I didn’t know Jim Groom last year when I heard his name at the ITC Elearning 2009 conference, but I am always up for a good follow so I quickly added him to my Twitter list. During the past year, I have watched his tweets flow across my screen and I must say, oftentimes, I didn’t have a clue what they meant. But isn’t that the way it is with lots of tweets, anyway?
When I heard Jim was the keynote for Sunday at ITC Elearning 2010, I was excited to finally meet this guy I had been following. I must also say that I was a little intimidated and nervous but all for naught as he was very nice and easy to chat with. I even managed to get drafted as part of the Reverend’s impromptu choir (see Jim Groom – Part 1 below – about 4 minutes in) that “sang” during the first part of his presentation.
During his keynote, Jim talked about the novel idea that students often have a digital identity prior to coming to our campuses. If they don’t, they probably develop one while there are with us and probably want to retain access to their online work after graduating. This concept is in direction opposition to education’s current, prevailing model of closed classes and segregated learning spaces. Students cannot access information inside a Learning Management System after the course is over nor is it easy for them (or anyone) to get info out of the LMS and transport it somewhere else (before it disappears). So, while we preach the doctrine of “lifelong learning” to our community and our students and our alumni, we have perfected the design of separated learning experiences that occur in 16-week (or other time limited) blocks.
Reverend Groom comes to the rescue with a fantastic project in place at his institution, University of Mary Washington, called “UMW Blogs“. The UMW blogs project is like RSS on steroids. Think of uber-syndication. While you may know about regular syndication (i.e. you subscribe to a blog then get feeds from that blog through a reader or other device), the UMW Blogs project takes this idea several steps further. Through use of a tool called “Word Press Multi-user”, students can publish to their own blogs then have those posts syndicated to a class blog. This way, students can develop their own digital identity but still contribute work to the class.
Get it? Simple, right? And the possibilities really are endless. Think of professors with blogs that syndicate to department web pages or clubs whose members or officers have blogs that publish to club pages or students studying abroad and posting to their blogs which syndicate to an international education page. This idea really expands the concept of sharing and does so seamlessly with very little programming or effort.
Some examples of these kinds of blogs from UMW include:
The idea can be expanded still further and can cross boundaries of states and institutions as on the Looking for Whitman blog. Many other opportunities are sure to exist. The punch line here, though, is that with the ability to create content that persists over time, we are encouraging students (and others) to do work that is meaningful and important. Class work would no longer be “just to get the grade” but could contribute not only to the student’s learning and education but to the learning and education of others.
Simple…novel…beautiful…transforming. If you really let your mind run with this one, it takes you to some amazing places.
The links below will take you to parts of Jim’s talk.
Saturday evening’s Late Night Learning LIVE started the ITC ELearning 2010 conference off with a bang! Using a late-night-talk-show format, hosts Marc Hugentobler and Jared Stein, along with their special guests, covered a variety of topics including “cheating in online classes”, “getting rid of the Learning Management System”, and “open learning on the world wide web”.
My takeaways from this rowdy and humorous event were mostly made up of resources and websites to investigate further including:
There is so much to process from this session and a lot of the ideas were pretty far out there even for me. I am not sure that killing the LMS is a good idea. I think that folks for whom using technology to teach comes easy should remember that many, many faculty just want a simple and easy way to have a basic web presence for their course even if that presence is in a closed environment such as Blackboard. They don’t want to become technologists or even learn to think like a technologist (which is a different way of thinking from most faculty). They just want tools that work and enable them to communicate in some capacity with their students in an online form. So, don’t sell your Blackboard stock just yet. I think, like it or not, that VLE’s and LMS’s are going to be around for awhile yet.
I think a good ending quote also shared in this session is from Dan Willingham in his post titled, “Why Web 2.0 will NOT be an Integral Part of K-12 Education“,
“The wisest course may not be to find “best practices” with the expectation that they will apply across the board, but rather to expect that teachers will select pedagogical practices based on their own strengths and the material they teach, and to support them in that choice.”
Saturday afternoon, I attended a pre-conference session called “Improving Your Online Course” taught by Jean Runyon, Dean of the Virtual Campus at Anne Arundel Community College. The purpose of the session was to introduce participants to the Quality Matters rubric for online course design and to apply that rubric to a course to determine needed areas for improvement.
The QM rubric and materials are copyrighted so I can’t share a lot of detailed information here, but I can say a couple of general things. First, the rubric deals only with the course design aspect of online learning and not the delivery or other facets. Second, the rubric is a faculty-driven process and is not designed to be part of a faculty evaluation process in any way. And, third, the rubric really does lend itself more to use in a traditional LMS but I COULD see it applied in more “open-web” type environments (more on that in another post).
I am familiar with the QM rubric having gone through several trainings and having acted as a reviewer for mathematics courses several times. However, I have never actually taken the time to step through item-by-item and evaluate my own courses using the rubric. This workshop was not the time and place to do a thorough review, but it did take us through the critical criteria and provide explanations and examples.
Some reminders to myself if I submit a course for review in the near future:
Thank you to Jean Runyon for facilitating this learning experience and for Trinity River Campus for hosting it.
As part of the conference festivities today, I signed up for a pre-conference workshop on the Quality Matters model for online course design (more about that later). Though the workshop was not scheduled to begin until 12:45, I noticed some time scheduled for a tour of the campus where the workshop was held. “Hmmm…” I thought to myself. ” A campus tour? Well, it’s always interesting to see other campuses and how they are set up”. So, I went along with the crowd and boarded the bus to take us from the hotel to the site.
As we approached the campus, the need for a tour became immediately apparent. This place was huge and very fancy! Turns out that the Trinity River Campus of Tarrant County College is lucky enough to be located inside the recently purchased and renovated Radio Shack headquarters near downtown Ft. Worth, Texas. Seems as though the campus was initially scheduled for location in a site nearby and closer to the waterway. But, Hurricane Katrina had other plans and messed up the construction plans and schedule. Enter plan B and the purchase of the Radio Shack facility.
Man…Radio Shack must have sold a LOT of resistors and batteries and remote control toys (I used to work at Radio Shack around Christmas time in college and know for a fact they sold way more little bitty things electrical than they did computers) to build such a beautiful facility. Photos from the Open House in August do better justice than explanations.
The main building is 7 floors with interior passageways, glassed exterior walls, and multiple wings. The cafeteria is not…it’s a Cafe. Plus they have a full-facility fitness center and valet parking (oh…scratch that…no valet parking that I could see…my mistake). With a view overlooking the nearby Trinity River and a grounds and interior replete with commissioned artwork (it came with the building), this is the Ritz-Carlton, 5-star version of a community college. I can see why the purchase was made and $239 million (plus $80 million in renovations) was probably a “steal”. I seriously doubt that even a university with an unlimited endowment would think to construct such a facility for learning but I can tell you that every faculty member on the tour was probably rationalizing why they could or couldn’t really apply to work at the college…myself included.
Whenever I go to conferences, I get much more done if I set goals ahead of time. Stepping back to look at the big picture of what I want to accomplish over the two or three day conference period helps me focus and reminds me of specific reasons I am there.
For this ITC ELearning Conference, then, here are my goals (in no particular order):