Thursday, 26 March 2015

Free eLearning solutions at the Learning Exchange platform @eLearningGuild

The eLearning Guild has launched an interesting content creating and sharing program, called the Learning Exchange. The idea is simple: let your members share their expertise (fits any expert learning format). The nice thing is that we all get to know each other better, and it provides us a stage to share eLearning content that we make anyway. There have been similar platforms, but they sometimes faded over time. With the eLearning Guild having so many members, eLearning experts, I feel that this initiative might just work pure on the basis of its rich community. And it is more practical then for instance the Educause discussions, as it is about providing training, getting tips and solutions for real life eLearning challenges. The platform also provides a discussion area, called NOW@ as well.

The platform is being populated, so it is growing week by week, but I really like the initiative. And wondering what content I could share on it... just for fun and connecting.

So what do you need to do to get access to the platform? At this point in time, you just need to provide the eLearning Guild with your contact details and eLearning profile. And from there you can peruse the content for free, take courses, select content bits and bobs, AND even add content in a variety of media: text, articles, webinars, or multimedia. Depending on the type of media, you might be asked to download certain features (e.g. when I wanted to view content on ADDIE versus SAM, I needed to download a Blackboard Collaborate tool, but it worked smoothly). 

So you can learning from any type of content or topic you like and is available (there are a meaningful categories and tags to choose from). As you move through the content, you can mark the content you have reviewed as 'done'. If you mark specific content as done, you 'earn' points, which indicate your interest or action inside of the Learning Exchange platform. 

Not all the uploaded media is unique, I found videos which were TEDtalks, YouTube movies from eLearning companies, or blogposts from the authors... but it did not bother me that all the content had a different feel to it, as long as the content was of intereset. It is a bit of OER, but with a corporate twist - so not that open to all, as you need to login (as well as different copyright licenses). The thing I like is that this Learning Exchange platform can be explored without extra cost, that it shares content coming from people who work in eLearning, and that it connects all of us in an immediately meaningful way. 

But what about the quality of the contributions? It is simple, you share what you think is of sound quality, and peers can than add comments, like it (or not), and rate the content you share. A bit like an old school 'competence and usefulness' discussion forum approach, but with new contemporary additions. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

free mMOOC design paper and upcoming #mLearncon

The upcoming mobile learning conference organised by the eLearning Guild: mLearnCon (10 - 13 June 2015 in Austin, Texas) will bring mobile learning enthusiasts together and offer great networking opportunities. If you have a speaking proposal in mind, you can submit it here.

In running up to the conference, I remembered that I did not share a mobile design paper from 2013, which was published in the Mobile Handbook, an award winning book edited by Zane Berge and Lyn Muilenburg. Because the design emerged from two early online courses on mobile learning (MobiMOOC), I thought it would be good to share the paper, as it links to both practical and theoretical mobile learning tools and dynamics. Since publishing the paper I have been using the mMOOC design to see what works, and what has changed, and I will get that down in a short article later.

The paper entitled 'mMOOC Design: Ubiquitous, Open Learning in the Cloud' can be read in draft version in Academia.

Abstract of the paper: In the mMOOC design chapter an overview is given of what a MOOC is and how it can be optimized for mobile device delivery and interaction. The chapter starts with an overview of contemporary, educational challenges in this Knowledge Age, after which the mMOOC design is described. The mMOOC design combines characteristics and strengths of both m-learning and the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) format. By using emerging technologies (selecting mobile social media, enabled mobile multimedia) and stimulating content dialogue and self-regulated learning, the course design allows learning to take place in the cloud and being directed by the learners.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Future of Ed #AI DeepMind computer teaches itself to play Atari 2600 games

How do we see the world when Artificial Intelligence takes over work that we find 'humanly satisfying'? What about game-based learning? Is it really such a game-changer, and if it is, than what do we think about computers teaching themselves to be better (than us humans in these games)? Education might get under pressure, as automation and learning creeps in from the digital world. Will Art be the last job standing? All of these ideas are fine with me, as long as we readjust society to cope with these new, upcoming - and more than often based on learning - realities. Can we rethink our place as humans in this increased technological world, and in such a way that we will all still be able to have a sense of intellectual satisfaction? Or will we get globally depressed once we acknowledge that our brain can be outrun by any improved AI DeepMind next generation computer or algorithm?

DeepMind takes over Atari high scores 
Google's DeepMind is something to be reckoned with, and an technological evolution that will push  us to rethink society (at least, that's what I think). The DeepMind algorithms are very interesting, as they can be seen as self-adjusted learning/teaching algorithms. DeepMind is used in DeepFace in the form of DeepLearning (earlier blogpost on it here), and now DeepMind cracked the teaching/learning code to get better at simple video games (yes, this does relate to the tech teenage movie WarGames, the movie from 1983) as The New Scientist (and others) reported today.

Announcing the next evolutionary step: a tiny baby now, but growing
This is a great breakthrough in technology, but potentially one that can influence learning/teaching and society. First of all, I am all for it. Evolution is needed, especially when looking at the boundaries of humanity (evidence-based research seldom results in other more durable approaches (think climate, hunger relief...), war is still a major driving force although we all know the downsides of it). So in a way, my hope rests in the next phase of existence, which might just be fully digital, with us humans as reservation or zoo kept animals, that are provided toys just like our closest biological sisters and brothers, the apes.

Education as savior to get us from human-biological to computational-digital  
But there is a downside as we are in a transition zone, where AI is not yet capable of taking over, and humans are decreasingly needed. The shift from the biological to the computational needs to be made more pleasant. Allowing people all over the world to be have their little piece of Eden, before the fully computational revolution takes over. Education can help, especially lifelong learning, as this will allow us to re-evaluate which opportunities are still open to us humans, and how (or where) we need to turn to reshape our knowledge, or take on a new identity that will allow us to live a satisfactory life in this transition phase between the human-biological and the computational-digital life. Education would as such no longer need to be job-focused, but more life-focused: sustaining and supporting that which makes us humans feel satisfied, intellectually balanced, good.

Online learning as one of the tools to guide and shape us
Elearning or online learning with multiple devices, across location and time is a good option to re-adjust life to fit these new, upcoming artificial intelligence changes. At best, online content is shaped by cooperatively working on a particular subject. Multimedia files, content, contextualized authentic learning experiences... all of these can be brought together much quicker then ever before, and built by all of us putting our heads together (standing on the shoulders of giants comes to mind). So, in a way, online learning can offer quick responses to new societal changes. Providing new opportunities, new ways of looking at the rapid changes, and at our human identities against the backdrop of a changed, more AI oriented society.

(image source: https://juandomingofarnos.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/inteligencia-coolhunting-la-sabiduria-digital-de-e-learning-inclusivo-educacion-disruptiva/)

Friday, 13 February 2015

Practical, free report on #mobile pedagogy for English #language teaching and learning

The 46 page research report on 'Mobile pedagogy for English language teaching and learning: a guide for teachers' is a practical and informative report. The report was written by experts (Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Lucy Norris and Jim Donohue) in the field that combine a strong theoretical background with experienced practical projects, this combination clearly adds to the relevance of the report.

The report addresses the challenges of English teachers, a framework is offered which points towards all the dynamics and interactions that are part of the overall language interactions between teachers and learners, once the framework is described a practical example of the application of the framework in a real lesson.
Because the report offers a range of practical activities with clear links to learning goals that are addressed by these activities as well as suggestions for implementation, the report enables a clear and immediate understanding of the mobile opportunities that are suggested (e.g. actions: feeding back after task or class (Learning-Oriented Assessment), or  another activity: the ‘ideal self’ language user; reflecting on learning and motivation - which encourages learners to be more active and reflect on real language performance).

A great and practical read. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

#Fun testing boundaries of #DeepFace

Since the announcement of DeepFace and its consecutive reasonance in the media, the facial recognition algorithm from Facebook, it aroused both interest and critique. There are many arguments to consider privacy issues before sending out these types of identity related software's out there ... into the public world. But no matter what the status of the philosophical decisions is, DeepFace is now ready to be fully deployed after a successful pilot.

Every type of technology is embedded in a context and ecology, which makes it an integral part of a holistic society. And as a human instrument, it inevitably leads to many discussions whenever it changes contemporary habits. Nevertheless, each technology also adds to a bit of fun. And I see it as an informal duty of each learning technologist, tech geek... or all-round nerd-joker, to investigate the fun-factor of these types of algorithms. And that was what I was thinking about during last night.

The DeepFaced-facts
  • Deep Face recognises more people than I ever would (I have trouble recognizing faces, and not coming anywhere close to the 97,5 % average of most people), and has almost reached human recognition stats (97,25 %).  
  • The rotation challenge: DeepFace uses a 3D model for rotating faces virtually so that the person in the photo appears to be looking at the camera. 
  • The algorithm draws its power from Deep Learning, a visual as well as audio (language) recognition system set-up by Google. Where deep learning has reignited some of the grand challenges in artificial intelligence, due to its use of computational power, use of big data, and adaptation capacity.
So take DeepFace to the challenge
Provide DeepFace with some additional challenges, while at the same time expand your EdTech tool-use
History is being rewritten, we all know this, and most of the time history is written by the victors (Churchill). It will never be different, nevertheless, it might be fun to try and contaminate some of history's facts with us - the normal people. Which also makes it into a nice 'how would you use this tool'-action for any multimedia class, online or face-to-face. Some options:

  • Photoshop yourself into (Facebook) history. It almost feels like old-school this photo-shopping, but it never hurts to rethink old options. By placing yourself into histories key moments, Facebook might pick-up your presence at these key points, and of course Deep Learning might adjust itself to 'this person could not have been here!?!', but then again it might start to calculate you must have been here if you work yourself into these picture from different angles (in doing so, making yourself even more experienced with photoshop). Me with Ghandi, me with the new Greek president Alexis Tsipras (would love this), me with ...
  • Exploring the boundaries of morphed images and DeepFace. Another fun activity, that will allow you to see how much tweaking you can do to your own face, before DeepFace stops recognising you. As a test I already morphed me with my son. Quick online morphing option: 3Dthis.com .
  • Finally an answer to 'does everyone on earth have a (or more) look-alike/s'. If facial recognition is indeed working, it might reveal that there is another Ignatia out there somewhere... and I would like to meet her, facebook might make this possible (what is the return rate for DeepFace on successfully recognising twins?). But I do hope my look-alike is not mixed up with too much hustling though... how dangerous could that be for my identity? and what if people make masks mimicing my face?... 

As you can see: fun guaranteed. I feel that I should add this concept of the Fun-test to my repertoir on getting and screening new technologies. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Blogphilosophy: Microsoft's #Hololens, the #augmented journey

With Microsoft providing a glimpse into its hololens project (related to Windows 10 options), I felt it would be good to recap on augmented reality, and see what thoughts come to mind when thinking about the exiting hololens endeavor.

History in the blink of an eye
The concept of augmented reality has been around for quite some time. More then hundred years ago (1901) Frank Baum - author most famous for the Wizard of Oz - came up with the idea of an electronic display that put a layer over the real life world. As graphics and computational power increased, Steve Mann (who came up with the wonderful concept of Sousveillance, appreciated by activists everywhere) came up with a system that put text and graphics over a photographic image, creating an augmented reality, the eye-tap.
This is where it becomes of interest for education, as simulations become a possibility. By 2008 augmented reality is being rolled out for the masses: wikitude, Layar, and the inevitable introduction of augmented use in marketing (printing, buying via qr-codes...e.g. metaio) becomes possible through the use of mobile phones with apps.

Augmented reality as performance enhancer
As augmented reality becomes more mainstream, the public implementations, and job performance options become more apparent, which leads to bigger projects. In education augmented reality has been used in video support of specific historical reenactments (now frequently used in documentaries, for example in the 3-D imaging put on top of the real world in this trailer of Archaeology of Portus). The implementation of augmented reality in professions indirectly or directly related to design, architecture, engineering are straightforward: augmented reality allows a concept or new design to be investigated with less cost, and 3D models. Augmented reality has been successfully implemented in guiding workers to do specific (new) jobs by providing them on-site virtual support on what they needed to do with the parts they needed to fit together (e.g. nice slide-deck on topic).

Mobility as a driver
The roll out of mobile technology and mobile devices was crucial for sending augmented reality out into the real, mainstream world. And those same mobile devices had something that would increase augmented options: the mobile device sensors. With these sensors multiple tracking and spatial location options became possible, increasing the overall augmented reality experience.
The mobility of all of us, pushed augmented reality into the public sphere. There were some first steps into a more holistic, augmented approach for the general public: Google glass, metaglasses... but now Microsoft comes up with the stand-alone (nice!) hololens computer.

The Hololens
The hololens offers to be a fully functional computer option that allows you to interact in a space - living room or office or park, anywhere... without markers, wires, nothing, just the device as a native instrument. And, what is a great addition: it builds upon the motion detection that was put on the map by Kinect. As such it combines human motion, with mobile sensors, to dip into all the digital content that is already out there on the Web, in the Cloud... so no more wires, just tapping into the virtual, digital world. It seems like a real augmentation of the human body and mind.
I like it, a lot. Especially because it is a native machine. And of course it offers options that no other device ever offered, as such it brings along the pleasures of tinkering with a new invention. The options for education are multiple: augment the classroom, augment housework, increase informal, augmented and immediate learning... It is a really cool tool, a nice new human instrument.

But what are the first ideas that come to mind when reflecting on possible side effects?

  • The promo-video talks about 'More reality than ever before' is one of the motto's of the hololens. And I can see how this seems like a truth, but is it? Because with our brains, there are only so many inputs that can be processed. So, we might be able to gain time when using the hololens (no longer having to find wifi first, or other barriers that limit immediate access to content), and time might be used in an optimal form due to the merging of data (e.g. recognize face - know what they do or expert at - so immediately strike up a conversation - or not), but reality is the sum of all things, and our concentration picks up whatever we are searching for. 
  • More virtual options for thinking over design (any field) also means that less people are necessary in those fields. What can be done digitally, must not be done manually. This will affect the job market - for those designer support jobs at least. 
  • The immediacy of the information and augmentation also makes me wonder about the immediacy of propaganda. Photoshopping will be immediate, merging live events with fake objects/people and streaming them as if it is real. 
  • And inevitably the barrier of us humans becomes clear once again. We invent things, apply them, but we never seem to cross over to the other species, the super-human, or the non-human. Anything and everything we do seems to mimic humanness... I wish we could get over that.
  • The Specific Absorbation Rate (SAR) information would be of interest to me, as it is a stand-alone device which is worn close to the brain. 

Well, fun to reflect I think. And, what a cool tool the hololens seems to be! The link to the live event of the hololens can be seen here. But I rather share the Hololens trailer below:

Monday, 2 February 2015

Free booklet on #Teaching with #Technology

The 35 page report (or booklet) on Teaching with Technology was just released by the Inside Higher Ed magazine and written with support from Blackboard (the LMS). This means that a certain LMS-focus can be felt, nevertheless, the report does highlight some ideas and EdTech initiatives in a transparent way. The report is free, and can be downloaded (after providing name, email, and job title to Inside Higher Ed) at this virtual locationAnd you may sign up here for a free webinar on Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. Eastern about the themes of the booklet.

The booklet starts off with some figures regarding educational change: 98% of college & university presidents think that change is needed in education a and 67% think the change needs to be disruptive (Chronicle of Higher Ed study from 2014). The definition of student success is broadening with a necessary focus on learner-­‐desired outcomes beyond our traditional institutional success measures of progress and completion.
A brief look, which topics are covered:

  • modularization: this Higher Ed option is increasingly being rolled out as an option for students to either build their own curriculum (or part of it). Now major universities are also interchanging topics, e.g. Yale will be streaming Harvard's course on computer science CS50 to its students in the fall 2015. (personal note: interesting adaptation of the Payed Educational Resources option, and it offers a view into Future modularization where different universities develop different modules that can be part of a full curriculum. This might also result in universities that focus on specific fields, rather than full options. A bit like the changes happening in certain countries with k12 options: a language school, a STEM-school, a business school...).
  • License to teach online: another oldie that is now getting formalized: demanding faculty to take a 'Digital Driver's License' course in order to be eligible to teach online. As an incentive a small stipend is given to the teachers who are willing to take the course (case of Saint Mary's college of California). 
  • Blended approach for liberal arts: nice option to embrace both face-to-face and online learning opportunities that allow faculty as well as students to keep the benefits of both and engage in meaningful actions in both worlds. 
  • Connecting to international classrooms: also an old option (learning experiences in other countries), which is now gaining interest due to technological solutions. By connecting classes with students from different countries (but who are able to all talk the same language in order to communicate), all students learn from the experiment (e.g. connecting college classrooms from Morocco, Pakistan, US). This type of learning has multiple names: COIL, online intercultural exchange, virtual exchange, globally networked learning, telecollaboration... but the course aim is always the same: to facilitate class discussions and do collaborative course assignments across national borders and time zones. The course exchanges can be synchronous or asynchronous, or involve a combination of both.
  • A MOOC-like master degree: the full option of online learning, which in all honesty has been tested and done by all Open Universities everywhere. This change from residential to online learning does have an effect on teacher and teaching assistants profiles and numbers. 
  • And of course a brief focus on the flipped classroom, as well as a focus on the success of Purdue's Signals - stoplights for student success

Brief report, with known topics that are explained in a short and sweat way, and in between a bit of Blackboard advertisements with links to other reports. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

#MOOC factors influencing teachers in formal #education

This is a paper entitled MOOC factors influencing teachers in formal education was written for the Mexican open journal: Revista Mexicana de Bachillerato a distancia. Número 13 (2015). The MOOC expert Guadalupe Vadillo asked me if I wanted to write about MOOCs and teacher development. I gladly accepted the request, because I think MOOC can be used in multiple forms, supporting teachers in all areas of formal education. 


The paper is written in two languages, one in English, and one in Spanish: Factores MOOC que influyen en profesores de educación formal

This paper highlights a couple of options for teachers and the use of MOOC:
  • Brief history and range of MOOC: from small to massive, from cMOOC to xMOOC.
  • It focuses on teachers themselves: real teachers are irreplaceable, MOOC fitting pedagogies that can be used (constructivism, connectivism, networked learning, problem based learning, flipped classroom approach)
  • Increased digital skills: technological skills, digital skills, self-regulated learning.
  • Rethinking assessment
  • Increasing success for students from vulnerable socioeconomic classes
  • Scaffolded teacher development: moving from face-to-face to online learning
The paper takes a look at the differences between face-to-face teaching and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) opportunities for teachers, in order to provide insight in the necessities of teacher development. In order to do this a short overview of MOOC is provided, including pedagogical options, the necessary skills needed, and some MOOC opportunities to increase academic success for vulnerable socioeconomic students by using MOOCs.
Teachers in formal education provide the learning path towards learning objectives and learning outcomes that need to be achieved. In order for teachers to deliver quality in both face-to-face and online learning environments, it is pivotal that they experience and understand MOOC options. Overall the paper suggests that teachers need to be informed about MOOC diversity to enable them to perform in the MOOC learning and teaching environment. This will allow teachers to overcome their own doubts, the complexities that come along with these new online environments, and provide them with the confidence and insights needed to use MOOC for their own teaching goals. 

This paper adds to a presentation I gave on the same topic, which I posted to slideshare here. Where the opportunities for teachers, as well as learners are listed: using MOOC as clusters of useful digital content (OER), using MOOC to decrease the digital divide in terms of STEM knowledge for learners planning to go to college, using MOOC to develop yourself as a teacher or to support interests from learners, using MOOC as additions for bright learners or/and learners with a learning difficulty, how MOOC can be embedded in a flipped classroom approach... 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Launch of the Really Useful #EdTechBook #elearning enthusiasts

Today the Really Useful #EdTechBook was launched. This book has took only 6 months to gather 16 educational technologists, and all-round eLearning practitioners (both in online education, mobile learning, and any sub-section in technology enhanced learning). The formidable, and project superman David Hopkins pulled this astonishing work off with an energy and motivation that is purely magical (and courageous, as he needed to keep 16 volunteering writers on a very tight schedule).

So what is the book about? 
‘The Really Useful #EdTechBook‘ is about experiences, reflections, hopes, passions, expectations, and professionalism of those working with, in, and for the use of technology in education. Not only is it an insight into how, or why, we work with these technologies, it’s about how we as learning professionals got to where we are and how we go forward with our own development.

Technology has invaded our working and recreational lives to an extent that few envisaged 20 or 30 years ago. We’d be fools to avoid the developments in personal, mobile, and wearable technology. Even if we tried we’d still have to deal with other developments and distractions in classroom and learning technology like smart boards, blogs, video, games, students-led learning, virtual learning environments, social media, etc. More than this, however, is how the advances in technology, the economic and physical miniaturisation of computing devices, have impacted education: the students, the teachers, the classrooms, the spaces, the connections, the aspirations, etc.

In this book you will find chapters on the subjects mentioned above, in written in a more informal, transparent way (David gave all of us carte blanche, and emphasized the importance of the personal experience, or personal preferred viewpoints on Educational Technology.
The book has got wonderfully written chapters, and to be honest I have enjoyed every chapter, for all of the chapters offered new ideas or intimate stories of what it is, and what it took to become an educational technologist. So the only indulgence I dare, is to provide a link to my chapter on 'Tech Dandy, and the Art of Leisure Learning', that I have added to my list of Academia-papers just to keep track of what I am writing.

I can only assure you, that the other chapters will blow your mind in usefulness. And I am not alone in saying this, as multiple eLearning experts already gave the book good reviews prior to the launch (e.g. Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor of Learning Technology, Plymouth University, Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive, Association for Learning Technology (ALT), Chrissi Nerantzi, Principal Lecturer in Academic CPD, Manchester Metropolitan University, Helen Blunden, Activate Learning Solutions, Australia.

Offering the book at multiple prices 
After some serious discussions, the consensus of all the authors was that the book should be open to all, yet offer people who want to support us the opportunity to pay for the book, and as such give us some monetary gift. So, here are the details on the book offers:

For those interested in taking a peek at the book before purchasing it, you can find the PDF-download link in David's blogpost here. http://bit.ly/EdTechBook

Title: The Really Useful #EdTechBook
Editor: David Hopkins
Word count: 61,000
Price eBook: $6.99 / £4.50 / €5.80
Price Paperback: $29.99 / £19.99 / €24.99
Publish date: 28 January 2015
Available: Paper and eBook editions are available from the following online stores.

(Note: Tax will be applied to the eBook by the online store, based on your location).

Join our Google+ community for information on the book, the chapter authors, the launch details, the world of learning and educational technology, Or have a look at the geographic interest in the book on this map here. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

#MOOC benefits & realities for teachers & students #k12

In preparation of a workshop that I will give this afternoon at the Guldensporencollege in Kortrijk, Belgium., a k12 school. In this overview, I have put what I consider to be the benefits and realities of MOOC for teachers and students.

I will give the presentation in Dutch, so I prepared two slide decks, which I gladly share. Below the English version, and further down the Dutch version.

The slides cover the following topics:

  • The differences between MOOC formats for teachers (briefly summing up xMOOC <=> cMOOC)
  • the benefits for MOOCs - and specifically their content - for teachers (professional development, but also using these resources in their classroom, for example in Flipped classroom formats)
  • The opportunities of MOOCs for k12 learners (e.g. the guidance teachers can give in terms of critical thinking, or assessing content and topics; but also offering extra interactions and learning materials to very bright learners, as well as learners that are equally bright, but have a specific learning challenge. 
  • And at the end there is an overview of how MOOC already start to indirectly influence our teacher profile, skills, and more particularly our job descriptions. 





The Dutch version, for those of you interested in Germanic languages and their difference or similarities (it is quite similar):