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EduSoCal Keynote by Wesch


At EduSoCal 2013 I was able to collaborate and speak with other EdTech and Instructional Design professionals.  EduSoCal (@EduSoCal), is “the premier face-to-face conference in California where you Meet/Share/Learn/Play with your local peers and colleagues working in the fields of Information and Educational technology.”

weschThe Keynote Address by Michael Wesch (@mwesch) was not only informational, but affirming as well. Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture and his speech gave some valuable insight on Transformative Learning Theory and new media.

Wesch stated, “asking questions is the most amazing thing humans do; questions are the beginning point of deep learning.” Therefore, his basic theme involved helping students “Learn to Learn”.

In designing his courses, he doesn’t design them for the sake of instruction, but for Transformative Learning. As stated in an earlier post, this learning theory focuses on how the learner will revise and interpret learning to change their point of view. Transformative Learning is the process of changing one’s frame of reference.

Michael Wesch discussed how in education we need to embrace Transformative Learning by enabling students to become adaptive experts rather than passive absorbers of information. His focus is on stimulating wonder. He stimulates wonder by allowing his students to A) pick a project and B) pick new media. By allowing the students to pick their projects and media it helps the students accomplish a goal without the want for a grade.

An example of one such project is when students decided to research the accessibility of a city by bicycle. They used a free source Internet Map (similar to GoogleMaps) to map out dangerous areas for bikes. The result was visible evidence of how poorly the city was designed for bikes. Even more significant, the project caught the eye of city council and brought on change to the infrastructure.

When asked, which three instructional tools/techniques he’d bring to a deserted Island (while ignoring the logical problems of this scenario) to teach. He described a three step process:

1)      Make sure that the Project is Real and Relevant. Real meaning that the instructor does not know the answer. And Relevant means that students will work on it even if a grade is not associated with the project.

2)      The project must Build Community (like the biking community).

3)      The project must Leverage Technology (like the bike map).

What is also important is that the core assumption for IT people should be that of connecting people. Don’t use technology for technology’s sake. Use technology to connect or build community. My goal of this blog is not just to use a blog, but to gain a following of like-minded people or people also interested in EdTech and Instructional Design.

Finally, a poignant statement made by Wesch is that “technology is a Trojan horse for changing education, but it needs an army inside the horse.” What he meant by this is that technology is a great way to change education, however, you still need a slew of people or EdTech professionals (the army) to conquer (change) education.

Now, I’ll leave you with one last thought (and please comment below or tweet @julietausend): How do you convince administration and other colleagues to not only support but design a Transformative Learning experience with the appropriate technologies?


EduSoCal ’13 Presentation: Social Media in the Classroom

It’s a special treat for my regular followers, you’re hearing from me twice this week!


But it was an even better treat for myself, as I was able to collaborate and speak with other EdTech and Instructional Design professionals at EduSoCal 2013. EduSoCal, is “the premier face-to-face conference in California where you Meet/Share/Learn/Play with your local peers and colleagues working in the fields of Information and Educational technology.”

A follow-up post on the Keynote Address by Michael Wesch has been written. Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture and his speech gave some valuable insight on Transformative Learning Theory and new media.

I presented on the topic of using social media in the classroom- “Help! My Students are 3,000 miles Away! Using Social Media to Interact with Online Students”. (View a PDF version of my presentation slides- EduSoCal13Presentation)

Video Syllabus

What do you do when you teach an online class 3,000 miles away from your students? Many would say, use Web conferencing to hold synchronous or live class sessions.

I would typically whole heartedly agree. However, not only am I teaching students located in Ithaca, New York while I am in Los Angeles, I am also working a full-time day job with at least a 90 minute commute. This means the earliest I’d be able to meet online would be 8 pm PST or 11 pm EST for my undergraduate students. In addition, five of my students are studying abroad in London. Therefore, unless I want to torture my students late at night or during the weekend, synchronous Web conferencing sessions are just not possible.

So, again, I ask, what does an instructor do when they teach students who are in different time zones?

My solution was simple. I created a “Video Syllabus” to introduce the course, the course environment, and my expectations in regards to requirements. I used lecture capture software that allowed me to record both my Web cam and my desktop, along with audio, at one time. I navigated to the online course environment to show exactly where the students needed to go to obtain relevant course materials. As I moved my cursor, the lecture capture system recorded the moves. This makes it easier for students to visualize where they need to go, as opposed to reading text directions.

In addition, having my Web camera record me as I spoke, allowed for a better interpersonal connection. Students liked that they were able to see me and put my face and voice together with the person who was lecturing and responding to Discussion forums. It shows that there’s an actual instructor involved in the course and not a random group of people hired as graders.

I saw a decreased number of emails asking for clarification on requirements compared to semesters when I did not us the video syllabus.

Social Media: Facebook and Twitter

Another hurdle I’ve faced is “how do I get my students excited in the content, when I’m 3,000 miles away?” This is an obstacle that many online instructors have to overcome. Since this course is only a one-credit course and my students are undergraduates, I decided to take advantage of the interests of the millennial generation by using Twitter and Facebook.

The class is designed based on discussion relating to topics of: Career planning, Professional Culture, Networking, Work Life, Professional Development, and Work Place Professionalism.

The Facebook Group is SEPARATE (as in I don’t friend my students) and PRIVATE (as in only those on the course roster are invited). Participation this term was optional. I had 90% of my students use Facebook, and of those, 100% were active. Twitter had a 75% user rate, with 80% of those users being active.

The Facebook and Twitter accounts also have varying levels of interaction from the Passive class announcements and reminders, to supplemental materials to be read, to the more interactive extra credit assignments, and the highly interactive Guest Speakers.

To engage my students, I created a Facebook Group and Twitter Feed and arranged for “Guest Speakers” to join us in our social networks for specific topics. The Guest Speakers have the flexibility to respond anytime during the week, which makes commitment from our guests much easier than having to travel to campus.

Students are required to participate in the Guest Speaker sessions by posting questions to the guests on the designated topic. The students read short biographies of our guests and have asked questions that result in the reflection of our guests’ career and education experiences. Most of our guests are Ithaca College Alumni, so there’s already a bond created and a frame of reference for the discussion.

Since the discussion posts have been lengthy, our guest speakers have preferred to use Facebook as the communication medium. Therefore, I’ve found other uses for our Twitter feed. Class announcements, such as due dates, are a basic use of the tool. However, students have been using the Twitter feed for Extra Credit. For example, students were asked to attend a Job/Intern Fair and collect a minimum of three business cards. To earn the extra credit, they needed to tweet a photo of each business card and state what the company was seeking in an employee. Not only did the photos prove they attended (since I’m off campus and cannot provide an attendance sheet), but the tweets also alerted their classmates of the opportunities available. Next term, I’d like to utilize Twitter for concise and dynamic discussion, but I need to work on aligning pedagogy with the tool in order to accomplish the goal.

I saw a pattern in the discussion, with 75% of questions occurring the first three days of the lesson, 5% occurring mid-week, and 20% of the questions occurring the last day. The fact that students participated from an early start makes me believe that they were excited about how the Guest Speaker sessions are conducted.

The big question is- How are you using Social Media and New Media? Comment below!

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