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Using games to teach knowledge and basic educational content is gaining more attention in recent years. The discussion on harnessing the power of video games to teach actually began in the early 1980s with the popularity of Pac-Man (Squire, 2003, as cited by Jong, Shang, Lee & Lee, 2010). The premise behind using games for learning stems from the basic concept that enjoyment and fun are essential components in the learning process. The prospect of making learning more interesting to students served as the primary focus for early research on game-based learning.

New Theoretical Approach in Game-Based Learning: Behaviorism to Constructivism

This focus has changed in recent years, and the new focal point of game-based learning uses strategies to promote learning communities and sustained engagement over a long period of time. In this shift, advocates of game-based learning moved from a behaviorist perspective to a constructivist approach. In the old behaviorist approach, games aimed to condition an appropriate response in students by using techniques such as drill-and-practice games. However, transfer of knowledge from these games to the real world was a significant problem in the behaviorist approach.

In contrasts, the constructivist approach emphasizes the construction of knowledge by the learner. For game-based learning, knowledge construction is enabled by socio-cultural and cognitive interactions in an authentic and rich environment. Mini-games (1 hour or less) do not meet these requirements, but complex-games (dozens of hours) do facilitate this approach. In complex-games, players (i.e., learners) gain new and multiple skills, and the learners interact with other humans and computer-generated NPCs (non-player characters). Complex-games do not have a prescribed list of tasks, rather the tasks are open-ended. The open-ended and interactive nature of complex-games coincides with constructivist ideas of situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010).

Education in Games vs. Games in Education

There are two primary approaches to implement games in an educational setting. One is the “education in games” approach. In this method, games from the commercial market are adopted and explored for opportunities to teach. Ultimately, this approach has been deemed more beneficial for informal learning than formal learning (i.e., school). On the other hand, the “games in education” approach seems to have much more potential for learning in a formal setting. Several pioneers have developed this games in education approach: Shaffer (2006, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-epistemic frame; Lee, Lee & Lau (2006, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-Folklore-based learning; Aylett (2006, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-narrative games; and Ip, Lukk, Cheun, Lee & Lee (2007, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010)-game-based collaborative learning platform.

Theoretical Framework for VISOLE

Having said this, very little discussion has centered on the role of the teacher in these environments, which was the reason for creating VISOLE (Virtual Interactive Student-Orientated Learning Environment). The theoretical framework for building VISOLE led the authors to focus on implementing three important aspects (i.e., phases) of constructivism: intrinsic motivation, situated learning and teacher facilitation. First, when students are intrinsically motivated, they participate in learning activities for the sake of learning, as opposed to an external reward. Second, situated learning places importance on acquiring skills in a strategic context that includes a relevant social-cultural situation.

Third, teacher facilitation is critical because simply allowing students to drift in a rich experience without guidance may not be an effective teaching tool, especially in transfer of knowledge to the real world. The role of the teacher is to aid in scaffolding and debriefing. Vygotsky’s (1978, as cited by Jong et. al., 2010) concept of scaffolding was to help activate the prior knowledge of students. In turn, students would be led to accomplish a task that would not be attainable without such prompting. After the gaming experience is over, debriefing encourages students to reflect on their experience.

Description of VISOLE and FARMTASIA

VISOLE was a new learning approach in game-based learning, and FARMTASIA served as the first working model of this approach. Reflecting the theoretical framework, the project was broken into three phases. The first phase was comprised of multi-disciplinary scaffolding. The second phase was the gaming experience itself, which emphasized situated learning. This is the phase that FARMTASIA was designed to support. The third phase was comprised of students’ reflection and debriefing. During the third stage, students were asked to submit a journal entry after each experience and after the entire project was over.

FARMTASIA was a complex-game and was designed to teach several disciplines including economics, biology, geography and technology. The game replicated a farm, and each player endeavored to cultivate and grow the farm. Several simulation models were imposed on the game that that reflected reality. For example, a player’s farm could be devastated by a disease in the crops, or an economic disaster could cause instability in the market. Most of these events were “unforeseen.”

FARMTASIA also had several other elements to make the game more intriguing and functional. Students had a chance to play mini-games within FARMTASIA, and the winner of such games was given an edge in the overall competition. Teachers were able to track the progress of students by actually viewing the recorded actions of students as a video. An online knowledge manual was created to serve as a learning resource and reference guide. Student reflections were posted to an online discussion forum and blog.

Did this article help in understanding the use of technology in education?

This chapter provided a concise summary of the history of gaming in education. I had no idea that interests in teaching through video games dated back to Pac-Man. I also appreciated the insight concerning the move from a behaviorist point of view to a constructivist point of view. I think the VISOLE approach was correct in stipulating teacher support and intervention. Under the guidance of a teacher, students would probably be more prone to apply knowledge in the real world.

What future trends do you see coming from this topic?

The idea of game-based learning seems really intriguing. If the game was decent, then it would certainly capture the attention of students. However, there are several barriers that must be overcome before game-based learning is embraced at large. I will mention a couple below.

Game developers of this content are going to have an enormous challenge to stay relevant. The gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. If educators want to teach through a game that is relevant, then the game will need to be reflective of current games in the commercial market. This is a serious issue because someone will have to create, develop and update the games. It seems silly to offer a game to students that aims at relevance but uses outdated technology. In the end, this means someone will be spending a lot of time and money on game development.

Time and evaluation of students are also of concern. The authors noted they had an insufficient amount of “time for reviewing the students’ gaming histories and preparing the debriefing classes” (Jong et. al., 2010, p. 200). I would imagine that reviewing the history of each student is unrealistic. The authors did recommend a computer automated process whereby recommendations would be given to the students and teachers based on player actions. This computer automation might work, but a manual review would be impossible.

Having said that, I think VISOLE is an excellent idea. This approach seems realistic from that standpoint that I could imagine students gaining a great deal of knowledge from the experience. I see a direct implementation of this in career and technical fields. Teaching construction, drafting, pipefitting, electronics and the like might be facilitated well by this approach. A great deal of research would also need to be done concerning the actual transfer of knowledge to real-world application.

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Colleges and Universities have maintained a great deal of stability and tradition for several centuries. This extended period of permanence has recently been challenged through the emergence of revolutionary technologies. These technological advancements have facilitated changes in the location of where classes are taught (e.g., online), who teaches classes and how classes are taught. Surry and Ensminger (2010) wrote an article that outlined the challenges inherent in some of theses changes and offered solutions.

Many positive changes have been heralded among colleges as a result of new technologies. For example, student information is now easy to track through student information systems. However, the negative impacts of recent changes have not been explored to the extent positives have been highlighted. Some of the negative impacts identified by Surry and Ensminger included commoditization of college, reduced instructional quality, deeper divides in regions and class, impacts on faculty workload, isolation of older and less tech-savvy students, overemphasis on programs that lend themselves to online instruction and loss of cultural and institutional identity.

Background of Issues

The authors offered five areas of discussion that helped to frame these problems. They presented a historical background for each of the five areas:

  1. Technological determinism is a philosophy that credits technology as the driving force in modern society. Proponents of this stance hold that technology is an autonomous force, and it has moved beyond human control. These supporters credit five characteristics of technology as being the impetus for technology becoming autonomous: self-augmentation, linkage to other technologies, automation, technical universalism (homogenizing effect of technology) and monism (connectedness of technology).
  2. The theory of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) regards all technology as a mere tool that is created, engineered and employed within a social system. As a result, technological tools are viewed as devices that advance the goals of society, which can be used in a positive or negative manner. One advantage of SCOT is that it adopts a non-linear and broad perspective of technology. In addition, proponents of SCOT regard users as active agents that design and shape technology rather than passive recipients.
  3. Co-construction of Technology is an eclectic philosophy that blends the first two philosophies (i.e., determinism and SCOT). These theorists contend that it is one-dimensional to regard technology as either a mere tool of society (i.e., SCOT) or as the driving force behind modern society (i.e., determinism). In this paradigm, society and technology influence one another through a symbiotic relationship.
  4. Implementation of technology is quickly becoming the primary concern of innovative institutions, whereas it was once adoption. The adoption of technology does not ensure that the technology will be used in an effective manner. Theories of implementation specific to higher education list seven key factors that influence the effectiveness of implementation: learning, support, resources, people, policies, infrastructure and evaluation.
  5. Evaluation is perhaps the most crucial factor from this list. If administrators and faculty can identify goals initially, then all stakeholders will have clear direction to meet these agreed-upon goals. Kirkpatrick (1994) developed a framework for this approach through his four-tiered evaluation model: reaction, learning, transfer and impact.

Specific Problems Identified

After providing this historical framework, the authors discussed specific problems resulting from the negative impacts of technology through the lens of these areas (i.e., determinism, SCOT, implementation and evaluation). They prefaced these solutions by identifying the most “compelling” challenge for administrators in this new frontier, which was finding the appropriate balance between human considerations and technological considerations:

  1. The philosophy of determinism could create some barriers. In an attempt to maximize the benefits of technology, core educational philosophies and ethics could be eclipsed. In addition, a host of technologies could become so interconnected and ubiquitous that they are beyond the control or supervision of organizations. Universalism could lead to courses becoming uniform without unique perspectives. As courses move toward this homogenized approach, students might lose their sense of affiliation and identification with any particular college, and this could in turn dramatically effect the personal development of learners, especially traditional students. New technologies will provide greater access to education for the citizenry, but states might not have control of the content and delivery of this curriculum. Therefore, states could react by increasing state control of programs and courses offered through such technology.
  2. According to SCOT, technology is derived as a result of social forces responding to societal needs. Therefore, a small group of high-level officials could make unilateral decisions that do not take into consideration the intricacies and details needed to make a wise decision on technology. These shortsighted decisions could lead to counterproductive, secondary, amoral and unimportant goals. In fact, the possibility exists that some members (e.g., business owner) of such an elite group could have ulterior motives that were not in the best interests of higher education or students.
  3. Issues related to Co-construction of Technology were covered in the discussion above, which focused on determinism and SCOT.
  4. Research has revealed that implementation is frequently regarded as being more difficult and important than adoption. If implementation is not administered correctly, then several consequences could unfold, such as wasted resources and time, inability to monitor or manage the technology, lackluster utilization, heightened faculty frustration and depreciated access for underserved groups. In addition, there are no universal answers for implementation because each organization requires a different approach.
  5. Perhaps the most difficult task for college officials now and in the future is predicting the impact of technology on education. If administrators build decisions on incomplete or inappropriate information, then the impact could be deemed too narrow or broad.

Solutions for Problems

There were a number of solutions offered for this set of negative ramifications. Surry (2008) actually offered six steps to help guide administrators respond to determinism: take individual responsibility, reduce social plasticity, establish formalized oversight, increase awareness, push decisions down the hierarchy and provide for meaningful choice. Decisions should be made after all stakeholders have an opportunity to offer insight. Students should be exposed to constant and meaningful interactions in order to combat social plasticity, such as community service or virtual fraternities or sororities.

School officials can also respond to SCOT in several ways. First, educators need to aim toward meeting the goals and values of society at large. Second, educators need to be aware of the competing motives of various groups contributing to higher education.

Implementation should be regarded as a customized process that will be tedious and long. Administrators need to proactively identify and alter policies that are not compatible with the future of University 2.0. For example, faculty tenure, promotion and retention might need to be altered.

In reference to evaluation, the primary advice offered by the authors is that identifying the impact is the most crucial aspect of evaluation. If the impact cannot be fully anticipated, then officials should put in place the resources that will allow for evaluation to take place.

Future Trends

The great unknown in all plans relating to technology is the expanding and evolving nature of student expectations. In addition, technology is a dynamic force that is progressing at an exponential rate. In light of these two realities, colleges will have to place greater emphasis on training faculty and upgrading technology. However, this emphasis should not overlook those learners that do not embrace University 2.0. In order to balance these concerns, officials will need to become active agents in the change process.  The authors suggest that successful administrators in University 2.0 will decentralize decision-making, embrace participation, anticipate obstacles and thrive in changing environments.

Both higher education and society could be forced to make a decision. Society might have to choose between having colleges that generate imaginative and thoughtful students or highly technical students. Similarly, colleges could be forced to choose between offering settings that are personal and human or environments that are technologically advanced.

Kirkpatrick, D. (1994). Evaluating training programs: The four levels. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Surry, D. (2008). Technology and the future of higher education: An Ellulian perspective. In J. Luca & E. r. Weippl (Eds.), Proceedings of the ED-MEDIA 2008-World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 4901-4906). Chesapeake, VA: Association for Advancement of Computing in Education.

Surry, D. & Ensminger, D. (2010). University 2.0: Human, social, and societal issues. In Yang, H. H., & Yuen, S. C. (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking (pp. 94-108). Hershey, Pennsylvania: Information Science Reference. doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-729-4.ch006

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This table of contents chronicles the reflections on various projects and assignments of IT 780, Seminar in Instructional Technology.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I.    Introduction to Blogfolio

II.  Reflection on Assignments

III. Reflection on Readings

IV.  Overall Reflection on IT 780

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Web 2.0 has only been on the technology scene for a few years, since around 2004. However, this new body of Web applications has transformed the way people interact with the Internet and each other. The focus of IT 780, Seminar in Instructional Technology was to expose students to current Web 2.0 applications. In addition, Dr. Yuen insured that students were immersed in the practical employment of these tools rather than just studying about them.

Content within the first generation of the Web was developed for communication and information sharing, and usually an individual or group created these Web sites.  Web 2.0 differs in that it is based on interactivity and collaboration, and users develop these new applications. The genesis of Web 2.0 has given rise to the popularity of social media, which I will discuss in five broad categories: communication, collaboration, multimedia, reviews, and entertainment.

Communication tools (e.g., blogs, microblogs and social networking systems) have garnered the most attention among all Web 2.0 tools. Most notably, social networking systems (SNS) are immensely popular. For example, Facebook would be the third most populated country in the world if compared to existing countries. Dr. Yuen covered communication tools in four ways. First, the IT 780 class was primarily taught through Ning, which is a SNS. Second, we had reading assignments that presented research on SNS, and each member of the class had to create a Ning Web site designed to teach a class. Third, going a step beyond normal Web site creation, Dr. Yuen assigned a project that asked each student to generate an original mobile Web site. Fourth, the blogfolio that you are now reading serves as an example of a Web 2.0 communication tool, and this blog represents the final project for the IT 780 class.

Collaborative tools allow groups of people to accomplish projects together and include such items as social bookmarking, wikis and news. Social bookmarking allows users to bookmark Web sites, tag each site with keywords and save the bookmarks to a public Web site. A wiki is simply a Web page that can be edited and viewed by anyone with an Internet connection and a Web browser. One of the reading assignments for IT 780 focused on social bookmarking. Also, the IT 780 class was divided into small groups, and each group was responsible for creating and designing a wiki. The development of the wiki was informed by two reading assignments on wikis that were given by Dr. Yuen.

A myriad of Web 2.0 applications have been produced for multimedia, which includes photos, videos, audio, livecasts and presentations. Flickr and Picasa represent Web 2.0 tools designed for photos and graphics, and podcasting represents an example of an audio application. In fact, one of the reading assignments and a project for IT 780 focused on podcasting, including the creation of an RSS feed. Dr. Yuen also assigned a project that employed the use of an online presentation tool, Slideshare. This presentation tool allowed each student to upload and share Adobe PDFs, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations online. I underestimated how many individuals would view this site. For example, I uploaded two presentations, and both of them have over 700 views in just a couple months. Obviously, the potential of such devices is enormous.

Dr. Yuen also asked the class to read an article that gave a general overview of Web 2.0 technologies. This article addressed many of the applications mentioned above. The focus of the IT 780 class was to expose students to Web 2.0 tools, specifically as it related to education. In light of this exposure to Web 2.0 technologies, Dr. Yuen asked each member of the class to make a presentation on a Web 2.0 technology that he or she found useful. Therefore, we did not spend a great deal of time on Web 2.0 applications designed for reviews (e.g., products, business or community) or entertainment (games, platforms or virtual worlds). However, these tools were mentioned in various class discussions.

IT 780 has been an incredible adventure of discovery in the Web 2.0 world. As Dr. Yuen says, many technologists read or talk about these applications but never immerse themselves in the tools. This class forced students to gain a functional knowledge of Web 2.0 tools. As a result, I feel prepared to discuss current Web 2.0 technologies with authority. In addition, exposure to these technologies has been a catalyst for personal and professional change. For example, I will certainly change several approaches in teaching and learning as a result of this course. When a class motivates one to make life changes and challenges previously held beliefs, then I would argue that it has been a great success. IT 780 is certainly in this mold.

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Traditionally, Instructional Design (ID) models have assumed a framework that was well structured and linear. Therefore, these ID models (e.g., ADDIE) were able to spell out each sequential step in the learning process. The nature of Web 2.0 is non-linear and ill-structured because it is created by users, and Zheng argues that traditional ID models do not meet the needs of Web 2.0 learners. He argues that Web 2.0 forces learners to negotiate ideas, and the final product of such negotiations can serve as posteri goals.

Is information gathered and presented differently in Web 2.0 versus traditional approaches?
Most ID models assume that learners consume content. Web 2.0 applications help learners move from a role of content consumers to that of content creators. Traditional ID models worked with the first generation of the Web because information was presented for consumption on a series of individual pages. However, Web 2.0 technologies are driven through a variety of collaboration, discussion and idea sharing.

A group or an individual, often the instructor, created content in the first generation of the Web. In juxtaposition, Web 2.0 serves as an ideal platform for learning accomplished through social constructivism. There is a sense of shared ownership, and all users have the opportunity to contribute to the online community.

Another major adaptation in Web 2.0 is the ownership of content. Traditional models assume that content is concrete and developed by an author or group of experts. Contrastingly, social negotiation plays a primary role in forming dynamic content in Web 2.0. Through discussions, the learners help to define the ever-evolving content.

The number of simultaneous domains found in Web 2.0 provides another contrast between Web 2.0 and traditional environments. Books, articles and traditional Web pages present information through one medium at a time, such as a series of different Web pages. In order to get a different view, one needs to access a different Web page, article or book. However, Web 2.0 allows users to experience a smorgasbord of media on any given topic within one Web page. A single page might include a discussion forum, video, music, blog and wiki.

Obviously, this variety of content can lead to cognitive overload. Supporters of Web 2.0 should only select those strategies that enhance learning and jettison distractions. Zheng held that Web 2.0 users learn through schemas-of-the-moment, rather than predefined schema construction and automation. Learning in Web 2.0 is by nature responsive and active, rather than simply being receptive. This new approach helps to facilitate learning that can be integrated across multiple domains. That is, the variety of ways information is presented through a schemas-of-the-moment approach encourages connections between concepts, ideas and fields of study.

Why don’t existing Instructional Design models work in Web 2.0?
Zheng’s argument for the need of a new ID model was predicated upon the premise that existing ID models are not appropriate for Web 2.0 environments. Early models of ID were based on the ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate) model. This model and similar ones (e.g., Gagne’s) are examples of linear system instructional design (SID). These approaches were created for goal-based, well-structured learning, which doesn’t work in the ill-structured Web 2.0 framework. Notions of constructivism in learning challenged these linear models.

The next generation of ID focused on non-linear SID. In essence, these models were very similar to earlier linear SID, but non-linear models were not restricted by a specific sequence of steps. The non-linear method took a more holistic approach, which encouraged learners to relate different events and access several events simultaneously. However, the non-linear method does not work well in the ill-structured Web 2.0 environment because goals in the non-linear approach are predefined.

Instructional designers have realized a disconnect between online learning and these two SID models (i.e., linear and non-linear). As a result, three new models have emerged to fit the unique needs of online learners, but these new approaches still do not fully meet the needs of Web 2.0 learners. The WisCom (Wisdom Community) design model aims to harness the collective wisdom of members through knowledge creation and social negotiation. However, the WisCom model still positions learners in the role of consumer and does not allow for user-generated content. The T5 (Tasks, Tools, Tutorials, Topics and Teamwork) design model promotes creative thinking and helps teachers use learning management systems (LMS) in an effective manner. Nevertheless, the T5 model does not account for learner’s knowledge creation in the online environment. Lastly, the 3PD (Three-Phase Design) model helps create a productive online learning environment, modifies content according to the needs of learners and maintains a quality environment. While the 3PD design is learner-oriented, this approach does not coordinate the various elements of the design process.

What theories serve as the basis for Zheng’s new Web 2.0 design model?
Five theories serve as the basis for Zheng’s new design model. First, emergence theory holds that highly complex and intelligent behavior can emerge from the interaction of elements without hierarchical or centralized control. Second, functional contextualism emphasizes goals that are developed as a result of initial learning (posteri goals) as opposed to priori goals that are formulated before learning begins. Third, the individual differences of each learner were considered in the formulation of this model. Fourth, metacognition was deemed a central component of this Web 2.0 design model. Last, the self-regulation of each learner was emphasized in the formation of the new model.

What does Zheng’s new Web 2.0 design model look like?
First, the Web 2.0 design model was characterized by a learner-centered approach in which users could simultaneously access a variety of knowledge domains. Second, the goals of the new approach would be defined by learners after the initial stage of social negotiation occurred through discussion on a topic (posteri goals). Third, schemas-of-the-moment would help to unravel ill-structured problems and issues that emerged in the learning process. Fourth, the collaboration of the teacher and learners would promote a dynamic learning environment. Last, this environment would encourage learners to adjust their metacognitive thinking skills and self-regulation.

The primary difference between the three new ID models and Zheng’s approach can be found in posteri goals and schemas-of-the-moment. The implementation of Zheng’s approach requires teachers to consider what learning activity will best elicit a desired behavior. This approach holds that complex learning is derived from open-ended learning, which incorporates posteri objectives and goals. The author also argues that open-ended learning promotes metacognitive thinking and self-regulatory behavior.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this chapter?
The strengths of this chapter can be found in the literature review. The summary of theoretical models was solid, and the author made an excellent case for the need of a new design model. However, the major weakness of the chapter was the author’s presentation of his own model. He did not clearly define exactly what his model entailed, especially how it might be implemented.

How could teachers use the ideas presented in this chapter? What is the future?
I agree that ID should always be a central focus of teaching. I am not sure if traditional models are completely irrelevant to new learning environments. Perhaps traditional models could be tweaked to fit the Web 2.0 environment instead of completely scrapping approaches that are tried and true.

This chapter provided a very rich and concise overview of the evolution of ID. I now understand this development more clearly. Particularly, I thought the author did an excellent job of explaining why instructional designers moved from a linear to a non-linear approach. I will be interested to see what models will develop in the coming years to address the needs of learners in complex learning environments. The evolution of ID will never end in this regard because technology is ever-evolving. As content presentation changes so too will learning to some degree.

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The mobile revolution has swept across the United States, and most of the world, in the last decade. From senior adults to children, every demographic has been influenced by this technological wave. The seemingly omnipresent penetration of mobile devices is evidenced by rising use and sales of cell phones, MP3 players, tablets, laptops, PDAs (personal digital assistants), and other handheld devices.

The forces involved with this mobile revolution have infiltrated business, personal life and education. Businesses are now using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in order to manage supply chains and inventory. A large part of the population owns a cell phone and GPS (Global Positioning System) devices can be found in many cars. Instant messaging (IM) permits real-time communication between individuals, and personal area networks (PAN) are now commonplace because of Bluetooth technology, which allows for communication between devices that are physically proximate. In fact, a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicated that many experts believe that by 2020 mobile devices will serve as “the primary connection tool to the Internet for most people in the world.” This mobile insurgency is increasingly appearing in a number of educational institutions, offering student services and classes online.

A few years ago (i.e., 2008), a new generation of mobile devices appeared in the market. These new devices have shifted the way in which individuals interact with and think about mobile technology. These new devices can react to orientation and motion using accelerometers, access the Internet at high speeds, and offer multi-touch displays. Further enhancing these mobile units, manufacturers of the devices are allowing third parties to develop applications that can be implemented on the mobile instruments. This allowance has facilitated the development of thousands of apps for devices such as the iPhone and Android. Interestingly, these new applications are not related to placing a phone call; instead, these tools allow individual to participate in activities and access information anytime, anywhere.

These recent changes have encouraged a plethora of mobile services to be developed for students. Several of the major learning management systems (LMS) have created mobile versions. For example, Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Moodle all have mobile versions. Mobile class offerings are no longer an anomaly in education.

One of the class assignments for IT 780 was to create and design a mobile Web site using mobiSiteGalore. This project was fun to develop, and I learned a great deal. There are a number of Web 2.0 tools that facilitate the creation of mobile websites. While mobiSiteGalore may not be the most robust of these tools, it was easy to use and created a clean and efficient final product. Below you can view the mobile website that I created for this project, and I have provided a link to the original website upon which the mobile website was based.

Editing the mobile website using mobiSiteGalore was simple and straightforward. The editor uses the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) mode to make changes. This allows users to instantly see what the final product will look like and how it will operate. Also, this eliminates the need for advanced technical knowledge or programming skills. In addition, each website created in mobiSiteGalore is by default 100% compliant with the Worldwide Web Consortium’s (W3C) mobileOK Basic Tests 1.0. This qualification helps to insure that mobile websites are efficient, usable and consistent across mobile phone platforms.

The most challenging part of this assignment was creating a mobile Website that served as a feasible representation of a normal website. Matching the color, graphics and “feel” in a way that resembled the original Website was challenging. In the end, the product was adequate and efficient, though not robust.

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Among the many social networking sites (SNS) that have emerged in recent years, Ning stands out as a unique and useful tool for educators. Ning is a Web 2.0 tool that allows users to create their own social network. Although the company has only existed for five years (i.e., 2005), Ning has proven to be a powerful, attractive and free tool for SNS enthusiasts.

One of the most appealing features of Ning allows users to produce an original social network that focuses on a particular topic. In addition, creators can customize the features, widgets and design of this SNS. The user-friendly interface and easy setup is perhaps the greatest component of this creative opportunity.

As mentioned earlier, Ning is a free application, but the tradeoff for this free access is a series of adds posted on each page of the SNS. However, these ads are not intrusive and quickly fade away as one focuses on the content of the page. If a user desires to eliminate ads, then Ning offers ad-free SNS for a fee.

I enjoyed creating a Ning website for this assignment. The variety of tools offered within Ning allowed for a great deal of imagination on each page. I chose to construct a SNS for a Music Appreciation class that will be taught in the coming school year. Ning served as an ideal platform to host the variety of media that I wanted to incorporate in this class. For example, the top portion of the home page for my Ning site is illustrated below. The home page contains a graphic representation of each member, welcome, audio player, video links, chat area, course content links, announcement board, discussion forum, picture widget and group area. In addition to the home page, I created 11 additional pages that can be accessed by the navigational tab menu at the top of each page. These tabs range from personal information on each student to a link to my personal blog.

Ning Example SNS

The possibilities of Ning seem limitless in an educational settings. Promoting community, enhancing classes and teaching classes are examples of this potential. I do have to admit that I was surprised and saddened to discover that Ning would no longer be a free service as of May 2010. Certainly, there are similar tools on the Internet that can accomplish what Ning does, but Ning seems to be the leading competitor at this time. However, I will find a new, free service rather than paying to prolong activity in Ning. I believe that Ning will lose many customers because of this decision, and I think Ning underestimates the free market and open source options.

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