Category Archives: Mobile Learning

#MOOC: A Chronicle Conversation

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A Chronicle Conversation as MOOC

This showed up in my Chronicle list: ‘Open Teaching’: When the World Is Welcome in the Online Classroom. It’s a brief overview article of open classes (with a focus on being taught rather than learning), covering Downes, Siemens, and Wendy Drexler at U Florida. A good article as an overview, touching on the use of PLEs –

Instead of restricting posts to a closed discussion forum in a system like Blackboard, the class left students free to debate anywhere. Some used Moodle, an open-source course-management system. Others preferred blogs, Twitter, or Ning. In the virtual world Second Life, students built two Spanish-language sites. Some even got together face-to-face to discuss the material.

– and ending with the typical “educators are cautious.” There’s one misunderstanding that stands out for me, here, with the idea that BBoard or any LMS would be opened up to created a MOOC:

At the end of the day, the popularity of open classes will depend on whether learning-management software companies like Blackboard make it easy to publish open versions of online courses, says David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young and an open-teaching pioneer.

This seems to go against the grain: It’s not a matter of letting students into the garden. It’s a matter of creating allotments.

But more interesting than the article are the comments, from Drexler and others. I’ll start with Drexler, who adds to the article’s content with some reassuring pre-conditions:

There are certain foundational skills necessary for learning in an open online environment. Early research indicates the need for learners to practice digital responsibility (including management of personal privacy and respectful behavior), digital literacy (ability to find and vet resources as well as differentiate between valid and questionable resources), organization of online content, collaborating and socializing with subject matter experts and fellow students, and the ability to use online applications to synthesis content and create learning artifacts.

What I’m getting at is this: The comments make the article a learning object (and what I’m doing i remixing demonstrates that) and so address this concern from chedept

How is what is being done here different than, say, what any number of people or groups are doing with sites and blogs. Is Ariana Huffington teaching a course on society and politics? Is Dan Savage teaching a course on human sexuality? Is TMZ teaching a course on whatever it is they waste their time on?

Calling it a course does not make it so.

Huffington isn’t teaching a course – and an open course is not a collection of articles. But incorporating a Huff post article in a course framework, even a loosely defined one, or using a post as stuff to learn from, makes the post part of a course.

The comments seem to be struggling in getting at the mindset behind the open course: Is it like other self-guided courses? How do teachers give feedback to so many? (How do teachers give feedback to self-learners? would be my question.) How do you handle mis-behavior? Again, Drexler answers these matters by demonstrating how: she posts her own comment, remixes them, and in so doing clarifies matters. (It gets a little patronizing, but that’s an effort to make sure the exchange doesn’t erupt in flames.)

I really believe there is a distinction between open teaching and open learning. As a teacher, I could conduct my course in a completely closed environment, but offer my course materials in an open forum that anyone can freely access. Is that open or merely transparent? You begin to see a continnum emerging here. On the other hand, as a highly motivated learner, I could piece together a rich learning experience with open courseware in the absence of a teacher or facilitator. Though at some point, I may have to connect with other learners or subject matter experts who can supplement the materials.

The examples in this article represent facilitated open online courses. Facilitation is a key component. Yet, there’s more going on here than the added guidance or scaffolding of an instructor. The connections to others and exposure to many points of view further enrich the learning experience.

Siemens gets in here, bringing in a practice that was overlooked in the article: that of learning communities forming within the course:

Not all 2300 learners stay in the same virtual space talking to each other. They form smaller networks, move into different spaces, or engage with others on topics of personal interest. The instructor does not have to direct all 2300 students. The the key power shift generated by the web is the loss of ability for a company, a person, or an educator to direct people.

What I really like is how the questions in the comments allow Siemens (and others) to compose focused responses. We can see coherence being created here by posting public responses to public questions, by remixing and sharing.

We can still lecture on how to find good information or how to write a persuasive essay. But…instead of the instructor being the sole source of guidance and information, she becomes a node among other nodes (important, even critical, but no longer the only or dominant one) in a learning network.

Also, the list of commentators makes a good starting point for forming learnninng community. And as a further note, the commentators demonstrate that not all learners have to be fully engaged in the course to provide material that can be made meaningful. Side comments can be opened into a larger room by another learner – which also challenges to the idea of course design as a matter of teacher control.

But there is still a sense, throughout, that a MOOC is not really a course so much as a hobby: fun, creative, experimental, tribal, but still side-stepping the Serious Work and Rigor of Properly Designed Courses.

I agree that the best way to evaluate these events (courses?) is to participate in them. I have been a high-flyer in three of them so far. I have enjoyed the interaction, and tend to think of these events as social interactions that produce socially constructed learning, using internet affordances for communication purposes. Since acronyms are all the rage, how about SMILEs, as in Social Media Induced Learning Events. The SMILE acronym helps to highlight for me the fun and creativity I had in the debates in the various forums.

Acronyms make a good heuristics. Here’s one to counterpoint SMILE when it comes to open learning: SMARTS: Study, Mix (or Meet if you prefer), Assess, Remix, Test by Sharing.

But I’ll leave it with this from Siemans. As I mentioned a couple of times in this post (remix, being tested by sharing), I have made the Chronicle article and the comments a learning object by using them for learning. They were not posted to overtly teach me anything.

Why do many educators conclude that coming to a particular place requires set structure? Just because we know what we want students to learn doesn’t mean that we have to inject the into an organized (“aligned”) process of learning outcomes, content/curriculum, evaluation. Nothing about a clear target suggests that a clear structured path is required. We quickly get to the Private Universe problem: pass the test, but miss the conceptual understanding required.

Note to Chronicle: why no “follow up comments via email” option?


See also

semiosis & open learning course pedagogy: my spurious connection?

As seen on tv in Walgreen's

Reading Kress, Multimodiality, I was struck by how his model of semiosis lines up with Downs’s and Siemens’s open course pedagogy of connectivism as it appeared in the critical literacies course earlier this summer.

Here’s Kress’s sketch of the sequence by which semiosis moves:

the recipient’s existing
interest shapes
attention, which produces
engagement leading to
selection of elements from the message, leading to a
framing of these elements, which leads to their
transformation and transduction, which produces a
new (‘inner’) sign.

Or, from the perspective of the interpreter:

interest produces attention;
attention shapes the form of the engagement;
this leads to selections being made;
the selections are framed;
there is the subsequent transformation and transductions of the elements in the frame;
and, in that, the (‘inwardly made’) sign is produced.

The sequence reshapes (aspects) of the initial message, the ‘ground’, into a prompt. Interest is the motive force: it is the basis for attention to the ‘ground’ constituted by the exhibition, for engagement with that ‘ground’; it shapes selection, transformation and transduction; and interest becomes evident in the new sign, the map.

And here’s Stephen Downes’s explanation of how the Critical LIteracies Online Course is designed:

1. Aggregate
We will give you access to a wide variety of things to read, watch or play with…. , what you should do is PICK AND CHOOSE content that looks interesting to you and is appropriate for you. If it looks too complicated, don’t read it. If it looks boring, move on to the next item.

2. Remix
Once you’ve read or watched or listened to some content, your next step is to keep track of that somewhere. How you do this will be up to you.

3. Repurpose
We don’t want you simply to repeat what other people have said. We want you to create something of your own. This is probably the hardest part of the process.

Remember that you are not starting from scratch. Nobody every creates something from nothing. That’s why we call this section ‘repurpose’ instead of ‘create’. We want to emphasize that you are working with materials, that you are not starting from scratch.

4. Feed Forward
We want you to share your work with other people in the course, and with the world at large.

Now to be clear: you don’t have to share. You can work completely in private, not showing anything to anybody. Sharing is and will always be YOUR CHOICE.

I wasn’t going to map Kress’s sequence to the course sequence, but I will: The instruction to aggregate let’s the learner draw on interest to shape her attention, to produce engagement which leads to selection, which slides into remixRemix and repurpose put the focus on framing the elements of aggregation, to produce a new inner sign – which can then be shared, or not.

This connection between theory of communication and pedagogy – I’m not sure if it’s spurious or not yet –  also gives the vernacular activities aggregate, remix, repurpose, feed forward a pedagogical strength that I hadn’t recognized before.

That’s my morning started.

from personal wiki to open text and how to get there

In the background, off line, on an iPad, I’ve been experimenting with a personal wiki (Trunk, excellent app, more later). What I wanted was a souped up wikified version of a Moleskine, a notebook – or legendary notebook – that I can’t use because my handwriting has become illegible, even to me. So, I ran an online personal wiki a few years ago, but abandoned it after a few months: having to be on line (which then meant ethernet and sometimes wifi) restricted its use. Next I ran one on a laptop. Better, but still not as convenient as paper (heavy laptop), and I had issues with figuring out where this project fit into my work, and figuring out how to move stuff from the wiki (webs) to other media (not webs).

Then the iPhone 3G came out, with apps, and Matthew Kennard released Trunk Notes: a tidy, elegant little wiki app that worked like a proper wiki: WikiWords, easy markup, categories, tags, links, embedded images … Perfect as a wiki, but only as large as the iPhone screen, and restricted by the iPhone’s lack of multitasking. Still, I kept sporadic non-legendary moleskine-y entries for a year and a half or so – maybe once or twice a week.

Then the iPad arrived, and a couple months later Kennard released Trunk Notes for the iPad. That release cracked it. While the iPad doesn’t have multitasking, the size of the device made a difference in how frequently I turned to the wiki (over other kinds of notes) and how I composed on the wiki. The iPad is not quite as portable as the phone, but that was the difference: A wiki, unlike microblogging or todoing, is for more mediated, considered composition: collocation, analysis, creating patterns, exposition, linking, threading … A first draft of a wiki page is as brisk as any, but revising and, more importantly, refactoring are times to consider content and options and strategies; to enrich, cross-link … You get the idea. The larger device of the iPad prompts this kind of approach. You have to sit down, open the case, maybe even dig out a keyboard – slow down and commit yourself for a while.

So  I exported the wiki file I had been keeping for a year from my iPhone, imported it to my iPad, and became a happy camper. Even bought a DODOCase, which disguises the iPad as a Moleskine. Now I could sit in a dim corner at the coffee shop and look legendary. But I romanticize ….

Which gets me to my topic: the personal wiki as commonplace book, sharing, and produsage (Bruns)

What I’m experimenting with now is a personal wiki notebook in the manner of a commonplace book: that personal collection of stuff, in the manner of Lila or commonplaces. WikiWords, I have argued elsewhere, are topics – and topics are titles for commonplaces under development. So, the idea is to put together a collection of topics that become, over time, linked. Not cards that are categorized (in this it differs from Lila) or pages that are dated (in this it differs from a journal), but something else. Developed differently than paper. Indexed differently than paper. Searches, tags, categories, images, internal and external links. Used differently, too. Rather than going back to the commonplace book to mine it for … uh … commonplaces, I would return to the wiki to develop matters further. As I did, it would become more of a personal knowledge space – project oriented on one hand, broader based on the other.

Private rather than posted – at least initially – and relatively portable.

See this for instance: Steven Johnson on open acces

Each rereading of the commonplace book becomes a new kind of revelation. You see the evolutionary paths of all your past hunches: the ones that turned out to be red herrings; the ones that turned out to be too obvious to write; even the ones that turned into entire books. But each encounter holds the promise that some long-forgotten hunch will connect in a new way with some emerging obsession.”

So far so good. Getting stuff into the traditional commonplace book means copying it by hand or literally copying and pasting from a source (Xerox, ok?). The labor of copying by hand is typically justified by suggesting that we read the passage closely when we copy, but options have multiplied. We don’t have to copy by hand, and we can include modes and media other than text in commonplace books – and we can still read closely. While Johnson above pays special attention to apps that prevent readers from copying text for their own use (Kindle and iBooks, as of this writing) that is more an annoyance than a deal breaker. (Take a screenshot and wait until the white hats hack that limitation.)

The real issue comes to the surface when we are restricted in circulating our re-combined texts by paywalls or other restrictions.

WHEN TEXT IS free to combine in new, surprising ways, new forms of value are created. Value for consumers searching for information, value for advertisers trying to share their messages with consumers searching for related topics, value for content creators who want an audience. And of course, value to the entity that serves as the middleman between all those different groups. This is in part what Jeff Jarvis has called the “link economy,” but as Jarvis has himself observed, it is not just a matter of links. What is crucial to this system is that text can be easily moved and re-contextualized and analyzed, sometimes by humans and sometimes by machines.

[As a corellary, apps and sites that encourage and enable commonplaces to circulate are valuable – sites such as, apps that facilitate sending links via Twitter or even email.]

If I can get past the technical copying bottleneck (and I can), I can get the stuff into my personal private wiki to link and develop as I wish. But those who want to participate publicly as producers, share the links, be part of the link economy – students, scholars, writers, amateurs, kids – are restricted by legal means. I’m not talking about republishing entire chapters or texts; I’m talking selecting chunks of stuff, some in the public domain, some in copyright, and using those chunks under fair use as part of a larger web. Republishing the text in its entirety doesn’t add value: selecting and linking does. Generally, this hasn’t been too much of a problem. Content writers post to the net with the knowledge that stuff will be extracted and linked to. But it’s becoming more of a problem with the DMCA, greed, control, Disney, Murdoch, paywalls. See James Boyle, The Public Domain (Yale UP, but also free to download or read online) for that one.

But here’s a final twist. Turn to Christopher Leary on patchwriting (pdf) in his chapter of Writing Spaces, Vol 1:

Rebecca Moore Howard defines “patchwriting” as a method of com- posing in which writers take the words of other authors and patch them together with few or no changes (233).* Although associated with plagiarism, it is an extremely useful writing strategy with a very long and noble tradition, and I hope that, by the end of this essay, you will be convinced that the opportunities (great writing) far outweigh the risks (accusations of dishonesty).

Christopher’s process is that of the 19th century: hand copying from his own collection of texts.

During one notable phase of this period, I went one-by-one through each of my books, copying out short sentences until I had three or four pages worth of lines. Since the books were from different countries, times, genres, and personalities, I anticipated a sharp contrast in styles. “If I put tens of sentences from different times and eras and places all on the same page,” my thinking went, “I’ll be able to witness these eras bumping up against each other and rubbing elbows.” In much the same way I find it interesting to view, say, automobiles from different times and places all in the same room.

Here’s his initial gain for participating in the linked economy as a producer.

Much to my surprise, the lines that I had copied from the books in my bookshelf started to take a shape resembling the shape of a poem. And out of the original mess of lines, a scenario or situation—if not a story—started to emerge. (If you are getting visions of Ouija boards, I don’t blame you.)

The poem created like this – found poetry – is hardly brilliant, but that’s not the point. It’s a matter of what happens when you take your gains public, offer the patchwork to others for further consideration and possible development.  For Leary, the issue enters when he considers publishing the patches. It comes in the form of authorship rather than copyright – as the texts were in the public domain.

This odd project got stickier when I decided I wanted to submit a few of the “poems” to my school’s literary magazine, Downtown Brooklyn. I was held back by a concern and a strong feeling of guilt about authorship. I had to really wrestle with the question, “Am I the author of these texts?” When I got to the stage where I wanted to submit them as my own and put my name as the author, something felt very wrong and even dastardly. It didn’t strike me as at all appropriate to put my own name as the author because I could not have written them “from scratch,” by any means. The phrasings and language outstrip my capabilities.

It’s not too far of a leap to produsage, which is what’s going on here. Leary’s struggle is easy to get past if we set aside the romantic notion that the individual inspired author imbues the content with value. When copyrights, publishers, and app developers restrict the use of mere snippets of work, they restrict the  consumer’s capability to become a producer, to shift from reader to writer. And I’m beginning to see that the justification of that restriction comes from the same source as the romantic notion of the inspired author: a work is valuable because it comes by special, magic means, not mundane selecting and arranging. Restriction like this is inspiration commodified. We’re going to have to get past this if we’re going to shift to open texts and open education. It’s the move from a personal wiki space to a public one.

Leary articulates the restriction in his ethical concern for claimed authorship – and resolves it in his chapter for Writing Spaces. Charlie Lowe explains it at The Writing Spaces text – including Leary’s chapter – is available in print for dollars, and it’s also free to download, use, teach with, learn from, and further circulate online and off.

I like the book. I like the chapter. I’m convinced that “the opportunities … far outweigh the risks….”  And Trunk, I really like using Trunk Notes,

apple bluetooth keyboard and mouse on lenovo S10e

image1510733324.jpgThe secret’s in the operating system. I successfully paired my Apple wireless keyboard and Mighty Mouse with a Lenovo S10e using a Targus USB Ultra-Mini dongle. OS: Linux Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.1 beta. I imagine it would work with 9.04 too.

I worked for hours trying to pair the Apple keyboard under XP. Hours looking up and trying workarounds and hacks. Finally gave up.

Switched to Linux and it was apples and pairs. (See what I did there? Clever?)

Tiny netbook, right sized keyboard, and a more useful mouse. That made my Sunday.

post from a netbook

Phone and public scalesI gave in a month ago and picked up a Lenovo S10e at Radio Shack for $300.00 on a Sunday whim. It’s not a bad machine, as Volkswagens go. And I impressed colleagues and an academic VP by showing up with the little thing at an exec meeting. They are easily impressed sometimes.

I’ve been using it for surfing and checking mail and taking notes. I had to figure out how to handle my bibliography database across platforms (Zotero did it), and I’m still looking for a fast note taker with live spell checking. I’ve set up ecto on the dinky thing, just to see how blogging might work.

The netbook stands right between the iPhone and the MacBook in convenience and power. It’s well beneath both when it comes to quality. A Volkswagen, a Smart car, not a Lexus or Camry. But it works, gets me frm point A to B, and it’s interesting to work on the same kind of machine many of my students us. I can see what the limitations are in Windows.

They’re not pretty.  It’s amazing how much the interface gets in the way of writing and reading. One issue is the 10″ screen, which, because software has been designed for larger screens, constrains the workspace to the area of a postcard. Perhaps this is one issue the Chrome OS might address, but it will take a redesign of a lot of software to really see a breakthrough.  Fewer pallets, more working space.

But I’m going to continue to play with this little Lenovo, see what it’s like to have an inexpensive pet machine at hand all the time: what I end up doing, and how it might influence that doing.

By the way, I have a 3-cell battery, which lasts only 3-1/2 hours.  Go for the 6-cell battery, and swap out the1 gig stick of RAM for 2 gigs.  No need to make your life unnecessarily uncomforatable.

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some notes on using the iPhone as a notes reader that ends in paper inertia

What I’d like to do

Make docs and some images available from a desktop and laptop to iPhone for reference and for use in classes. These are mainly rtf notes, but I’d also like to access to pdfs for articles.

I keep my course and research notes in DevonThink. They get into DT in a number of different ways, but I work on them mainly in DT.

Ways to go about it

  • Use an online notetaker like Evernote. Problem: Files aren’t available without network.
  • Use a wiki. Problem: Can be hard to read in a browser, doesn’t handle pdf, and see above.
  • Well, use a wiki and Instapaper. Store the notes on a wiki, then then read it on the phone with Instapaper. Problem: Need to remember to hit the page with Instapaper twice: Once to store the page, and a second time before class to store it on the phone, in case the network goes down.
  • Use a utility to transfer files from desktop to iPhone. Problem: Sometimes the file is on my desktop, sometimes on a laptop. Issue: I’d rather not run Yet Another Client on the desktop to make files available. Using a browser is only slightly less clunky.
  • Print everything out.

I’ve eliminated a few utilities that I’ve tried (DataCase, Air Sharing, NoteBooks), which seems to leave me with two options.

OneDisk. Accesses iDisk files and folders. Needs MobileMe. Clear interface, landscape view. Can email files from the app. No luck reading a Numbers page, but it’s supposed to. The pdf reader is as good as any. Can set bookmarks and create folders.

Briefcase. VPN, I think. Uploads and downloads from phone to computer via Bonjour. No desktop utility needed. Can access any folder on the computer. Interface similar to that of OneDisk. Landscape view. Reads the usual suspects.

In both cases, getting files onto the phone requires some planning – nothing major, but planning akin to – and no less hassle than – printing out the notes. Planning means forgetting.

Using OneDisk, files have to be uploaded to iDisk from the computer, and then downloaded to the phone. Upload times can be a longish for larger documents. Upload now; download later.

With Briefcase, files have to be loaded directly to the phone using the phone near the desktop. Transfer now. Read later.

From a step back, the whole idea of moving notes to the phone for reference in class seems about the same as printing stuff out.

Even worse. The problem isn’t just in transferring stuff but reading it. Unless they are formatted with screen reading in mind, notes are difficult to read on a mobile device. Pdfs are just too difficult to read on a small screen. Pdf is for paper. My best luck so far has been with some rtfs – using 14 pt Helvetica, which is what I use when I print out the notes.

What I need – when going from desktop to phone top – is an app that will reformat .doc and .rtf files for reading on the phone.

And that might lead back to Instapaper. It’s the formatting and the local storage that help.

Then there’s the consideration of going the other way: from the phone to the desktop.

Makes me want to just make a paper notebook (video) -but my handwriting is unreadable and, well … Paper, that just defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it.

Any other ideas?

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