Monday, September 27, 2010

eLCC Meeting Notes-September 2010

An organization I've heard mentioned since my arrival at Regis University in late August is the eLearning Consortium of Colorado, or the eLCC. Regis is a member of the consortium but apparently has not been actively involved for a number of years. The eLCC is a group of mostly Colorado higher education institutions whose mission is to enhance educational opportunities through distance learning. The eLCC is very similar, although much smaller in scope, to the Texas Distance Learning Association, or TXDLA. I was associated with the TXDLA for a number of years and found the collaborative and networking opportunities of great benefit. The TXDLA also had a phenomenal annual conference. 

The eLCC meets monthly except for August and December. September’s meeting was held this past Friday, September 24th, at the University of Denver’s new education building (beoooootiful building BTW). 

Technology Demo
The meeting started with Lydia Gil, DU Spanish Lecturer, presenting on her use of media in an intro Spanish course. DU uses Blackboard Learn, the newest iteration of BB, and Lydia provided input on a number of ways she was able to incorporate media. First, she explained how students used FlipCams to create video introductions of themselves, in Spanish. This proved to be quite effective for the participants, who were forced to speak in a non-native language, as well as classmates, who could then see their classmates as well as hear the language being spoken. Lydia also used video Skype to bring in guest speakers for an interactive class discussion. Again, the ability to hear and speak the language was especially helpful to students. 

There was an issue when using the BB Voiceboard. It turned out to be a Wimba issue that was easily fixed but only after the conclusion of the exercise. Lydia summed up her presentation with some lessons learned, such as
  • Preparation is key when using technology in the classroom; 
  • Explore the classroom technology setup prior to class to become familiar with the buttons, switches, and other key workings of the equipment.

Professional Development
A number of institutions discussed their professional development activities. One in particular was Front Range Community College who put on a 3-day conference for faculty. The mini-conference was designed similar to a conference, with breakout sessions, keynote addresses, and lunch provided. Faculty could attend some or all of the activities based on time and interest. I like this concept and may try something similar.

Summary of July Meeting
The July meeting was summarized. Participants agreed to try a virtual meeting on November 19th. The October meeting is being held at Pikes Peak Community College. There is no meeting in December.
The annual eLCC conference is in April. A location has yet to be decided. There was much discussion on locations and the degree to which many member institutions could participate. Money is tight, and travel funds are even tighter.

Annual Report Format
The format for annual reports received from member institutions was discussed. A template was placed into Google Docs. The format will use SurveyMonkey, with the link being sent to the institutional representative of each member. The survey should be sent the week of September 27th.

The proposed Journal of the eLearning Consortium of Colorado (JeLCC) needs peer reviewers. Many meeting participants expressed interest but didn’t receive the initial call for reviewers. The request will be resent.

What's Hot (and not) in Conferences 
Members then discussed which conferences of the past year had been of most interest. The Professional and Organizational Development (POD) conference was mentioned as an excellent resource for faculty development ideas. The National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN) conference was also mentioned as being exceptional. I mentioned the Distance Learning Administration (DLA) conference as being a small but exceptional resource for those involved with distance learning administration. I also brought up the Sloan-C College Pass. This provides for 100 seats in any of the myriad online workshops put on by Sloan-C throughout the calendar year. A great resource and a great bargain.

Second Life was brought up in discussion, with one institution (didn’t catch which one) beginning development of an area. A good resource for getting started with SL is Cheryl Comstock of CCC Online

This was an excellent sharing of resources and I look forward to the next meeting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Magnets, magnifying lenses, and winter

Okay. I admit it. I’m a technology geek. I love any and all technologies: large and small, portable and stationary, efficient and horribly designed, electronic or mechanical, it really doesn’t matter. If there are lights that flash, buttons that push, icons to click, or mechanisms that clatter, I’m there.

I recall a cold, wintery day growing up in northeastern Iowa. I was all of eight years old and looking for something to do.  It was then that I spied an old tube-type radio housed in a chest-high wooden console (you Boomers know what I’m referring to). The radio worked great. There were large dials for volume and frequency, push buttons for stations, and shortwave bands for listening to broadcasts from around the world. My curiosity pushed me to take this magnificent example of cutting edge technology (for the 1940’s anyway) and remove virtually every moving part to see what made it tick. Out came the vacuum tubes, dials, and push buttons. There went the string attached to the tuner for station changing (I never knew how a tuner worked until then). And finally, out came the huge, heavy speaker that made the wires and tubes come to life. By the way, to a kid, a speaker magnet can be just as much fun as a magnifying lens on a sunny day, but that's another post. When finished, I sat back and gazed at this pile of wires, metal, tubes, and wood fragments. My curiosity had been satisfied and I now had a working knowledge of radio guts. But there was no way this pile of junk was ever going back together again. 


I don’t recall my parents ever questioning the reasons for dissecting a perfectly good radio. Maybe they understood the curiosity of the young mind. Or maybe they simply chalked it up to keeping me occupied for a couple of hours. Either way, this kinesthetic learning experience was the beginning of a lifetime fascination with technology. Although I no longer take apart TVs or iPods, my home computer does get the internals tweaked on occasion in the name of “preventive maintenance.” And I’m sure my son was surprised when, years ago, after disassembling the lawn mower to get at the wheels for a homemade go-kart project, I simply smiled and nodded my head. Well done, son. Chip off the old block.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How might we define an Emerging Technology?

I recently attended the 26th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Great conference, chock full of innovative ideas and practices. I purchased a book while I was there by George Veletsianos, "Emerging Technologies in Distance Education" and although I haven't quite finished it yet, I highly recommend it.

What I would like to share from the book that I found to be valuable is the idea of an emerging technology and how might we define it. There are 5 basic points, according to Veletsianos in designating something an 'Emerging Technology.' (ET)
Read the book for more details and explanation but here is an overview:
  1. ET may not necessarily be "new". Which leads to a question to ponder- when would a technology cease to be considered new? 
  2. ET are evolving and exist in a state of 'coming into being'.
  3. ET commonly go through hype cycles
  4. ET satisfy two 'not yet' criteria: a) ET are not yet fully understood and b) ET are not yet fully researched
  5. ET are potentially disruptive but their potential is mostly fulfilled.
Another part of the book that I look forward to reading is regarding a model for evaluating and determining if a given ET is right for a learning context. Because isn't that what is all about in our field? Technology A might be the best thing ever for University X but is it a good fit for our students in our courses? How will it engage our students and help them meet our learning objectives? But at the same time this evaluation can be shared with the larger audience to contribute to the research and add to some best practices in the field. When I hear about a new learning technology I can be skeptical at first until I read case studies or reports about how educators are using it and how effective it has been. We, as instructional designers, need to continue to contribute and share our experiences and findings.

What are some emerging technologies that you are curious about? Please share in the comments box below.

I'm anxious to see what will happen to Google Wave and what it might melt into as it's new form? I thought it was quite innovative and was surprised that Google has decided to phase it out. I do believe there is much potential there for use in the context of distance education.