Saturday, November 8, 2008

Introduction to Presentation Mode

Greetings! Welcome to the presentation blog for the Thursday afternoon plenary session of the 2008 Focus on Technology and Teaching Regional Conference held at the University of Misosuri at St. Louis.

I use presentation blogs instead of power points because blogs are:
  • Native to the Web - reside online for reference following the conference
  • Permit interaction through the comment mode
  • Facilitate easy hyperlinks (all of the posting titles are hyperlinks to resources on the topic)
  • Provide random access to postings - rather than paging through a serial list of slides

You will find many more presentation blogs at my home page - linked to the title of this posting.

Take a quick tour of the blog - you will note that the right column includes daily-updates from three blogs - Online Learning Update, Educational Technology, and Techno-News.

Please post comments to keep the discussion going.

"The Machine is Us" ~ Web 2.0 Changes Everything

In 2004, Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly media was trying to come up with a title for a conference to bring in some of the disillusioned IT workers who had been turned out of work by the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001/2002. O'Reilly came up with the title Web 2.0 (as in the second version of software. That term has been applied to a myriad of applications - even non Web - in the intervening years. There have been many definitions that have emerged. But, my favorite is to define Web 2.0 in (an inherently 2.0 technology) the YouTube video by KSU Prof Michael Wesch:

Transparent Technology

Many recognize that technology is transforming the way we teach and learn. For example, there is the rapid growth in:
  • Online classes ~ blended classes ~ Internet intensive classes
  • Online searching and publishing
  • Wikis, blogs, podcasts, mashups, video, and a whole host of Web 2.0 services
  • Online collaborations, interactions and engagement

But, what's this about transparent technology in teaching? It is the advent of intuitive, ubiquitous, and useful technologies that are so simple, so seamless that they become transparent - they don't get in the way, they are easy to adopt and to use.

Transparency has to do with both the technology itself and the background of both the student and the faculty member.

Students Today - Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

Marc Presenky in his seminal 2001 article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants sent a wake-up call to faculty members that students have changed. They way they consume media, study, research, and think are different than those before them.

Who are students today? Michael Wesch of Kansas State asked his anthropology students to answer that question in the spring of 2007.

What (how) Are They Thinking ~ Online

One might think that the use of these new technologies are easier on the brain than older methods. After all, the computer does all of the work, doesn't it?

Recent research led by UCLA Prof. Gary Small shows that searching on the Internet simulaneously activates more parts of the brain than reading a book. It more fully engages the brain. (see link to title)

But, there is a limit. The multi-tasking brain (talking on the cell phone and watching television, while studying your weekly readings for class) is not as good as focusing on the learning alone.

Ubiquity - a program that promotes transparency

Mozilla Labs, among many others, is working on refining ways to make technologies more transparent - more intuitive, automatic, and - well - ubiquitous. Their new efforts with Ubiquity point the way in which we are evolving online. These are the baby steps that move us ever closer to an environment in which technology does not get in the way; in which we can simply and easily move ahead without user coding, without waiting for plug-ins to install, without configuring, complicating, and confounding.

Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

The Building Blogs of Learning

Blogs are great examples of an intuitive - transparent - technology that has:
  • world-wide reach,
  • instant dissemination
  • inviting interaction
  • promoting reflective learning
  • encouraging engagement

Simple, free, and reliable, blogs can be limited to small groups or classes. It can provide a forum for discussion with built in notification. Or, it can open the postings to the world.

Take for example the Online Learning Update. Composed nightly in a recliner in a tiny town surrounded by corn and bean fields, this little blog earns a very high ranking by Google (see link to title). In the past day alone, people from around the world have visited this modest blog:

As impressive as that may be, more than five times as many views are made to the RSS feed each day.

RSS - Reconfiguring the Semester

As simple as posting a blog, is RSS. Really Simple Syndication is one way in which we can share our thoughts, perspectives, new ideas, links to research, and many more of the granular components of teaching and learning. Automatically (transparently) generated - RSS is simply a description of an update to a blog, podcast, wiki, or almost any Web page. It enables students to receive auto-updates from the instructor. And, not just when they are formally students - they can continue to subscribe, enabling them to continue to receive upates after the end of the semester on into their careers. And, they can feed back into the class of current students.

For more on this concept, see the proceedings of the Distance Teaching and Learning Conference:

Particularly exciting is that this opens the door to collaborations among students, professionals, and faculty members around the world.

"I have followers!" - He Twittered

But, is RSS the preferred communication channel? Studies show that email has become the "old" person's mode of communication. RSS is used by many. But, text messaging has become a preferred mode of communication - just ask the political pundits about the role txt played in this year's campaign!

Faculty members can keep in touch with students around the clock all semester (and beyond). With a single tweet, a prof can be in the pocket and purses of all of their students - reminding them of due dates, passing along new ideas, nudging them to study, and keeping them appraised of new research.

Simple, transparent, powerful social networking sharing information and helping to build knowledge.

Virtually There - Education's Second Life

Virtual immersive environments have been around for years, but only now are becoming nearly transparent. Emerging virtual worlds offer opportunities for active learning in a unique way. These "worlds" are populated with avatars. Avatars are those animated characters that can take almost any shape or form and - in many virtual worlds - can talk and interact with other avatars. Second Life and other virtual environments enable a kind of immersion in learning and engagement. See how the avatars interact directly with one another. The New Media Consortium is among the leaders in the use of Second Life for collaborations.

Deb Antoine (aka Vidorah Messmer) has built most of the UIS SL island - she takes us on a quick tour:

A great look ahead in virtual learning environments:

An incomplete list of colleges and universities who are using SL:

Second Life is not the only virtual environment:

Google is now into the virtual environment game:

Just Think - and so it shall be!

NeuroSky Inc. has developed a non-invasive, dry, bio-sensor family of products that capture the electrical waves generated by neurological activity and eye movements and translate mental state information into digital signals for simple Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI). The Mindset headset is a brainwave sensing device that is now commercially available. Talk about transparency! Just think and you can control on-screen objects.

Here are a couple of YouTube reports - one showing the Mindset in operation:

And, Stanford University held a seminar to examine the Emotiv Epoc headset:

Connectivism - Learning Theory for the Digital Age

In 2004, George Siemens (now at the University of Manitoba) articulated a new theory that draws upon elements of Social Constructivism and other pedagogies while taking into account some of the special features of the digital age.

Most notably, Siemens posits that knowledge in the 21st century resides, not just in the individual's brain, but also in the networks that the individual has built (both social and electronic). Due to the exponential increase in information, we need to expand our repository to include other individuals and sites where knowledge may be accessed.

Making Ivy-Covered Walls Transparent

The New Century Learning Consortium is a prototype for the future - universities collaborating and coordinating to promote economy and excellence. In the new economy of the 21st century those universities that will thrive are the ones that find ways to work together to serve student needs while sustaining their institutional identity and building upon their strengths.

Especially as our students and our institutions all face the challenges of economic recession, the potential of online collaborations become increasingly important.

Technologies on the Horizon - the Horizon Report

Early each year, EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium produce a report on emerging technologies that are on the horizon - one year out; two to three years out; and four to five years out. This report is a valuable aggregation of new and emerging technologies that promise to impact education in the future.

For daily updates on online learning, educational technology and emerging technologies, I invite you to visit the blogs aggregated in the right column:

Online Learning Update

Educational Technology Blog

Techno-News Blog


The technological singularity may be much closer than many realize. The singularity is defined by Ray Kurzweil:

The Singularity is technological change so rapid and so profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. Some would say that we cannot comprehend the Singularity, at least with our current level of understanding, and that it is impossible, therefore, to look past its "event horizon" and make sense of what lies beyond.

It is also defined as the point at which a computer will pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence in which a third party cannot distinguish between a human and the computer.

Ray Kurzweil (pt1of3) The Singularity Summit at Stanford

Ray Kurzweil - parts two and three are available at YouTube - they explain in greater detail the progress toward the singularity.
IBM is leading a group of researchers to build brain-like computers:

Plans are underway for a university without professors - but, with computers:

Contact Information

Ray Schroeder
Professor Emeritus and Director
Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning
University of Illinois at Springfield
Springfield, IL 62703