ALA 2015 Annual Conference: Digital Literacy, Onsite-Online Learning, & No Colleague Left Behind

August 6, 2015

Helping colleagues learn how to create blended onsite-online learning spaces by actually creating blended onsite-online learning spaces is an exercise we are far from exhausting, as I saw once again while facilitating a session at the American Library Association (ALA) 2015 Annual Conference here in San Francisco a month ago.

Rethinking_Digital_Literacy--Course_GraphicBeing able to foster this sort of blended interaction seems to me to be another critically-important digital-literacy skill along the lines of what colleagues are exploring in our ALA Editions “Rethinking Digital Literacy” course; is not at all difficult or costly to do if we creatively use tech tools readily available to many of us; and actually becomes a fun and engaging way for many of us to extend the size of the learning spaces we typically inhabit, we again saw during that “Blend It” session sponsored by ALA’s Library and Information Technology Association (LITA).

The concept, which I’ve explored with colleagues in a variety of settings, is straightforward: using little more than a laptop with a webcam, a projector and screen, and some form of audio system (either a small, portable set of speakers or a connection to an existing sound system within the onsite space that serves as the anchor for our efforts), we create real-time multiple levels of communication between learners/colleagues in a physical setting and colleagues who join us via their own online access points anywhere in the world. This quickly transforms those offsite learners/colleagues from being part of a “left behind” group to being active participants in a learning space that can be thousands of miles wide if those colleagues come from a variety of countries.

ALA_San_Francisco--2015_LogoWhat makes this personally rewarding for all involved is that we continue to learn through experimentation. The earliest effort I was lucky enough to help design and facilitate used Skype as the tool uniting an offsite presenter with approximately 200 colleagues here in San Francisco for a dynamic and tremendously rewarding exchange. The experiments continued a few years later when two colleagues and I used Skype and Twitter to connect onsite and online participants in a wide-ranging conversation about how we could incorporate these tools and these blended spaces into effective learning spaces. New Media Consortium colleague Samantha Adams Becker and I continue to push this particular learning envelop via Google Hangouts in a variety of settings, so I was ready, at the ALA Annual Conference this year, to carry it a step further by adding a “bring your own device” element to the conversation.

After introducing onsite participants to the concepts we were exploring, Harford County Public Library tech trainer Maurice Coleman and I demonstrated the concept by having Maurice step outside the room, use his own smartphone to join a Google Hangout I had started with my own laptop and was projecting onto a large screen that everyone in the room could see, and carry on a brief conversation that those in the room could join by addressing questions to him via the microphone that was embedded in the laptop.

LITA_LogoThe magic moment came when he physically returned to the room—it’s worth noting that by remaining visible and audible via that smartphone, he had never really left the room or the conversation—and we offered onsite participants a challenge: quickly identify someone you know could not be here at the conference, try to reach them using your own mobile device, and bring them into the room now via a Google Hangout. It was learning at its best: those unfamiliar with Hangouts helped others try to set up individual sessions; those familiar with Hangouts tried to initiate their own. And those who were successful let the rest of us know that had eliminated another member of the “left behind” corps through that virtual contact.

ala_leftbehindAt its peak, we had nearly a dozen individual hangouts happening simultaneously, and those in the room completely made the learning space their own: some explained to their friends what they were doing and what others were accomplishing; a few kept those sessions live for the remainder of the time we had together. And one particularly creative learner left her seat and gave her offsite colleague a virtual tour of the room by walking around and introducing our offsite colleague to others who were onsite.

It may have been gimmicky. It may have been far from pretty. But it was an exploration of digital literacy and educational technology at work in a way that provided a visceral example of how far we literally have come together. How easy it is for us to foster those levels of training, teaching, learning, and collaboration when we’re not afraid to risk failure in seeking small and large successes. And how easy it is to have fun while creating memorable, meaningful learning experiences that will continue spreading long after that formal session ended.

N.B. – This is the fourth (and final) in a series of reflections inspired by the American Library Association 2015 Annual Conference in San Francisco and the fifth in a series of reflections inspired by our ALA Editions “Rethinking Digital Literacy” course.

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NMC Horizon Report 2015 (Pt. 4 of 6): Potential, Bringing Your Own Device & Flipping Classrooms in the One-Year Horizon

February 20, 2015

It would be easy, while immersed in New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project reports, to miss a critically important word: potential. But that’s the word—and the world—we explore as we move into the “Important Developments in Educational Technology” section of NMC’s Horizon Report > 2015 Higher Education Edition: the six technologies, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and, for the second consecutive year, the Flipped Classroom model, “have the potential to foster real changes in education, particularly in the development of progressive pedagogies and learning strategies; the organization of teachers’ work; and the arrangement and delivery of content,” Report co-authors Samantha Adams Becker, Alex Freeman, and Victoria Estrada remind us (p. 35).

Horizon_Report--2015_CoverAs always, the six highlighted technologies are placed within specific time frames (BYOD and the Flipped Classroom model within a time-to-adoption horizon of one year or less in higher education settings; makerspaces and wearable technology within a two- to three-year adoption horizon; and adaptive learning technologies and the Internet of Things within a four- to five-year adoption horizon).

As we saw when reviewing the 2014 Higher Education Edition, the Flipped Classroom model—with its use of brief lectures online to free up students and learning facilitators for learner-centric experiential learning/project-based learning opportunities in onsite (or online) learning spaces—has repercussions that extend far beyond formal learning settings in higher education. It is already extending further and further into our lifelong learning landscape from its roots as a response to the need to reach young students who otherwise couldn’t be present for classroom lectures; workplace learning and performance (staff training) programs are also looking at how the Flipped Classroom model builds upon what is already in place and extends learning opportunities in the workplace—and beyond, if we consider the way in which learners within connectivist massive open online courses (MOOCs) initially watch videos and engage in other learning opportunities before coming together online to engage in collaborative learning opportunities.

Flip_Your_Classroom--CoverIt’s when we take the time to see the repercussions of this simple yet far-reaching flip that we begin to also see how interwoven the content is throughout the 2015 Higher Education Edition. In viewing the Key Trends section, we explored advancing cultures of change and innovation along with the increasing use of blended learning and an increasing focus on redesigning learning spaces. While viewing the Key Challenges section, we explored efforts at personalizing learning and blending formal and informal learning. And as we now focus on the Flipped Classroom model, we see how that flip leads us to respond to the need for redesigned learning spaces that foster more personalized as well as collaborative learning, embrace cultures of change and innovation, blend formal and informal learning opportunities, and even engage in additional explorations of teacher-trainer-learning facilitators in the learning process. Our colleagues in the Flipped Learning Network offer one possible framework centered on a combination of flexible environments, learning cultures, intentional content, and evolving roles for professional educators (and other trainer-teacher-learners). Clyde Freeman Herreid and Nancy Schiller offer us “Case Studies and the Flipped Classroom.” And our colleagues at the New Media Consortium remind us that there is still plenty of potential to nurture.

nmc.logo.cmykThe second technology included in that one-year-or-less-to-adoption timeframe, Bring Your Own Device, has equally far-reaching and abundantly-noted implications. As the Report co-writers note, increasingly large numbers of learners are bringing their own tech devices into our learning and work spaces. BYOD, furthermore, reduces overall spending, by organizations, on technology; increases productivity among those who are using their own (familiar) devices rather than having to spend time learning other (unfamiliar) devices; provides each user-learner with the personally-chosen content installed on those personal tech devices; and also creates potential disparities in learning and in workplace opportunities and performance among those who are not able to afford to provide their own devices. Perusing resources cited within the 2015 Higher Education Edition, we find plenty of guidance on how we can get the best devices into higher education and how innovative learning spaces incorporate BYOD into learning. Armed with this information and sensitive to the challenges, we’re better prepared to respond to the potential provided by BYOD while also working to address the challenges is poses in our learning and work environments.

NB: This is part of a series of articles exploring the latest Horizon Report. Next: On the Mid-Range Horizon—Makerspaces and Wearable Technology


NMC Horizon Report 2015 (Pt. 1 of 6): Bursting Through Its Virtual Covers

February 13, 2015

New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project reports on key trends, significant challenges, and developments in educational technology seem to be bursting beyond the boundaries of their virtual covers in spectacular ways, as the release of the 2015 Higher Education Edition this week makes abundantly clear.

Horizon_Report--2015_CoverThere was a time when reading these free online training-teaching-learning resources involved little more than downloading the documents, taking a couple of hours to absorb the content, and then following a few selected links to learn more about the topics covered. Then the ever-increasing amount of content included within the reports created a need for a video synopsis posted on the New Media Consortium YouTube channel; the lavishly-produced and well-paced 2015 Higher Education Edition video clocks in at nearly seven minutes (compared to just under four minutes for the 2014 Higher Education Edition video). A very helpful infographic that further synthesizes the report through a single well-designed image for those who want to quickly grasp the high points of the report. A chart on page 35 of the report mirrors the online resource that lists the more than 50 technologies followed through the Horizon Project—a great gateway for anyone interested in exploring individual technologies they haven’t yet encountered. Increasingly numerous resources available through endnotes—nearly 300 spread over two pages near the final pages of the latest report—offer information-hungry readers a chance to explore the topics in greater depth. And the usual access to report expert-panel discussions within a well-facilitated wiki make the process of producing the report as transparent as possible while also providing an educational-technology resource unlike any others currently available online.

Simply compiling the endnotes for the report is a magnificent effort in collaboration, report lead writer Samantha Adams Becker explained via a recent email exchange: “Citations are split across three writers/researchers on the NMC team [Becker, Alex Freeman, and Victoria Estrada as co-authors]. Each of us is responsible for writing researching six of the 18 topics in the report. We have a rule to never write anything editorial or in our own opinion—we must back everything up with sources—hence the giant list of citations. We then review each other’s sections and provide feedback for improvement and check each other’s citations. We also have a research manager [Michele Cummins] who finds the further readings for each section, and I check that work as well. So while there are three writers of the report [supported by editor/Horizon Project founder Larry Johnson and Johnson’s co-principal investigator, Malcolm Brown], we meet weekly to critique each other’s work and then turn in revised drafts. I then compile all of our revised drafts into a master document and go over the entire report with a fine-toothed comb, editing for voice, cohesion, etc.”

The results are stimulating discussions of six key trends, six key challenges, and six technological developments expected to “inform policy, leadership, and practice at all levels impacting universities and colleges” in ways that have repercussions for any of us involved in training-teaching-learning within the ever-expanding lifelong learning landscape we inhabit.

NMC_2015_Horizon_Higher_Ed_Infographic

Key edtech trends documented within the Horizon Report > 2015 Higher Education Edition as “driving edtech adoption in higher education in five or more years” include “advancing cultures of change and innovation” and “increasing cross-institution collaboration.” Those expected to drive edtech adoption in a three- to five-year horizon include a “growing focus on measuring learning” and a “proliferation of open educational resources.” The short-term one- to two-year horizon includes an “increasing use of blended learning” and attention to “redesigning learning spaces.”

Key challenges impeding technology adoption in higher education within the short-term horizon include “blending formal and informal learning” and “improving digital literacy.” Mid-horizon challenges include those posed by “personalized learning” and “teaching complex thinking.” The “wicked” challenges—those “that are complex to even define, much less address”—include addressing “competing models of education” and finding ways to effectively reward teaching.

Important developments in educational technology for higher education in one year or less include the “bring your own device (BYOD)” movement and, for the second consecutive year, the flipped classroom model. Makerspaces and wearable technology are placed in a two- to three-year time-to-adoption horizon. “Adaptive learning technologies” joins “the Internet of Things” in the four- to five-year horizon.

What all of this means to those of us engaged in lifelong learning efforts will be explored more deeply in the remaining articles in this series of posts. In the meantime, those interested in playing a more active role in the Horizon Report process that many of us currently treasure are encouraged to complete the online application form.

NB: This is the first in a series of articles exploring the latest Horizon Report. Next: Key Trends


NMC Horizon Report 2013 (Pt. 2 of 4): The Near (One-Year) Horizon of MOOCs and Tablets

February 6, 2013

There’s a wonderful confluence between two technologies that held center stage in the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project 2013 Higher Education report, released this week, on “new and emerging technologies, and their potential impact on teaching, learning, and research”: MOOCs (massive open online courses) and tablets.

Horizon_Report--2013While each is its own massive subject for exploration and is expected to “see widespread adoption in higher education over the next 12 months,” the two are linked by how much they have already done and promise to do in breaking down barriers in a variety of fields—not the least of which is training-teaching learning. With tablets in our hands, we are immediately connected to the world of mobile learning (m-learning) and numerous online resources (e.g., search engines, libraries, educational videos, education blogs, open-source textbooks, and MOOCs themselves).  MOOCs, by definition, are a massive move toward making learning accessible, affordable, and appealing—although critics (many of whom seem not to have even participated as a learner in a MOOC) remain skeptical of their efficacy and inaccurately see them as an either-or option to more traditional learning offerings.

MOOCS are also capable of fostering extremely and justifiably divergent reactions, as we are seeing this week: while many of us were raving about how engaging the Educational Technology & Media massive online open course (#etmooc) is, others were documenting one of the most visible and embarrassing failures imaginable for a MOOC: a problematic Coursera offering on “The Fundamental of Online Education.”  There is clearly room for plenty of growth in MOOCs, and one of the most interesting challenges I see ahead for those involved in developing and promoting MOOCs is the ongoing reaction educators and learners alike have to failure and perceived failures in online learning: they seem to be far more inclined to walk away from online learning after one bad experience than they are to walking away permanently after having one (or multiple) bad experiences to face-to-face learning. When we review research studies on how well-designed face-to-face learning opportunities compare to well-designed online learning opportunities, we find that strong opposition to good online learning is unwarranted.

The latest Horizon Report helps put the development of MOOCs in perspective while also humanizing them by providing links to a variety of wonderful examples and explorations. The Games MOOC, for example, provides a glimpse into “a community site woven around a series of three courses about the use of games in education, including traditional games, massively multiplayer online role-playing games, game-based learning, and immersive environments,” the writers of the report tell us. The link to Laura Pappano’s New York Times article “The Year of the MOOC” (November 2, 2012) further introduces us to the state of MOOCs and highlights innovations.

Drawing our attention to tablet computing, the Horizon Report writers are equally engaging: “The rising popularity of tablets in higher education is partly the product of campuses across the world embracing the BYOD (bring your own device) movement. It is so easy for students to carry tablets from class to class, using them to seamlessly access their textbooks and other course materials as needed, that schools and universities are rethinking the need for computer labs, or even personal laptops. A student’s choice of apps for his or her tablet makes it easy to build a personalized learning environment, with all the resources, tools, and other materials they need on a single device, and with most tablets, the Internet is woven into almost every aspect of it” (p. 16). Specific examples of tablet computing supporting learning include the use of Samsung Galaxy tablets at Lavington Primary School, in Africa, and the Stanford University School of Medicine project which gives all entering students in iPad or PDF annotation software. There is also a link to a wonderful story about “How a Classroom of iPads Changed My approach to Learning,” written by Chris Blundell, from Redlands College.

Most encouraging of all, in these explorations of technology in learning, is the idea that while the technology is intriguing, the learners are the focus.

Next: On the Two- to Three-Year Horizon (Gaming/Gamification and Learning Analytics)


The Fourth Place Revisited: Creating an Instant Onsite-Online Social Learning Center (Part 2 of 2)

September 26, 2012

It’s not often that we have the opportunity to produce learning objects as part of a learning opportunity, but that’s exactly what an engaged group of learners (library directors from the state of Virginia) achieved last week during the final two-hour session of the Library of Virginia’s two-day Directors’ Meeting in Richmond, Virginia that Maurice Coleman and I helped facilitate.

By the end of our time together Friday morning, all of us not only had collaborated to create a blended (onsite-online) social learning center that had onsite participants seamlessly engaged with several online colleagues in discussions about the future of libraries and learning and learners, but we had also used the wisdom of the group to capture and produce a viewable record of the conversations that took place via Twitter by using Storify.

How we achieved those results as a temporary community of learners drawn together and supported by Library of Virginia Continuing Education Consultant Cindy Church and her colleagues provides a wonderful example of social learning at its best and most creative. It also provides a wonderful case study of how any trainer-teacher-learner can promote and nurture what we’ve been calling the new Fourth Place in our world—social learning centers that can exist onsite, online, in onsite-online combinations, and even in unexpected places, 39,000 feet above the surface of the earth, when the conditions for social learning are in place.

The creation of our onsite-online social learning center last Friday was a response to necessity: those library directors clearly needed something far different than what Maurice and I had planned to offer, so the two of us, after our Thursday afternoon sessions with them, completely threw out what we had prepared and, instead, spent Thursday evening contacting colleagues who are active and innovative users of social media tools in libraries and others settings. The results were spectacular, and improv was at the heart of much of what we accomplished.

Our new plan for Friday morning was to take the existing meeting room space in the Library of Virginia there in Richmond and transform it into a setting where social learning could occur. We decided to begin with a Twitter feed (#lvadir12, for Library of Virginia Directors’ Meeting 2012) that would connect onsite participants to Bill Cushard, Buffy Hamilton, David Lee King, and Jill Hurst-Wahl so that our online colleagues, well-versed in social media tools and learning, could explore options with the onsite participants. That Twitter  feed, aggregated via TweetDeck, was projected onto a screen in the front of the room; it was also visible to the many onsite participants who followed and contributed to it via their own mobile devices—a stunning example of how quickly we all are adapting the Bring Your Own Device movement into our workplaces and other venues.

Maurice and I also, on the spur of the moment, decided to take advantage of onsite wireless access to connect onsite participants to our online partners via a Google+ Hangout—a plan that had to be abandoned when the wireless access proved to be inadequate for what we were trying to do. Even that disappointment, however, provided a useful learning experience: it helped everyone to not only see and understand the advantages and challenges of trying to incorporate social media tools into learning, but also to see how easy it is, in the moment, to change course and use what is available to produce effective learning in a social context. As Maurice himself observed, we learn as much from our failures as from our successes.

Anyone reading the Storify transcript—it appears in reverse chronological order, so requires that we go to the final page of the document and work out way back up to the top to follow the flow of the exchanges—quickly obtains a sense of how dynamic this sort of learning can be. While there was an overall structure to the discussion, there was an equal amount of on-the-spot adjusting to themes that turned out to be important to the onsite and online learning partners. All of us were learning from each other—an achievement well-documented in that moment when we tweeted out a request for help in capturing the Twitter feed and immediately received Buffy’s suggestion that Storify would produce what we needed.

There was also a clear focus on being engaged in something more than an ephemeral discussion to be forgotten as soon as it was finished. The final segment of the conversation produced commitments by the library directors themselves as to what they would do to apply lessons learned when they returned to their libraries.

Among the offerings:

  • “We will ask our community how we can help them.”
  • “We will ask people how they want to hear from us.”
  • “We will designate staff time to learning-opportunity development.”

And in a wonderful moment of laying the foundations for the concrete results that the best learning opportunities can produce, one discussion group said “We commit that we will post on our listserv, within six weeks, one thing we have done from this session”—thereby assuring that this particular social learning center will remain in existence for at least six weeks after participants formally left the physical site to return home.

If that sounds like a surefire way to demonstrate how social learning centers can produce tangible, sustainable results, then we all will have benefitted from the creation of this particular example as we look for ways to create and nurture our own. And we’re well prepared to further explore the concept of social learning centers as a new Fourth Place (after the first three places—home, work, and social settings where members of a community informally gather) in libraries or any other setting where learners gather in Intersections to enjoy each other’s company while learning from each other.


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