Apr 06

Situating the “WebApp Maker”

My project within a project within a project was accepted. I’ve got some final edits to make and constructive criticisms to apply, and I’ll receive my M.Ed. in June. But the best news is, I’ve got a friend with a class who are up to the challenge, we’re working out details to actually build mobile-friendly web apps. But wait! There’s more! I’ve just been tweeting with PLN interested in this and/or similar ideas. I’m quickly going to summarize some of the constructive criticisms I’m talking about, and in so doing reveal what I think comes next, at least for me.

The nature of this thing is you can pick and choose what parts might be useful to your own endeavors, or join in and help set the course of this one, branch off on your own at any time, or lurk and watch what happens to the rest of us.

It does not require Internet, only computers. The experience will be better if computers can share a network; Internet makes it all much easier, especially such rewards as viewing your work on smart phones and sharing with family/friends.

Framing the activity

The project needs a goal—context and boundaries. A simple instant gratification version of this activity can be done if each participant has an image of themselves and 2 or 3 documents of some kind, for example assignments… poetry, written work. It might take the shape of About Me, or My Work in Grade x. In my imaginings, participants have something with their picture and things they’ve created inside it, and they have just grasped a sense of how to control those things using buttons and links. I believe if I do that correctly, they want to go further and do more, and they tell me so. I prepare for that.

Each student needs a USB stick, even a 1GB will do. If you have limited computers you need to set up timesharing; the USB travels with the participant. The only premise I have so far for a group version is whatever the students do individually, the teacher compiles as a class page. Teacher should do the individual activity up front, but you’ll be learning with the class, too. You should hunt down things you need and people who can help—the class’s PLN. A “thicker” (rife with teachable moments, methods, strategies) scope might be My Community, and an extension Project-Based learning situation could have reporters, videographers, copy editors… the class decides the organization’s structure and “business model,” create jobs and hires each other to fill them.

I used mind-mapping software to chart this out, my first maps are very clear to me, but to few others. I’ve been given a newer version of the easier one and I’ve already made cleaner better maps. I’ll be replacing and rearranging things here for a week or two. designVUE is good at collecting resources and showing how dots connect—try it you might like it

I’ll respond to comments on this blog, on this or any other post, but I’ll also welcome and incorporate ideas of others. I may add to this post, and I’ll write Updated at the top if/when I do.

§


Footnotes

  1. Entrepreneurship is a 21st century competency in both C21 (Canada) and P21 (US).

 

Mar 31

When the Diddlies overstay their welcome

or… staving off Pull-off Syndrome

I created this article using My VexFlow, and it appears here in an embedded iFrame. “My VexFlow lets you publish content with beautiful music notation, guitar tablature, and chord diagrams, without the need for special tools. Just type away! ”

§

Further discovery

My VexFlow lets you publish content with beautiful music notation, guitar tablature, and chord diagrams, without the need for special tools. Just type away!

Mar 31

The right technology for the job

I chose pencil and paper Choosing the right technology for the job depends on many factors. One important factor is fun, and I do have fun making a beautiful print-like chart in Tux guitar. LilyPond offers even more versatility, and now there’s My VexFlow. But some very close friends have asked me to record a Tom Cochrane song on solo acoustic, so I thought I’d share the technology I chose and the criteria by which I chose it.

I just need a guide I can see from where I’ll be sitting or standing, something to look at, to keep me focused in case an engineer or a videographer makes funny faces at me while I’m trying to play. I should only have to listen to the song once to prepare it, and pause playback only long enough to enter what I just heard. I needed the option of misusing Coda and Segno, writing myself notes in the margin, and so on.
—For this job I chose Paper and Pencil 1.0

I’ve heard the full band version a million times but they’ve specified this arrangement. There’re 8 bars where I have to keep time on the guitar while they go a cappella, so I just need a guide I can see from where I’ll be sitting or standing, something to look at, to keep me focused in case an engineer or a videographer makes funny faces at me while I’m trying to play. I should only have to listen to the song once to prepare it, and pause playback only long enough to enter what I just heard. I needed the option of misusing Coda and Segno, writing myself notes in the margin, and so on.

I chose the technology pictured — it took 9 minutes (much less than getting the image off my phone and uploading it, blogging about it, etc!). I made the manuscript paper template in Word 97 if I recall correctly, more recently used Open Office to convert to PDF. I printed it out on a bubble-jet printer, standard paper. It’s a No. 2 pencil.

I chose pencil and paperTux guitar is my choice for lead sheets, if that’s what I need to do, but to place things perfectly, or even to get a full choice of things to place, in the open source world you’ve got the learning curves of scripting tools like Lilypond and VexTab …or pens, pencil and paper!

§

Mar 29

Instant gratification as intrinsic motivation.

“I learned HTML CSS and JavaScript exactly the same way I learned guitar—by stealing other people licks.” chord diagram, E major, first position.
I’ve said this a few times, but I’m coming to believe my point is largely being missed. I think if the point’s worth anything at all it’s incumbent on me—the communicator—to give it another try.

Continue reading

Mar 20

Which way is in?

Do you like maps? I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. But especially the kind of map you might draw for someone to get to your party, where they get to choose their own way in—depending where they’re coming from. Just over a year ago I began seriously researching learning design tools and techniques that might work well for Internet-based collaborations creating project-based learning experiences. I didn’t expect to still be at it a year later—and I definitely didn’t expect to become so thoroughly intrigued by a single class of software—I had no idea sophisticated, free, open source idea-mapping software existed.an outdoor stone labyrinth

Continue reading

Mar 13

On Webmasters and PluginMonkeys (reprise)

I’m very fond of saying I first learned web design—HTML, JavaScript and CSS—the same way I learned guitar: by “stealing” other people’s best licks. When I took music in Pennsylvania public schools in the 60s we had an itinerant music teacher once or twice each week, and classroom teacher-led music once or twice more. We learned every good boy deserves fudge and we sang songs “by note,” and songs “by rote.” We were taught musicianship. But there was never any suggestion the goal was for any of us to become professional musicians. I’ve been thinking about that ever since I learned “entrepreneurship” is receiving top billing local curriculum as a universal 21st Century competency (e.g., C21, P21). Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Informal learning is valid and important

Graphic, reads I learned html same way as guitar, by stealing other people's licks

Part 1 of this series was written over a year ago when I first heard the man I considered my Jimmy Page of the JavaScript world, Douglas Crocker, refer to my kind dismissively as “Webmasters…Generally they weren’t very smart.” Dion Almaer suggested the term “jQuery Plugin Monkeys,” to much laughter. To summarize, I’ve embraced the term in much the way U.S. Democrats embraced “Obamacare.” To continue, then as now I’ve always approached the WWW as an educator asking, “How can this help me share what I know?” I learned, informally, what I needed to know, when I needed to know it. Dedicated CompSci folks always did much more, and way cooler stuff in much less time (and their stuff scales!). Yet I think knowing their language gives my ideas a better chance of being realized. Continue reading

Feb 19

Design Learning, Learning Design

In 1981 “cognitive apprenticeship” was a nascent framework proposed by early researchers with an eye on computer-assisted design of computer-enhanced learning environments that are “situated.” This means “authentic”

The research on the tailors did not result immediately or even very soon in an alternative to the theory for which it offered a critique. It did impel me to go looking for ways to conceptualize learning differently, encouraged by those three interconnected transformations that resulted from the project: (1) a reversal of the polar values assumed to reflect differing educational power for schooling and “other” forms of education; (2) a reversal in perspective so that the vital focus of research on learning shifted from transmitters, teachers or care givers, to learners; and (3) a view of learning as socially situated activity. This work couldn’t replace existing theories, but it provided incentives to ask new questions about learning.
—Jean Lave (1996:155)

activities taking place in the context of, and with the full support of, a “community of practice.” In general the other participants are—for the time being—more proficient than the learner at the given craft or activity. Learners and practitioners interact in a wide variety of ways, often over considerable time, that can be characterized as strategies or phases—observing and practising, receiving scaffolded (progressively adapted by the practitioners) coaching until working independently. The overly-theoretical sounding name has mostly gone by the wayside, but the concepts and application have matured. Still employing ethnography to gather thick qualitative descriptions, there’s now stronger input from the fields of design and architecture. The new name is “Design Learning.” I see parallels in research into tool redesign conducted at Open University NE and Open University UK.

“computers … can make the invisible visible … they can make tacit knowledge explicit … to the degree that we can develop good process models of expert performance, we can embed these in technology, where they can be observed over and over for different details” (p. 125).
Allan Collins, 1991:125

In 1992 Allan Collins and Ann Brown built on their earlier research (e.g., Collins, Brown, and Newman, 1989; Collins, Brown, Holum, Duguid, 1989; Collins, Brown, Holum, 1991) and conducted what they dubbed design experiments.; “Design experiments were developed as a way to carry out formative research to test and refine educational designs based on principles derived from prior research,” i.e., cognitive apprenticeship. There is a direct line from the Cognitive Apprenticeship Framework to Design Learning, (Collins et al., 2004) and recent experiments in the redesign of learning design tools (Conole et al., 2007) (LAMS, 2008) (OULDI-JISC, 2012).

They built on the work of Herbert Simon (1969) who regarded the “design sciences,” such as architecture, engineering, computer science, medicine, and education, as the “sciences of the artificial,” that have been neglected because of the lack of rigorous theories. John Seely Brown and and David Kearns co-founded the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL) in 1986 and adopted ethnography—the description of peoples’ customs and cultures—as its main research method. The Institute forged new understandings of how individuals enter and join learning communities, achieve acceptance, then themselves grow and evolve as vessels of community knowledge. As they do so they often increase interaction and engagement—i.e., collaboration—with secondary networks outside their primary one (Lave & Wenger, 1991) (Lave, 1996). Does it sound just a bit like joining Twitter?

Ethnography attempts “thick descriptions” in the style of Geertz. One of the more fundamental truths of pedagogy spotlighted by this approach is its “messy” and iterative nature. The motto of instructors and learners alike may be “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but it’s always with an eye toward improving on previous attempts.

Case studies are touted by a wide assortment of education stakeholders. They are used up front in planning, as course content, or as summary program assessment. A good case study can be a thick, descriptive ethnography of a situation.

By studying a design in practice with an eye toward progressive refinement, it is possible to develop more robust designs over time. […] Ethnography provides qualitative methods for looking carefully at how a design plays out in practice, and how social and contextual variables interact with cognitive variables. […] Design experiments are contextualized in educational settings, but with a focus on generalizing from those settings to guide the design process”
(Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004).

The Open University Learning Design Initiative have been working across several OU faculties and with 4 other universities to pilot curriculum design activities, identify and develop tools, and otherwise contribute to academic and practitioner research. If you’ve followed my Tweets or blog the past several weeks you’ve already heard of CompendiumLD. Follow the link to see more tools and other output from this prolific group.

All told these and associated authors (see also Conole, 2007, Conole et al., 2008) consulted close to 50 case studies, but they did not fall into a common pitfall of well-read academics: the automatic presumption of expertise. On the contrary, they embrace the messiness as evidence of authenticity and opportunity for iterative improvement. “The concept of a ‘learning design methodology’ has been integral …however, different readings of the term could, and were, made. …resisting a single definition has enabled us to connect more readily with diverse literatures and to orientate resources and tools towards user needs.” (OULDI-JISC, 2012)

I think that’s academic for, “There are no mistakes, only opportunities.” (—Tina Fey?)

Case studies and design experiments allowed these and other researchers to, among other things, map tools and strategies to the six instructional methods of cognitive apprenticeship and to develop a Scaffolding Design Framework to focus its use.

 

§


Reference

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18 (1), 32-41.

Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S.E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the crafts of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, Learning and Instruction: Essays in Honor of Robert Glaser (pp.453- 494). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Collins, Allan; Brown, John Seely; and Holum, Ann (1991). Cognitive apprenticeship: Making thinking visible. American Educator: The Professional Journal of the American Federation of Teachers, 15(3), 6-11, 38-46, [reprint available on line at http://elc.fhda.edu/transform/resources/collins_brown_holum_1991.pdf (PDF) accessed 2012-09-17] or from The 21st Century Learning Initiative http://www.21learn.org/archive/cognitive-apprenticeship-making-thinking-visible/ (HTML), accessed 2013-02-19.

Collins, Allan; Joseph, Diana and Bielaczyc, Katerine (2004). Design Research: Theoretical and Methodological Issues, The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15-42.

Conole, G. (2007), ‘Describing learning activities: tools and resources to guide practice’ in Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age, H. Beetham and R. Sharpe (Eds), Oxford: RoutledgeFalmer.

Conole, G. (2008), ‘Capturing practice: the role of mediating artefacts in learning design’, in L. Lockyer, S. Bennett, S. Agostinho, and B. Harper (Eds), Handbook of Research on Learning Design and Learning Objects: Issues, Applications and Technologies.

Ghefaili, Aziz (2003). Cognitive Apprenticeship, Technology, and the Contextualization of Learning Environments, Journal of Educational Computing, Design & Online learning Volume 4, Fall, pp 1-27.

Geertz, Clifford (1973) Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture, pp. 3-30, in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, NY: Basic Books, 470 pages.

OULDI-JISC (2012) Cross, Simon; Galley, Rebecca; Brasher, Andrew & Weller, Martin, Final Project Report of the OULDI-JISC Project: Challenge and Change in Curriculum Design Process, Communities, Visualisation and Practice, Institute of Educational Technology The Open University, July 2012, www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/curriculumdesign/OULDI_Final_Report_instit%20story.pdf.

Simon, H. A. (1969) The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Jan 19

Mind mapping for learning design

UPDATED: when you’ve read this, see my latest update on Gráinne Conole’s latest contributions to these ideas, linked at the end.

Mind map of CompendiumLD showing Getting StartedThe past 30 years in education research has seen the influx of big ideas from computer science, social anthropology, design and even architecture. We now say learning is situated in authentic social contexts many call communities of practice.

This has had some pretty significant effects on research itself (e.g., ethnographic case studies, action research), and learning design tools, themselves designed to reflect this current situation, but for reasons I won’t waste any more time pondering, the uptake still seems relatively slow. Gráinne Conole, with others at the Institute of Educational Technology, Open University UK, looked into an idea/concept/mind mapping tool, Compendium, that was already under development there, and in yet another demonstration of the efficacy of open source, created CompendiumLD, Compendium “Learning Design,” allowing designers to visualize the many connections that exist within learning situations. I believe such tools will play an increasingly important role in the design, planning and implementation of learning experiences.

Continue reading

Dec 13

Mind mapping, concept mapping—making the relationships between ideas visible

In his 2004 article published in The Journal of Economic Education John Budd describes an in-class exercise “…in which small groups of students each create a Mind Map for a specific topic.” He says creating mind maps is “…an example of an active and collaborative learning tool that instructors can use to move beyond “chalk and talk” …and incorporate diverse learning styles.” The author presents ideas for mind map topics for a wide variety of economics courses, and several lovely examples of students’ maps, drawn freehand and collaboratively. “hierarchies and associations flow out from a central image in a free-flowing, yet organized and coherent, manner.”Mind Maps can be lesson planners, lesson plans, and lessonsFirst page of article, Budd (2004)  about Mind Maps

There is now a good selection of mind- or concept-mapping software educational experience designers may find very helpful in making thinking visible, by offering ways to illustrate the connections between ideas. Nearly all of them are built for Internet collaboration. My goal in this post is just to share an inkling I’ve been getting that such software can find a role in lesson planning, lesson plans, and as John Budd and others have found, in the lessons themselves.

I wrote about one such program, Compendium, back in March, and I’ve tried my hand at mapping an understanding of cognitive apprenticeship. First I simply listed the pieces of the Collins, Brown and Holum (1991) framework, assigning symbolic icons to imply their role, positioning them visually so as to reflect their hierarchy. Then I use colour-coded arrows to indicate relationships between them. In the software these objects can all be opened as dialog boxes, which can store further details. “Mouseover” or “rollover” effects (anything the software does in response to a user placing their mouse pointer over something on the screen) let you peek inside.

UPDATE: I learned 2012-12-15 in Compendium Institute Newsgroup Digest #1389, that Compendium will receive a long overdue overhaul, and the source code seems to be finding its way to more friendly repositories. This recording of a Compendium developer meeting contains details, and may also be of interest to see how Compendium is used to add idea-mapping to the task of recording minutes. The recorded meeting demonstrates another technology-based approach to making thinking visible (and audible).

attempted Mind Map of cognitive apprenticeship

Fig. 1—Mapping the Cognitive Apprenticeship Framework
Trying to cover all the bases: making thinking visible while designing a lesson. Icons, positioning, colours, arrowhead direction have meaning, follow the designer’s logic… (cont…)

Two close-ups of the maps within (neither completed):

Map of Sociology of a learning experience

Fig. 2— Sociology
…general priorities and strategies unfold: coloured arrows illustrate relationships to and betweenthe ideas; each item can become a map of future brainstorming. Big questions asked here, “Have I planned for this?” “Who are my experts?” get deep answers at the next level…  (cont…)

compendium mind map

Fig. 3—Content
…where you can be clear and specific about content, methods, and activities. Compendium and similar software let you add lists, links, video, documents, and to publish the results.

These maps list the parts of the framework. In Compendium you can draw additional items as you brainstorm and you can put terms “inside” other items, for example double-click the Content->Questions icon and find the actual questions stored inside. You can label the lines, change the directions of the arrowheads or put arrowheads on both ends. You can also export an interactive version in HTML [also here and here] and other formats.

Wikipedia has a list of free and proprietary mind-map and idea mapping software. I’d like to try it all at some point but thus far I looked at “VUE,” or Visual Understanding Environment, a project at Tufts University. I found it to be very intuitive, it has a large and versatile set of features, produces a result similar in many ways to that of Compendium, and it can be used as a unique and powerful presentation tool. Also like Compendium they have a user community and a gallery that will tell you far more than I possibly can.

Budd points out some very significant differences between the mind map and the traditional, linear outline and states these have powerful implications for learning:

…note that each branch is captured by a single key word, not a phrase or sentence. Using single words reduces ideas to their core. Important ideas are not obscured by extraneous words, and new associations are not limited by more specific phrases. …The central point in the Mind Map must always be an image because the brain is drawn to an image more …differences in the size of the branches and the associated words are used to reinforce associations and to add emphasis. …the use of color is important in creating Mind Maps. …many Mind Maps use one color for each major category to aid in organization. …These differences can make Mind Maps powerful tools. …Research on memory and learning emphasizes the importance of associations, and the radiant structure of a Mind Map with explicit branches promotes associations. The use of color for different categories can also make more powerful associations. The use of emphasis in a Mind Map, for example with thicker main branches and larger printing, can also help the recall of information. The focus on using single key words can foster more expansive connections, and confining the entire Mind Map to a single piece of paper allows one to see the entire picture at once and perhaps stimulate additional associations.
(Budd, 2004:37-8)

Student-produced Effects of Labor Unions

Budd (2004) fig. 3 Student-produced Effects of Labor Unions

I should note that John Budd’s article is accompanied by samples of hand-drawn maps that, in my opinion, also reveal how far technology still has to go to match humans’ capacity for expression. Neither Compendium, nor from what I’ve seen so far VUE, has the ability to vary the width of connecting arrows, let alone supply the “branches” of a map with bark [n.b. Since first writing that sentence I’ve seen many others that do thicknesses (still no bark). See “Vic’s list” at the end of this post]. Educators can do much to influence the design of software by engaging directly with software developers and designers on social networks like Twitter. You do not need software to use mind maps in lesson plans.

Mind Maps can be used to add active and collaborative learning to courses. Students are engaged in active learning as they wrestle with ideas, associations, and categories in creating a Mind Map-they are creating their own Mind Map, not simply looking at one created by the instructor. The exercise is collaborative because the Mind Maps are created as a small group effort. A collaborative relationship between the instructor and students can also be established as the instructor helps with the constructions of the Mind Maps, but as a “guide on the side” not as the “sage on the stage” (Budd, 2004:42).

Because of the reliance on hierarchies, says Budd, concepts or classroom exercises that do not fit traditional outline structure are probably not good candidates for the creation of a mind map. Even in early explorations of collaborative concept mapping software I’ve noticed, in forum discussions and newsletters, a common motif that points to another criticism: mappers often say things like “this works for me” while maybe the internal logic isn’t quite as apparent to everyone. I believe such criticism can be overcome by perseverance, collaboration and openness to feedback.

I’ve experimented using Compendium to take notes in meetings, for sorting research, choosing between possible software solutions, and for planning (Conole & Fill, 2005). I’m now very interested in presentations using VUE. When it comes to mind mapping software I now often find myself saying, “This works for me.”

SOFTWARE SITES, in their own words:

The Compendium Institute (Open University and others) is an open forum for the ongoing development and dissemination of the Compendium methodology and software tools. Compendium is about sharing ideas, creating artifacts, making things together, and breaking down the boundaries between dialogue, artifact, knowledge, and data. http://compendium.open.ac.uk/institute/

The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University. The VUE project is focused on creating flexible tools for managing and integrating digital resources in support of teaching, learning and research. VUE provides a flexible visual environment for structuring, presenting, and sharing digital information. https://vue.tufts.edu/

What surely must be the definitive list, “Vic’s compendium of software that supports knowledge management and information organisation in graphical form. Includes mind mappers, concept mappers, outliners, hierarchical organisers, KM support and knowledge browsers, 2D and 3D.” http://www.mind-mapping.org/

§


Reference

Budd, John W., (2004) Mind Maps as Classroom Exercises, The Journal of Economic Education, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Winter, 2004), pp. 35-46. [Available on line but missing accompanying graphics
www.legacy-irc.csom.umn.edu/faculty/jbudd/mindmaps/mindmaps.pdf, retrieved 2012-12-10]

Cognexus.org, recorded meeting 2012-12-12, Compendium Developer meeting, http://www.cognexus.org/Compendium_Futures/2012-12-12_C_Developer_Meeting.wmv, retrieved 2012-12-16.

Collins, A., Brown, J.S., and Holum, Ann (1991), Cognitive Apprenticeship: Making Thinking Visible, American Educator, [1991 reprint available on line at http://elc.fhda.edu/transform/resources/collins_brown_holum_1991.pdf accessed 2012-09-17].

Conole, G. and Fill, K. (2005), A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities, Journal of Interactive Media in Education 2005(08). [jime.open.ac.uk/2005/08].

McLeod, S. A. (2010). Kolb, The Learning Style Inventory. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html 2012-12-03

Multimedia Learning by Richard E. Mayer (2009)

Dec 09

Educators see Twitter at the hub

Twitter infographic

Authenticity in learning can be understood as the extent to which the learning is situated within a practising community of people who share some united interest in the knowledge being sought or produced, and a common idea of its meaning and value, “…who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006) Sociology is an integral element of the authentic learning environment.

  On Twitter’s 140-character limit…

Several authors have argued that rather than this being a drawback, this characteristic offers benefits for learning. Educause (2007) suggests this helps develop skills “in thinking clearly and communicating effectively”. Rankin (2009a & 2009b) notes that this forces students to focus on a central point. Dunlap & Lowenthal (2009) argue that communicating in this style is a “professionally useful skill for students to develop”.
…However this aspect of Twitter, …has also been blamed by academics for contributing to declining English writing skills (Kelley 2010).

There is now plentiful evidence that a growing number of educators, and many more who think of themselves as stakeholders in education generally, are using social networks, and more than a few sites and software applications have emerged to compete for parents’, students’, teachers’ and administrators’ attention, everywhere, all at once. There are powerful new ways to create, manage, and share your own resources and an overwhelming number of great resources available from others. While a site like Pinterest may drive a great deal of traffic to blogs the micro-blogging tool Twitter’s unique feature set has helped establish its role at the hub.

3 Ways Social networking impacts and supports learning

Social networking platforms and tools are already impacting and supporting learning in at least three ways. First, social networking itself is a tool with a skill set for learning. Second, social networking can be used to deliver and enhance curriculum. And third, social networking can be utilized to create learning experiences in collaboration with others. Teachers find individual articles such as 30 Twitter Hashtags For Science Lovers and 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom immensely helpful, but if my own timeline is an indication, they do add up! Most of probably hundreds of such no-doubt wonderful ideas often get swept away in the “digital noise.” A classroom teacher’s bookmarks can include Edmodo, YouTube, and Facebook, Teachhub, PBL-Online and Edudemic, but it’s increasingly clear that Twitter is the choice to join these spokes at the centre.

New Twitter users commonly describe an experience curve that travels from scepticism, trial participation, conversion (getting it), dramatically increasing usage and connections (Levine 2007, Stevens 2008, Seimens 2008, Shepherd 2009) through to potential overload (Sierra 2007).

Teachers use Twitter to plan field trips, chat with industry professionals, connect classrooms, facilitate research, post supplementary materials, to engage students in the classroom, parents outside the school, and colleagues and administrators in networks they can design according to need and interest.

It’s not surprising to learn that “design of teaching strategies and practices related to virtual engagement and collaboration is instrumental to achieving positive educational outcomes,” but some early research suggests not all are equally ready, that students may need “…to improve their capacity to initiate self-directed, collaborative practices as a means to more effectively take ownership of their learning” through incorporating new technology. (Junco, Elavsky, and Heiberger, 2012). Similarly for teachers, learning to use Twitter to grow an effective Personal Learning Network (PLN, a.k.a. Community or PLC) is not the same as learning to use it as a tool in a learning situation, in or out of the classroom.

What you Tweet, when you Tweet it, the length of your Tweets, whom you retweet and who retweets you are all factors in getting established on Twitter. You can over-use hashtags or under-use them, and good use of images in tweets can make your tweets up to twice as engaging.

TweetStats is a service that reveals a great deal of information about how people actually use Twitter. One tab shows how many Tweets happened, when, in reply to whom, from what kind of device, and top retweets for a particular user. On another you can visualize the data as a word cloud1 (called a TweetCloud, naturally) of top mentions and topics, and once you’ve done so for an account you can track follow and unfollow stats from that point forward. If you have an idea of a rubric2 demonstrating engagement and on-task behaviour, or other standards you wish to establish, either for your personal learning community or a learning experience you design, TweetStats can already report some enlightening information. It seems to me this is a direction in which educators can push for development, or show initiative by launching their own open source projects.

As a stakeholder in on line education, what other sets of data would you like to see in statistical reports? Must diagnostic, formative and summative assessments be built in? How would you do that? What would it look like?

§


Notes

  1. From visual design, a word cloud is a form of weighted list, a visual representation for text data. Usually the importance of each tag, word or phrase being highlighted is represented by variations in font size or color.
  2. A rubric is a measuring tool that experience designers can use to assess participant learning and engagement. Using a set of criteria and standards directly tied to the stated learning outcomes, educators can assess each student’s actual performance. When a rubric is agreed-upon and communicated prior to the student’s work being completed, it serves as a model or exemplar, and makes the grading process clear and transparent.

Reference

Brown, J.S., Collins, A., and Duguid, P. (1989). “Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning.” Educational Researcher, 18(l), 32-42.

Davis, Gordon B., Editor (1986) Understanding The Effectiveness of Computer Graphics for Decision Support-A Cumulative Experimental Approach, Communications of the ACM, Vol 29 (1) 40-47.

Dugan, Lauren (2012) How Frequently Should You Tweet? [STATS] posted October 30, 2012 on AllTwitter The Unofficial Twitter Resource http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/how-frequently-should-you-tweet-stats_b30568.

Ferriter, William M. (2010), Why Teachers Should Try Twitter (Meeting Students Where They Are), Educational Leadership, 67(5) February 2010, pp 73-74;
[Available on line http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb10/vol67/num05/Why-Teachers-Should-Try-Twitter.aspx, retrieved 2012-11-30].

Junco, Reynol; Elavsky, C. Michael; and Heiberger, Greg (2012), “Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success” British Journal of Educational Technology [Early View, Article first published online: 1 MAR 2012 available from author’s site: http://reyjunco.com/wordpress/pdf/JuncoElavskyHeibergerTwitterCollaboration.pdf, retrived 2012-11-30]

Lave, Jean and Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lave, Jean (1996). Teaching, as Learning, in Practice, Mind, Culture, and Activity (3:3) pp149-164.

Webducate [‘webducate.net’ website/blog] (2012), Twitter in learning and teaching – literature review http://webducate.net/2012/08/twitter-in-learning-and-teaching-literature-review/, retrieved 2012-12-03

Wenger, E. (2006) Communities of practice, a brief introduction, http://www.ewenger.com/theory/, HTML retrieved 2011-11-03 or http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf, PDF retrieved 2011-10-03.