Go Deep

After almost four decades of teaching, I still get a thrill when a student makes that connection that was unexpected. When a student connects something new to something learned earlier (in my class, another class, from years ago or from outside school). Students spend a lot of time encouraging those connections and probably too much time actually making the connections for students.

I also want students to "go deep", as we used to say in our pickup touch football games. That means going for a long pass that could result in glory but more often results in a missed pass. Still, you learn from it for next time.

What does it mean for students to go deeper? Deeper learning means not staying on the surface. Teachers can ask deep questions, but students need to ask deep questions too.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was the reference point I was given in my undergrad education courses. Bloom's verbs categorized how we learn. “Define” is a superficial learning interaction and “critique” is deeper.

I have been spending some time the past few months working with the Common Core State Standards. They seem to like using  seem to use Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) which is another frame of reference and common language to understand "rigor," or cognitive demand.

There are four DOK levels that grow in cognitive complexity: recall, skill/concept, strategic thinking, extended thinking.

Most teachers I encounter, especially at the college level, have little interest in the labels. They may enjoy a discussion or argument about what the levels mean, but their only interest in a taxonomy for learning is how to get to those higher or deeper levels.

Harvard Online

2 Harvard Business School 036

The question posed in a NY Times article recently was "Should Harvard Business School enter the business of online education, and, if so, how?" I was surprised that they had not done online education already. Then again, it is Harvard - old and solid and, like many a university going back a decade or two, wondering if going online weakens the brand.

I don't really know that many universities that haven't gone online to some degree, and all of them first considered what the effect would be on their reputation and on their on-campus education. Then again, you don't want to risk being left behind either.

The elite Harvard Business School seems to be trying to have it both ways. They have a new type of credential called the Credential of Readiness, or CORe, which students can take online.

Harvard has been doing MOOCs with edX, so is this really a big risk? Maybe.

The article references Clayton Christensen whose 1997 book, The Innovator's Dilemmaand The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out both got him a lot of attention. There were many articles about “disruptive innovation” and this latest article says that rival business schools (Stanford and the Wharton School) have been doing that with their massive open online courses. Offering MOOCs, free of charge to anyone, anywhere in the world doesn't seem to have destroyed their programs.

How do you place a value on having one of your professors reaching a million students? Does it dilute the value or make it grow?

Christensen's advice to Harvard is “Do it cheap and simple. Get it out there.”  But cheap and simple had never been the Harvard Business School way.

This week they launch HBX which doesn't compete with their MBA, but is a "pre-M.B.A."

"When we set out to create HBX, our mission was simple: To use technology to enhance our potential to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. We started with 100 plus years of experience in business education. We then sprinkled in every technological tool we had at our disposal. Finally, we mixed in the most critical ingredient of all, what we consider to be our secret sauce: our very own faculty, people who have spent their lives in passionate pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning.

With HBX, you'll discover that the digital learning tools are a means to an end. That doesn't mean we haven't tried to deploy these tools in a creative and ambitious way; on the contrary, we've poured hours into the conception of these learning instruments. However, the real focus has been on creating a learning experience that brings business education to life. At HBX, we believe that education should be cerebral, yes, but it should also be riveting, kinetic, social, and mind-bending. It should be a series of unanticipated discoveries that change your capacity to navigate the world. "

Your Classroom Provided By Google

Classroom google.com/edu/classroom is a new, free tool in the Google Apps for Education suite. It helps teachers create and organize assignments, provide feedback and communicate with their classes.

I have had the feeling for at least a year that Google is planning to move in a much bigger way into education, especially higher education.

This new tool lets teachers create assignments, share a single document or automatically make a copy for each student. You can see who has or hasn't completed the work and provide direct feedback. Of course, it is tied into all the other Google Apps. For example, it automatically creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student. Students can see what’s due on their Assignments page.

Currently, it is available for teachers at all levels, but you need to apply for a preview of Classroom. I did awhile back, but no preview yet. Classroom will be available to any school using Google Apps for Education by September.

I still think that the real online Google Classroom is yet to come. We will be hosting our online courses in a free Google LMS one day. Look out Blackboard, Canvas and all the rest.

I Have A Theory About Learning

Simpsons classroom


May and June are the months for "professional development" in higher education. We try to grab faculty before they go into full summer vacation mode (or get wrapped up in summer classes and research).

I taught a session at the Faculty Institute at NJIT and last week another one on writing at Georgian Court University and today I am at at New Jersey City University. Their Academic Computing group and the Center for Teaching and Learning, in collaboration with the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, is hosting their first Summer Faculty Institute on Learning Technologies. The three-day institute is a time to connect with colleagues, guest speakers, and to get hands-on practice with new technologies.

I will be one of the keynote speakers. My talk - "I Have A Theory About Learning" - will hopefully give the faculty a number of ways to think about learning theories that are emerging from current technologies. I know that some of those theories will be developed further in hands-on sessions offered during the three days.

Craig Kapp is another keynote. He is  an interactive developer that I have seen before demonstrating some really interesting tech he has developed. I first met him when he was in Instructional Technology at TCNJ.  Now, he's at New York University as a Researcher in Residence at the Interactive Telecommunications Program. His company is ZooBurst, a web-based start-up that focuses on bringing augmented reality digital storytelling tools into classrooms around the world.

Eric Sheninger is the third day keynote. I have not met him before but know of him and follow him on social media. Eric is a Principal at New Milford High School in NJ, but he is known for his work on leading and learning in the digital age. Pillars of Digital Leadership is a framework for educators to initiate sustainable change to transform school cultures.His book is Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.

I will also be doing a longer workshop session on bringing Open Educational Resources (OER) into courses. The good thing about having two hours in a workshop setting is that rather than just try to sell faculty on using something like open textbooks or open courseware, we can actually look at sites that offer them and try to find some resources that work for their classes.

Too often professional development sessions give faculty good ideas to use, but then they have to leave and do the work of designing to implement those ideas. And that's where the model breaks down.

One idea in my opening talk is that with all the talk about "flipping the classroom" I would like to hear more about flipping the teacher and flipping professional development/learning.   I think that professional development would be more effective if some of it was done online and on-your-own prior to going to any face-to-face session. Get the theory out of the way and use the synchronous time to do the work and application.

The other NJCU sessions will be looking at how to use Personal Learning Networks, flipping the classroom, lecture capture, augmented reality,
data visualization and mobile devices, assistive technology for faculty and students, clickers for class and online polling, social media technologies as tools to engage college student, and robots in education for STEM and NAO.

Your Data Is Big, But Is It Thick?

Big data is a big topic in business and is moving into education more and more.  At the New Jersey Institute of Technology where I work, there is a certificate program in this area.

I knew this a decade ago as "data mining" and recently I see the term "thick data" being used. As far as I can tell (the term isn't even in Wikipedia yet), that term is taken from other fields, including anthropology. A "thick" description of a human behavior is one that explains not just the behavior, but its context as well, such that the behavior becomes meaningful to an outsider. Thick data is taking big data and giving it context.

Big Data embraces technology, decision-making and public policy. Supplying the technology is a fast-growing market, increasing at more than 30% a year and likely to reach $24 billion by 2016, according to a forecast by IDC, a research firm.

The NJIT certificate focuses on managing and mining Big Data analytics to understand business customers, develop new products and cut operational costs. Most of the jobs emerging in Big Data require knowledge of programming and the ability to develop applications, as well as an understanding of how to meet business needs. I can see people currently working in computing as candidates for this program.

What about in education? The skills most often mentioned in connection with Big Data jobs include math, statistics, data analysis, business analytics and natural language processing. Those are not skills I associate with most educators. Who will put the Big Data into that Thick Data context for education?