Commentary: November 2011 Archives

Back from Sloan-C

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Sloan-C is a huge conference and I got a chance to view presentations on a number of topics. I did find a few recurring themes though.

Mobile Tech in Education

I went to several report outs on different mobile projects including one from University of Minnesota and one from Penn State World Campus. A few common themes did emerge.

  1. Students still find mobile a check in and passive viewing device rather than a production device. Having had to check e-mail and take notes all week with just mobile, I would have to agree here. I am able to use mobile to take initial camera shots and jot impressionistic notes, but I end up editing them later on my laptop.

  2. World Campus experimented with delivering a lot a materials such as the syllabus, flashcards, readings via Mobile, but one thing students requested was a Calendar synch function. a function much used on actual mobile users.

  3. Students are happy to participate in iPad loaner projects, but resent having to return it.Unlike laptops and cameras, most mobile devices are deeply tied into a person's profile and data is hard to transfer elsewhere. One person suggested that a mobile device requirement might be better than a loaner project.
  4. Students generally liked mobile, but many actually observed that games like Angry Birds were awfully distracting. I agree again, but I would ask if we can take better advantage of that feature? Can we include clicker integration, Twitter integration? In the same vein, can we design small games which can tie in to specific objectives? Flash cards are nice, but it would be nice to move beyond that also.

OER Movement

There was a lot of discussion about the implications of Open Education Resources and how we should move forward. A keynote from Cable Green suggests mandating lower prices from textbook publishers since many purchases of K-12 textbooks are subsidized by tax dollars (and even many higher ed textbooks are brought with federal loan money). I understand his point, but with a policy mandate that large, I always feel we need to review overall implications. Some laws with great intentions have had some very bad unexpected consequences.

Another issue that recurs is how to actually work with OERs. Making syllabi, lecture notes and even recorded lectures is one issue, but how do students access instructional support? A missing piece is mentoring. A few people noted that mentoring networks could be added to this puzzle, but again who trains the mentors in what the content means? Without this piece, even a learning community could feel isolated.

I think making content open is a valuable piece of the puzzle, but I hope we don't think it will replace what happens on campus. For the past 10 years, a variety of educators have predicted that the "traditional campus" will disappear, but I am more doubtful. The "traditional" environment has provided a number of social advantages not afforded in an online environment from spring dances to drinking beer with your advisor in grad school.

For better or worse, getting a Cisco certification or reading a Yale syllabus isn't the same as actually attending a 4 year college, and I think we need to remember that.I think this is where proper use of social communication tools will help, but that will be much more than just posting a syllabus in Facebook also.