Getting to There From Here in The Education Revolution

So I like to write a lot about where all of these big ideas in education are heading and what learning might look like in the future. Often I skip ahead by a good bit and seem to leave out several important steps. But that does not mean that I don’t think about these steps that we as a field need to take to get to this glorious revolutionary future. In reality, I think these steps are more fascinating. But I tend to focus on some of these steps in my work and studies so much that they rarely make it onto this blog. So, here it is – the steps I think we need to take (in broad strokes) to get from where we are now to this awesome future of educational bliss.

Assuming, of course, that Universities don’t die before all of this happens.

  1. Expand Student Community Options. If we want a student-centered educational future, then we need to build in support systems for students. Especially as education becomes more distance-oriented. We used to rely on dorms rooms and libraries and social events to allow students the opportunity to form support and mentor-ship relationships. With those physical spaces being non-existent for online students and irrelevant for non-traditional students, we need to build more opportunities for informal interaction using social media, online tools, and even formal course structures that push students to build portfolios and online presences more than just grades. This is something that I have started working on in a small-scale form with a peer mentor-ship program for a doctoral program (and there are many others out there). But I think we still need to see a greater movement around this idea, more on the level of MOOC-hype than “oh, yeah, I think I know some  people that are working on this” kind of reaction.
  2. Give Students Control Over their Online Identity. One barrier to student community is the disconnected nature of social media due to the existence of so many options. Why create a portfolio when you have Facebook and LinkedIn, right? But owning your identity online protects learners in many ways, not the least of which is the ability to take your identity with you rather than start over with every new social service that forms. Jim Groom covers a lot of the reasons why this step is important in this blog post. I’m glad there is major work happening on this front at the University of Mary Washington. Just wish more of the world was paying attention.
  3. Incorporate Informal Learning. Personal Learning Networks and Lifelong learning are not new ideas, so this is an area that we already see growing at many universities. But at some point it has to go beyond a “cool idea” with some loose administrative support to an actual, integral part of the learning experience. Sounds kind of weird to make informal learning a part of the formal learning process, so I’m not really thinking of that as much as finding ways to acknowledge the informal sphere and utilize it in the formal sphere. As students gain more control over their online identity, this will become more feasible and practical.
  4. Build a Course Taxonomy System. Ever noticed that most course descriptions and even syllabuses don’t really tell you much about how a course really ends up working out? Wish you could easily know how student-centered (or not) a course is rather than paper due dates? Ever want to know what percentage of time will be spent on group assignments across all of the courses you take so that you won’t get burdened down carrying dead weight in too many classes? With course types diversifying and changing more and more rapidly, we are in more need than ever of a way to classify courses according to what students will really, actually get when they take the course. This would tie into the development and evaluation of courses in order to ensure accuracy. This is another area that I have started work on, and hope to have some more concrete answers and ideas over the next couple of years.
  5. Deconstructing Courses.  This is already happening with what is sometimes referred to as cMOOCs – open courses that rely on connectivism and open learning. “Open” has basically devolved into another word for “free” in many circles, so I tend to refer to true”open” courses as ones that have deconstructed the learning experience into something beyond the typical “sit and soak” learning method. Yes, you do see that still prevalent in many xMOOCs. What I would like to see as a further evolution of open courses are courses that allow for multiple entry points through out the semester, or even courses that allow students to skip past what they already know. Different entities have experimented with this through the years, but for the most part they seem to still focus on the course level (aka, you can test out of a whole course rather than part of it). At some point I think this will have to go more mainstream to allow for true educational revolution.
  6. Re-focus Big Data. Love or hate it, Big Data is here to stay. I’m always a fan of more knowledge, and Big Data does give us more knowledge.  If schools want to use it to take a big picture look at statistics, that is great. If programs want to use it to identify student problems, great. But I am more interested in the projects that help students learn more about themselves beyond “hey, I’m about to start failing this course.” I briefly spoke to Dr. Kinshuk at CELDA a few weeks ago about a dynamic profile system they are developing for helping student determine their learning preferences. This is important because if students fill out their own questionnaire for learning preferences, they will skew the data to what they think looks good. But what if we could just gather data from their every day school work to determine that? Or to determine what course types they prefer (connecting back to taxonomies above)? If our schools become more student-centered, then why not give students the data to understand who they are?
  7. Deconstructing Degree Plans. Once we have all of these other ways to deconstruct learning and use data and websites to support student learning, the next thing we can do is go big and really mess with things.  If we have deconstructed courses to the point that they allow for students to take what they need as well as mix and match course components, why not take that idea to the degree level? This is not a new idea, but for the most part custom degree plans are given an anonymous sounding name like “University Scholar” and then are basically still a succession of courses that have to be taken as courses – even if students know some of the material already. What if we allow students to create self-selected paths through through the material for specific degrees? What if a chemistry major could put together a truly customized degree that allows them to skip what they got in high school and dig into advanced topics and research? What if the student was creating stream of study through basic topics, with new topics/courses starting and stopping based on what the student’s data tells them about their learning needs?
  8. Return to Deconstructing Courses More. I think once you deconstruct the degree plan, you can then return to deconstruct courses even more. In fact, it could be that the two would go in cycles – deconstruct the course some, then deconstruct the degree plans around them, then repeat. Eventually you would want to see cyclical course paths that allows students to circle back to concepts they didn’t get, or maybe even back to stuff they were really interested in in order to dig in deeper. On top of that, you could to see students of different levels in “courses” at the same time, so that students that have been taking a “course” for a few weeks could mentor those that just entered. I use the term “course” loosely now because, well, we would need a word for whatever this is… but it would not really resemble a “course” as much as a learning community or personal learning network.
  9. Open Up Research and Practicum/Internship Opportunities. Seems like this goes back to what we are doing today with learning, but often it seems like there is still a distinction between “academic” courses and “practicum” courses. For students that are more interested in a topic, there should be natural extensions into the world beyond the Ivory Tower – through participating in research projects with professors to working with professionals in the field. Or, for the non-traditional learner that is working and studying, why does the time spent on the clock at a job have to be separate from when they are “learning” in a classroom? Why not find ways to connect the two? Well, we don’t do that great of a job with it now because all of the previous steps have not fully come to fruition. But we still see places like Antioch College that are doing interesting things in this area, so I think that eventually we will see that happening more often.

I know that I had 11-12 steps in my mind when I first thought of this idea late last night.. so I apologize if I have left anything important out. I know there is nothing in here about certain technologies like gaming, mobile devices, and 3-D printers. All of those are important, of course, but they are still tools that support the larger view of education and this post is meant to try and start to put some structure around this emerging idea of the “future of education” in my head.

So what we have is a student-centered, open, deconstructed, unschooled, cyclical, connectivist, sociocultural customized learning structure for students to work with peer mentors, faculty, more knowledgeable others, other students, and industry experts to learn in ways that utilize informal learning, life experience, contextual learning, personal analytics, and personal learning networks. Man… how many buzzwords can I cram into one sentence?

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

First Impressions of Google+

When Google releases a new service, they usually do a decent to excellent job on the design and interface. You can rarely fault them on their ideas. Even if a particular idea isn’t your cup of tea, you can at least see where others might like it.

But having said all that, it is still getting harder and harder to get excited about new Google services.

Its not that they are boring or pointless. It really just has to do with not wanting to invest in a new tool to only have it canceled in less than a few years.  Many people point to the untimely death of Google Wave as the main cause for their lukewarm response to Google+, but those of us that have been following Google for a while know that there were many other disappointing closures before Wave.

But if it can make it, Google Plus has some great ideas that could be very useful in Education. Or at least I think. Very few of my friends are on it yet, despite me sending out invitations… so it is hard to get a good feel for truly how well it works. But here are some initial thoughts:

  • As many have said, the ability to only share certain information with certain groups of friends is a great idea. It was a great idea when ELGG and Facebook first came up with it, of course – but Facebook kind of never really bought into the idea once they added it (and the average online user has never heard of ELGG). After all, they were trying to monetize your connections, so why make it easy to reduce the number of connections and interactions you can make?
  • The killer app to many people seems to be the free group video chat. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet because of my limited circle of friends that are in Google Plus, but the early feedback sounds positive. But I know that this is a feature and price point that many educators have been looking for.
  • Am I supposed to say G+, Google+, or Google Plus? What is the official spelling?
  • Programmers are already writing browser plug-ins. Sure, Facebook has apps, but not until years after FB was created, and none of them seem to be able to change the core functionality of how Facebook looks and operates.  Maybe there are some out there and I don’t know it. The Facebook + Google Plus integration was pretty nice, even if it was a little basic (there were concerns over it being malware, so I uninstalled it). It added a button on your G+ page that let you open your Facebook stream right there in G+.
  • The true measure of whether G+ will be successful or not depends on how well the people in charge understand networks. George Siemens wrote a recent post examining the importance of this.  Siemens also comes to the conclusion that Google just doesn’t get it. That may be so, but I would also say it may be too early to really tell. The user base for Facebook is so huge while the base for G+ is incredibly small. Facebook will probably seem to work better just due to its size, while G+ may appear to fall short due to how new it is.  I think it also depends on what you look at. Siemens looks at Facebook friends suggestions, something I usually ignore completely. Unlike Siemens, over half of the friend suggestions I get on Facebook are the “way out there” kind.  So I have to admit that I have been ignoring that feature in G+ because I also ignore it in Facebook. Besides – I don’t need and algorithm figuring out for me who I need to connect with. I prefer to do some research on my own and find my own connections. Maybe Siemens is right about Google recommending only “power users” to him, or maybe he doesn’t realize that he probably qualifies as a power user himself (much more than myself or most people I know) and the possibility is that since Google sees him in the same category as these people that it is also recommending them to him. So, ultimately, the success of G+ will probably be more in the eye of the user, based primarily on how well they do the specific things each user is interested in.
  • It is probably a given that most Google services will integrate with G+ at some point, but how long will it take for the ones that haven’t already been connected? I can’t seem to find a way to share anything from Google Reader with my circles – other than the old school way of copying and pasting a link. But I could already do that in Facebook. In order for me to switch from Facebook, I am going to need to see integration with the things I already use.
  • Google also says that Plus pages for companies (like Facebook fan pages) are coming. In reality, they are already there in the form of Google Sites, Google Groups, and even Blogspot. Once all of that is brought together into a page for companies or classes or whatever in Google Plus, that will be pretty cool. Cooler even than Facebook Fan Pages… if there are enough users on G+ to take advantage of it.
  • I like the idea of Sparks, but I am wondering how to make them more useful. For instance, I like music. But not all music. But there are a large number of bands I follow. Do I have to start a hundred Sparks to follow them all? Sounds daunting. OR will it be possible to start a Spark on a broader topic and then go in and specify what parts of the broader topic you want to see?

Overall, an interesting new product that could go many different ways. Something for everyone to keep their eyes on.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Google Pretty Much Decides to Take on Every Social Website at Once

News is starting to spread about the new Google+ Project.  While most people are comparing it to Facebook, I also look at it and see how it is taking on everything from Foursquare to you name the latest niche social network flavor site. It seems like they are going after it all: social networking, location services, conferencing, recommendations, etc.  But two important features will make it something to watch for educators: the focus on creating small groups to share with and a focus on privacy.

If you can create your own “Circles” as they call them, and then share what you want with them and even do video chats – you pretty much have the beginnings of a Learning Management System.  If they integrate Circles with other services (like Blogspot) – that would make it even more interesting. You could make a blog private and then with one click allow access to one circle (course).

Like Google Wave, invitations are limited (and will probably be highly sought after for a while). But will the failure of Google Wave make people too cautious to try this? And when was the last time Google had a big hit idea on their hands? Who will want to start using this and then have it canceled in a year or two?

Okay… I do want to give it a shot. And you probably do to. But Google Wave (and Lively and…) all showed us that major interest from the educational world is not enough to keep a Google project going. Which is one reason why I tend to doubt we will ever see a Google LMS.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Building Your Own Personal Learning Network

Although this has been up for a bit, I finally got a chance to read Tedd Curran’s guide to creating your own personal learning network.  This is a great guide for beginners – I highly recommend it if you are new to PLNs or are just not sure if you are doing everything you need to cultivate yours. I was reminded to set-up Google Reader folders by reading this – something I always mean to do but keep forgetting.

Hopefully in the near future, we will see more classes that have a guide like this for a huge chunk of the syllabus. Maybe there will be a few required items, blogs, etc to add to each student’s PLN, but a large part of it will be left up to them to find their own.  Class discussions and assignments could then be based on dynamic content online rather every student trying to figure out how to re-write the same information over and over again without plagiarizing what has been said a million times already.

Someday we may even see entire departments or schools that would have a PLN guide like this for their orientation.  Just like we now make all new students go through and set-up a school email account, some day they might also set-up a PLN.  Each course they enroll in would then have a set of resources to add as a folder to their PLN (or maybe it will be added for them).

The missing link that I see is the software – there needs to be something that makes it easy for instructors to share relevant parts of their PLN with students, as well as students to share good resources with each other. Well, something a bit more advanced than emailing links to everyone. Maybe Google Reader already does this and I need to explore it more?

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Confessions of a Massive Open Online Course Flunkie

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from my years spent in pursuit of a Bachelor’s in Education was really quite simple yet profound: “don’t let your class or syllabus get in the way of learning.”  Some of you might have heard of it also referred to as the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) method.  You want your students to get in to complex thinking as they are learning the topic of the course, not as they are trying to figure out what to do on the first day.

I have signed up for many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) recently – and never completed a single one.  That is my biggest confession. Most colleagues get pretty shocked to hear that – after all, Mr. EduGeek himself would seem to be the best person to figure out a MOOC and get the most out of it.  Maybe even become a rock star in one.

But the problem is, I just don’t have time to figure out how to use one.  Yes, I will spend forever trying to figure out how to customize a WordPress app, but I won’t take the time to figure out how to participate in a MOOC.

At first, I though it was just me.  But then I found out that the people teaching the courses I never touched had to create a four minute long video explaining how to have success in a MOOC.  That is probably the first bad sign right there.  If you have to take a mini-course on how to take your course, you are probably having to focus too much on the structure and not the learning.  Even in Blackborg, the focus on figuring out the course is knowing what links to click, not what to do with the links after you know what to click.

Dave Cormier (how created the video linked to above) gives five steps on how to have success in a MOOC.  Each one of the steps needs explanation, because they don’t necessarily make sense without the explanations.  See how complex this is getting?

Of course, I was also one of those people that avoided the massive “lecture hall” courses in college.  It was just too easy to get lost in the crowd, even if you tried not to.  Being a male educator in a room full of predominately females, I saw first hand how easy it is for the minority to get lost in the mix, even if they tried not to.  Online, it is usually the minority opinion that gets lost… which is what usually happens to me in MOOCs.  You see, just because you follow and comment on other people’s work, there is no guarantee that they will follow and comment on you, ESPECIALLY if they disagree with you.  They will possibly even get mad that you aren’t stroking their ego and just ignore you (just being brutally honest here – the web is a magnet of narcissism).

My biggest confession is that I don’t see the point of a MOOC if I already have a Personal Learning Network.  I honestly don’t see the need for any type of open course once you have a PLN and have figured out Google.  But that probably also has to do me starting to question the whole concept of “open.”  It seems that “open” is now becoming synonymous with “lack of accountability.”  But that is a topic for another blog post.

To me, the advantage of taking a course is that you get to interact with the instructor or some other type of subject matter expert – and they are the ones that help you focus on what you need to be learning.  The MOOC removes this value but leaves the time lines and due dates.  So in other words, you remove the actual value of being in a course but leave the annoying part.

I know, I know – you are supposed to network with other students and they will give you the feedback and information you need.  That is all great – if you connect with a good group of people.  There is no guarantee you will connect.  And even if you do – what if they just rubber stamp whatever you say because they fear conflict? What if they really have no idea what they are talking about but think they are an expert?  You could end the class with a bunch of new knowledge that is actually worthless because you hooked up with the wrong group.  I know that in some subjects there are no wrong answers so that is not always the case – but it is a danger.  One that is less likely to exist in a traditional course.

Obviously I am focusing on worst case scenarios.  I think that the fact that I am an instructional designer by trade now I know that it is possible to design a “traditional” course that dumps the bad parts typically associated with the “sage on the stage” mentality while still incorporating the good parts of a MOOC (all while also avoiding the pitfalls of a MOOC).  In other words, a course that connects with existing PLNs instead of creating news ones.  You only have so much time after all (another confession of mine – I don’t have time to keep up with the new PLNs formed in MOOCs). The only problem is that a course like this can really only exist in a traditional college course format and not in a MOOC format.  But a lot of that has to do with the “Massive” part.

I think I also just see the MOOC as the technology-driven, socially-networked version of the cattle-herd lecture hall courses so prevalent on college campuses today.   Herding 500 students in a course is still herding 500 students in a course, even if try to put a modern technology spin on it.  Some people think that is fine.  Personally, I like things smaller and more intimate.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

The Real Problem With Social Networking is That Academics Just Don’t Get It

I have been chewing over the brief article at The Chronicle about how a study found “No Link Between Social-Networking Sites and Academic Performance.”

Eszter Hargittai, associate professor of communication studies and sociology at Northwestern, suggests that the benefits of social-networking sites may cancel out the distractions they pose.

Here is a newsflash people: the benefits of reading can also cancel out the distractions it poses. Do you really think spending hours each day devouring the National Enquirer improves academic performance? Nope.  Spending time on a social network is about as broad a category as reading now – with good and bad examples of both existing out there.

Someday… just maybe academics will figure out it is not the tool itself that matters but how it is used.  Until then we will have to continue performing studies that tell us the obvious.

But I fully recommend that you bookmark the study – it will save you time and energy the next time you have to respond to “I heard that students are failing because of Facebook” for the millionth time.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Is Facebook Killing the Internet?

As a disclaimer, I use Facebook. I don’t hate it in any way. But all of the problem FB is having over privacy make me ponder where the Internet is heading. The more I think about it, the more I am concerned that Facebook might be making the web less social.

When we started this site, the goal was to keep an eye on emerging stuff that could be used in education.  In recent years, there have been very few new sites to rave about, and thus many contributors have run out of ideas for posts.  Now it is just me (although I am open to others joining me if they wish). And I am running out of new sites and ideas to post about.

The problem is that everyone is trying to be the next Facebook.  You used to have all of these sites trying new ideas and angles on many things, and then Facebook took off so fact that everyone just decided they wanted to be the next Facebook.  And I don’t mean the next interactive social site that brings people together in a new way… I mean the next Facebook clone.

So, in many ways, Facebook seems to have killed innovation online.  Of course, that happens in most industries – people see one company make it big, so they decide to follow blindly.

But this whole privacy thing is another issue.  People are really up in arms about it, and I can’t say I blame them.  At one time we were all looking for the next site to integrate Facebook so we could share music likes, restaurant discoveries, new yoga poses, whatever.  Then everyone realized that Facebook had quietly turned in to a big corporation over night and they were using all of this stuff we were sharing to make money off of us.

Educators are starting to notice this also, and wondering if they are crossing ethical lines by attaching student information to advertising dollars.

Less than a year ago, I thought the people leaving Facebook were just alarmists who probably also stocked up for Y2K.  Now I am seriously considering joining their ranks.  Without the impenetrable underground bunker, of course.

What if people stop sharing stuff online because they are tired of being exploited by big business?  That would pretty much kill Web 2.0, open education, Open Learning Networks, Personal learning Networks… you name it.  I have already noticed a slight decline in the amount of info I can glean from my PLN.  Is that a slight temporary dip, or a sign of what is to come?

Or, could this be a chance for something better to come about? Maybe less centralized social networks, more personalized, more secure?  Take note of these New York University students that are creating a new social network with a focus on privacy.  Interesting development…

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Will The Internet Start Looking More Like the World, or the World Like the Internet?

I was pondering future trends last week while watching the evening weather forecast.  Forecasting while watching a forecast?  Anyways… We were in for a possible round of severe weather that week. The news anchor put up a map of “storm spotters” – a network of people that would call in from their homes and tell what is happening in their area.

In other words, forecasting the weather is starting to incorporate crowd sourcing.

We have seen a giant push to get websites to work intuitively… and to even start thinking for us.  So on one hand – the Internet is starting to look more like the real world.  But I think even more often we are starting to see the world around us looking more and more like the Internet.  The powers that be are starting to see that there is power in crowd sourcing and social networking.  I wonder what real-life social networks we will see spring up next?

The real question for us is – can we use these ideas in education?  What if we took this weather stations ideas and applied them to a class? What if, instead of one large class, we broke that class down into smaller units based on geographic location.  Each smaller group forms a study group of sorts that watches issues related to the class subject in their area.  The small groups are loosely tied to one another in a way to share what they are learning about the subject.  The small groups would study local events or places. In this situation, the LMS would become more like the newscast – aggregating all of the input in one spot for everyone to benefit.

What if time and location became irrelevant for synchronous classes? What if you were grouped with a small group of people that lived near you when you sign up for a class, and then that group decided what day and time to meet for class?  The instructor would then send out assignments each week or maybe record a video for the group to work through. Maybe the instructor even met with each group.  then the groups send in their work to the class and the instructor aggregates all of the information coming in from each group and summarizes them for the entire class (which would essentially include all small groups no matter where they meet in the world).

Potentially, you could ave hundreds of students all meeting in a synchronous fashion, but all still in a way that fits their schedule.  This is, of course, another area where there is technology to do this… but we need one that is more specifically geared for educators.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

No Matter How Much You Hate FaceBook, You Shouldn’t Make Up Stories About Its Death

Like many people, I read the New York Times story about the FaceBook Exodus last week.  I then laughed at how silly it was and moved on.  But then I started seeing this article linked to every where… from many people thinking it actually had a point.   It kind of shocked me how few people could see through bad journalism.

So, for a little reality break here… a little shocker for people out there.  Are you ready for this one?  People have been leaving FaceBook since the day after it started.  No… really.  Same is true for AOL, MySpace, Google, Twitter…. you name it.  People try a site, don’t like, don’t get it, or whatever… and so they leave.

Fast forward a few years to a time when FaceBook has seen amazing growth.  Record numbers of people are trying it out.  Guess what that also means.  Yep – that also means a greater number of people are leaving it.  Simple math, really: as the number of people trying a site out increases, so would the number of people quitting.  Amazing!

Of course, take an obvious fact and construct enough smokescreens around it… and people will think you have an actual story!  Sad, but true.

What FaceBook really does (and Twitter for that matter) is expose the misanthropic nature of many people.  Take some of the more prominent gripes about FaceBook:

  • I don’t care what you had for dinner!
  • Why would I want to play all these silly trivia games?
  • I don’t care what Goonies character you would have been! (or insert whatever other current quiz is going around).
  • Why would I want to join some cause I have never heard of?

Basically, it is just a bunch of people saying that they just don’t care about other people.   The last time I ran into a friend in a store, they told me many random trivia thing… including what they were having for dinner.  That is what people naturally do. I also get together with friends and show them pictures, and play board games that basically amount to nothing but trivia.  Pretty much everything I could ever do on FaceBook, I also do in real life in some form or fashion.

These anti-FaceBook statements show how sadly misanthropic we have become as a society. You had better share a funny, witty, life changing story every time you open your mouth, or it is a waste of my time. I remember as a kid how we would sit around on chairs outside and talk about dinner and movies and politics and a hundred other simple and complex topics… because we actually liked the people we called friends. Now people delete you from their friend list on whatever site just because you didn’t change the world with every post.

What ever happened to caring about the little things in the lives of people that we call friends or family?  You don’t have to like FaceBook, or Twitter, or Google or whatever if you don’t want to… but can we all stop trying to place guilt trips on the people that do like the things we don’t?

(unless, of course, you want to put guilt trips on people that like Blackboard.  That is totally understandable :)

EDIT: Yes, I know that just like any other site (AOL, MySpace, etc) – FaceBook will someday start to die off and be replaced by something else.  Let’s just wait until we have an actual study or data to back up that event, rather than just a bunch of “my buddy so-and-so left, and so did some others.. so it must be true!”

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Trying to Figure Out That Google Social Thingy? Me Too.

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the Google Bat Cave, I bet there is a very closely-guarded vault that only a few people have access to.    Inside this vault is a document that everyone from Microsoft to FaceBook to yours truly wants to get their hands on.  Some object or map or piece of paper – kind of like a real life Book of Secrets – that many claim is only a myth, but a few people (like myself) believe is a reality.  What is in the mythological document, you ask?

Why, no other than some kind of weird explanation for Google’s scattered and confusing social networking plan – of course.  The master plan for where they are going…. because there has just got to be some kind of rhyme to all the random pieces they seem to just be throwing to the wind every few weeks or so.

Will Google Wave be the final piece that pulls it all together?  I hope so.  But whatever it is, they need to get their social plan fully out there before social networking goes the way of Web 1.0.

I think the reason I want to figure out this master plan so much is because I like what I see so far.  I have iGoogle all set-up with the widgets I like, and now I can share information from some widgets with other friends.  Well, assuming I can ever coax any friends in to trying them with me.  Updates from those social gadgets show up in a FaceBook-like friend stream.  Or, at least… mine do. Until I get that first friend to join me in playing with these… I won’t know what their stuff looks like.

I also have a Google profile that now follows me as I use Google Friend Connect gadgets on different sites.  I can share things in Google Reader.  Then there is that Google Latitude thing that no one wants to touch, because, well… it is kind of creepy.   And probably a few other things I am missing.  Like Gtalk, Google Voice, etc, etc.

Oh… and then there is that social network that Google already has…. called…. ummm… Orkut?  Something like that.  Does that fit in there?

Probably does, but until the master plan is revealed to us someday, we’ll just have to keep waiting patiently for our invite to the next piece.  Which reminds me that I still need to kick myself for waiting so late to get on the list for Google Voice….

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.