No More Classrooms

classroom via pixabay

Jeffrey R. Young moderated a panel at the Reimagine Education conference  that was a debate on the question, “Is the Classroom Dead?” There were two people making a case for the need for in-person gatherings of learners (the traditional classroom) and two arguing that the classroom has outlived its usefulness. 

Young's own post about it had what might be a more accurate title question: What If We Stopped Calling Them Classrooms?

What do you picture when you think of the word classroom? A teacher in front of a group of students in a room that probably has rows of seats/desks. How does that model match trends in education today?

NJIT once had the trademark on the term "virtual classroom" and that was often used in the early days of online education to describe what we were trying to do. The instructional design of the time followed the term and tried, as much as possible, to reproduce the classroom online. That meant 90 minute lectures, sometimes recorded in a physical classroom live before other students (lecture capture is still being done today). It meant having ways to "raise your hand" and respond to questions or ask questions. It meant tests and quizzes and ways to submit work and a gradebook.

But is that the way we should design online learning? Is it even the way we should be teaching in a physical classroom today?

One thing we seem to have gleaned from MOOCs is that the optimal length of video lectures is 5-7 minutes. Has that been adapted to most face-to-face or even online courses? No. Should we be teaching in a classroom in chunks of 7 minute lessons?

Not calling a classroom a classroom solves nothing. Calling a school library a media center doesn't mean much if the physical space and its contents remain a library.

Yes, this post is more questions than answers, but perhaps questioning what the classroom is in 2017 is where we are right now.


Data Privacy Day: The S in IoT Stands for Security

As you hear more about the Internet of Things (IoT), you may hear that the S in IoT stands for "security."

Right, there is no S in IoT. That's the point.

Did you know that today, January 28, is Data Privacy Day? Data Privacy Day (known in Europe as Data Protection Day) is an international holiday that occurs every 28 January.

The purpose of Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices. It is currently observed in the United States, Canada, India and 47 European countries.

There's probably a lot more of your information in cyberspace than you know. And new devices are collecting more of your data every day. 

StaySafeOnline.org is just one site that has information about data privacy.

As an educator, if you want to teach about this to kids in elementary school, middle and high school or to students in higher education, they have materials.

Of course, this is not just for students. Many adults, especially older adults who didn't grow up with or use technology in their working lives, lack some basic knowledge about protecting your personal data. 

One slice of this data pie is privacy in social networks. Those networks both you use the data you voluntarily supply them with about yourself (birth date, address, email, occupation) and also information that you "allow" them to collect (perhaps without knowing that you allow them to gather that data) such as who your friends are, where you work, schools you attended, locations you frequent, your mobile phone number etc.).

Your smartphone, tablet or laptop  contains significant information about you and your friends and family – contact numbers, photos, more locations and more. How many security settings have you changed on your devices? If you're like many people, the answer is either none or "There are security settings?" Your mobile devices need to be protected.

Today might be a good day to start or check again just how much you have done to protect your personal privacy and data.

Soon, even more "things" connected to the Internet in your home, car, office and the places around you will be adding to that personal data out there. Be ready!



 



StaySafeOnline1 is the official YouTube channel of the National Cyber Security Alliance. NCSA's mission is to educate and therefore empower a digital society to use the Internet safely and securely at home, work, and school, protecting the technology individuals use, the networks they connect to, and our shared digital assets.


Blogging By the Numbers

100 millionI was eager to check all my blog statistics this month because I had calculated that the numbers would trip my blog odometer over to a big number. I keep a spreadsheet for the 8 blogs where I write online. I don’t keep track of stats for my Tumblr or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other social sites I use. And I don’t obsess over the numbers month to month because I don’t get any income from people just viewing a page. I am curious about which posts got the most attention because it gives me some insight into what people want to read.

Looking at the total page hits for the eight blogs over their lifetimes, the number has now crossed the 100,000,000 mark.

That’s one hundred million page hits, which doesn’t mean there were that number of “unique visitors.” It is safe to assume that many of those hits come from the same people – and that’s a great thing. Blogs get subscribers and followers who are usually notified of new content and who, hopefully, come back to read more of your posts.

That number – 100,000,000 – sounds like the population of a country – my own little country of blogs.   My blog country is a bit smaller than the 12th largest, the Philippines at 107,668,232, but we are bigger than Ethiopia (96,633,456) and Vietnam (93,421,832). Sure, we are only half the population of Brazil (202,656,784) and Pakistan (196,174,384), but everyone in Austria (8,223,062) could visit the site a dozen times each to get us to 100,000,000.

One of my blogs, Weekends in Paradelle, has a largely North American readership, but the UK, Germany, France and India account for about 25 percent of visitors to this particular blog.

But my most oldest and most read blog is this one, Serendipity35. I have been writing about technology and education here since 2006, so it has a head start on the other blogs. It pulls in about a half million hits every month (532,468 in January and 859,860 in December 2016) and accounts for 97 million of those hits.

hourly statsSerious bloggers look at when people access their blog and then try to post in that time period. For Serendipity35, which has a much wider global audience than the Weekends in Paradelle blog, there is no “hot” hour. People are dropping by here all day and night from somewhere as the graph here shows. 

It’s nice to know there is a country of visitors out there. 



 


Getting to the Level of Social Learning

brain

"The Cognitive Science Behind Learning" is an article that discusses the idea of viewing different levels as a way to approach the study of cognitive science and learning.

It views cognitive science as an "umbrella term to incorporate all levels of human behavior from neural to social, and it includes contributions from many disciplines including philosophy, anthropology, neuroscience, psychology, sociology and more."

It is widely accepted that at the most basic level we have the neural level. That is looking at learning as something that is about forming and strengthening the connections between neurons in our brains. There is not a lot that an educator can do about that level in the classroom.

As educators, we are more concerned about what we might see at the next two levels. The main one we always discuss is the cognitive level, where "learning and instruction is about designed action and guided reflection."

For me, the importance at this level is that human learning is very connected to pattern-matching and meaning-making. Though some of those abilities are formed through some ability to perform by rote repeatedly and accurately, that is not the key to learning. Of course, it is the main thing we do in classrooms and it is generally what we assess in our grading. There are certainly courses that require learning a lot of information, but I agree with the author, Clark Quinn, that "Too often learning leaders make courses when the information doesn’t have to be in the head, it just needs to be on hand."

Quinn spends much less time on a higher level that I believe we should spend more time examining - social learning. Social learning theory is something I associate with Albert Bandura. It considers that learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context. It can occur purely through observation or direct instruction, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement.

In the early 1960s, Albert Bandura conducted what is known as the Bobo doll experiment. In the experiment, he had children observe a video of an adult aggressively playing with toys, including a Bobo doll. The large blow-up Bobo doll looks like a clown, and the adult hit the doll, knocked it down and even jumped on it while yelling words like 'pow!' and 'kick him!' When the children were subsequently allowed to play with a variety of toys, including the Bobo doll, more than half of the children modeled the adult and engaged in the same aggressive behaviors with the Bobo doll. This modeling was called Bandura's social learning theory.

Some of social learning occurs naturally in social classroom settings. Some of this theory has also been adopted by advertisers and marketers in social media settings. Social learning theory is most effective when four processes occur. Let me end here by just suggesting that every educator should consider their use of these processes intentionally and unintentionally in their teaching. The four processes are attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.


Are There No More Traditional College Students?

follow-up postQuick follow-up to yesterday's post about non-traditional students online.



I came across a Tweet that led me to a blog post saying "There are no more traditional college students." The post was actually about "student recruitment strategies" but it gets into the "shifting demographics of today’s college student, particularly as the 'non-traditional' adult learner becomes the new norm" which is something I also addressed in my earlier post.

The author is considering that there no longer is a typical or “traditional” college student because in recruiting a "one-size fits all messaging strategy will not work."

The article looks at doing some research schools need to do to determine of your potential audience: Who are they? What motivates them? and Where can you reach them? 

Certainly the first two questions are relevant to those of us already teaching them. And if you change the third question to HOW can you reach them? it is very important too.


When Nontraditional Students Become the Traditional Students

classroom

I was curious to look at this study that analyzes nontraditional students' perceptions of online course quality and what they "value." The authors categorized students into three groups: traditional, moderately nontraditional, and highly nontraditional. Those distinctions are what initially got my attention.

I hear more and more about "nontraditional students" to the degree that I'm beginning to believe that like any minority they will become a majority and then be what is "traditional." For years, I have been reading and experiencing the decline of traditional students who graduated high school and went immediately on to attend a four-year college, full time and with the majority living on campus. They are an endangered species - and that scares many schools.

In this study, they say that "There is no precise definition for nontraditional students in higher education, though there are several characteristics that are commonly used to identify individuals labeled as nontraditional.  A study by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES, 2002), identified nontraditional students as individuals who meet at least one of the following qualifiers: delays enrollment, attends part-time for at least part of the academic year, works full-time, is considered financially independent in relation to financial aid eligibility, has dependents other than a spouse, is a single parent, or does not have a high school diploma.  Horn (1996) characterized the “nontraditional-ness” of students on a continuum depending on how many of these criteria individuals meet.  In this study, respondents’ age, dependents, employment status and student status are used to define nontraditional students."

Two-year schools as a degree and job path, part-time students working full-time, older students returning to education and other "non-traditional" sources of learning (for-profits, training centers, alternative degrees, MOOCs) have all made many students "non-traditional." Some people have talked about the increasing number of "non-students" who are utilizing online training without any intention of getting credits or a certificate or degree.

The things the non-traditional students in the study value are not surprising: clear instructions on how to get started, clear assessment criteria, and access to technical support if something goes wrong. How different from the traditional students would that be?

The conclusions of the study suggest that "nontraditional students differ from more traditional students in their perceptions of quality in online courses," but they also say that "All students place great importance on having clear statements and guidelines related to how their work will be assessed." The overlap is that students always want to know "what they need to do in order to get an A."

One belief of the authors that I have observed for my 16 years of teaching online is that non-traditional students (no matter how we define them) have "multiple responsibilities and they need to ensure that the time spent on their coursework is beneficial and productive." As teachers, we would hope that this is true of all our students, even the very traditional ones who may have fewer concerns and responsibilities that are non-academic.

As a teacher or instructional designer, this reinforces the ideas that they need courses to be: well-designed, consistently presented, easily navigable, appropriately aligned, with clearly stated expectations, and information about how to and who to contact when they encounter challenges to learning. In that sense, we are all non-traditional.