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E-Learn Vancouver, Day 2

2009 October 29
by Richard N. Landers
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Neo-Academic E-Learn Vancouver Coverage: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Final

ast night was a little too busy to find time to post, but I thought I’d take a few minutes between sessions today to do so.  This is a continuation of my thoughts from yesterday.

Invited speaker Norm Vaughn gave a very interesting take on the current expressions of blended courses.  Too often, he said, an instructor wants to move from face-to-face to blended learning and simply adds an optional online discussion component.  This is not integration, and it doesn’t take advantage of the medium.  He even gave a very simple example of a way to integrate online discussions: talk about the online discussion topics in class!  So simple, but it had just never occurred to me before.

He also pointed us to a concept called peer instruction, a specific technique being used in physics classrooms at Harvard.  The basic idea is that students are given conceptual questions and then work in teams to come up with answers.  I’ve used a few activities similar to this, usually around the concepts of affirmative action and intelligence.  It does work remarkably well.

Invited speaker Zoraini Abas discussed the current and future use of mobile learning (m-learning) in Malaysia.  The idea mobile learning platform to her is basically a personal tutor – it “reminds, recommends, provides snippets of content, tips, motivates, [and] guides.”  Delivering instruction solely via mobiles is probably not the best plan; instead, using it as a support tool seems like a better idea.

Lauri Lahti introduced a new way to data mine Wikipedia for concept relationships in order to build a conceptual database for artificial intelligences.  Thousands of people have spent thousands of hours putting together an online encyclopedia with articles that are linked together conceptually.  And though there might be some errors, why not take that massive amount of effort and use it for research purposes?  This really reminds me of the vast quantities of data that could be used to conduct original, interesting research just sitting on the web.  It just takes a little creativity to figure out how to access and take advantage of that data.

Brenda Stutsky talked about her dissertation, which involved the use of an online learning community of nurses studying leadership.  Particularly interesting was the finding that even people who do not actively take part in an online community may still benefit from it – one participant wrote of the great impact that the training had on her life despite the fact that she only posted one time.

And finally, Anu Chatterjee discussed the use of Second Life for an assignment in a course discussing ethnicity and identity.  Students were told to develop a new identity in Second Life, with total freedom over appearance.  They could be any race, shape, size, and so on.  But most chose to create a version of themselves and furthermore felt uncomfortable pretending to be someone else.

That’s all for Day 2.  Day 3’s report will probably be a little light, as I need to spend some time preparing for my presentation this evening, “Using Social Networking and Learner-Centered Measurement in Automated Social Mentoring Systems” (highly recommended!) at 5:15PM in Junior Ballroom C.  Hope to see you there!

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