Open Source Learning Laboratory

Eduforge announced the launch of a Open Source Learning Laboratory. They are offering some free courses that focus on the Open Source world. All courses are online using Moodle. They will have access to their online training platform, as well as full support from tutors with expert knowledge from industry-related experience.

For a limited time is offering free entry into all courses. Spaces are limited, so apply now to avoid missing out.

Current course offerings are:

- Open Source in Business

- Open Source Software development model

- Technical Documentation

- PHP Programming

- Developing Courses in Moodle

- Moodle Administration

The Beat of Our Searching

More than a billion searches are done every day on Google. Do you ever wonder what people are searching for?

I think most of us are a bit curious, and I also think it's something that students are interested in - therefore, it's a good conversation and lesson starter.

An easy and visual way to start the conversation is via a video series called the Google Beat that highlights some of the hottest searches on Google in the U.S. (I'd like to see an international version.)

They pull data from Google Trends, Google Insights for Search and other tools. Those are also interesting tools to use in class. Beyond the video, you could have students dig deeper into the statistics and trends.

I always do a post when the year-end Zeitgeist report comes out. One obvious trend is the pop world of entertainment's dominance in what we are looking for information about online. How many topics related to education, science, literature et cetera can your students find? What can we say when the top searches are the rescue of the Chilean miners, Sweetest Day, sports, and Snooki on South Park?

Here's the video from August when the service launched that shows how it works,

and here's the video look at what were the hottest searches from last week ending October 22, 2010.

Attention As A Social Media Literacy

If you were the only person on earth who knew how to use a fishing rod, you would be tremendously empowered. If you were the only person on earth who knew how to read and write, you would be frustrated and empowered only in tiny ways, like writing notes to yourself. When it comes to social media, knowing how to post a video or download a podcast—technology-centric encoding and decoding skills—is not enough. Access to many media empowers only those who know how to use them. We need to go beyond skills and technologies. We need to think in terms of literacies. And we need to expand our thinking of digital skills or information literacies to include social media literacies.
So begins an article in the latest EDUCAUSE Review by Howard Rheingold.

lensMost of know that Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and wikis allow us to socialize, organize, and waste time.  For many educators, the jury is still out on the learning aspects of social media. Companies have certainly latched onto the commercial aspects of social media. They are working hard at engagement.

Rheingold looks at the technical skills and literacies that he believes are needed to use social media: encoding, decoding, and community and 5 social media literacies: attention, participation,collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption.

What most interests me in this article is first that attention is not only the key link to all the other literacies, but the idea of attention as a social media literacy.

I have long been a proponent of actually teaching listening and other attention skills. What Rheingold calls the "mindful deployment of your attention online" seems to me to be something that many educators have already given up on teaching.

Attention is also important in the classroom. This came home to me five years ago when I started teaching and saw what most teachers in the world, at least at the college level, see these days: students who are staring down, looking at their computers, not making eye contact with the teacher.
Multitasking, hyper attention, "continuous partial attention" and attention-splitting are all terms that are used in a positive way in our very hurried society and classrooms for attention that others might describe as simply "unfocused".

Just as the print technologies and literacies shaped the Enlightenment, the social media technologies and literacies will shape the cognitive, social, and cultural environments of the 21st century. As Jenkins and his colleagues have emphasized, education that acknowledges the full impact of networked publics and digital media must recognize a whole new way of looking at learning and teaching. This is not just another set of skills to be added to the curriculum. Assuming a world in which the welfare of the young people and the economic health of a society and the political health of a democracy are the true goals of education, I believe modern societies need to assess and evaluate what works and what doesn't in terms of engaging students in learning.

Read the article...

Preparing Students To Teach in Colleges

teachingI read an article recently on the InsideHigherEd site about preparing graduate students to teach in colleges. It's not new to hear a call for better preparation in graduate education for those students who wish to pursue that path. Students who are better trained to teach seems like a no-brainer, but it has never been a priority.

The article says that may be changing. Maybe it's because tenure-track positions are becoming much harder to find. Fewer jobs means more competition. In many colleges, adjuncts are teaching the majority of course sections, and that squeezes the opportunities even tighter.

Conducting research and obtaining grant money have long been the most important things for promotion and tenure at top-tier universities. To say that students who will continue in academia should be effective in the classroom is still radical. If those students plan to seek employment at a liberal arts or community college, the need for that teacher training is much greater.

Teaching certificate programs are actually showing up at some institutions. The Graduate Student Instructor Teaching and Resource Center at the University of California at Berkeley is conducting a survey of the 70 or so institutions that already offer such a program as UC plans its own program. Though their survey results are still preliminary, it shows that at those colleges the number of students working towards a teaching certificate will increase by about 10% this year.

At MIT, 90 doctoral students signed up when the program was first offered two years ago by the Teaching and Learning Laboratory. This year, 140 graduate students are working towards teaching certificates.

Is this trend because of an increased commitment to preparing graduate students for teaching? Is it the formalization of a philosophy that already existed at many universities? I hope so. Is there a "false dichotomy between teaching and research" as is suggested in the article? No, there's a real dichotomy and research still trumps teaching on those promotion and tenure committees.

A Next Gen Learning Challenge

Do you have a passionate belief in the need to improve college readiness and completion in the United States?

Do you see the possibilities for how technology can help improve student success and transform learning?

Are already using technology to further learning and increase student success?

So asks the website for Next Generation Learning Challenges. Their mission is lofty. They are looking for "the best, brightest, most innovative individuals and institutions committed to using educational technology to make more students successful."

I find the mission appealing. I agree that technology is one path (though not the only one or necessarily the best one). But what  find most appealing is the open resources approach. Open educational resources (OER) is high on my priorities list. They describe "Open Core Courseware" as a a way to make "world-class, interactive learning materials available to those students and faculty in these high-demand, low-success courses, for free."

They are just starting their first wave of challenges and those focus on a topic of great interest at my own college and certainly at almost every other - ways that technology can be used to dramatically improve college readiness and completion, particularly for low-income young adults (Download the First Wave RFP) The submission period begins October 25, 2010.
There is a core set of courses that almost all students take as they enter college. Unfortunately, sometimes as many as half of them – particularly low-income students and those with the least preparation – will not succeed in those courses, wasting their time and the college’s resources and putting graduation at risk. At the same time, faculty are often left to “recreate the wheel” for thousands of similar courses around the country with little access to high-quality, customizable digital resources.
From their FAQs page, you will find that NGLC is a collaboration among philanthropists, educators, innovators, and technologists focusing on innovative IT solutions.

They will be providing grants,but they also want to start dialogue and community building through a social network and community engagement.

The four challenges are: Open Core Courseware, Blended Learning, Web 2.0 Engagement and Learning Analytics.

Even if you don't apply for a grant, you can benefit from the program. All content contributed to NGLC (from website postings to information generated by grantees) will be available to the community under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which allows community-generated content to move in and out of the site with ease. Grantees are encouraged to make other supporting technology available under approved open-source licenses.