Detach thyself from ye olde LMS

So first off, I  seem to be good for about one blog post per year.  Perhaps this is turning into an annual reflection post of  “this is what is on my mind  this year” type  of thing. Maybe someday I’ll up the output to quarterly, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

So about the title of this post.

There is no shortage of writing about the doldrums of LMS technology, and perhaps even the pedagogical oppression that can be brought on by designing courses in these environments. Some of my acquaintances and colleagues have recently penned thought pieces on this topic, including  Adam Finklestein (McGill U) and Mike Goudzwaard’s  (Dartmouth) article featured on EdSurge this month:  The Trouble with Learning Management.” There is also  Mike Goudzwaard’s  personal blog post  on “The LMS of the Future is Yours”.  And of course  there is always the thoughtful and wise Michael Feldstein and his piece,    “What’s Really to Blame for Failures of Our Learning-Management Systems” .

But haven’t we been talking about moving beyond the LMS, for well, um, soon after they were created?   Back in 2011 I was one of the co-creators of NERCOMPs first Unconference/UnSIG. Our focus was the LMS.  The conference came about because a small group of us were working on the annual NERCOMP SIG program for the Teaching and Learning track.  There were so many proposed topics and themes revolving around the LMS that we could have have held a workshop per week on LMSy things. Because that was not an option,  we opted to try the Unconference format to give the community a time to create their own topic tracks and discuss their LMS challenges and needs in small group formats. (Oh, and Michael Feldstein was gracious enough to serve as our opening speaker to get things kicked-off). By the end of the day people felt good, maybe not about their LMS, but that they were not alone in their endeavors. But interestingly it seemed that the LMS was (is) here to stay. We hate it, but we need it.

Living the dream: Life beyond LMS

To that end,  it would appear that my team and I might be getting to “live the dream.” One of our projects allows us to ditch the confines of the campus LMS in favor for something much more organic, personal and custom designed for the program of study and its students.   In fact, building outside of the LMS was the number one requirement put forth by the academic program leadership and faculty and for some sound programmatic reasons.

A commercial LMS presents a certain rigidity for a degree program in computer science (CS), particularly when the discipline itself is about architecting, making and building digital environments.  In some sense, the work of CS is one big digital makerspace and, depending on the LMS, a CS experience in one of these platforms can feel very constrained for the faculty developer and the learner. This is exactly what our CS program is seeking to avoid.

Now sure, we can hack around the LMS to try to bend it to our will. Everyone has been doing this for ages. And we can utilize LTIs when possible and appropriate. But when your hacks and workarounds are the norm in your design, then it’s time to move beyond the LMS. As Mike and Adam point out in their edSurge post,  many courses only really need 20% what is in their LMS. That other 80% of features and what not are often in the way.

That important 20%

So like any good team we did a couple of visioning sessions with the academic program and our instructional design and multimedia team. There were opportunities for post-its and flip chart paper  brainstorming (BTW- can one call their process legitimate without the use of these materials?)  There was a 20 second gut check a5629b7585ecdeb12c3b4acc6d1afb9a5ctivity and a #slack channel set up for dialogue. From all of these I’ve been diligently collecting and documenting requirements to optimally  develop two to three solution scenarios. Because you see, we still need to build this in or on something. Is it straight up HTML? Is it WordPress? Is it….. an open LMS platform?  (Stay tuned for the big reveal, which I guess will be next year’s blog post… )

To help us get there we  have been wireframing/mocking up some scenarios based on feedback. The initial wireframes, even incorporating some non LMS design inspirations, started to look like, well a LMS. Without the benefit of more graphical representation,  a black and white wireframe of core functions looked a bit like a Blackboard template. #Designfail?  I couldn’t help but poke fun at this and said -Fantastic! We’ve recreated our campus LMS, except perhaps it will be prettier.

I am no spring chicken in this industry and have endured my fair share of LMS selections, migrations and course builds in and outside of commercial LMS platforms. I looked at one of the IDs and wondered aloud if we are so attached to the paradigm of an LMS that it’s hard to break free even when we are given an absolute blank canvas? Perhaps.  Or does the basic core requirements of running a course digitally (FERPA stuff, authentication, etc), heck even an entire program of study, really mean someone just needs to make a simple LMS, of the organic, free range variety? Or maybe a generic label -remember the 70s and those generic white label foods? Maybe we just need that….

5_dharma_food
Your basic, no frills LMS

 But wait, I guess that might be the equivalent of open source, and we have those right? (Moodle, Sakai and now OpenEdx). But yet, there is still complexification in implementing a open source solution that still does not feel nimble and light. 

So as you can see, I am puzzling through this very openly here. The generic label thing probably takes this conversation a bit too far. But by Friday I need to present three possible scenarios for which to build the first two courses.  And as I prepare these I guess I am struck by no matter how much disruptive technological innovation and pretty website design is out there, our field can often miss the mark on acknowledging the importance of the most elemental needs of delivering sound learning. I am not suggesting the LMS of today gets it right, but it started from a very simple place. Now how to get back to that core while not diminishing the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

#ISTE11 Resources: Be there without being there

Get the best of ISTE11 without being there

If you can’t be there (or if you are like me you are only here for a day), here are some nifty, easy resources that will help you join in on some of the really cool and awesome stuff going on in Philly this year.

  • ISTE’s Daily Leader: A pdf newspaper that highlights all things ISTE and also announces schedule changes, additions, etc to the program.
  • Subscribe to the #ISTE11 Paper.li daily. Powered by the tweets of ISTE attendees, it provides a rich resource of ISTE happenings.  Many tweets also share links to content that is being presented during conference sessions.  Another great thing is that that it will continue to have momenteum at least a couple of weeks after the coference.
  • Follow the #ISTE11 Hashtag on twitter. You don’t need to be a tweeter to following #ISTE11 on Twitter. Simply go to the Twitter.com and enter #ISTE11 as a search term and viola, you will have a steady stream of tweeting ISTERs to follow.
  • ISTEUnplugged – Steve Hargadon & Friends will be broadcasting sessions from the Bloggers Cafe at ISTE. Unplugged started last year (I think) from Denver and had a great success. Unplugged is like a unconference during the conference where folks can gather and generate their own sessions on the fly, and some are even Ustreamed or viewable via Elluminate/Bb Collaborate  so Tune In!

Are there other great ways to follow ISTE from a far? Share your ideas and links

Mashups & Media Literacy, Part I

In essence, I think the mashup is a compelling example of why media literacy should be an essential part of education (k-12 and higher education.) As educators create and share digital resources for use in the classroom, we have the opportunity to model best uses and create some effective mashups of our own. Also our students are creating more and more of their own digital content and a mashup can be an excellent project.

A couple of years ago I remember getting asked a lot about mashups. What were they? How do you make one?  Now, in 2011,  mashups are commonplace on the web. Yet this does not mean we (the everyday web surfer) is more cognizant of what mashups are all about.  So I decided to dust off one of my earlier attempts at explaining the basic mashup (see below) as I find it a relevant, evolving media form.

Mashup Image of women with blender
from librarian.net

Most of the time you might not even realize a website you are browsing might really be a  blend of  different apps and content being brought together for a seamless experience. This is could be considered a classic mashup. When you get down to it, isn’t your iGoogle page a type of mashup?

There are some amazing creations that come from mashups,  especially with music and video. This is where mashups can be controversial and the intellectual property and copyright is tricky to navigate. (For more on IP and copyright I recommend teachingcopyright.org) In essence, I think the mashup is a compelling example of why media literacy should be an essential part  of education (k-12 and higher education.) As educators create and share digital resources for use in the classroom, we have the opportunity to model best uses and create some effective mashups of our own. Also our students are creating more  and more of their own digital content and a  mashup can be an excellent project.

Below is the first part of a posting I wrote back in 2008 for my department’s blog on introducing the basic concept of the mashup to newbies.  Look for part II on creating mashups  tomorrow.

Understanding the Mashup -Part I

We’ve received a few inquires this fall about what mashups are and how they might be used in a course. The origin of the mashup is rooted in the music industry where people bring together instrumentation and vocal tracks from different songs to create a new song. Listen to an example of the classic Petula Clark song Downtown merged with the current Russian band t.A.T.u’s Not Gonna Get Us to form the new song Not Gonna Get Us Downtown.

The technical definition of a mashup refers to a website that brings together features, functions, and content of different websites into one tool or page. So essentially, a mashup is something that has been created from many other existing things to form a uniquely new thing, usually a piece of media or website.

Still scratching your head? That’s okay, so was I when I started reading more about mashups. The terminology and definition can seem more cumbersome than actually experiencing a mashup. Once you see one, you begin to realize that mashups are all around us. Here are some examples:
  • Flicker Sudoku – http://flickrsudoku.com/ The perfect site for sudoku fans and Flicker users alike, this site allows you to play sudoku with other members of the Flicker site, while pulling in content and sudoku boards from other sites. You experience the site as a normal, single webpage. In actuality it’s a site made of many sites and features.
  • Weather Bonk -http://www.weatherbonk.com/ Weather bonk is an interactive map pulling data from the National Weather Service, Google Maps, and other media sources. The site provides an interactive map of your region which gives you real-time weather, traffic, and sometime visual/image data. At same time, the site is very graphically busy and can be an example of the downside of the mashup.

Video Mashups
Video mashups are abundant. YouTube features many of them, and they are popular creations on comedy shows like the Daily Show. In an election year the variety and numbers of video mashups are vast. Below is a clip produced by an individual that was posted on YouTube. Notice the variety of images and clips ranging from Hillary Clinton speaking, a Nike ad runner, infused with George Orwell’s 1984:

Part II: How do I create a Mashup?
Basic mashups do not require expensive computer equipment or software. The most important resource in mashup creation is creativity and to keep in mind to start simple and build from there. In the next posting we will talk more about how to build a mashup using basic tools like PowerPoint.

RFP Lesley University Academic Technology Institute January 19th

14th Annual Academic Technology Institute Request for Proposals

Each year I run an internal Technology & eLearning Institute for Lesley faculty and academic staff. This year we are  want to open it up to regional presenters from other Boston schools and educational organizations.  Below is our RFP and link to apply to present at the Institute.  Presenters get free registration. We are unable to support transportation costs, etc.

The Institute provides three session formats -A traditional presentation, a BYOL (bring your own laptop) for skills training or how-to’s and a digital poster session. Digital poster sessions are like traditional posters, except we provide you a data projector for you to display your work.  Traditional posters are also welcome.

If you have any questions please contact me at rpeterse [at] lesley [dot] edu.

RFP  Guidelines and Submission Form

Faculty and Academic Administrators and educators from the broader community are invited to submit proposals to present at Lesley’s 14th Annual Academic Technology Institute to be held on Wednesday, January 19th from 9am-4pm in University Hall. The day will feature a variety of sessions ranging from traditional presentations, to hands-on demonstrations, to digital poster sessions. Please consider sharing your work, whether it is a specific assignment from a course, or perhaps research you are currently engaged in.

Some examples of presentation topics and formats include:

  • Innovative uses of media and technology in teaching and scholarship
  • Teaching and learning with mobile devices
  • Fostering engagement, collaboration, and communication with/through technology
  • Multimedia/Video/Digital Storytelling
  • Exploration of trends in social media
  • Assessment and reflection using digital media
  • Next Generation and Millennial Learning Needs and Styles
  • Poster presentations on research or teaching related to the use of digital media or instructional uses of media in face-to-face, hybrid, and online environments

Presentations may be as a group or individual. Presenters will select one of the following presentation formats to share:

  • Traditional Concurrent Session: These are presentations or discussions of a topic or concept (60 minutes).
  • Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL): These are presentations that encourage hands-on exploration of specific websites or tools. Participants will bring their own laptops to participate.
  • Digital Poster Session: Presentations held at the end of the day, in a poster-style format, utilizing projection and traditional mediums to present a concept, idea, or specific piece of work and research
  • We might be able to offer one or two Skyped-in or Elluminate presentations. If you are interested in this option, please contact me directly to discuss.

The full RFP and Guidelines are available here: http://lesley.edu/elis/ati/ati2011/rfp.html

To go directly to the online submission form go here: http://tinyurl.com/ati2011proposals

Use Revisit to Visualize Twitter Conversations & Backchannels

I seem to be on a data visualization kick this week. Yesterday I highlighted the coolness of Many Eyes for text analysis. On the same day one of my favorite tweeps, @ToughLoveforX, shared Revisit, a project by Moritz Stefaner who is a freelance “information visualizer.” As soon as I clicked on Revisit, I was smitten from both my visual data geek tendencies and as an educator.

Stefaner’s Revisit allows you to “see” the connections happening across various Twitter streams and hashtags.  As a professional development provider and educator, Twitter is one of those tools that can take a while for someone to get the gist of (See earlier post on DABEL model for Social Media PD). One of the common complaints I hear from my students and colleagues is that Twitter is so hard to follow. Often I will introduce TweetDeck or Twitterfall (etc), as helpful tools to follow the progression of conversations. Some of my students and workshop attendees will then “get it” a bit more, but there is always a group of visual learners that are really trying to conceptualize the relationships of the tweets; particularly retweets and how people are truly connected. This is where Revisit is particularly powerful.

I did a sample infographic of the #edchat hashtag from 8/7/2010 at 11:30am EST. Click here to interact with this example (give it about 3 seconds to load). Also note, to the right of the Revisit screen, you can also type in your own search terms.

Stefaner comments this as a great way to create a Twitter wall for conferences, offices, and I would propose classrooms as well. Imagine visualizing your backchannel conversations in this way and seeing the connections come to life, as well as visualizing the major influencers  and branches in the dialogue.

Individuals and organizations can download the source code for their own stand alone implementations. Stefaner does note that due to current API limitations the only the tweets from the last 8 days are captured and retweets via the Twitter website are not captured. However, as an immediate infographic and quick analysis tool, it’s very effective. I invite you all to Revisit, and see your Twitter experiences in a new way.

Use Many Eyes for Text and Data Visualization

I am attending the Personalized Learning Symposium (#perLearn on Twitter) in Boston, MA this week. Today’s first group breakout session asked us to describe the qualities and characteristics that make a personalized learning environment.  At the completion of the conversation, one thing remained clear -we have a lot of ideas but no clear consensus. The lexicon for personalized learning is still developing.

I asked Molly McCloskey, Manager of Whole Child Programs at ASCD, and convener in the Bartlett Room breakout session, to email me the collected table notes to see if I could create visualizations from our words. My goal is straightforward:  can we see immediate  patterns and connections from our combined words?  I usually use Wordle for some instant feedback. The result was okay, but didn’t make this diffuse topic any clearer.  So I turned to IBM’s Many Eyes site which allows multiple visualization types (including Wordle).  Here are the results:

Classic Wordle:
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The next three are a series of branching diagrams showing the connection of one word, to many thoughts & phrases. As you view these diagrams click on some of the words and see what happens.

Branching Diagrams: Students
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Branching Diagrams: Learning
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Branching Diagram: Teachers
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The Classic Tag Cloud
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Many Eyes is also capable of creating data driven visuals using specific word counts to create a variety of relationship diagrams.  I pulled the master word count list out of Worlde to generate an example of one of these options. For this to truly work, I need to go in a clean up all the “is, a, the, of , ands”…well you get the point.

Bubble Plot Example:
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For me the clear winner was the branching diagrams for this exercise. What is really great is that you can type different words into the textbox to see if they can be mapped.  Many Eyes is a free service and works simply by cutting and pasting your text into a basic text box. From there you can create interesting visuals for your data analysis. Do I dare say its a tad bit personalized?  Enjoy!

Try the DABEL Model When Offering PD on Social Media

Social Media can be a fun topic to teach educators and colleagues about.  It  is often an overwhelming concept for new users of social media tools to grasp. I think I described this on #edchat the other day as “Social Media is like breathing water to new people.” I’d like to revise that comment to that it probably feels more like a being a fish trying to swim without fins!

I recently gave a lecture/workshop to 32 Ph.D candidates at Lesley University. They were taking a special topics course in new media in scholarship, and I was asked to help them think about using tools like Twitter,  Mendeley,  and social bookmarking sites to assist with their scholarly networking. While at least 3/4 of the class were active Facebookers, people were a bit miffed, and some a tad petrified, about using Twitter.  To get us going, I used my DABEL model which stands for: Deepen Apply Brainstorm Engage and Learn.  In the context of social media and research, I presented the following goals for the afternoon:

  • Deepen our knowledge and understanding of social media
  • Apply social media ideas and concepts to the practice of research and inquiry
  • Brainstorm opportunities for using social media and other digital media tools to strengthen research goals and projects
  • Engage in inquisitive “play” with featured tools (Twitter, Wallwisher, MindMeister, Wordle)
  • Learn new pathways for collaboration and analysis

I find a lot of adult learners are so worried about “screwing up” the computer or looking dumb they are unable to hear about the purpose and potential of technology. Intrinsically, many adults assume they must master a tool before they can use it, as this is how many of us were taught in school (back in ye old dark ages). Setting the tone with DABEL is a great way to  give permission for inquiry, exploration, and play. This also provides a balance on applying known theory and practice, to new media and tools.

After giving the class a couple of videos that presented some thought-provoking stats and commentary, the conversation immediately started rocking. One of the faculty in the room said it felt like driving down the autobahn in a convertible. (I believe this was a compliment.)

I scaffolded our exploration with “easy” tools that I had set up for them in their Blackboard course site. One was a link to wallwiser, where they could post their research questions and topics. This was easy, fun and slightly addictive to a few students. By the time we arrived at Twitter the skepticism was there, but there was openness to consider and try it since they had successfully dabbled in a few previous tools and we engaged in dialogue and brainstorming on how to use them professionally and for school.

Below is the full presentation. I haven’t seen DABEL used before, so  I am claiming it as my own little acronym. Contact me if you’ve seen it. And if you want to use it, great; let me know how it worked and it’s extra nice if you cite this post as your source!

Link to Google Presentation with embedded videos.

Social Scholarship Slide Photo
Image of slide show