Monday, December 8, 2008

Week 14. Online distance learners in Japan

This week, I reviewed an article “Predictors of Learning Satisfaction in Japanese Online Distance learners.” This article studied the online distance education in Japan. Reading this article, the feeling was complicated, because I could still remember the first day I participated in R685, we all agreed that we are far behind the emerging technology. The article I read here was published in 2008, and according to the authors, we are still far behind. However, the surprising points is that the reason we are falling behind is not because we don’t the access to reach these emerging technology, but because we are hamper to bread the original model such as the author mentioned, the teachers’ authoritative role, culture value. I was also surprised to know that so far, there are still only a few universities in Japan where students can study entirely online at a distance. Because of the invention of technology products such as NDS, PS3, XBOB, I think the technology integration in education in Japan should be very flourish; however, the truth is that they might be more falling behind than other Asian countries, such as China where the open-sources software is supported by governments, and other institutions. As educators, I think though new doesn’t necessarily better, we at least need to give it a try and should not sacrifice students’ benefits just because we are hamper to step forward.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Week 13. II Sarah "Intellagirl" Robbins – The Pink Hair Lady

This week, we had a guest speaker who is “intellagirl.” I was so fascinated by what she is doing now. The real name of “intellagirl” is Sarah Robbins who is a Ph. D. candidate in Ball state University. She and her husband (Mark Bell) wrote a book called “Second Life for Dummies.” Intellagirl and her husband gave us some brief introduction about the second life, but there are two parts which really caught my attentions. The first part is the identity issue in the second life, and the second part is using second life teaching composition.

I take a “Young Adolescent Development” course this semester, and during the class, we discuss a lot of issues about developing identity during the development, but I never think about by interacting with others and different communities in the second life could be one possibility. Everyone can create their own account and edit the appearance of their avatars; this, according to the intellagirl, is the process of building identity. Maybe most of us will think that online users are more likely to disguise what they should be and create a new one identification; however this is a misconception. According to the research, most of the users see their on-line identity as an extension of their real identities. As a real life, there are hair style stores, cloth stores, and different kinds of fashion stores in the second life, everyone can use these small decorations to create their unique identity. The other interesting part related to identity was that, as the real world, we can distinguish or make assumptions about a person by observing one’s dressing, in the virtual world, such as “World of Warcraft,” we can also distinguish different characteristics by the decoration they have. For example, if you see other players have a crown, you are supposed to know they are experienced players, because those decorations can only gain by participating in and win during the wars. However, if someone who gain that decoration by buying from other players, this kind of behavior is also seen as cheating, and breaking the community rule. Intellagirl use the second life teaching composition which is really a new application for me. This idea even inspired me to have my final project- using second life as an assistant tool or complementary tool to teach EFL multilingual writers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Week 13. Game-based learning experiences – Second Life (SL)

Everyone likes to play games, but not everyone likes to study. In the past, there was a clear cut between playing and learning; however, because of the emerging technology, now we can learn by exploring the virtual world.

Second life is the first virtual learning environment I visit, and it was founded by Philip Rosedale in 2003. SL was designed for users to immersed in a 360 degree virtual world experiences, but later, more and more “residents” (individual as well as institutions)contribute to the virtual world and even create more possibilities and potential. Nowadays, we can experience many learning and teaching applications in the second life, such as Shakespeare Theater, Princeton library, Stanford University, and etc.

From my viewpoint, SL best represents the “Web 2.0” feature among other technologies. The first important feature is the “give & take” culture which I believe is the best and most important feature. All buildings, objects, and resources are created by residents. Later, other residents share these resources, and create more other resources. Second, second life provide a plateform where people can freely login and interact (socialize) with other residents. Third, second life is easy to access. Once you have computers or even mobile devices (ex. iphone), you can download the software and play it anytime. Fourth, there’s not limitation. You are free to explore any island, and participated in any events. As users, you are responsible for your own behavior. You decide what you want to explore and when you want to leave when you don’t like the islands or the events.

The future of the second life is hard to predict, because the community culture in the second life is hold by all residents, and maybe those who haven’t been there; however, maybe one of the residents one day. In other words, it’s the users to create their own culture which is very powerful, and unpredictable. I will be looking forward to see what the second life looks life 5 years after!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Week 12. Podcasting, Webcasting, and Coursecasting

Regarding technology application in education, I always try to avoid using because I want to, but using when necessarily and when students have benefit. I have a lot of chances to discuss course design with teachers this week, and I found that most of them are gradually accept the truth that more and more technology has been adopted in the physical classroom. However, I found out most of the teachers they still perceive “technology application” from the “web 1.0” perspectives.

Take my “teaching writing to EFL multilingual writing practicum” for example, our group member decided to have on-line forum. This on-line forum discussion will ask students read articles or watch videos and then they have to post and respond to others. I asked my other group members, what are their purposes or reasons for integrate on-line discussion in the physical classroom? They told me, “We want it because we want students to do something at home after the regular class hours is replaced by individual meeting with the instructors. Besides, it’s different from traditional writing class so it might work.” I argued these two points strongly.

First of all, I believe that before adopting new technologies in the teaching, these technologies should be evaluated. In the “Formative evaluation strategies helped identify a solution to a leaning dilemma,“ the authors suggested using formative evaluation strategies to evaluated new technology which provided users criterions to measure the achievement of the goals. In the articles, there are students from medical school requested that lectures should be videotaped and make available on a Web site. To respond students’ request, school use formative evaluation to systematically determine whether videotaping was the best solution. By doing this, school course designers can understand students’ attitude, parents’ attitude, and solutions for possible problems. All these pre-testing evaluation can provide a clear guideline for future adjustment. Second, merely integrate an on-line activity into traditional classroom will not make the class different, because technology will not function till it is well designed. I believe that on-line discussion should be used when students can have more productive produce. Overall, I believe technology can bring more possibilities, and break the limitation within traditional classrooms, but all these benefits relied on well-designed course structures.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Week11. Educational Blogging

“ A February 20074 reports published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project noted that at least 3 million American have created blogs, with similar numbers being seen worldwide. “ (Stephen Downes, 2004)

As other web 2.0 technologies, blogging can be used in a various way. Some people use blogs to share their daily life, some people use blog as a creation of course projects, some people use blogs to be their learning journals. All these bloggers share one common feature which is using blogs as a communication tool to exchange ideas with others. Not only exchange ideas with others, these bloggers present their own personalities by creating their personal blogs which reflecting different writing styles, contents selection, or the links they provided for their readers. There is another common tool we often see in these blogs which is “RSS” feed. RSS stands for Rich Site summary or Real simple Syndication. Like subscribing newspapers or magazines in the real world, readers subscribe blogs they are interested in. Once bloggers update new articles, these new updates will automatically download to your computer or mobile gadget. In other worlds readers don’t need to go back and check each blogs individually. This function does save time, but we discuss whether it is good or bad in terms of learning process.

Our concern is that maybe due to the convenience of the information retrieving, students no longer need to search the information, and make some efforts to get the information. We say that by exploring the internet resources, students can develop the so call “21st century skills “(Schrier, 2006) as follows:
• Information Management skills
• Media Fluency skills
• Communication skills
• Critical thinking and problem solving skills
• Enthusiasm, creativity, and curiosity
• Consideration of multiple perspectives
• Teamwork and collaboration skills
• Self-direction, responsibility and reflective learning skills
• Social, Global, and Community Awareness
However, if students become lazy and take those automatically download function for granted, they will lose their motivation to practice and conduct the above skills. As a consequence they lose their chance to develop 21st learning skills. Though this is also my concern, I have a positive attitude. I think maybe these skills will still be developed unconsciously. After all, nowadays, we know that student can not only learn from formal education but informal education.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Week 10. Interactive and Collaborative Learning

This week we talked about distance learning. Different from physical classroom, distance learning breaks up many limitations such as single learning environment, time limitation, and content format. Because distance learning has much flexibility compared to physical classroom, distance learners can be various, too. This can be a potential challenge for instructors. How can instructors design successful distance online course where everyone can learn? However, to boosting online learning outcome, it relied on the interaction and collaborative between instructors and learners. Take one of my on-line learning experiences for example. Usually the instructor gave us some guiding questions, based on these questions; students have to post opinions or responds online. A successful discussion will be continued if most of the students actively participated posing and responding activates. In other words, the richness of content will also be created if students interact with each other, and collaborate to create more and more content online.

From my viewpoint, to contribute a successful distant learning, the instructors have to create an interactive and collaborative learning environment where encourage each learners to participate in the class actives. For distance-learners, we will expect them to have strong self-regulated abilities, because no one will monitor their learning pace

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Week 9. Wikis, Wikipedia, Wiki books, and Collaborative Writing

This week, each of the students in the class has to create our own wiki account. By creating an account, your editing efforts will be recorded rather than being an anonymous contributor.

I believe that for most of the people the first wiki product they knew will be “Wikipedia,” an open-content encyclopedia, built on wiki technology (Bryant, Forte & Bruckman, 2005). It is also my experience. It is very common that you Google search a word, the first result comes out will be the Wikipedia. Later, because of some limitation, wiki created another application call “wiki chapter,” which allows more content to be present at one time. The article I read for this week called, “Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of Participation in a Collaborative Online Encyclopedia.” This article explains what’s Wikipedia, and also present the creation process of the wikipedians. According to the authors, wikipedians can simply be categorized into 2 types: novice and experts. Novice is newbie in the wiki space, and their primary goal is collecting information. What they do is observing other wikipedians, and edits some minor errors such as grammar errors, spelling errors. However, for experts, they create contents. The goal for these wikipedians experts is not only contributes to quality contents but the appeal of community, and perceived contributions to society (Bryant, Forte & Bruckman, 2005). Wiki space provides a good place for scaffolding skills where novice improve their skills by observing or inquiring other wikipedians and when they are ready, they will take one step forward to edit other’s words. However, editing other’s work may cause some quarrel. To solve this problem, wiki space provided “talk pages” for these contributors to negotiate. All these activate provides wiki users a space to contribute to our community and also a space to negotiable to each other and produce quality products. This point is what I don’t know before I read these articles. Therefore, if I found people who critique the content quality of wiki products, I may try to let them know the content there is not merely cut and post, but collaborative writing products which going through a process of discussion and negotiation.