Lately I have been doing a lot of walking and have used that time to catch up on a number of podcasts, including a recent episode of the TED Radio Hour titled Rethinking School. A couple of things in this episode really caught my attention and made me think about what we are doing here at DePaul—and how perhaps we can rethink our own practices.
A few weeks back I attended the Fall Forum on Teaching and Learning. This year the theme was Race & Social Identity. This is obviously a very important topic—especially given the polarizing climate that we currently find ourselves in. The Keynote speaker, Terrell Strayhorn, spent a fair amount of time talking about how to create environments in our classrooms that are safe and welcoming for students who come from diverse backgrounds of experiences.
As a child one of my favorite stories was The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss. I have since learned that many have never heard of this wonderful story about Sneetches with stars and those with none. Seuss intended the story to be a satire of race discrimination—in particular antisemitism.
I always loved the message of The Sneetches, especially the fact that by the end “neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one… or that one was this one…or which one was what one…or what one was who.” I loved this idea of the world, a world where it didn’t matter where you were from (or whether or not you had a star on your belly). This world view is one I think you achieve by being exposed to many different cultures.
I have a confession to make. I confess that I jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon—and I am still riding it.
My first introduction to Pokémon was when my son was little. He had a collection of cards, carefully curated in protective binders. He spent hours reading the cards and developing the perfect deck to defeat his father—not an insignificant feat. For a child who was a “reluctant” reader these cards were one of the first times that he read for pleasure. He spent hours reading each card to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these unique creatures.
A couple of weeks ago, while traveling with a team of athletes from around the Midwest (all of whom are students at different D2L institutions) I had the opportunity to talk a little with them about what frustrates them with D2L. To be fair, one was my own kid and managing our D2L instance is my job, but it seemed like a good opportunity to get some student feedback.
What was interesting about their responses was that in all but one exception (the one exception being the discussion board) the feedback they gave me had less to do with the Learning Management System itself and more to do with things the instructor does with the system. I thought I would share with you their observations and some best practices. Below are their top three complaints and what you can do to alleviate some of the issues.
In May of 2014 The Journal asked the question, “Adaptive Learning: Are We There Yet?”. In this article, John Waters gives a nice overview of what adaptive learning is. Waters defines adaptive learning as “an approach to instruction and remediation that uses technology and accumulated data to provide customized program adjustments based on an individual student’s level of demonstrated mastery.” Often found in K-12 classrooms Adaptive Learning models were developed to be able to facilitate personalized instruction based around learning outcomes. Most frequently this type of instruction takes the form of intelligent tutoring systems that “learn” the student’s strengths and weaknesses and provides them with a custom set of activities.
As one can imagine, this form of adaptive learning is best suited to lower order skill sets where memorization or “drill and kill” activities might traditionally be used. Using an intelligent tutoring system provides support for students who may struggle with concepts while not penalizing those who have already mastered them. Many of the textbook publishers have developed robust intelligent tutoring system specifically for these types of classes. Continue reading
A couple of years ago Sarah Brown wrote about gamification strategies and the new wave of activity trackers—many of which have game theory elements built into them, e.g. leaderboards, badges, levels, etc.—and how these elements helped her re-imagine how she approached running.
While there is much talk about how adding these types of elements into classes may help to engage our students, the question, at least in my mind, is how much of this do we really want to add to our classes? Does everything have to be a game? At what point are we dumbing down the educational delivery method in order to make it more fun? And if we do this what message are we sending our students? If it isn’t fun, is it not worth doing?
I think these are large philosophical questions that bare a closer look, at some point, but, even given these questions, I do think there are ways to make parts of our classes more fun. At the D2L Fusion Conference (June 2015) in Orlando I was able to sit in on a session conducted by Vincent King-Spezzo, an instructional designer at Valdosta State University, about gamification. What was interesting about his presentation was the way he implemented game theory in his class. It wasn’t used for learning the “meat” of his course, but as a way for students to earn extra credit points. Continue reading
This winter I spent many weekends traveling with my son and in doing so ended up with a number of rental cars. What struck me is the fact that every car you get in is set up just a little differently. For example, the wiper controls aren’t in the same place, or perhaps the lights get turned on/off differently. It struck me that just like cars, Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are also set up just a little differently each time we upgrade (full disclosure we also were doing a major system upgrade to our Desire2Learn system during this time).
During these travels, my son and I had quite an adventure in the wee hours of the morning while picking up a car at the Salt Lake City airport. When we got to the car (at 12:30 a.m. MTD, 1:30 a.m. CST) I realized it was a keyless start. Having never used a keyless start before, I wasn’t sure that we would ever make it out of the parking garage. Needless to say after a few failed attempts at starting the car, we finally figured out the trick (in case you were wondering, your foot needs to be on the brake pedal for the car to start) and were happily on our way. In this situation there was no one in the garage whom I could ask for help, but there was never any question that we would continue to try things (including reading the manual, if necessary) until we started the car.
This experience started me thinking about why we tend to show persistence in certain tasks, like figuring out how to start a keyless ignition, while with other tasks, like learning the University’s new deployment of the LMS, we are more likely to throw our hands in the air and quit, claiming the task is too difficult or not worth the effort. Continue reading
For a while now, both Internet Explorer (IE) and Chrome have been blocking “mixed content.” In the last few weeks, the most recent Firefox release (Firefox 23) has also begun doing so. So, what is mixed content and why should you care?
When your web browser connects to any webpage, the webpage is sent to you by another computer called a server. Your web browser and the server know how to connect by way of a set of digital rules, or a “protocol.” There are two types of protocols your web browser can connect through:
- HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or
- HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
Secure webpages start with https in their URLs. These sites have their connections to the webservers encrypted, making the information shared on them more secure from sniffers and man-in-the-middle attacks–in other words, from people who are up to no good. Sounds good, right? When you are making a purchase online, accessing your bank account, or taking an online class, you want your data to be secure. So what then is the problem? Continue reading
In grade school, I remember learning the following: a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square. This logic lesson learned in elementary school can be applied to today’s debates about online education and MOOCs (massive open online courses). While MOOCs are online courses they are not what most universities consider online education. Unfortunately, most of the press these days about MOOCs, unfairly villianizes online education. Take for example the recent NPR Marketplace segment on Duke University’s announced decision to decline the invitation to offer online classes through the company 2U. What bothers me about the piece is not that Duke has decided to think about what the 2U partnership would mean to them, but rather the tying of this decision to Amherst’s decision not to team up with Harvard and MIT to offer free MOOCs.
This is where the square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square analogy comes into play. Continue reading