Further Reflections on #OLCInnovate

After last reflecting on a specific issue at the OLC Innovate, I wanted to dive into a few random reflections and then cover my session. In many ways, I have been getting burned out on conferences. Going to session after session of hit or miss topics and then straight to mixers in the evening can be a bit of a chore. Of course, I realize that many people that attend are like me – they have to present something in order to get funding to attend. So I recognize that sessions are a necessary thing for many people. It just gets hard to go to sessions all day long.

I have always wanted to do a dual-layer conference in the same vein as our learning pathways model: one option of structured presentations and another option of unstructured unconference time that attendees can mix and match to their liking. Or even a day of structure followed by a day of unconferencing. The OLC Innovate conference had some different options like that with the Innovation Lab – a place where you could roam in and look at anything from games to design thinking to improvisation. It’s not exactly a dual-layer design, but still flexible. Due to some lingering headaches, I wasn’t able to attend everything in the Innovation Lab, but what I did see was quite enjoyable. Some of the highlights:

  • Game Design. I wish I could explore game design more in depth, but the taste of it I got at OLC Innovate will probably drive me back into exploration even more. Keegan Long-Wheeler and John Stewart from OU both do an excellent job framing game design in education. Keegan chronicled their lab activities better than I could, so read his post for a better summary. Also see me playing Nintendo Switch as well as hear about our epic dinner adventures.
  • Improvisation and Innovation. My last post described how I was not happy with some of the framing of Innovation at OLC Innovate. The Innovation Lab was a welcome counter point to that narrative. Ben Scragg, Dave Goodrich, and many others showed us how innovation can occur in every day activities, using everything from improv audience participation skits to the most excellent blues guitar improv of Rick Franklin.
  • Legos. Yep, there were Legos at OLC Innovate. I played with them. I tweeted about them. Apparently my Tweet about Legos was honest enough to win me an award. I can now prove to any doubters that I am certifiably honest now :)
  • The Prophet of Innovation Doom. Who ever created this Twitter account is weird. They should probably be banned from OLC events for life. Or put in charge of OLC. Not sure which one yet.

Now for my session at OLC Innovate. I was a bit nervous about this one. This year would be my fourth presentation along the topics of open learning and learner agency (the first two were at ET4Online and then the next two at OLC Innovate). The past three years were successful mostly because I knew many of the people coming to my sessions already, and I knew they were generally in favor of my work. It is easy to joke around, get audience participation, and go off on tangents when you already have that rapport with the attendees. Plus, the first two years I presented with my regular co-presenter Harriet Watkins. Last year Harriet was at my session even though we weren’t able to present together. This year, Harriet and many of the people I was used to presenting with or to were not going to be there. My security blanket was gone. Additionally, even most of the people that were there and that I already knew (like Keegan and John) were presenting at the same time. So I went into this session not knowing who would show up (if anyone) and even if they would want to participate in the discussion or laugh at my corny jokes.

Luckily, I had a great time. I would say that it was even my most interactive session yet. We had a great time digging through the practicals of designing a course that allows learners to self-map their learning pathway. And they asked some really hard questions. I like it when that happens. I had a line of people afterwards asking me questions. Someone even told me I was one of the few truly innovative presentations at the conference. Take that ELI! :)

(ELI rejected a presentation on the same topic a few years ago. I’m still a little bitter about that I am told.)

My only regret about my session is that special situations outside of work made me too busy to connect with Virtually Connecting to bring them into my session again. I did that last year and it was a blast. Keegan was a part of that last year and his blog post backs up how good of an idea it was to bring them into my session. Of course, it was thanks to Harriet, Rebecca HogueAutumm Caines, Whitney Kilgore, Maha Bali (I even practiced pronouncing her name correctly over and over again and then was too busy or sick to be in VC), and others with VC that made it so successful last year. Hopefully next time!

Here were some highlights from the session that will apply to future posts I am sure. Sorry that I didn’t capture names well enough to give credit to these ideas – if you said one of these let me know and I will update the post!

  • Competencies. My goal was to talk about how to convert objectives to competencies, because that is what I usually have to do with the instructors I am used to working with. The attendees at my session were coming up with great competencies already. What did they need me for? They even brought up several topics that were difficult to have in both competency and objective formats. They weren’t giving me a free pass, that was for sure. The best kind of questions are the hard ones that expose problems with your ideas.
  • Open Rubrics. While discussing the need to have less detailed rubrics, one attendee pointed out that learners could even create their own rubric. In other words, it would be a rubric with the conditions and criteria blank, for the learner to create in a way that allows them to prove they have learned the content or mastered the skill or whatever it may be. This was an idea brought up last year, but in a more general form of allowing learners to grade themselves. This is a more concrete idea that would lend itself more to situations where grades are required.
  • Gamification. Some one mentioned that in many ways, self-mapping is like creating a game out of one’s learning journey. In the Game Station at the Innovation Lab I was re-introduced to Twine. Twine is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Teacher could look at creating their neutral zone and pathways options in Twine. Learners could use Twine in place of something like Storify possibly. I need to get in and play with the tool some, but I like the idea of looking at a self-mapped pathway as a game.
  • Real Heutagogy. Someone actually came to the session because he knew the term “heutagogy.” This is good, but also scary. Would my idea live up to scrutiny by someone that actually knows a lot about heutagogy? Apparently, it did. He liked it. That is a good sign.
  • Visualizing Pathways. There was a lot of interest in visualizing the pathways that learners take. My mock-up of what that could look like sparked that. We need to find ways to create visual representations of this, because I think it could actually help instructors gain insight into what is happening in their courses. Are there certain points where all learners come back to the instructivist option? Or maybe flee it to the connectivist option? Would those be places where the instructor is exerting too much control? If the learner could see those patterns, would that tell them something they maybe have missed? Is there something happening out in the less structured pathway they are missing? Learner self-analytics: it could be a thing.

There is probably more that I am missing, but this is getting long. As others have said, the conversations and connections were the real gold of this conference. If I get to go again in the future (you never know where the budget in the State of Texas will be at that point), my focus will definitely be on the Innovation Lab and the interaction times. And, of course, the OLCInnovateSnark Twitter Tag as well :)

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.

Can the Student Innovate? An #OLCInnovate Reflection

The 2nd OLC Innovate conference is now over. I am sure there will be many reflections out there on various aspects of the conference. I hope to get to reflect on my presentation on learning pathways and some of the ideas that attendees shared. But I wanted to first dig into one of the more problematic aspects of the conferee: the place and role of students.

The biggest problem related to students at the conference was how they were framed as cheaters at every turn. Chris Gilliard wrote a blog post that explores this aspect in depth. I was able to finally meet and hang out with Chris and many others at Innovate. Those of us that got to hang out with Chris got to hear him pondering these issues, and his blog post makes a great summary of those ponderings.

The other student issue I wanted to reflect was also part of what Chris pondered at the conference as well:

Of course, as soon as I tweeted that, we found there were a few sessions that had students there. But for the most part, the student voice was missing at OLC Innovate (like most conferences).

At some levels, I know how difficult it is to get students at conferences. Even giving them a discounted or free registration doesn’t help them with expensive hotel or travel costs. Sponsoring those costs doesn’t help them get a week off from class or work or both to attend. Its a daunting thing to coordinate. But considering the thousands of attendees at OLC Innovate representing tens or hundreds of thousands of learners out there, surely some effort to find the money would have brought in a good number if the effort had been there.

But beyond that, it seemed that in many places the whole idea of students even being able to “innovate” was left out of some definitions of innovation. Not all, of course. Rolin Moe brought his Innovation Installation back to OLC Innovate, which served as a welcome space to explore and ponder the difficulties in defining “innovation” (those pesky-post modernists always wanting us to “deconstruct” everything….) Rolin did an excellent job of looking at situating the definition of innovation as an open dialogue – a model I wish more would follow:

The definitions of innovation became problematic in the sessions and keynotes. The one that really became the most problematic was this quote from one keynote:

https://twitter.com/mrkampmann/statuses/850107391387611136

(I am also not a fan of the term “wicked problems”)

The context for this definition was the idea that innovation is a capability that is developed, and really only happens after a certain level of ability is obtained (illustrated by a pianist that has to develop complex technical skill before they can make meaningful innovative music). The idea that some creativity/innovation isn’t “good” was highlighted throughout the same keynote:

For context, here is the list of “Innovation Capabilities” that were shared:

There was also various other forms of context, all of which I thought were good angles to look at, but still very top-down:

This was capped off by the idea that there are “good kinds” of innovation and “bad kinds” of innovation, and we should avoid the bad innovations:

Of course, the master of all meme media Tom Evans made a tool to help us make these decisions:

What one person sees as a “bad” innovation might be a “good” innovation to another. Not sure how to make the determination in such an absolute sense.

There was also an interesting terms of “innovation activist” that was thrown in there that many questioned:

I get that many want a concrete definition of innovation. But I think there are nuances that get left out when we push too strongly in any one direction for our definitions. For example, I agree that innovation is a capability that can be trained and expanded in individuals. But it is also something that just happens when a new voice looks at a problem and comes up with a random “out of the blue” idea. My 6 year old can look at some situation for the first time and blurt out innovative ideas that I had never heard of. Of course, he will also blurt out many ideas that are innovative to him, but that I am already aware of. And there lies the difficulty of defining “innovation”….

Whatever innovation is, there is a relative element to it where certain ideas are innovative to some but not to others. Then there is the relative element that recognizes that innovation is a capability that can be cultivated, but cultivation of that capability is not necessarily a prerequisite to doing something “innovative.”

In other words, any definition of innovation needs to include the space for students to participate, even if they are new to the field that is “being innovated.” The list of Educational Capabilities pictured above is very instructor/administrator/leader centric. Some of those items could be student-centered, but the vocabulary on the slide seems to indicate otherwise. But ultimately I guess it goes back to whether one sees innovation as absolute or relative to begin with. If Innovation (with a capital “I”) is absolute, then there are definitely some things that are innovative at all times in all contexts and some things that aren’t, and therefore Innovation is a capability that has to be developed and studied in order to be understood before participating. But if innovation (with a lower case “i”) is relative, then anyone that is willing to can participate. Including students. But you rarely (at any conference) see the student voice represented in the vendor hall. And as with any conference, how goes the vendor hall, so goes the conference….

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.

So You Think You Know Theory and Design?

Sometimes I want to create a TV game show based off of “Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” called “So You Think You Know Theory and Design?” It would pull in a bunch of online instructors, administrators, and others that always tell me “oh, I know theory and design; I just need to find cooler tools and tech training!” and put their knowledge of online learning theory and design to the test.  Most people don’t really know much beyond what I teach college juniors about theory and design, so it would be hilarious to watch. Well… at least for the instructional designers out there that know this irritation all too well.

The truth is, instructional design is not the way to fame and fortune in Ed Tech. Its not really even the route to getting a lot of people beating down your door for advice (no matter how many times they have epiphanies that sound suspiciously like something someone might have told them already). Of course, some of the problem is just bad marketing, really. Many people have blogged for years about the ideas that were recently referred to as “MOOC 4.0” to little attention, but give it a silly number (that ignores 3-4 years of MOOC history) and suddenly the bloggers lose their minds! :)

The funny thing is, to an instructional designer it doesn’t matter if MOOCs work or not. We know how to make it work: good theory and design. Same thing goes for any concept out there: flipped classrooms, blended learning, you name it. We can already tell you how to make it all work – if you really want it to work. Sometimes you want to ask people: “are you designing the course to make one specific student fail, or are you just aiming for the highest possible failure rate?”

Of course, there are also the times you just kind of want to say “sure, blame the discussion board for the bland responses” and call it a day. You have seen enough new, shiny tools come along to know that by this time next year, people are going to be talking about the boring, rote responses they get to VoiceThread activities. That has happened with every online tool so far, and you know too well how the bad designs and theory used to insert the newest tools into the same paradigm and theory is going to produce the same results. What was that Albert Einstein said about this cycle?

The truth of the matter is that most people in online education have mediocre design skills and minimal theoretical knowledge at best, even after going through a Ph.D. in Education. They think they need more tech training to help them discover that golden child tool they need to revolutionize their classroom. Instructional Designers take one look at their class and know that’s not the case: its about needing better theory and design.

Of course, some bad design is driven by the massive number of students they have to teach, and control over that factor is out of their hands. When administration forces bad contexts on instructors, of course bad design is going to emerge.

But a lot of this goes back to what I have been thinking about Ed Tech conferences lately. To be honest, I was probably going to wind down going to any, because its all the same old, same old: old bad ideas re-packaged as shiny new start-ups with the same bad pitches or old bad ideas repackaged as “latest and greatest” conference sessions.

This was until I went to the OLC Emerging Technologies conference (#et4online). Yes, there were some old bad ideas re-incarnated, but there was also sessions on heutagogy, post-modernism, humanizing the MOOC, and a whole host of other design issues scattered amongst the shiny, new, refurbished dud ideas. So I emerged from that week encouraged to stick to the path of what I know best: learning innovation should be driven by innovations in design and theory (which sometimes means actually doing old ideas that we have ignored all along).

Now, don’t get me wrong: I still like new tools, and think we need to push to build better ones (like the crews behind ProSolo, Reclaim Hosting, Known, and others are doing).

(notice that I listed new tools that are based on theory and design more than hype and buzzwords?)

edugeek-journal-avatarSo that is why I am excited about the upcoming Digital Learning Research Network’s 2015 conference in October (#dlrn15). Many of the people that made #et4online a ray of hope are also getting involved with #dlrn15. The people that did the good sessions at #et4online are putting together proposals for #dlrn15. The Call for Proposals actually uses the word “Sociocultural”! And FYI, my name is on the committee list, but I had nothing to do with the CFP – even though it uses ideas and terms that I have been confusing people with for years.

So maybe there is some hope out there yet on the conference circuit?

(image credit: Sara Karges, obtained from freeimages.com)

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.

Call for Proposals for dLRN2015

A very interesting call for proposals (dlrn2015) looking at “Making Sense of Higher Education: Networks and Change”:

Learning introduces students to practices of sensemaking, wayfinding, and managing uncertainty. Higher education institutions confront the same experiences as they navigate changing contexts for the delivery of services. Digital technologies and networks have created a new sense of scale and opportunity within global higher education, while fostering new partnerships focused on digital innovation as a source of sustainability in volatile circumstances. At the same time, these opportunities have introduced risks in relation to the ethics of experimentation and exploitation, emphasizing disruption and novelty and failing to recognise universities’ long-standing investment in educational research and development.

The networking of higher education requires a research lens in order to make sense of its implications for learning and knowledge, particularly for learners who are not well served by the existing system. The Digital Learning Research Network (dLRN), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, explores how digital technologies are impacting all aspects of education, including research, teaching, learning, assessment, and support for underrepresented students.

The dLRN Conference – Making Sense of Higher Education 2015 – hosted at Stanford University on October 16-17, will offer a state of the field assessment from top international researchers and educators. This call for papers will be of interest to researchers, academics, and practitioners who are exploring the many nuances of the complex and uncertain landscape of higher education in a digital age.

What are the most pressing uncertainties, and the most promising applications of digital networks for learning and the academy? What agenda should be set for research in the near term? How best can researchers develop and share insights that will achieve practical outcomes and address systems-level challenges facing higher education, while establishing and applying robust standards of ethical practice?

We are keen to invite participants to evaluate current practices in digital and networked learning, whether formal, self-regulated, structured, unstructured, or lifelong. In particular, we are calling for papers that help make sense of what networks mean for the changing environment of contemporary higher education.”

See the full CFP for more details – abstracts due June 1st!

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.

More #et4online Reflections: The Major Values of Teacher Tank

So in Laura Pasqunin’s most excellent reflections on the OLC Emerging Technologies conference, she pointed out how some people had cast doubt on my favorite part of the conference: Teacher Tank. I expressed my disagreement with that, and she asked for input. My comment turned into a book, so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

First of all let me say – I realize that Teacher Tank will most likely never happen again, because it will probably chase sponsors away. Which is disappointing, but also part of the problem. The vendors have too often controlled a one-way conversation at conferences. They position themselves as the main financial support for the conferences and then people don’t want to criticize them for fear of killing the conference (I could write a series of long posts about what I was told I could and couldn’t say at conferences by vendors, how they cut-off my microphone so I couldn’t ask questions in online sessions, how they have said to rooms full of people that feedback was not allowed, etc). So it was a gutsy move to have the tank in the first place, but I get why it will probably never happen again. Doing it in another format would probably just not produce the same effect.

I will also say that I know several good vendors and start-ups that are not like the others. Unfortunately, there is noticeable “standard” type of vendor that we see dominating conferences, and those are the ones that I have concerns about.

Personally, I think that commentary and entertainment are two massive values for a conference that most are usually missing for the most part. So many conferences would be more interesting to me if they provided more commentary and even a little entertainment. Don’t get me started on the “cutesy motivational speakers as keynotes” or the “light snacks for dinner and a bunch of tables” forms of “entertainment.” We need actual entertainment sessions to prove a mental break from the sessions from time to time. We also need actual commentary from experts (in addition to thought-provoking keynotes and informative sessions) as well as mote avenues for public commentary by conference attendees.

From the audience perspective, here is the big value that I saw happening over and over again at Teacher Tank:

  • Vendor says some unfounded educational urban legend (“students love to learn with video”)
  • Half of audience nods in agreement
  • Judge pushes back against legend (“like hell they like to learn with video”)
  • Same half of audience looks shocked
  • Judge explains why the legend was wrong (“they like entertainment, but they learn little, etc”)
  • Same half of audience has an obvious light bulb moment and starts nodding again
  • Educational Urban Legend busted for many people.

That happened a lot of times for a lot of people in the audience at Teacher Tank. Huge value if you ask me.

The thing I am most disappointed in is the reaction from some of the vendors to Teacher Tank. Most of the feedback was constructive, a lot of it was positive, and some of it was negative. But it was a MASSIVE amount of feedback they got – more so than they will probably ever get from any one event. All for free, and very little of it from people that are just telling them what they want to hear. A ton of honest feedback. But now some are upset about the tank, saying things like it perpetrated “myths” about start-ups, and so on. Very disappointing.

Look, if you are a start-ups and you want to win me back, then learn to listen, research, and improve based on the feedback… rather than claiming the image I have of start-ups is mythical (while responding in a way that proves they aren’t myths :) ). Prove that you are not thin-skinned and come back to conferences that have criticized you. Maybe even turn your one-way hype session presentation into a Teacher Tank format. Why should conference organizers have to be the ones facilitating valuable honest feedback for you? I have heard about the focus groups and customer research you do – interesting results, but no where near as critical as you would get in the tank.

People always ask me to get involved in conferences more behind the scenes, and I am usually very hesitant. So many conferences today are somewhat dominated by vendors that are controlling one-way conversations (next time you are at a booth and they ask you “what do you think?”, try being honest and see how well that goes 905 of the time). To push back against that means losing sponsors and killing the conference – so I understand why conferences are like that. I don’t blame them. The Teacher Tank and the #et4snark tag were a breath of fresh air in the conference space. Most of my ideas for conferences are along those lines, and usually don’t fit in. I mean, I brought a “buzzword buzzer” to my own session and let people get on my case if I used an EdTech Urban Legend Buzzword. Judging by the Twitter feedback, people loved my session. But I doubt those ideas would go over well with vendors or even most presenters.

I get it that there is a lot of bad feedback out there. Look at some of the MOOC criticism out there (“cMOOCs probably aren’t MOOCs because they are neither massive or open” I was told at a conference recently). But many of the MOOC criticisms are legitimate points, as much as they may annoy myself or others (“most MOOCs are designed using simple and ineffective pedagogy” for example). But don’t mistake those criticisms, even the negative ones, as meaning people hate you or even want you to go away. I love WordPress, for example, but I can also give you a long list or where it needs to be improved.

edugeek-journal-avatarWhat should be more concerning is when people stop criticizing you – when they give up and just write you off as someone that doesn’t listen. I see this happening way too much in the EdTech world in regards to Tech companies. I have lost count of the number of people that have told me they have given up talking to all of the companies that just don’t listen. That should be more concerning to vendors than being a position to get a few minutes of uninterrupted feedback in the Teacher Tank.

(image credit: leenapics, obtained from freeimages.com)

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.

Twitter and Conference Session Hash Tags

One of the coolest uses I have seen for Twitter is as a conference back channel.  Twitter has grown enough so that there are usually enough people to keep it interesting even if you aren’t there. The only problem comes in organizing the Tweets so that they are easy to find. After all – what is the point in tweeting if no one sees it?

Usually, the conference tweets are easy – just use the organizational acronym and that is it.  There are a few issues, but more on that in a bit.  The real problem comes when tweeting about specific sessions.  You don’t want to have to explain in every tweet what session you are at – right?  The solution is usually to start numbering sessions and adding that to the conference tag.

Last year, I worked with the Texas Distance Learning Association on this issue.  We had 150 or sessions, so just add a number to the end of the tag and you are done: #txdla101, #txdla102, etc.  The problem is, we ran into a huge problem with searching for tweets.  If you want to just find #txdla101 – no problem. But then what if you want to see #txdla102? That is a separate search.  Multiply that by 150 sessions and then the conference tag (which won’t show up when you search for #txdla101) and you have a tiresome problem that would hinder the back channel due to search exhaustion.

I tried wild cards, but the results were spotty at best. And I was shocked to see how many random link generators that spammers use ended up containing “txdla” in them.  So we came up with a simple solution.

Just put a dash in the tags (like #txdla-101) and your problems are over.  A search for “txdla” will show every session tag AND the general conferences tags – all in one search.  Easy.  Or, if you do want to see a specific session, then search for it (like “txdla-101”) and your search is easily narrowed.

Once we figured that out, we had to discuss the general conference tag a bit more.

The discussion that we had was whether to use the year in the general conference tag – #txdla vs #txdla2010.  Ultimately you would need the dash in there to help with searches.  But we also ended up with confusion over whether to use #txdla-2010 or just #txdla-10.

Most conference only happen once per year, so I say the year is unnecessary.  Twitter searches in 2011 are not going to find anything from a year ago. They just don’t go that far back.  But, if someone does somehow find an old tweet and wants to know the year, they can just look at the time stamp and quickly find out what year the conference happened.  Overall, I would say that it is unnecessary to identify the current date in any Tweet – they are all time stamped.

Another controversy I have read online is over whether conferences should officially announce Twitter tags or allow them to be used by presenters.  Some say that this would keep some back-channelers from being totally honest if they knew that it would be seen by the person up front.

To this, I say “hogwash.” (guess my Southern roots are coming out).

Look, Twitter is a public forum.  If you have a problem with what you are about to say being read by the person up front, then maybe you should consider whether it should be Tweeted at all.  But even if that is not enough, then I still have to come back to Twitter being public. If you don’t want everyone to read it, then make your feed private, or go to a different method of back-channeling.  But don’t claim that a public forum is going to shut down honesty and openness because it is being, well – public.

Now, if your conference or event has less sessions or happens more than once a year, you might have to come with a different set of guidelines. But these are the ones I found work best with year conferences with large numbers of sessions.

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.

Reflections on Starting a Revolution

Okay, maybe the title is a bit over-dramatic.  I just couldn’t come up with anything else snappier. Harriet and I have been presenting our Social Learning Environment Manifesto at a few conferences lately… and in many ways it does feel like we are trying to start a revolution.  The reality is that we are just starting a few new skirmishes in the over all movement to change education, but sometimes we feel a bit alone since there is not really a network or gathering that we can go to and just feel at home. You know, a conference or gathering of like minds, of people that get this stuff totally.  There are places like TxDLA where we can find many comrades-in-arms among everyone else, but then there are places like EduCause where we felt waaaaaay out-numbered by the muggles.

(side-note: I am always thankful and surprised to find some readers of this blog out there. Any time you ever see me out there at a conference, feel free to grab a chair at the table I am eating at and let’s swap ideas.)

I guess we just have to be ready for hecklers and critics everywhere we go. In many ways, I like to embrace the comments of those that get visibly upset and red-faced when we question their sacred cows. Their questions and concerns help us to sharpen our argument significantly.  So this blog post is really a tribute to those critics and hecklers.

But first, a quick look at a good piece of constructive criticism:

For an improvement, I would have liked to see more examples of what people are doing. I like concrete items, I know the topic was theoretical which limited what could be presented; however I think I would have liked to see the presenters present more examples or talk rather than fielding as many questions as they did.

This comment actually came from someone that really liked the session, but left this as a suggestion for improvement.  We intentionally made our presentation more discussion oriented… more open-ended. We think that people actually need to start demanding that conference presenters stop giving so many concrete ideas and examples. They need to stop thinking for us. They need to give us the concepts and let us come up with the concrete ideas.

An interesting question arose from the discussion that I think applies here.  The question was basically that students don’t usually like to think for themselves – they want to be spoon fed – so if we go open and active with learning, won’t they just complain? The answer to that is a bit complex, but the short answer is yes, they will complain that content is not being spoon fed to them in a passive format.  Then the attendees started laughing about how that is also how we want stuff as educators – we go to conferences to be spoon-fed and not think ourselves.  The comment above is an example of that – we left it open ended and let people interact more, and even among the people that loved what we said their were still people that still wanted us to be more passive. I still want at times myself, so I am not criticizing this person’s comments as much as pointing out how much we need to change as educators.  Bur from here on out, the comments I want to feature get pretty bad :)

They were just presenting a conceptual piece, seemingly hoping for someone to fund them. It seems as though they assume ALL students have youtube, blogs, twitter, etc accounts.

Fund us? Do they know anything about these conferences? Going to TxDLA or Educause hoping to get funding is like Barry Manilow going to Metallica hoping they will buy some songs for their next album.  That is just crazy talk.  The second sentence shows how little people pay attention when they have written you off.  Our point was that students can used whatever tools they already are using online, no matter what it is, in their learning – rather than learn new tools just to do “assignments”.

Be prepared to provide strong evidence you are correct. If you can’t do that, you should keep your opinions to yourself.

Really? This last one is just sad, because it really defeats the whole purpose of education.  We can’t share new ideas? We can’t dream and think outside of the box and get other people to dream along with us?  You know, someone has to actually try this stuff before there is any evidence. That is kind of how you get evidence. Ideas only get better once you share them and collaborate around them.  But, once again, we want to be spoon fed.  Don’t give me concepts – give me ideas for me to mindlessly clone!

Despite the last two sad comments, the majority were good constructive ideas like the first one I quoted above or just down right awesome encouragement.  I will conclude with one of the better ones that was left for us:

What Matt and Harriet are proposing is exciting, innovative, and Bb, D2L, Google, Microsoft should all stop and listen.

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.

A Brave New World Free of PowerPoints

TxDLA was a great event this year. Harriet and I did our usual rebel-rousing there (along with other EduGeeks such as Katrina, Darren, and Shaun. Yes, they are still alive). Creating a session PowerPoint is usually difficult for us, since we usually don’t prepare any preset material.  We like to discuss, interact, and have some interesting conversations. But since most educators have to have something to look at, we usually put up a PowerPoint with pretty pictures (here is our old set of purty pics).

This year, Harriet created a Prezi presentation.  Prezi is pretty cool in that it can be very non-linear.  You can click and scroll around on the presentation as you like. This gives me hope for a future of conference presentations that are free of PowerPoint overkill.  Here is what I am thinking:

Someday, someone will come up with an iPad competitor that doesn’t have all of Steve Job’s weird hang-ups about Flash.  Prezi is built in Flash, so this is key. Oh, and it will run a real operating system instead of iPhoneOS.  Then they will create a cheap adapter that hooks this superior iPad product to projectors. Then the fun will begin.

Image if you could just create a map of all the concepts you want to discuss in a presentations in Prezi.  Then use this better iPad model to run the presentation.  Using the touch screen, you can scroll around and zoom in on concepts as they come up in the discussion. Non-linear, interactive presentations, controlled by a light, portable touchscreen pad.  That would make any session much more active and connected.

Also consider how this could change your classes. Or maybe this already exists and I am just not buying the right products?

Anyways, here is the Prezi from our TxDLA session (which is still linear – we didn’t want to blow too many gaskets in one session):

Next time I hope to go in to some thoughts about some of the discussions and feedback we had at the conference – it was some great stuff.

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 Web Is Changing: It’s Time to Dethrone the LMS

Harriet and I are going to be presenting our latest ideas on how to change online education at two upcoming conferences: Educause Southwest in Austin on February 18, 2010 and TxDLA in Houston on March 23, 2010. Come by and say “Hi” if you happen to be at either of these conferences.

Rapid changes in online learning concepts such as learning communities, personal learning environments, and complexity are driving a need to dismantle the learning management system as we know it. LMS systems and instructional design are in need of major overhauls and are in danger of becoming obsolete if they don”t evolve. Students need a place to connect and collaborate at complex levels rather than hide behind a “walled garden.” Two colleagues at UT Arlington will present a new paradigm as an innovative alternative to the existing LMS concept as we know it.

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 Web is Changing. Time to Dethrone the LMS!

Earlier this year, Harriet and I went to a few conference presenting on “Will Web 3.0 Change the Way We Educate?”  It was a fun presentation that involved play dough, audience participation, and our New Vision for the Learning Management System.

As we were getting ready to present another round of conferences in 2010, we realized that the term “Web 3.0” is soooo 2009. So we updated the presentation:

TITLE: The Web is Changing. Time to Dethrone the LMS!

ABSTRACT: Rapid changes in online learning concepts – such as learning communities, personal learning environments and complexity – are driving a need to dismantle the Learning Management System as we know it. LMS software programs and instructional design theories are in danger of becoming obsolete if they don’t evolve. Students need a place to connect and collaborate at complex levels rather than hide inside a “walled garden.” Two colleagues at UT Arlington will present a new paradigm that is intended as an innovative alternative to the existing LMS concept as we know it.

We really just noticed that the typical “Web 3.0 concepts” weren’t driving the need for change as much as some of the concepts mentioned above are. The main gist of the presentation will still stay the same, of course – we would like to see LMS/CMS/VLE concept go away, to be replaced by a Social Learning Environment or a Personal Learning Network Aggregator of some kind. And there will be even more play dough!

We also plan to have a few new things, like an interesting viral video that will mock the LMS mercilessly and even a working model of New Vision to also show everyone.

First up on our conference schedule will be the EDUCAUSE Southwest Regional Conference in February.  Stop by and say “Hi” to us if you are there!

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.