Friday, December 16, 2005

Now Available: My Continuous Partial Attention

I for one am regularly overwhelmed and often wander dazed and confused through a myriad of files and repositories and feeds looking for something I once knew or something I should know… and as I multitask and live life I note that evrything is receieiving some of my attention, yet nothing is receiving all of my attention. is this condition unique to our time? Ben Watson ponders about our information overload and leads us to a relevant quote -

"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it." (Computers, Communications and the Public Interest, pages 40-41, Martin Greenberger, ed., The Johns Hopkins Press, 1971.)

Ben suggests that “maybe the first course every person should take should be on effective online search techniques and how to assemble knowledge from multiple sources of varying quality.”

In response David Grebow asked aseries of questions that we in training and learning design should be thinking about and providing solutions for -
  1. How can formal learning lay a foundation that will support the informal learning process?
  2. Recent IDC research found that we spend upto 25% of EVERY workwork searching for information. What tools and systems can we implement today to increase the effectiveness of this search?
  3. How can we provide tools and systems (e.g. Subject Matter Expert Location Programs, more focused Knowledge Repositories, Workflow Systems,embedded learning,etc. ) that enable the informal processes to be more effective. If is is truly 80% of the learning equation then people who own the P&L need to learn not to spend all their money in that little basket.
  4. What can we learn from the informal process that may - or may not - inform a somewhat more formal approach? Why does it work so well? Why do people in the workplace like it so much more than 'taking a course' or 'going to class'? Is it a cultural bias that formal learning ends at some point? That the workplace is NOT the schoolplace? That performance (being able to do) is better than knowledge (being able to know)?
  5. And perhaps most important, how can we figure out when any learning - formal or informal - is not even needed? When does 'just doing it' and moving on or as you said 'find and discard', without ever learning a thing, become acceptable?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Social Software Tools and Learning Management Systems

In the diagram above Terry Anderson illustrates the functions of four software systems used in his graduate level distance education course offered through Athabasca University’s Centre for Distance Education.

This is an example of how social software (in this case Elluminate, Me2U instance of and Furl) can work in tandem with a “traditional” LMS (well, it is open source constructivist Moodle LMS). “They each play a role in building educational social overlays that are creating the next generation of formal education webspace.”

Educational Social Overlay Networks

I’ve personally railed against the proprietary LMS and how it has hindered the opportunity to create truly effective e-learning – and I'm concerened about the future promise of social software being squelched by fear and a lack of imagination. Here we are with a wide avenue of social software ahead of us and we're still stuck in an LMS box. But embracing social software for educational purposes demands a great degree of change - for teachers (less control), students (more control) and adminstrators (more openness). Is the promise of Social Software doomed because those who fear change will cling to the LMS - the imperfect learning host of the “electronic classroom”?

Maybe not if we follow along with Terry Anderson’s vision of Educational Social Overlay Networks:

"Educational social software can be used effectively to create a type of overlay network to enhance the more formal institutional network consisting of student support , library, tuition, registration and other institutionalized services. ….. The overlay network serves to facilitate routing, search and retrieval of information in the physical network (Doval D. & O'Mahony, 2003). Ash Maurya (2005) expands the concept and discusses social overlay networks that operate at more abstract levels and focus on enhancing social relationship and collaboration in both online and offline contexts.”

The overlay network could free the learner from the confines of the LMS and meet the demands of institutional learning. This is a path worth exploring.

Functions of social software

Dave Pollard (2005) suggests that we define social software by recognizing the functional boundaries and cited the following as features that should be in social software:

  1. Finding people (in your communities of interest)
  2. Building directories, network maps and social networks
  3. Inviting people to join your networks
  4. Managing access to your networks (permissioning)
  5. Connecting/communicating with people in your networks (using various media)
  6. Managing relationships across media (e.g. e-mail to web logged to voice to voice or face to face)
  7. Collaborating with people in your networks
  8. Content publishing/sharing/filtering

Terry Anderson suggests 9 features that social software should have that could enhance distance education:

Presence tools
Cooperative learning support
Student modeling
Introducing learners to each other
Helping others
Documenting and sharing of constructed objects

    Perhaps we can merge the lists. Do these functionalities need to be unique? The list below is my attempt at merging these two lists together (where I thought they matched I put Anderson's in brackets).

    Social Software Functions

    1. Presence notification (Presence)
    2. Push and pull notification (Notification)
    3. Referral tracking (Referring)
    4. Mentor referrals (Helping others)
    5. User profiling (Student Modelling)
    6. Finding people in your communities of interest (Introducing learners to each other)
    7. Building directories, network maps, social networks
    8. Inviting people to join your networks
    9. Permissioning - Managing access
    10. Connecting/communicating
    11. Managing relationships across media
    12. Cooperating with people in your networks (Cooperative Learning Support)
    13. Content storing, publishing, sharing, filtering (Documenting and sharing of constructed objects) (Filtering)

    The Alberta Supernet Research Alliance - Broadband to the masses

    The Alberta Supernet Research Alliance website is designed to keep the populace up to date on the progress of the various groups working on the design and implementation of the Supernet broadband network in Alberta. This is a commendable project seeking to wire all municipalities – urban and rural, large and small – into a high speed network. People can access all resources and view a geographic display indicating their town and the status of the network in that area.

    It is also an informational website with areas for alliance members to update their research activity and a discussion forum for “other” members (like myself) who are not part of the alliance groups to also add their two cents into a discussion forum. But –alas - the only “interactive communications” area – the discussion forum – comes up as “not found”.

    Extremely limited personailization -The profile screen shown in the screenshot area above allows me to enter name and associated organization; a photo can be added but it just goes to the random images that are displayed as the web pages change. There is also no way to search for members - online or in database.

    Would this qualify as a virtual community or an informational website. Hmmm -
    Virtual community – 5%
    Informational website – 95%

    LearningTimes - online community of education and training professionals

    (my personal profile shown above) is just one of over 75 online community sites that make up The LearningTimes Network. The LearningTimes Network has about 130,000 active members.

    Summary: Overall – not the personalized approach that leaves me with a feeling of having a "presence". Why not a greeter to welcome me into the community? And how do I set up my community and personalize it? How do I know where the like minded interested members are? Beyond the forums and seminars (Elluminate sessions) there isn’t much here that is for free, nor much that makes it an “open community”..

    • Members have free? access to a wide range of opportunities to interact and network with peers from across the globe. Member activities include live webcasts and interviews with industry leaders, online debates and discussions, live coverage of industry conferences, and international working groups. Also features free group collaboration tools, such as virtual meeting rooms, a site-wide instant messenger, and virtual office suites. ( they say free, but I think there are some restrictions)

      The LearningTimes Meeting Room is a virtual place to meet online with colleagues – using Elluminate - live two-way audio, text chat, and a whiteboard on which you can draw, show images and snapshots of your own computer screen. Open 24 hours. (fees apply)
      Web moderator has skype – why not the members?
      Push technology - Activity updates sent to email
      Can create your own community and conduct own conference (but can’t set it up yourself)
      Member Office Suite. personal spaces for individual members to use at their discretion for meeting and collaborating with colleagues. (fees apply)
      The LOLA Awards (Live on line awards) recognize outstanding achievement in the design, delivery and production of live online learning events from across the globe. (this is nice)

      Commercial service:
      designs and produces online conferences and events
      provides the platforms, applications and promotional expertise
      Advertises featured communities (sister sites)
      producer of online educational conferences.
      Offers education courses –Certification program - $80 per hr avge 6 hrs length – ed provider is one private vendor (featured partner)
      audio blogs
      voice-based "Online Gallery Talks" (audio slide shows)
      phone-to-web audio messages and greetings
      voice email
      whiteboards, and image import tools.

      The LT Feed Room contains the most recent entries from a variety of web logs ( only 4 that I saw); what criteria for them to be there?
      advisory board and editorial Board all US – mix industry/academic/educational services
      members don’t seem to want to make their identity known - anonymous faked user names
      sampling of 500 names indicate last visit was 200 days ago
      Only 27 files for sharing
      Image gallery –nice touch but impersonal
      No active polls
      5 active list serves with avge 80 messgaes
      Discussion forum - only 300 participants in 20 topical threads
      No blogs!
      Too centralized; not localized or personalized – prefer the personal linkages member profile is very limited
      Groups to join are preset (see member profile screenshot)
      Supposed to have Instant Messenger within the community to see other members online and initiate conversations with colleagues. Where?
      No open source toolsets – all are fee based and commercial offerings

    Elgg - Leading Social Software - Learning Landscape

    Announcing Elgg - your personal learning landscape. Drop by and claim some virtual real estate and begin inviting the neighbours over!

    Link by contact, not content. Create a blog – create a profile – cite your areas of interest – find and link to others with similar interests – post pictures – create a personal presence, form relationships, engage in discussions, create your own communities!

    That’s right, you heard right! Not only can you build your own personal space, you can also build a community! Bring people and resources together around a common theme. Create study groups, tutorials, research collaborations etc. All members in a community can contribute. Each community comes equipped with a community blog, file repository, wiki, syndication and access privileges.

    What else you say? You want more ? This is already the best example of social software I've evr seen? What more do you want? A group calendar? You got it And we'll also throw in

    1) A file repository

    2) Syndication

    3) Tagging/Folksonomy

    4) Podcasting

    Get it now! Over 3,000 are already there awaiting your arrival. And it is absolutely free! Yes FREE - Social Software at it’s best – Elgg.

    Communities of Inquiry - Discussion Boards or Blogs?

    James Farmer wrote a great piece in his blog Incorporated Subversion about Communication Dynamics – Discussion Boards vs. Weblogs. He based his analysis on Garrison and Anderson’s Model of a Community of Enquiry.

    It’s worth summarizing here just so I have a copy that I can refer to ( I love linking back to original sources, but sometimes I just want to have my own copy too!).

    Garrison and Anderson (2003) state that “a community of learners is an essential, core element of an educational experience when higher order learning is the desired learning outcome” (p 22). They went on to say that in higher education a critical community of learners, “is no longer just an ideal, but has become a practical necessity in the realization of relevant, meaningful and continuous learning” (p 23). But to achieve higher order learning we must have effective communication – to create a community of critical inquiry - this is “at the heart of all forms of educational interaction” (p. 23)

    Presence: Social, Cognitive

    In their research into how to create a community of inquiry Garrison, Anderson and Archer define social presence as “the ability of participants in a community of inquiry to project themselves socially and emotionally, as “real” people, through the medium of communication being used.” They define cognitive presence as “the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse” (Garrison, Anderson 2000).

    So, what’s the better tool for communities of inquiry - Discussion boards in online learning environments or blogs?

    Traditional OLE’s are represented by the ubiquitous Learning Management System. In Canadian higher learning WebCT (merging with Blackboard) is the market leader.

    So what can you do in an LMS? The primary tool for communication is the asynchronous Discussion Board. You can post messages to a shared area or reply to existing messages in order to form a thread.

    There is email – but its internal to the system only – and there is no connection to individual students email accounts (hence offering no “push” facility), they add little to the overall communication dynamics of the OLE. Communication features include reading previous messages, posting new messages, and posting a reply to a previous message (in this case forming or contributing to a thread).

    Is there any social presence? Can students “project themselves socially and emotionally, as ‘real’ people” (Garrison & Anderson 2003)? Can they express themselves through anything but text? Personal expressions –like a picture, a signature, link to a personal website, some identifying characteristic – can be added, but they are not accommodated easily. And they are really just afterthoughts, like ciphers in the snow that someone may click on and read, or may not, at some time. Is there anyone else on line to read it as I post it? You wouldn’t know – no presence notification advises you of anyone else being “in” the forum when you’re there. This lack of knowing if anyone is “reading” also impacts on your ability to project a presence.

    What about cognitive presence? How do you engage in a community of inquiry if there is not one there? What level of discourse is possible with an audience of one? The opportunity to reflect, “construct and confirm” meaning. in a discussion board is not possible. Is anybody out there?

    How about a Weblog to facilitate communities of inquiry?

    With a weblog a user can add entries, publish by time and date, allow comments to be posted, let readers know when a new entry has been made. In higher education and in high schools weblogs are being used as personal online research and knowledge management tools (like I’m using this one). And many are using it as an ever-evolving e-portfolio and representation of personal identity. This is my space, I can make it my own, and choose to share my research and thoughts or not. And you can choose to respond and engage me in a discussion. And notice of your comment entry is “pushed” to me e-mail, and I can choose to respond to you immediately.

    Weblogs allow social presence – the blog is private space with the blogger’s identity stamped all over it. The blogger owns the blog and the entire publication process. Although the primary communication is through text, pictures can be added, links to photo, audio or videoblogs can be inserted.

    Weblogs certainly support sustained discourse as evidenced by the development and spread of linked entries throughout the blogosphere, but is the discourse reflective, critical and purposeful? By it’s nature the weblog is a reflective medium – akin to a diary or journal – and it can be archived – to create a historical portfolio of entries. It can offer both social presence and cognitive presence.

    So which communication tool is best for a community of inquiry of higher order learning? I vote for the weblog. A teacher could even position their wblog as an organic central node to the class, and the “push, pull” technology of the webfeed could keep the discourse happening, and the teacher is able to facilitate and direct cognitive and social processes.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Online year end party

    Kudos to Terry Anderson.
    How do you have a year end party in a virtual class?

    Check out the description of his online year end party with his class. Terry teaches online from Athabasca University in Alberta. At year end he had an online "celebration" with his class to end the session and to celebrate the season. A great attempt at using social software (in this case Elluminate) to "socialize" over the internet.

    My 11 year old daughter is also uisng the web to socialize - Last night she installed Google talk, with visual, and she is now holding conference calls with three of her friends in Toronto ( we live in Edmonton at present). They were discussing Christmas yesterday and what each would like to receive at xmas - textual and verbal conversation were going on as well as the visual antics.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    From E-Learning 1.0 to E-Learning 2.0

    The Past E-learning 1.0 to the Future E-Learning 2.0
    1. Moving from Preprogrammed/behavouristic To Connectedness/ constructivist
    2. Moving from Centralized To Localized
    3. Moving from Institutionalized To Personalized
    4. Less Teacher control More Student control
    5. Not just Teacher to Student But T to S, S to S, S to T, S to C
    6. Not just Content based Now Relationship based
    7. Not a Push But a Pull, attract
    8. Redefine Course, program To Learning “molecules”, connections
    9. From Knowledge capital To Social capital
    10. Not Limiting freedom But Expanding freedom
    11. No longer an Instructor Now a Learning analyst
    12. From Instructional designer To Learning experience architect
    13. Expand ISD To ELSD Experiential learning Systems Design (o.k. acronym has flashbacks)
    14. No to WebCT Yes to Elgg, Flock

    Twenty Educational Applications Of Social Software

    Educational Social Software: Twenty Ways
    1. Create learning environment using Flock, Moodle
    2. Free data storage on
    3. Build profile, community on or
    4. Collaboratively create annotated map using
    5. Team communication via (email, weblog,wiki,IM)
    6. Collaborative document development via or
    7. Share bookmarked resources using
    8. Find mobile team members using Active Campus (IM on cell phones)
    9. Common calendar thanks to Calendars Net
    10 Shared reminders, files, resources posted to
    11. Audio/video conferencing via Quorum Tools or Elluminate
    12. Build a learning community using Community zero
    13. Learn anywhere thanks to Java enabled PDA, Cell phone
    14. Mentoring/coaching through Ask Me Enterprise, coachingplatform
    15. Map e-mail activity and discover level of connection with
    16. Find friend of a classmate to billet with at
    17. Book face to face meeting through
    18. Visually map the social network among students using
    19 Visually map file sharing network using
    20. Post reflections about learning experience at