Reflections on Learning Technology (#edumooc)

I had hoped that by this time, I would have had a chance to look into the latest and greatest technology that might improve online learning – but alas, I have not had the time. It has been a crazy week, with the collaborative paper from MobiMOOC getting excepted and my resulting decision to attend the mLearn 2011 conference in Beijing (yay!).

Anyways, I thought I'd share with you my reflections on a couple of tools that have really changed my view of online education in the last five years.

I finished my Master's degree (an online program) in 2005. It was a great program with lots of asynchronous discussion and group work. For our groups, we used MSN Messager as the primary means of synchronous communication (anyone remember text chat? And text chat with 4 or 5 people!). The cohort only 1 year after us had an entirely different group work experience, as they did all their group chats with the "latest and greatest" at the time, Skype. Now that I'm taking another online course, I can tell you that Skype certainly makes group collaboration go quicker. Although it is a lot faster, what I do notice is that people are not on equal footing in skype – it is too easy for one person to dominate the conversation. This wasn't such a problem with text-based chat. That being said, for a lot of people Skype has increased the feeling of social presense – so it was definitely a game-changer for online education.

The second tool that has changed the way I see online education is YouTube. I'm teaching a short course on Advanced Microsoft Word (a skills course) and YouTube has been a saviour. For almost every task you can imagine in Microsoft Word there is a YouTube video or two – and they cover all the versions, such that I only needed to develop content with one version, and my students could find appropriate demonstration on YouTube. And if for some reason there is not one there, it isn't that difficult to take a quick screencast of my system with a voice over and post it myself.

So, now I'm wondering, what will be today's Skype and YouTube? When I look back 5-years from now, what will I see as the tools that changed the way we do online learning?

What do you think?

15 Comments on Reflections on Learning Technology (#edumooc)

  1. I have a feeling that Twitter, YouTube and Google+ are going to be the technology of the near future, but who knows what will happen in 5 years? I remember seeing an article on a history teacher in Texas using Twitter during her class and I thought, "What a great Idea!". Now it appears that it is commonplace. Since I am not an educator, but a technology assistant, I am always looking for cool new stuff to  use. This is my favorite week of the eduMOOC so far!

    • Steve,
      I agree that Twitter is a technology that will be one we will look back on as groundbreaking. I remember an activity in one of my first online classes that was to write to (email) an author of one of the research papers we were studying and ask a question. Now, instructors can arrange for tweet chats with the authors and questions and ideas can be exchanged in real-time. That is pretty cool and definitely adds to the social presence experience for online students – so I can see it being something that lasts.

  2. for me those tools will probably be twitter and google+.  If we are going with products intended for academia, the Canvas LMS would be my pick as well :-) Those three tools will change how things are done.
    For my part, I still (fondly) remember the "Web 1.0" days of Yahoo Chat with 50 or more people in a chat room, that anarchy that was somehow cool and connecting as well!

    • Apostolos
      I can see G+ being used frequently in online courses, especially the hangout as the synchronous communication.tool of choice (if it can be limited to a circle). Then faculty could hold classroom office hours, and groups could do projects pairing with google docs.
      I am not familiar with Canvas as we are a Blackboard school.
      I also think tablets (iPad, gTablet, Galaxy, etc) will also be an influential learnign technology. As etextbooks become more common and if they have handwriting recognition for use in  note taking. Also most have video cameras built in, so they will work with your G+ hangout.

      • I wonder what the Google+ interface feels like on an iPad? That is something for me to look into in the next couple of weeks. I’m still concerned that Google+ is too complicated, so it will only be a tool for early adopters and technical geeks. One reason Facebook hit is off was because the younger generation jumped on it – is that happening with Google+?

        • It's projected that G+ will reach 20 million users this coming weekend, so who knows? It's also not uncommon for people to have multiple personas, so they could hop-onto G+ just for class.

  3. Wow! What a great question.  Visionaries please respond.  One thing that came to mind I haven't seen much mentioned on is VoiceThread.  I like how accessible it is, but think it is a "beta" perhaps of things to come. Thoughts?

    • Hi Kris,
      I looked into VoiceThread but the cost is prohibitive. I’m not sure I’d be willing to invest $100/year for a technology that I’m not sure would add that much value. I looked into WordPress plugins, but the comments were not so good: http://www.fridaytrafficreport.com/audio-and-video-comments-wordpress-plugin/. There doesn’t seem to be a quality plugin yet.
      I think the technology needs to be added as a “free” module until people get used it. If the cost is so high, it will be difficult to get adoption, especially with so much free stuff out there. Also, I wonder about the value of video and audio commentary? They take longer to watch/listen to than text, and as a contributor, I would need to get it right in one take, rather than being able to go back an edit. And lets not forget that it isn’t searchable … so alas, I personally do not see video and audio commentary as something that will stick, at least not yet.

      • Rebecca
        I think the voice thread is a useful tool in learnign foreign languages online. It allows students to speak and listen to he language in an asynchronous manner like it text counterpart. But since most students will speak a foreign language and not read the untranslated literature, this practice is far more important/practical.
         

        • I've been pretty negative about Voice Thread, but that's probably because I used it when it first came out and it failed to impress. I think I really ought to give it another try :-)

        • I was actually thinking about this yesterday – having a G+ account with my academic email. That way when (one day) I teach a course I can have my COURSE101 circle  with all the students in it. Having a huddle or video conference like this could be even simpler than using conferencing tools like Blackboard classroom connect (the next version of elluminate) or Adobe connect
          I am wondering if Google will (or should!) make their own LMS.  If they work out this G+ business they could use that as the base 😉

          • I wonder about privacy issues with G+ in the classroom. One of the reasons conversation happen within Blackboard is the control over where the information is stored. So having classroom discussions in G+ removes the sense of “safe space” for the students, and may limit participation. The sense of the classroom information living on the public internet is a little scary.

          • That is true, regarding privacy, however if the conversation is  only within 1 circle, and if the conversation is not recorded (therefore not stored), I don't think that privacy would be an issue :-) 
            Since G+ is really brand new, I think it could go either way. It's going to be intersting to see how it all unfolds! I am thinking about which tools to use in a MOOC I am planning, G+ may be a contender, depending on how it unfolds and how other tools compare.

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