight years, about 64 percent of all jobs will require more than a high school diploma.

        "American education has been the best in the world, but we’re falling below our own high standards of excellence for high school and college attainment," said Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Gates Foundation, which has put $5 billion into grants to improve education. "We should harness new technologies and innovation to help all students get the education they need to succeed."

        It is too early to assess the affect of technology on efforts to improve rates of education. But The Gates Foundation points to some projects that have shown some impact: Carnegie Melon has put many of its classes online. New York City public schools are experimenting with an algorithm to match students with activities that best suit them and online tools to connect teachers with students.

        Starting Monday, the Gates Foundation said, it will accept applications for initial awards of $250,000 to $750,000 for the following:

        • Increasing the use of blended learning models, which combine face-to-face instruction with online learning activities.

        • Deepening students’ learning and engagement through use of interactive applications, such as digital games, interactive video, immersive simulations and social media.

        • Supporting the availability of high-quality open courseware, particularly for high-enrollment introductory classes such as math, science, and English, which often have low rates of student success.

        • Helping institutions, instructors and students benefit from learning analytics, which can monitor student progress and customize proven supports and interventions.

        The deadline to apply is Nov. 17, and awards will be announced next March. The Gates Foundation, with nonprofit EDUCAUSE and the William and Flora Hewlitt Foundation, plans to fund similiar awards every six to 12 months. (disclosure: Melinda Gates sits on the board of The Washington Post Co.).

        photo credit: CES

        Monday, October 11, 2010

        Beyond the basics of mobile device rollouts: ideas for the learning environment

        So, you’ve decided to give these new-fangled mobile devices a place at your 21st century education (a term I use because I know so many can’t stand it) table. Your students will thank you. During the initial planning and implementation phase of your work to tap into the potential benefits of mobile learning (such as portability, simplicity, agility and personalisation) I’d like to encourage you to turn your mind, and that of your students even, to problem solving.

        Of course any successful integration of 21st century pedagogy (oops said it again) will require plenty of problem solving. But in this post I’m talking specifically about the physical environment into which these devices will need to fit. Is it one thats set up for large PCs and traditional content-transmission teaching? If so, you have a wonderful challenge ahead. And if your school has anything like the strained budget of mine, its a challenge that could be posed like this:

        • “How can we creatively adapt to the unique space and accessory needs of a mobile device project, without the total cost of ownership of the project making the whole thing too expensive?”

        • Questions stemming from this directly might be: “How will we manage all the cords for syncing and charging or storing styli?” and “is there a stand that works in multiple locations so we don’t have to buy many different kinds?”

        Sounds like a great challenge-based or project-based learning task. And here’s where I suggest you start – at one of those cheap web stores full of gadget bibs and bobs – where a bit of creative thinking just net you what you need.

        Example 1: the Cable clip

        Despite the presence of wifi in more and more device that fall into the mobile learning category, most still require cables for charging if not for syncing as well. It doesn’t take too long before even a few devices means many cords and cables snaking around desks. Big potential workplace health and safety issue. Now, you could try cheap cable ties to group some of the cords or keep them tidy, but these have to be cut every time the cords are moved. Enter the cable clip. By peeling off the adhesive, you can stick it (and re-stick) wherever its needed for grouping power or syncing cables. I’ve also seen it used as a holder for a stylus if your art teacher wants students to use those with you mobile device. Even better, these can be had from some online stores for under $3.00 for a pack of six.

        Example 2: The windscreen mount re-purposed as a multi-purpose stand and mount.

        With the amount of apps available on many devices these days (wether they be iPod touches, tablets, phones, even Leapster devices), the best return on any schools investment naturally is if students have them at hand to be used as much as possible. Going on the out of site out of mind idea, its especially important in the early stages of a deployment when you and your students aren’t used to having the capabilities of your chosen device to draw on that they be visible. To this end, my idea is to repurpose a windscreen GPS-type mount for holding a variety of gadgets in place around a learning area, especially for viewing podcasts or playing and replaying voice recordings etc. This one that I found (simply called a ‘universal car windshield mount’) has three rotating sections and I’ve been able to angle it pretty much anyway I’d want for devices in both a portrait and landscape mode. Plus despite being cheap (ie. under $9.00), its quite sturdy and the holder can adjust from about 5cm to 10cm wide, meaning it can be used with a variety of devices.

        Ok, so there is a couple of ideas. I’d love to hear what others come up with.

        PS. I did my ‘creative thinking’ at, which is also where the pricing in this post comes from.


        Saturday, October 9, 2010

        Education Investments in Wireless Continue To Grow

        Academic institutions in the United States are spending more than $5 billion annually on wireless hardware, software, and services. And, according to new research, that figure will climb to $6.8 billion by 2014.

        According to a new report from Compass Intelligence, an IT consultancy and market research firm, this year alone, education institutions--both K-12 and higher ed--will spend $5.7 billion on wireless services and equipment, growing at a compound annual rate of 5.2 percent through 2014.

        What's driving this growth?

        It's largely owing to accelerating adoption of wireless classroom technologies, including digital readers, smart phones, and other handheld electronics. According to information released by Compass Intelligence: "Technology and mobility use for classroom instruction and interactive learning is becoming an exciting new trend in both K-12 and higher education, outside of traditional administrative and general communications use. College campuses are enticing students by providing students with devices such as e-readers, smart phones, and embedded mobile broadband devices with WiFi upon entry into the universities. Compass Intelligence also expects a high growth in free and licensed mobile applications to be made available for students to download on their mobile devices for use in the classroom and for learning."

        Stephanie Atkinson, managing partner at Compass Intelligence, told us that the picture in K-12 right now is about the same as it was in higher education about five years ago, and it's picking up and spreading out, just as higher education did. "K-12 has historically been slower to upgrade and build out 802.11n networks, but the cost of the infrastructure is becoming very affordable and even a very affordable option for rural school districts," Atkinson said. "We are already starting to see adoption of wireless equipment and infrastructure pick up in K-12, and this is expected to continue very similar to what we saw in higher education five years ago. Adoption will first occur in building networks in the more common and gathering areas such as libraries, laboratories, and meeting rooms. Eventually, K-12 campuses will build out these networks across the campus. K-12 school districts are utilizing wireless networks to ramp up networks quickly, replace leased line and T-1 connections, enhance security, and retrofit older buildings and portable building where fixed line network construction is challenging."

        Atkinson also told us that traditional wireless technologies will not be the only factor driving growth. 4G and mobile broadband will also have an impact on education, although right now, of course, adoption is hindered owing to limited availability.

        "I have been talking with mostly the vendors to get their perspective and really the only activity I am seeing with 4G at this stage is with Sprint/Clearwire, primarily Sprint. Sprint is getting a great bit amount of interest in their 4G network capabilities primarily because in the cities where the network is already launched, schools are seeing 4G as a way to combine with mobile devices (handhelds, smart phones, iPods, e-readers, and other devices that have embedded wireless) with 4G to get the coverage, speed, and reliability needed to collaborate, use video, advance application use, and other applications to enhance the learning environment. They see this as a way for students to bring devices home and still have coverage, instead of just relying on the campus network."

        She said mobile broadband is likely to affect academic institutions following the traditional pattern. "As with other technologies, most of the adoption will occur in Higher Education first, and then K-12 will follow suit."

        She cited several advantages for 4G and mobile broadband over traditional wireless technologies that will fuel adoption, such as the ability to push expenses to a monthly schedule (as opposed to large, upfront expenses), improved security, wider coverage, and faster speeds in some cases. "The rollout of purpose-built devices and handheld devices along with educational applications will continue to require mobile broadband to effectively be used in a classroom or campus environment. Distance learning, interactive learning portals, district connectivity, and other applications are driving the need for wireless more than ever."

        Atkinson added, however, that schools in rural areas are unlikely to see the same benefits from 4G or mobile broadband as their metropolitan counterparts. "Most of the impact from 4G/MBB will come in the larger cities, since that is how the vendors are rolling out WiMAX and 4G from a network perspective, and that is where the better coverage areas are today with even 3G. The rural areas are still struggling to get the bandwidth and speed the larger cities have, and this will continue to be an issue unless they roll out private WiFi, WiMAX, or LTE networks...."

        As part of the research that went into the report, Compass interviewed about 50 education IT leaders and found that nearly a third of them--30.6 percent--reported increased spending on wireless data services this year compared with last year. The also reported that priorities for upcoming budgets will include data security, computer systems, and Web infrastructure.

        A complete report is available through a subscription to Compass Intelligence's Education Vertical subscription service. It's being offered at a 25 percent discount through the end of the year. Further information, along with a free, downloadable report on technology in education, can be foundhere.