Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Where's the Power Point?

First a note about presentations. I am using a "presentation blog" instead of Power Point! This is a great example of the transformations we are going to discuss:


  • Paper-Centric (where did I put that?)
  • Static and singular (difficult to update and distribute after-the-fact)
  • Non-Interactive (Where are the responses, additions, and suggestions?)


  • Web-Native (everyplace, anytime & active hyperlinks to resources)
  • Active Updating (simple, push-button updating online)
  • Interactive (open to input from selected group or worldwide readers)
  • Syndicated worldwide instantly via RSS (see the syndications in right column)

Collaboration in the New Digital Age

Collaboration has taken many forms over the eons:

  • Cave Painting - pre-history
  • Cuneiform - 4000 B.C.
  • Papyrus - 2000 B.C.
  • Printing Press - 1440 A.D.
  • Telephone - 1880
  • Web (Mosaic browser) - 1993
  • Web 2.0 - 2004

Accelerating change has enabled and facilitated collaborations across time and space.

Forms of Collaboration in Higher Education

Increasingly, the Internet is providing a framework for collaboration that crosses the world (note the connectivity in the title link) and time (through both synchronous and asynchronous collaborations).

Many forms... a few models:

faculty < - > student (in class and online)
student < - > student (class project)
faculty < - > faculty (team teaching)

faculty < -across institution- > student (online team teaching)
student < -across institution- > student (projects)
faculty < -across institution- > faculty (guest speakers)

faculty < - > discipline (research publication)
student < - > discipline (project research)

faculty < - > broader community (book publication)
student < - > broader community (facebook)

National Survey of Student Engagement - 2008

In 2008, the highly-regarded NSSE study conducted by Indiana University added a focus on online learning. Comparing first year and senior students in online and on ground classes, they found statistically significant differences between the two. They found that online learners reported more discussion, interaction, reflective thinking, and other indicators of successful collaboration. The complete report is linked the header (results on online learners are on pages 15 and 16).

The summary press release notes the results:

Other key findings from the 2008 survey are: Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities.... When courses provided extensive, intellectually challenging writing activities, students engaged in more deep learning activities such as analysis, synthesis, and integration of ideas from various sources, and they grappled more with course ideas both in and out of the classroom. These students also reported greater personal, social, practical, and academic learning and development. McCormick says the findings for online learners are intriguing. “Critics of distance education assume that face to face classes have inherent advantages as learning environments. But these results indicate that those who teach classes online may be making special efforts to engage their students. It may also be the case that online classes appeal to students who are more academically motivated and self-directed.”

The Common Blog - Uncommon Reach: an example

Web 2.0-enabled technologies are emerging as disruptive in the innovation sense popularized by Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen.

Example: Online Learning Update - originally launched in 2001 to serve students studying the advent of learning online. Now, 8,500 posts later, the blog has a reach that far more than ancipated. Type the words online learning into Google and you get some 50,000,000 returns!

This little blog comes up #2 or #3.

Look at the data of who visits the blog in a given day.

And, yet, that is dwarfed by the RSS visitors to the blog. RSS is the engine that drives dissemination of blogs, podcasts, wikis and other Web 2.0 collaborative publication technologies.

It is simple to add an RSS feed via your web browser, or Google, or a hundred other services.

The comment mode makes it interactive! Multiple authors may be authorized for a blog.

Micro-blogging is an emerging tool - you can tweet with twitter! Reviews of 10 tools.

The Wiki - How it Works

A Wiki is a great collaborative tool. It enables people to work together on a document anytime/anyplace - because the document is on the Web. And, they are spared that nasty morass of "track changes" of multiple colors and side notes that you have seen in Word documents that area emailed from group member to group member in endless cycles.

With a Wiki, someone initiates the document and shares it with the rest of the group. Anyone can make changes at any time. All prior versions of the document are stored in the history, so one can revert to a prior verision at any time.

Imagine a student group project. Have you ever encountered a student who reports "I did all of the work - Ray did none!" One of the great aspects of a Wiki is that you can see just what contributions and edits came each member of the group!

A Step Beyond Wiki - Google Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations

Imagine having many of the office applications you use daily on your computer available online; all of your documents can be shared with collaborators around the world, day or night.

Co-authoring research papers or reports are much easier in this format because documents can be uploaded or saved back to your desktop in familiar .doc, .xls, .pdf, and .ppt formats!

Students pursuing guided independent study projects can do their work online, giving permission to faculty members to review the evolving project at any time, any stage, and make comments and recommend changes.

Other office suites are available online, such as http://zoho.com/ .

Another of the many useful Google tools is Google Scholar: http://scholar.google.com/ This tool not only filters returns for scholarly articles, but also digs out citations for those returns so those papers that cite the one selected can be reviewed.

The Ning Thing

Ning is a social networking platform that enables users to create their own highly-robust social networking sites. With built in forums, messaging, wikis and tools for collaboration, Nings make collaboration easy!

Ning was developed by Marc Andreessen (Netscape founder) and Gina Bianchini.

Ning means "peace" in Chinese.

Please explore and join the NCLC Ning linked to the title.

Virtual Worlds - the Emerging Metaverse of Collaborations

Perhaps the most energy in emerging teaching/learning collaboration technologies today is being put into creating virtual learning environments. These virtual worlds are populated with avatars. Avatars are those animated characters that can take almost any shape or form and - in many virtual worlds - can talk and interact with other avatars.

Second Life and other virtual environments enable a kind of immersion in learning and engagement. See how the avatars interact directly with one another.

The New Media Consortium is among the leaders in the use of Second Life for collaborations. An introduction to their islands is linked to the title of this posting.

UIS is currently collaborating with the Illinois Department of Public Health in the Brothers and Sisters United Against AIDS / HIV project. http://webcast.uis.edu/impatica/danto2/VidToursUIS.html

A great look ahead in virtual learning environments:http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Review/LookingtotheFutureHigherE/47222

An incomplete list of colleges and universities who are using SL:http://www.simteach.com/wiki/index.php?title=Institutions_and_Organizations_in_SL#UNIVERSITIES.2C_COLLEGES_.26_SCHOOLS

Second Life is not the only virtual environment:http://www.virtualworldsreview.com/

Google has gotten into the virtual environment game:http://www.lively.com/popular

Not to be Flippant, but the Flip Video is Disruptive

A number of new video cameras have emerged that are changing the way in which we use the Web. One of those cameras is the Flip - named for the flip-out USB connector.

The Flip has editing software built in. It allows you to take video and instantly plug in the USB to edit, store, share or upload to YouTube!

Here's an example of simply putting the camera down on a table and sitting down for a brief interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ny5uj-_0i8&feature=related

Imagine taking this camera to a regional conference - the Midwest Academy for Management - for instance. And, imagine recording brief interviews with presenters and other colleagues to serve as "virtual guest speakers" in your classes.

iPhone and iTouch

The iPhone revolutionized the way in which phones are used. With more screen "real estate" for video and graphics, it opened the door to delivering a wide variety of learning opportunities to individuals on the go.

With gigabytes of storage, connectivity, and a larger screen than any phone/PDA before, we now have a canvas on which to paint the mobile learning environment of the near future.

It is the perfect medium for enhanced podcasts and vodcasts - the kinds of things that populate iTunes U! http://itunesu.pbwiki.com/

On the Horizon.....

Each year the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE jointly publish a look a the technologies on the horizon - both near and far. These have a focus on enagement and collaboration.

A new report is due out in just a few months. But, the most recent report still holds some great examples of new and emerging technologies worth watching.

Beyond the Horizon: Extending Moore's Law and the Technological Singularity

This year we surpassed one billion computers on the planet with two billion predicted by 2015.

Moore's Law, like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going and going. Its demise has been predicted half a dozen times, but just in time a new technology is developed to keep the pace going. Simply stated, the law is that the capability of integrated circuits, the building block of computing capacity, increases at an exponential rate - doubling every two years (at an equal or lower cost).

Here's a logarithmic chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Moores_law.svg

The technological singularity is described as a time when the power of artificial intelligence on single computer will eclipse the capability of a human brain. Promoted by futurist Ray Kurzweil this is calculated to be achieved in the coming decade or two. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:PPTSuperComputersPRINT.jpg

A Final Thought or Two

As we look at the technologies that are changing the way in which we teach, learn, communicate, and collaborate, we can become overwhelmed. There is a tendency for people to either ignore the advancements and keep doing things as they always have, or to jump on a new technology and cling to it for years at a time.

Instead, we might be better served by coming to an understanding that technology is changing; it is changing at an accelerating, not a linear, rate. We can use technology to track technology. We can carefully choose what is useful and what is not.

And we can remember that - until the point of technological singularity - we are the ones who are doing the teaching and learning. Technology is not an end in itself; rather, it is a tool to enable and facilitate quality, efficiency, and accessibility in teaching, learning and collaboration.

Contact Information

Ray Schroeder
Professor Emeritus and Director
Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning
University of Illinois at Springfield
Springfield, IL 62703