Greg's Google GlassI think of all of the debriefings, Greg’s video was one of the most dynamic and amusing.  The overall presentation was fabulous as was the music.  I think Greg may have found a new calling!  Truly a magnificent video, with inspiring music and a fantastic voice over.  Definitely worth a second look.

Which brings me to the technology, Google Glass.  I’ll admit that I had my doubts about Google Glass as an educational tool.  Going into this class, I understood some of what Google Glass could do however I saw it as more of a gimmick rather then a useful tool.  However, as James pointed out, Google Glass could be used to provide information to the audience to help enhance their enjoyment of music.

symphonyTo be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of going to the symphony.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the music.  Not having a strong musical background, I was simply intimidated by the experience.  There was so much going on that I had a hard time of keeping track of everything.  I generally had no idea what instruments were being played nor did I understand the background behind most of the music.  It felt like going to the movies and being blindfolded.  This is where Google Glass can step in.  For some one like me, I could sit there in the audience, enjoying the music and also learning about what’s going on or be visually stimulated.

conductorI think that was the genius of Disney.  Fantasia was a truly stunning production that highlighted fantastic music pieces and augmented them by visually telling a story that matched.  This combination of visual and audio stimulation combined delivered the full picture for me.  If Google Glass can do this for other musical performances, I’d take a serious look at getting one.  Well, once I saved up enough to afford it!

Reflections on Debriefings

TCC Reflections

Last week, I decided to immerse myself into the TCC Online Conference as fully as possible.  Having attended many conferences in person in the past, I was curious to see what it would be like participating in an online conference.   Rather then going into the office, I stayed at home so I could participate without distractions.

The format of the conference was interesting as it was generally limited to 20 minutes of presentation followed by 10 minutes of open discussion.  Since most of the speakers opted not to have their camera’s on for their presentation, it was less personal then I was used to but the anonymity of being online seemed to balance that as people were more then willing to throw out questions through out the presentation and the speaker was able to answer it when appropriate.   For some of the topics, I would have loved for the speaker to have more time.  I’ll have to check my notes but one speaker had a ton of information and slides that she blazed through during her presentation and it was a bit difficult to keep up with.  It was also apparent that some speakers were reading directly from a script as their delivery was fairly monotone and they didn’t respond to impromptu questions as readily.

Lonely On a personal note, I tend to find conferences fairly  stressful and tiring.  On top of trying to keep up with the  various topics, not being good with names, I struggle to  remember who I spoke with earlier in the conference.  That being said, I thought that the online conference  would simplify that.  In retrospect, it brought a whole  new set of challenges.  Being cooped up in front of a  computer all day with no face to face interaction was  also tiring.  I always enjoy seeing my family at the end of the day but was a bit happier at the end of each conference day.

emptydeskSecondly, its amazing how many distractions are around when the only person to keep you honest is the computer.  Every sound in the house screams for attention!  The beer in the refridgerator?  Calling my name!  (Note:  I was able to tune them out till the evening…).  Other then that, I noticed that:  1)  I didn’t brush my teeth till lunch time; 2) Nobody knows if you’re still in your pajamas past then; 3) I was free to snack and eat anything with garlic that I wanted to without offending them; and 4) I had way more junk food in my house then I thought.  Well, a bit less now.  Sorry, don’t judge me… I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

If you knew what that said, you’re much nerdier (or cooler!) then I am.  According to the book (or movie if that’s all you’ve seen), the statement above is roughly translated as “One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them; One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”  That’s the kind of wearable technology I want!  All kidding aside, a company called Logbar is out to create a ring that possesses quite a bit of power in its own right.  http://mashable.com/2014/03/03/bluetooth-ring/

ImageLogbar’s ring is designed to recognize finger gestures (not that finger gesture…).  Bilbo Baggins, I mean the ring wearer, can draw in the air to send text messages or open apps and access e-mail.  Very cool stuff.  For $145, via a kick starter campaign, you can have the one ring (or at least one of the first) to rule them all!  That being said, would I buy this ring?  Not likely.  When it comes down to it, I’m just not willing to plunk down a wad of cash on things that are just cool little gadgets but not necessarily life changing.  Too many of the wearable technology I see falls into this category.  Fitness monitors?  Why do I need to know how much activity I did today?  If I’m not sure about it, I should have gone out and exercised!

The wearable technology that I would really like to see is an unobtrusive blood pressure monitor.  Many of the wearable technology currently available are tools of convenience.  What I want are things that have a more significant health benefit.  As someone who has borderline high blood pressure, I would love to have a piece of wireless technology that could monitor that.  Like most wearable technology, it would need to be wireless, unobtrusive and capable of monitoring 24/7.  That way, I could track the activities that cause my blood pressure to rise as well as take steps to lower it when it does.

Image

Unfortunately, the problem right now seems to be not with the wireless technology but rather the medical technology.  This would seem to be the case for other health issues that could benefit from being used for wearable technology.  In addition to monitoring blood pressure, I’m sure people would love to be able to constantly monitor glucose levels, or even fatigue levels.  It’s the difference between aiming for a target (i.e., desired activity level or heart rate) and getting actual data warning of danger.  So while I’m not in a rush to go buy out to buy a fit bit, I’m keeping an eye out to see whats next.

Blog Reviews

For this weeks blog, we were asked to review the blogs of 3 class members.  While I’ve been lurking a bit (well not really lurking since blogs are meant to be read!), it was a good chance to take a closer look at some of them.

The first blog I took a look at was Chester’s blog (http://647eck.tumblr.com/).  In particular, I took a look at his entries on March 27 titled “To Mooc or Not Too Mooc”  and “To Flip or Not Too Flip” as the Shakespeare influence caught my attention.  What stands out to me in both of these entries is the organization of thought.  Both of the entries proceed in a very logical train of thought yet manage to come across with Chester’s personal touch or flair.  One thing I particularly enjoyed was the little asides that he added as footnotes to several of his blogs.

The second blog I looked at was Dave’s blog (http://dcypriano.tumblr.com/) and in particular his statement on mobile devices.  The first thing that caught my attention was the loud graphic at the top of the page.  Quite the attention grabber.  The content itself was clearly written and I found myself nodding in agreement as I agreed with many of his thoughts.  In particular, I agree with his statement “A poor lesson plan is still a poor lesson plan with or without a mobile device.”  Overall, the images that Dave has chosen (or created?) served as great for grabbing the reader’s attention and led nicely into each week’s subject.

The third blog that I chose to review was Ashley’s blog (http://ashalamida.tumblr.com/) and her flipped classroom statement.  I found it interesting and refreshing to hear her honest thoughts about the possibility of using technology to flip the classroom.  I agree with her in that I think there are many barriers to using technology in the classroom but would love to see the DOE test pilot this in a few schools.  I think that her opinions are probably reflective of many teachers and that the only way to really change this is through several documented success stories.

As a final note, I found it interesting to compare the 3 blogs side by side as all 3 were created in tumblr.  Not having any experience with this program, I found the variety in the different layouts intriguing as there seemed to be quite a bit of customization available.  Ashley’s layout was very appealing as it provided thumb nails of all of her entries and was able to tie in a variety of different apps (Animoto, BitStrips, and Screencast-o-matic to name a few).  Definitely a blogging application to consider in the future.

Mobile and Connected Learning Statement

Our reflection topic for the week was to discuss how we use mobile devices and how it might impact education in the near future.  Personally, I haven’t used a phone or table much for higher education yet as I have a greater trust in my trusty laptop with its bigger screen and full keyboard.  I’m not ready to completely dive in with a tablet yet but I’ve dipped my toe in the water, so to speak.  I’m finding some applications are much more productive with a touch screen. I also found accessing my Coursera MOOC to be great on my phone as I can watch videos anytime and anywhere.  I guess one of these days, I’ll have to throw caution to the wind and dive in.

In talking with a few friends and colleagues, it seems that most of us have a similar approach to how we use our mobile technology, in particular our smart phone.  The great thing about it is we always have it with us and with it comes immediate access to information.  As noted by John Cox (NetworkWorld 2010), immediate access to information keeps things moving forward.  I’m constantly searching for how to videos on my phone.  My dealer wanted to charge me $250 to change 2 air filters in my car recently.  Fortunately, I was able to find out how to do it myself on YouTube.  Final cost?  $20 and 5 minutes of my time.   I’m not the only one either.  I went to help my brother put up a chain link fence the other weekend and found him outside watching a how to video on YouTube.   Still, as I think about Bloom’s Taxonomy in how we use mobile technology, I realize that most of us are still at the lower levels where we use it to assist with understanding and applying but not much on creation yet.

I believe that mobile technology will play a vital role in higher education due to its ability to increase connections between people.  During the early implementation of online technology at UH, a few adventurous souls dove in and created 100% online degree programs.  However, a few years later, many of them switched over to a hybrid model.  Why?  Students complained about a lack of connection to the instructor, to their colleagues, and to the University as a whole.  As noted by Diana Oblinger (Educause 2013), “Learners are connected.  They connect with other students, faculty, advisors…”.  Mobile technology can help create these connections.  I had taken an online class in 2004 where we posted comments to an online discussion board.  Worst class of my life.  Mobile technology was nowhere near what it is now and it felt like a chore to be anchored to my desktop posting comments to students who I felt little connection to.  Fast forward to 2014 and I feel much more connected to our classmates.  I know more about some of them then I did about classmates I sat next to in a physical class setting.  Seeing the tweets and pictures posted by them provide opportunities to find out more about them and help to create a sense of community that is vital to the success of online programs.

Finally, my three favorite apps are:

Calendar app-  This built in app helps to keep me on schedule by synching with a shared google calendar.

You Tube-  Nothing like a quick how to video before getting started on a project.

Google maps- Another app that gets me where I need to go, whether I’m driving or on the Bus.

References

Cox, J. (2010, March 23). Can the iPhone Save Higher Education? Retrieved from http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/032310-iphone-higher-education.html?page=3

Oblinger, D., (2013, March/April). Higher education in the connected age. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM1324.pdf

Flipping a Classroom

ImageIn considering the flipped classroom, I have two perspectives that I’d like to share:  that as a potential student and that of a parent of a student.

As a potential student, I think I’d appreciate a flipped classroom.  I’ve never been a fan of sitting through lectures and have always felt that it was a waste of time to have an instructor talk at me for an hour in a one sided affair (World History anyone?).  I recall a physics professor who practically read from the textbook in class.  As a result, I tuned out in many of these classes, often choosing to read the textbook in class at my pace rather than listen to the professor.  The concept of being able to watch short videos at my own pace and at a time of my choosing along with being able to re-watch sections that didn’t make sense.   Spending the time in class to go over particularly difficult concepts or working in small groups seems to be a much better use of time.

As the parent of a student, I would love being able to see what was being taught to my child.  Too often I find myself trying to recall content material from decades ago in trying to help them with their work.  I find myself wondering who is really teaching my child, me or the classroom teacher.  With the flipped class, I could watch along with my child and my child could then formulate questions to be asked in class rather than asking me.

The key to all of this, though, seems to be selecting appropriate courses to flip and finding or training teachers to do so.  My favorite statement from the readings that rings true is “Bad pedagogy is bad pedagogy whether it’s flipped or not.”  Many of the articles point out that the flipped classroom is not a magic bullet but rather another tool.  When utilized properly, it’s a fantastic tool leading to teacher job satisfaction and improved student attitudes towards learning.  I think it’s important to consider some of Dr. Eric Mazur’s research on learning.  In particular, a successful instructor is one who prepares to teach material in class that the class doesn’t understand rather lecture over material that they do understand.    When combined with Alfie Kohn’s argument that student’s get little value out of homework, I think the flipped classroom makes even more sense.  Get rid of homework.  Provide content or direction for student inquiry at home.  Let teachers really teach in the classroom rather than reading to students.  Sounds like a winning approach to me!

Waters, A. (2012, November 28). Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2012: The Flipped Classroom. Hack Education. Retrieved from http://www.hackeducation.com/2012/11/28/top-ed-tech-trends-of-2012-flipped-classroom/

Graham, E. & Walker, T. (2013, March 29), What ‘Flipped’ Classrooms Can (and Can’t) Do for Education. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2013/03/29/what-flipped-classrooms-can-and-cant-do-for-education/

November, A. & Mull, B. (2012, March 29). Flipped Learning: A Response To Five Common Criticisms. Retrieved from http://novemberlearning.com/resources/articles/flipped-learning-a-response-to-five-common-criticisms-article/

Building a better textbook

I think the biggest thing a publisher could do to reduce textbook costs to students would be to allow instructors to customize their textbooks and only pay for material they want.  Several publishers already do this but I think its an idea that has not reached its full potential yet.  No one wants to pay for something they don’t need.  One of the benefits of e-books should be the ability to modify books as the publisher does not need to build lead times into their production schedule for printing.  Alternatively, rather than charging for each textbook purchased, publishers could charge a single flat rate for access to materials to institutions rather than students.  That way universities would be able to better leverage their buying power by purchasing in bulk while publishers would have a steadier stream of revenue.

Personally, I’m okay with the idea of students using content from a text to create their own mashups and posting it online.   The way I see it, either students can either properly cite their references in order to give credibility to their content or they can post it as a “questionable” resource.  In either case, I’m counting on the credibility of the author having value as a respected expert in the field.  That being said, I’m okay with all of this provided the student’s intent is not of a commercial nature.  If the student is simply looking for a new way to present the information in a useful manner, rather than condemning the action, the publisher and author should review their delivery method to see if there are improvements they can make.  As indicated by several sources in the NPR article (http://www.npr.org/2012/02/19/147112456/e-books-flipping-the-page-on-publishing-standards?sc=ipad&f=1019), this is an opportunity to make the book smarter by taking advantage of community feedback.

The common theme in these two ideas is that its time for publishers to work towards creating smarter textbooks.  The days of printing massive textbooks intended to cover everything are gone.  People want smaller and more manageable pieces of data.  Bottom line, if the product were better, people would be willing to pay for it rather than stealing it.

OERs and VoiceThread

For week 5, we were assigned to groups (Team Waseda!) and asked to look at OERs.  After looking at several OERs, we opted to look at the 20/20 Vision OER offered on OER Commons.  I’m fairly impressed by the material available at OER Commons in that the breadth of material and the general quality seemed to be pretty good.  Once again, the group opted to use Google Hangout to meet and discuss the project.

I have to say, I’m really liking Google Hangouts as I remember during my undergrad and grad days, we used to have to try to find times and places to meet to go over group work.  Being able to meet from anywhere has definitely simplified the process and being able to share data via Google docs and slides makes it just as easy as being in the same room.  The only thing that I wish was that I had a bigger monitor to see all the screens that I have open but maybe another day.

On another note, the group decided to experiment with VoiceThread (https://voicethread.com/) in order to produce our deliverables.  Overall, a fairly simple application to use but as I use more and more applications, I’ve started to realize a few things that are good and bad. For example, a good thing with VoiceThread was that I was able to add a voice over to each slide and the slide would automatically stay on as long as my voice over was.  On the flip side, I wasn’t able to advance the screen and provide a continuous voice over.  Obviously this might be a matter of preference but its something to consider.  Anyway, we’re 5 weeks in and despite the workload, I’m enjoying this class more then I expected.  Lets see what week 6 brings!

Online and naked…

Ok, so maybe not naked. However, there’s a definite feeling of being exposed when being online. Being a fairly private individual, one of the regular issues that I deal with as a smart phone user is how much information is being shared with the applications that I use.  As soon as you download an application, it seems that there are  series of questions that measure how much you’re willing to let the application intrude into your privacy.   “Is it okay to push notices to your phone?”  “Is it okay to turn on location services?”  Finally, there’s my favorite (with sarcasm) “Ok to post to Facebook?”

In reality, my first thought is No!  Do not send me more information.  If I want it, I’ll go and get it!  Please do not turn on my location services.  I know where I am and its none of your business.  Ok to post to Facebook?  Excuse me, I don’t even know if I want my friends to post things to my Facebook account and you think I want to let to let some stranger post comments to my wall?  That being said, it’s a slippery slope once you start installing these applications and letting them access your personal data.  Trying to find out traffic conditions before heading home?  There’s an app for that.  The one that I happen to use is called Waze.  Waze uses the location of its various users to track traffic speed and adds it to a map.  Sounds great but wait a second, so the app knows exactly where I’m going and how fast I’m going?  What other data does it capture?  Does it keep track of where I go frequently?  In all likelihood, anyone looking at my traffic patterns would be able to find my home and business addresses without much trouble at all.  Is that really what I want to do?

As with every application that I install, it’s a matter of weighing the pro’s and con’s.  Do I really want to know how much traffic is ahead or why I’m stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.  Unfortunately yes, I do want to know.  Most radio traffic updates are fairly useless but I’ll stop there before I digress too far.  Am I worried about how much information is being collected?  Yes, but the benefits of the data I receive for now outweigh the drawbacks.  I go through this before every application that I download.

Looking for coffee?  There’s an app for that too.  Starbucks has an app that will keep your membership, how much is on your gift cards, and conveniently tell you where the closest one is.  Sounds great right?  Nope, turns out that Starbucks had knowingly sacrificed data security in favor of ease of use.  Sounds like another app to delete.  Count me in on the many that have gone back and deleted the app.  So if you see me looking sleepy and lost, just point me in the direction of the closest Starbucks .  I might not tell you thanks right then but I’ll be thinking it as soon as I get a drink in my system.