Monday, March 31, 2014

The Statistics of a Degree

This video posits that the school system somehow robs students and that they will be better off if they don't get a degree. Instead they should educate themselves on the street or in their garage. The performer (yes, he's performing to get a YouTube paycheck by millions of us watching his video and associated advertisements) asks the watcher to look at the statistics, and then proceeds to list off a dozen predictable outliers who were wildly successful without graduating from college.

Let's actually look at the statistics, shall we?

Maybe you're special and will be the next outlier. Maybe our schools could do things more efficiently (okay, not maybe; they do need an overhaul). Maybe you'll be more likely to have a higher paying job if you get a degree.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Help Seeking - An Annotated Bibliography

Aleven, V., Stahl, E., Schworm, S., Fischer, F., & Wallace, R. (2003). Help seeking and help design in interactive learning environments. Review of Educational Research 73(3).

Help seeking can be seen, not as dependence of the learner, but as self-regulated behavior that helps to develop independent ability. For this to be the case, the help seeking needs to be effective. There are various types of computer-based instruction, including intelligent tutoring systems (AI gives context-sensitive hints), computer assisted instruction (feedback on actions without AI to guide), educational hypermedia (cross-linked information), and problem/based systems (authentic problems with background information and hints about solving the problem). Help seeking model is presented: aware of need for help, decide to seek help, identify helpers, ask for help, and evaluate help. Many studies actually show ineffective use of computer based learning, but that on demand help does tend to help students learn better. Student prior knowledge is a major influence in student performance and success, both in terms of familiarity with the subject and the learning environment. Help seeking ability improves with age due to better ability to monitor one’s own performance. In terms of gender, males are less likely to seek help than females in traditional classroom environments, and while there is less research in computer based learning environments, similar results have been found. A focus on performance rather than learning can lead to avoidance of help seeking.

Anderson, T. (2003). Getting the mix right again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 4(2).

Interaction may be defined as only between two people, but here they accept the definition that allows any people or objects to interact with and influence each other, so a student may interact with another student or may interact with content. It’s difficult to know for sure if interactions, as helpful as they may be, actually have educational value. Some students choose programs that minimize the amount of person to person interaction required. A high level of interaction with content, other students, or the teacher may be sufficient, even if the other forms are not present (although student/teacher interaction is perceived as the highest value). Student/content interactions can take the place of many person to person interactions in the right circumstances.

Azevedo, R., Moos, D.C., Greene, J.A., Winters, F.I., & Cromley, J.G. (2008). Why is externally-facilitated regulated learning more effective than self-regulated learning with hypermedia? Educational Technology Research and Development 56(1).

This study compared self-regulated and externally facilitated learning with adolescents studying complex topics. If students lack metacognitive abilities, such as planning, setting goals, activating prior knowledge, and so on, ineffective strategies may lead to less effective use of online resources. The tutor provides individualized scaffolding to each student, that fades (although not completely away) during the course. Tutor-led scaffolding conditions helped students obtain a more complex mental model, as well as more declarative knowledge, and different metacognitive strategies were used by both groups. The study is fairly limited based on age, low prior knowledge, and relatively complex nature of the content.

Butler, R. (1998). Determinants of help seeking: Relations between perceived reasons for classroom help-avoidance and help-seeking behaviors in an experimental context. Journal of Educational Psychology 90(4).

This study dealt with help-avoidance. Students will seek less help for assessments identified as to test competence compared to assessments that are an opportunity to learn. This is because their reluctance is often due to perceptions that learning should be autonomous and that asking for help is evidence of incompetence. This can lead to students who do need help to seek covert help (cheating). Some students may ask for help in solving a problem because they simply want to finish, not necessarily learn anything. Students with ability-focused orientation asked fewer questions than those with autonomous or expedient orientations. Boys with ability-focused orientation cheated more often. One observation that wasn’t a specific purpose of the study was that teachers participating in the study created an environment more conducive to asking questions than is normally found in classrooms. Also limited due to young age of students.

Elen, J., Clarebout, G., Leonard, R., & Lowyck, J. (2007). Student-centred and teacher-centred learning environments: What students think. Teaching in Higher Education 12(1).

Balanced view includes sharing instructional tasks between teacher and student at different points in time. Transactional view is similar, in that student and teacher share responsibilities, but the teacher has the additional responsibility of monitoring and coaching the student through their part. Independent view claims that their roles are fundamentally different. The survey tended to confirm that student-centeredness and teacher-centeredness are not necessarily on the extreme ends of the continuum, so giving more power to students doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher’s job goes away completely. They can actually be mutually reinforcing.

Karabenick, S.A. (2011). Classroom and technology-supported help seeking: The need for converging research paradigms. Learning and Instruction 21(2).

Help seeking is more likely to occur in a context focused on learning and understanding than ones focused on ability or where public disclosure may be embarrassing. Differences exist between research in computer-mediated environments and traditional classrooms. When presenting new information, one study showed preferences for a more structured environment, but given the new methods for the teacher and new content for the students, the study’s results may not be applicable elsewhere. Motivational content may lead to additional help-seeking behaviors. Help-seeking is susceptible to social influence, even when not interacting with another person directly.

Lebak, K. & Tinsley, R. (2010). Can inquiry and reflection be contagious? Science teachers, students, and action research. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 21, 953-970.

Case studies of three science teachers who converted from a teacher-centered approach to an inquiry-based approach for student learning. Whether the teacher was unaware of a need for change, working with special needs students, or limited in the amount of time to conduct experiments, they all found students were more engaged by being hands-on. Peer reflection and feedback (of the teacher’s peers) was important in helping the teachers transform their classrooms. Both the students and teachers evolve dramatically during the conversion to inquiry learning.

Makitalo-Siegl, K. & Fischer, F. (2011). Stretching the limits in help-seeking research: Theoretical, methodological, and technological advances. Learning and Instruction 21(2).

As help seeking is a social behavior, some less socially oriented learners may avoid seeking help, so computer-based resources may reduce barriers that prevent face to face interactions. It is important to look at help seeking behaviors in a variety of environments, tied to various forms of instruction, with various types of resources available. In addition to studying the technology involved, it’s important to look at motivational and emotional dimensions.

Mercier, J. & Frederiksen, C. (2008). The structure of the help-seeking process in collaboratively using a computer coach in problem-based learning. Computers & Education 51(1).

There is little research on help-seeking in an online environment, as it is mostly in a social context like a classroom. Problems students may encounter in learning a new domain include not understanding the solution schema, not understanding the content, and making a mistake in the process. When problems occur, help can overcome the impasse. With a computer tutor, instead of having the expert monitor the student’s progress and needs, the student has to monitor his or her own progress and needs. Phases in the Mercier model: recognize impasse, diagnose impasse, establish specific need for help, find help, read and comprehend help, and evaluate help.

Peterson, S., & Palmer, L. (2011). Technology Confidence, Competence and Problem Solving Strategies: Differences within Online and Face-to-Face Formats. Journal of Distance Education, 25(2).

When students encounter a new problem, they often hesitate to participate because of a lack of confidence; however, research shows that that is the point where they need to engage with others, in order to solve a problem and move to more challenging tasks. Four problem solving strategies include: seeking instructor assistance, seeking peer assistance, further reading, and trial and error, all of which can be effective methods. One study showed that online students felt more comfortable asking for help than traditional students. In this study of university teacher education students, face to face students often waited for instructor assistance, while online students tended to do more trial and error or further reading, and the online students were more competent.

Roll, I., Aleven, V., McLaren, B.M., & Koedinger, K.R. (2011). Improving students’ help-seeking skills using metacognitive feedback in an intelligent tutoring system. Learning and Instruction 21(2).

A tutoring system must be able to detect metacognitive errors and encourage appropriate behavior. Help-seeking advice from the tutoring system can improve such behaviors within other domains of study.

Ryan, A.M., Pintrich, P.R., & Midgley, C. (2001). Avoiding seeking help in the classroom: Who and why? Educational Psychology Review 13(2). The help seeking process starts when students realize there is a problem and then decide to seek help. Students may choose not to seek help because they believe they should not, that no one is competent to help, that it may take too long, or that it highlights one’s incompetence. Highly competent students are more likely to ask for help, because they don’t think others will think poorly of them for it; low achievers are more concerned about what others think.

Weerasinghe, T., Ramberg, R., & Hewagamage, K. (2012). Inquiry-Based Learning With or Without Facilitator Interactions. Journal of Distance Education, 26(2).

Inquiry-based learning promotes higher engagement and construction of knowledge in complex content areas. Teachers have an important role in encouraging participation in a community, but other types of interactions can be effective as well. The inquiry process includes four major phases: triggering event, exploration, integration, and resolution (see Gagne’s 9 Events). The study compared online course discussions with and without a teacher or TA present. They found that the dialogues in both cases students were able to attain high levels of interaction and inquiry and meaningful learning. If anything, when the facilitator was not present, students picked up the slack in terms of additional metacognitive activities.

Wood, D. (2009). Comments on learning with ICT: New perspectives on help seeking and information searching. Computers & Education 53(4).

Digital technologies have allowed for additional research into the area of help seeking, although there is little information so far that has been studied. It does seem clear that self-regulation is important, they need to be encouraged to use resources available to them, and students will be more successful as an independent learner if they paradoxically seek help when needed. While human facilitators are common and natural, it’s possible that automated recommender systems and knowledge bases may be as effective as those technologies become more robust.

Wood, D., Bruner, J.S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 17(2).

Tutoring, where one member of a group knows how to do something others do not is a common feature of learning, especially with young children. Scaffolding, controlled by an adult, allows the child to solve a problem initially beyond his or her reach. One key that must exist is a recognition and understanding of a solution in order to be able to come up with one’s own solution. Younger children were as adept at recognizing appropriate solutions, although less adept at creating their own solutions. The tutor needs to understand both the task at hand and the characteristics of the tutee.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The State of the Education

This week we had the State of the Union and State of the State addresses. I didn't listen to or watch either. I guess I'm a bit disillusioned with our government right now. Maybe I don't want to listen to our president talk about creating jobs, when he has never had a real job himself. Maybe I don't want to listen to our governor talk about how he wants 2/3 of adults in our state to have college degrees, when he does not have a college degree himself.

I think jobs and education are important, but I think we're doing it all wrong. It shouldn't be surprising that these all came across my feed reader or FB almost all at the exact same time a day or two ago, given the mix of RSS readers I subscribe to, but I thought they all fit together nicely.

First is Roger Schank's post about the need for a different kind of university that trains people for jobs instead of training people to be professors.
Most universities have copied the “training of intellectuals and professors model of education” and have disregarded the idea that future employment might be of major concern to students. Professors can do this because they are forced by no one to teach job skills. They don’t really know much about job skills in any case. The major focus of a professor at any research university is research. Teaching is low on their priority list and teaching job skills is far very from any real concern. So, economics departments teach theories of economics and not how to run a business, and law schools teach the theory of law and not how to be a lawyer, and medical schools teach the science of the human body but not how to be a doctor. Psychology focusses on how to run an experiment, when students really want to know why they are screwed up or why they can’t get along. Mathematics departments teach stuff that no one will ever use, and education departments forget to teach people how to teach.

Still we hear that everyone must go to college. Why?
Right after that came this about regulators in California threatening to fine and shut down schools that teach students how to code and practically guarantee them a job immediately upon completion of the program.
In the learn-to-code movement, online schools and in-person courses are springing up to meet a huge need for more developers across a wide range of industries. For a price, these schools offer training in digital skills, such as software development, data science, and user experience design.

Many of these boot camps have a strong social purpose: They specialize in bringing diversity to the tech sector and in helping underemployed or unemployed Californians find jobs. Hackbright, for instance, specializes in teaching women to code so they can compete for lucrative computer engineering jobs.

These bootcamps have not yet been approved by the [the government] and are therefore being classified as unlicensed postsecondary educational institutions that must seek compliance or be forcibly shut down.
And finally this brilliant Ted Talk by Temple Grandin, where she explains how we need all kinds of minds, including both verbal and visual thinkers.
The thing is, the normal brain ignores the details. Well, if you're building a bridge, details are pretty important because it will fall down if you ignore the details. And one of my big concerns with a lot of policy things today is things are getting too abstract. People are getting away from doing hands-on stuff. I'm really concerned that a lot of the schools have taken out the hands-on classes, because art, and classes like that, those are the classes where I excelled.

What can visual thinkers do when they grow up? They can do graphic design, all kinds of stuff with computers, photography, industrial design. The pattern thinkers, they're the ones that are going to be your mathematicians, your software engineers, your computer programmers, all of those kinds of jobs. And then you've got the word minds. They make great journalists, and they also make really, really good stage actors.

The world needs different kinds of minds to work together.
...not more professors

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I'll post here soon something showing the most common search terms and posts from this past year, but I don't like posting that kind of thing until the year is over. What if something totally awesome happens on December 30th and doesn't show up in any of top 10 lists because they had been put together before the year was over? It could be like how I got to go to two Rotary Club dinners when I earned my Eagle Scout, because I earned it near the end of one year, but it was awarded to me the next year. Of course, it could be the opposite, where the top thing never gets recognized because it slips in the crack between the two years.

In the meantime, I'll say that it seems like time is moving faster and faster each year. A friend of mine shows the math and how it works that as you are younger, a year is a larger percent of your life, but as you get older, each year is smaller and smaller relative to all the things you've already experienced. Then the point is to think about how we get on kids for not being able to sit through a one hour meeting, but an hour for them is the equivalent of like a week for adults. The math is fun and interesting, but most importantly, I think it's true. An older couple in our neighborhood talks about how they don't feel like they are old - they feel like they're the same people they were 50, 60, or 70 years ago. They are, yet they're not.

I heard someone explain it that as you turn a year older, you are the new age, but you are also all the previous ages. So while I'm currently 36, I'm also at the same time 25, 18, 12, 8, 2, and every age in between. I need now the things a 36 year old needs, plus the same things I needed when I was in kindergarten, when I was just starting to drive, and when I graduated college.

I hesitate to believe much of what the scientists say about how old our earth is and how time affects us, because I don't think we really understand it as well as they claim we do. We can use the limited portion of the concept of time that we do understand to measure certain things and make some guesses about what has happened recently or what will happen soon, but while we perceive time as constant, it's probably more like a Doppler effect, where frequencies speed up or slow down depending on the relative position and velocities of objects in motion. Get too far away from our current situation and it breaks down and fails to measure our progress consistently.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CMC - An Annotated Bibliography

Anderson, T., Poellhuber, B., & McKerlich, R. (2010). Self-paced learners meet social software: An exploration of learners’ attitudes, expectations, and experience. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration XIII(III).

Most traditional and online courses use a group-pacing model, but self-paced models give students more access and control. Given the increased control self-pacing provides, there is a corresponding lower social interaction and higher rate of attrition. Varying backgrounds of students do correlate with persistence, but the design of course materials and support provided to students is all that can be adjusted by the school/instructor. Social networking and other communication technologies allow us provide more learning support and interaction. Social software should provide sociability, a sense of trust and belonging; interaction, how connected students are with teachers and peers; and peer collaboration, constructivist learning with cohorts or informal groups. Many students are interested in interacting with peers, so course technology design should make this easier to do. Connectivist learning models have many of the answers. Survey of student interest in social technologies revealed a variety of responses. They are largely confident in using the internet but have only moderate exposure to many social media tools, with older students being less familiar than younger students. About half the students are interested in interacting with other students, and half are not, thus online collaborative activities should be compelling but not required.

Arbaugh, J.B. (2008) Does the community of inquiry framework predict outcomes in online MBA courses? International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 9(2).

The CoI framework describes teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence. Teaching presence includes course design and organization, direct instruction, and instructor facilitation. Social presence includes group cohesion, open communication, and affective expression. Cognitive presence includes a process where a problem is identified, explored, meaning constructed, and then the problem is solved. Study findings showed that the model accounted for 54% of the variance in student learning, with teaching presence and cognitive presence the strongest predictors of success. Social presence was a smaller predictor but still necessary to support the other two. Simpler or more familiar learning environments should produce higher cognitive gains (CLT).

de Souza, C. S., & Preece, J. (2004). A framework for analyzing and understanding online communities. Interacting with Computers, 16(3), 579-610.

This article points out two components by which an online community can be assessed: sociability (people, purposes, and policies) and usability (software). In their framework, these two components have to be aligned to produce success. Any community (whether online, offline, or a hybrid) will have sociability factors that change as the people (or purposes or policies) in the community change. For any online community, the software has to work with those people, purposes, and policies. They continue on to discuss Semiotics and HCI and how communication takes place among users and designers. The important part is that everyone is communicating all the time, but the message doesn't always get across how we expect it.

Gagne, R.M., Wager, W.W., Golas, K.C., & Keller, J.M. (2005). Online learning. In Principles of Instructional Design (5th Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

While many instructional design theories related to offline computer-based instruction also apply to online learning, the networked nature of online learning means that there are additional affordances for students and teachers. Students can be located anywhere around the world and still participate with others and costs for delivering instruction are lower. Specialized software is not needed, as everything can be accessed through a web browser, content is delivered more efficiently, courses are flexible in allowing both self-paced and group-paced activities, updating content is instant, web analytics provide robust tracking of behaviors, and interactions among others can be increased. However, there may also be issues if students are overwhelmed with the amount of information without a clear path to follow through it all, and if social connections are not cultivated, individuals can be left on their own. If learners are required to access materials synchronously, that may cause scheduling conflicts; on the other hand, if learners are required to access materials on their own personal time, they may be unsatisfied with required training taking away from personal activities. Computer literacy is an important consideration. Learning management systems and other collaborative environments can support group work and constructivist teaching methods. Collaboration can be synchronous or asynchronous and text- or multimedia-based. Blended learning, with a combination of online and face to face activities is also an option.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

The Community of Inquiry framework refers to three major components - cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. Teaching presence is getting the conversation started and keeping it focused, cognitive presence is the desire to exchange ideas, and social presence is how well everyone gets along.

Lowenthal, P.R. (2010). The evolution and influence of social presence theory on online learning. In Online Learning and Adult Education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

The internet can be social and bring people together or separate and isolate them. It can also cause addiction and dependence. By studying the sociality of a network, we can better understand and deal with the negative issues while promoting the positives. Early research in computer mediated communication (CMC) showed that it did some things well and other things not as well. The theory of social presence was developed to help determine the quality of communication between people. Mediums with a high degree of social presence are considered warm and personal. The meaning surrounding a CMC message depends highly on context, thus initial research in primarily business environments made educational researchers and practitioners wary of trying out CMC, although those fears have been generally unfounded. Additional research in social presence theory has supported the principle that the extent to which a given aspect of a communication medium (visual, audio, etc.) is important depends on the task for which it is being used. Media richness is the extent to which a communication carries understanding and data. While some cues that promote richness are filtered out in CMC, users of the system find ways to convey that same richness, such as a winking emoticon where a physical wink is not possible. Future research in this area will move from online learning to the blurring of boundaries between the classroom and personal communications in social media.

McLuhan, M. (1964). The medium is the message. In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet.

The personal and social influences of any medium (or technology) can be positive or negative. Technologies shape us and affect our interactions. The example given is that the railway sped up expansion and growth of society, leading new cities and types of work, where the expansion of the airplane undoes the work the railroad did and builds different types of cities and work. The technology of the light bulb allows certain activities to take place, which could not otherwise, thus those activities are the message inherent in that technology. “The message, it seemed, was the content, as people used to ask what a painting was about. Yet they never thought to ask what a melody was about, nor what a house or a dress was about.” The content of the message often distracts from the real substance which should be the medium and the structural changes it makes in us and in our society.

Vonderwell, S. (2002). An examination of asynchronous communication experiences and perspectives of students in an online course: A case study. The Internet and Higher Education, 6, 77-90.

This study looked at how asynchronous communication affects student learning and whether or not it enhances it. Interaction among students and between students and teachers is an important part of the learning process. Pulling apart and putting back together beliefs and knowledge help promote collective knowledge building. Introverts tend to participate more in CMC environments, while extroverts tend to participate less. In the study, an online technology course for education majors, the students appreciated the opportunity to interact electronically with the instructor and that they did not worry as much about what other students thought of them as they do in a traditional classroom. It seemed easier to ignore questions in the online classroom that would have to be immediately answered in a face to face environment, so some negative aspects frustrated some students. Response time by the instructor tended to slow down toward the end of the semester, where responses and grading were fast at the beginning of the semester. Some groups had a hard time collecting information needed to write group papers, while others felt that they learned from each other and collaborated well. Students attempted to ensure their writing was more clear to avoid miscommunication issues. A balance should exist between quick instructor feedback and giving students time to carry out their own inquiry.

Walther, J.B. (1996) Computer-Mediated Communication: Impersonal, Interpersonal, and Hyperpersonal Interaction. Communication Research 23(1).

The initial line of research into CMC showed that the medium is not rich or personal enough to convey important interpersonal communication or effective task-related communications. So if it’s not good for tasks or socializing, what is it used for? In early studies with zero history groups using CMC, it was effective as a task-centered communication mechanism. Low social interaction in these zero history groups led CMC to be pegged as depersonalized. For groups with an impersonal focus, this is actually a good thing. Task orientation without affect getting in the way was a bonus. This is especially true as social power relationships are minimized and the playing field is equalized for all participants. The absence of verbal and visual cues leads to this. These findings were quickly countered with examples of friendship, love, and rewarding exchanges in social communities online. What became quickly obvious is that an unknown variable was affecting online exchanges. Speed appears to be one of these variables, as long term studies of CMC interactions show that eventually users convey all the same information as they might have face to face; it just took longer due to lack of a channel that directly transmits this information in person. Long-lasting groups have an anticipation of future interaction that promotes a sociality and feeling of cooperation. So rather than it being CMC that causes a lack of sociality, it is other features that do so. Comparing synchronous and asynchronous CMC, the asynchronous communications tended to have more social aspects, as participants could communicate at their leisure, where the synchronous communications necessarily had to focus on the task at hand with a limited amount of time available. Even task-related asynchronous communication has the potential to be better, as communications can be more deliberate and thoughtful. CMC can be compared not only to face to face communication but written forms of communication. CMC is rarely impersonal, but when it is it is due to other factors than the CMC system itself. CMC is interpersonal when users have time to compare, discuss, and otherwise build relationships. It just needs time, as it happens slower than face to face communication. CMC is hyperpersonal when users manage relationships in a better way online than they might face to face. Providing limited channels to communicate allows users to select what to present and how without preconceived notions getting in the way.

Wiley, D. (2006). Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education; Panel on Innovative Teaching and Learning Strategies, February 2-3 2006. Accessed September 11, 2007 from

The world has moved from analog, closed, tethered, isolated, generic, and consumptive to an environment that is digital, open, mobile, connected, personal, and participative. Education tends to hold back; even a typical online course has moved to digital and mobile, but lags behind, keeping students isolated, using closed materials, generic content that is the same for everyone, and they must consume what is given to them rather than being allowed to create. Ensuring openness and transparency gives students and teachers the ability to be connected, personal, and creative. Without openness the classroom remains as it always has.

Xin, C. (2012). A Critique of the Community of Inquiry Framework. Journal of Distance Education 26(1).

The CoI refers to three key elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. As those aspects interact, learning takes place. Much of the research, however, is focused on the three pieces individually, not necessarily how they work together. The author claims that the CoI framework could actually apply in any educational environment, that it is not specifically suited to online asynchronous communication. The aspects are really just various functions on a continuum, just like colors in a rainbow, and while it serves a purpose to separate them, in fact many interactions serve more than one purpose. The author points out the concept of moderating as a function that communicates in a way that combines cognitive and social aspects. The moderating function includes providing context, monitoring conversation, summarizing conversations, and ensuring communication links are not broken. The author points out confusing of the term presence; the only way to show presence online is to communicate. You can’t just lurk. The CoI framework actually focuses on ability to perform different types of tasks, but if those functions are not carried out, presence is not displayed. Thus the social presence construct is supportive and implied. There is also ambiguity regarding whether social presence measures an action or a result. Regarding the teaching presence construct, many of the teaching presence indicators overlap with the moderating function. The process of creating orderly discussion out of chaos is the same process that constructs knowledge. The key is that communication must be consistently and intentionally produced by student and teacher. A face to face class is successful if students come and leave on time. An online discussion has no arbitrary beginning and end, thus a successful conversation online requires work from participants to keep it going.

RIP Robert Romano

On the 10th anniversary of Dr. Robert Romano's death (November 20, 2003), 
may we all remember the surgeon who we loved to hate and hated to love.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Andragogy - An Annotated Bibliography

Ausburn, L.J. (2004). Course design elements most valued by adult learners in blended online education environments: An American perspective. Educational Media International 41(4).

Part time adult learners make up over half of the higher education market. The for-profit schools have grown rapidly due to their focus on serving these nontraditional students. Established principles for meeting the needs of adults include understanding the purpose of the learning, how it will be applied, relevance to experience, and self-direction. Studies show that previous experience in non-traditional education environments and gender affect attitude and behavior in distance learning. Interactive course designs and promote communication and bonding in learning communities is desired. The study looked at gender, technology skills, prior experience in distance learning, prior experience with self-directed learning, and the features of the course they thought were most helpful. The ATLAS instrument used in the study identified three main types of learners: navigators (results-oriented learners looking for efficient navigation of the course), problem solvers (critical thinkers who analyze a problem deeply before solving it), and engagers (passionate learners with high involvement). The most important course features to learners dealt with the structure and guidance of the course. Next comes the instructional content. The next was convenience factors that streamlined common tasks. And last was communication features. In terms of content, the most important instructional goals related to individualization, self-directed learning, variety of activity types, and communication/interaction. Some features showed up in different orders for each of the student types.

Bergeven, P. (1967). Concepts to implement the education of adults. In A philosophy for adult education. New York: The Seabury Press.

Adults can learn. Some adults may not participate in lifelong learning due to lack of organization, discipline, or a desire to change. While everyone is limited to some extent by age, mental capacity, or otherwise, everyone can break through these differences and excuses to learn. Adults and children have different educational processes. Some teachers are hired for adult education because they are good at child education, but understanding the differences between adults and children will help teachers of adults be more effective. Adults are more focused on creating/maintaining family relationships, raising children, working, keeping up the home, and social responsibilities. Physical ailments make it more difficult to learn as one gets older, and changing one’s opinions and mindset is also more difficult as one ages and becomes more set in their ways. They do, however, have longer attention spans than children, as well as experiences to draw from. Existing institutions are effective channels. Schools, libraries, churches, hospitals, and other organizations should all take on the responsibility to push for adult learning. Adult education programs should be indigenous. Education should be natural, built around real problems they are experiencing and in a familiar environment. Expectations should be reconciled. Each person has something different they are looking to learn from a class or a lesson, including the teacher. Freedom is important in learning. Learners should be able to choose the content, leaders, time, and place of a program of learning. Too much freedom can be destructive if not equally shared across all participants. Goals are vital. Realistic, specific goals should help shape learning (SMART). Learning how to learn is helpful. Metacognition is one of the most important trainings that can take place. Needs must be considered. Both the learner and the organization sponsoring training have needs that need to be aligned. Problem-centered learning is basic. Adults understand a need to learn something if they can see a problem it helps solve. Resources should be appropriate. Technology, format of content, and other appropriate equipment should be utilized. A programming cycle should be a cooperative experience. Participants should help in the planning, organizing, conducting and evaluating of an educational program.

Blaschke, L.M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 13(1).

Self-directed and self-determined learning is becoming more important for our increasingly complex world. Distance education is especially suited to this self-directed learning in the way of heutagogy. The article begins with andragogy as the basis for showing the need to help learners become self-directed. They need to learn to diagnose their own needs, set goals, identify appropriate resources and strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes. The educator is a mentor. With heutagogy, the processes are similar, but learners take an even greater role. Double loop learning is a key strategy, where learners not only determine how their actions solve a problem but also how the problem solving process influences the learner’s beliefs. Learners become both capable and competent. Due to the technologies we have available to us, the experience and maturity of adult students, and the built-in autonomy of distance education environment, heutagogy seems a natural fit. Social media technologies support education going mobile and generating their own content. Heutagogy certainly causes concerns when it comes to accreditation, but some higher educaiotn institutions have found success handing over more control to students. Aspects of a heutagogical learning environment include learner defined learning contracts, flexible curriculum, learner-directed questions, flexible assessment, and a holistic approach to being a lifelong learner.

Christensen, C.M. & Eyring, H.J. (2011). Change and the indispensable university. In The Innovative University. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

There is great demand for higher education, but also great need for change. Higher education has grown in the past due to innovation, and it needs that again. Decreasing prices and better service to students are some of the keys, in addition to continuing to support traditional research roles. By growing what it means to be a university, rising tides lift all ships, everyone can win. Schools should be ranked based on their outputs, not their inputs, so traditional ranking systems will (or should) become relics of the past. Schools with different missions shouldn’t compete against each other but for their own definition of success.

Dewey, J. 1998. Experience and education. (60th anniversary ed.) West Lafayette, IN: Kappa Delta Pi.

Different schools of thought exist around what education is – a natural growth of one’s self or a change pushed at someone from the outside. While genuine education may come from experience, that does not mean all experience are educational. Every experience we have modifies us and affects the quality of subsequent experiences (good or bad). Factors of both the internal thoughts of the learner and the objective goals of the teacher need to be considered. Traditional educators create a place for students to learn without considering the background of learners; just because a condition is effective for one group at one time does not mean it will work again. Education can be used to improve desires and impulses, but that should be done by helping the individual reflect and make self-judgment rather than impose judgment from the outside.

Freire, P. (1970). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

The banking model of education consists of the teacher expounding to and filling up passive students with detached words. As empty receptacles, they lose their natural creativity. The solution to this problematic approach to oppressing learners is to transform the educational structure to allow students to be themselves. Rather than wait and hope that students will break the mold on their own, it is the calling of the revolutionary educator to help students become partners in their education. Problems to be solved liberate the students. Teachers learn and students teach in the new liberated model.

Gagne, R.M., Wager, W.W., Golas, K.C., & Keller, J.M. (2005). The Learner. In Principles of Instructional Design (5th Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Learners have many of the same characteristics, but vary in their abilities for each characteristic. That is, if all the students can read, perhaps one reads well and another poorly. Students can learn intellectual skills or procedures, cognitive strategies or productions, verbal information or facts, attitudes, and motor skills. Learning the above is affected by factors of motivation (ARCS), developmental and social factors, and individual differences. The ability to process concepts to build schemas and store in memory is one that differs from learner to learner.

Gibbings, P., Lidstone, J., & Bruce, C. (2010). How do student attributes influence the way students experience problem-based learning in virtual space? Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 16(1), 69–80.

Study of engineering students in a PBL engineering course found that students expected the class to help them learn as they started the class, and that after the PBL class, students found that a PBL course really did help them learn better how to learn.

Isenberg, S. (2007). Background. In Applying andragogical princples to internet learning. Youngstown, New York: Cambria Press.

There is a lot of talk about andragogy and about the Internet, but little about both together. The Socratic method promotes probing questions from the learner and self-assessment to help the student construct knowledge. The field of mass communication has shown that diffusion of knowledge needs to happen systematically, with clear scaffolding. The Internet allows for enhanced systematic diffusion of knowledge. The Internet allows for customized curriculum for each learner, both helping the learner with the content and with his or her own metacognition. The whole-part-whole model can be facilitated online, by showing worked examples, helping the learner practice the parts, and then practice all the skills in one immersive case. Preassessments can automatically guide students to areas where they are deficient. Self-learning does not have to be alone learning. Virtual groups can be provided to allow for important interactions with peers while still being self-paced. Internet learning requires learners and teachers to be engaged and needs to be made easier to use.

Kenyon, C., & Hase, S. (2001). Moving from andragogy to heutagogy in vocational education. Retrieved April 2, 2013 from

Traditional education is pedagogical, where the teacher is in control of everything. Andragogy improves educational methods but still has a student/teacher dichotomy to deal with. Heutagogy provides a movement even further in self-directed learning. The key is a holistic approach to build independent capability. Heutagogy is most effective in a flexible environment, where resources are provided without too much direction as to the specific content that needs to be studied. The ideal learning environment challenges learners to ask deep questions without getting in the way too much.

Knowles, M.S., Holton, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2011). A theory of adult learning: Andragogy. In The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (7th ed.). Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

The most famous teachers in history worked with adults, not children. They used processes of mental inquiry rather than passive reception of transmissions. Learners delved into cases and dialogue. They challenged and confronted and defended. Proponents of traditional pedagogical methods will claim that adults are uninterested in learning; if they were interested they would make it happen. Of course, the key is to engage adults and make them aware of the learning they have available to them. Adults are motivated by satisfying needs, centered around their life, have much experience, work best when self-directed, and have unique needs.

Kopcha, T. J., & Sullivan, H. (2008). Learner preferences and prior knowledge in learner-controlled computer-based instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56(3), 265-286.

Studies have shown that giving students control over their learning motivates them. Computer-based instruction is an effective method for maximizing learner control. In the study, students were given a computer based instruction program for teaching math, with varying levels of control over the program. Students were broken out by preference for control and prior knowledge. They found that when students had high prior knowledge, they preferred having control over their learning, while students with low prior knowledge preferred high teacher control. This may be because lower performing students simply want to get through the course quickly or are not confident in their abilities, but preference for control had no significant interaction.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.

Merrill’s model builds on many existing instructional design models. The key principles are that learning should deal with real-world problems, activate prior knowledge, demonstrate new knowledge, and apply and integrate new learning. Problems should become progressively more complex. Both examples and non-examples should be demonstrated, and relevant media should be used. Coaching should be gradually withdrawn as the learner’s ability ramps up.

Tomei, L.A. (2010). A theoretical model for designing online education in support of lifelong learning. In Online Learning and Adult Education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Web-based courses increase the potential for students to collaborate and share information with others, potentially leading to higher order skills. The traditional ADDIE model has stood over time as a solid yet generic process for designing instruction in a straight forward way. Wiggins & McTighe’s Backwards Design model and others have refocused ADDIE to meet the needs of the educational environment. Behaviorists, cognitivists, and humanists each describe different theories about how we learn. Just as learning taxonomies, such as Bloom’s categorize the types of knowledge that can be learned, distance learners need a taxonomy of skills for dealing with technology: literacy, communication, decision-making, infusion, integration, and technology. Learning materials, whether print, video, data, or otherwise provide tools and technologies that may be swapped out with each other to meet learner preferences. Adult learners prefer collaborative and realistic learning experiences. Distance education students use various synchronous and asynchronous tools to help them achieve a similar collaborative environment. Adults may be assessed by having them build higher order responses on Bloom’s taxonomy, while built-in analytics in various forms can help the learning environment assess the student with his or her input.

Weigel, M., James, C., Gardner, H. (2009). Learning: Peering backward and looking forward in the digital era. International Journal of Learning and Media 1(1).

While methods of education have changed greatly over the past decades or even centuries, the need for relevance has never been so important. Current youth use digital technologies extensively, yet understand little about how they work or how to create the technology. The rate of change with new technology means that even once they get a technology down, it won’t stay around that way for very long. Constructivism, with its increased engagement and investment of the learner and decreased control of the teacher, modern learning theories fit the Internet’s potential for deep exploration. But for that to happen, they need to have solid skills to navigate the technology, including the underlying biases and structures that affect its use. The number and vast difference in quality of resources found online serve to make the process difficult for the non-information-literate student. The social aspect, which allows for back channel communication and instant sharing of ideas serve to add to the crowdsourcing culture, which helps construct new knowledge effectively with a risk of drowning out dissent. Moderate changes to schooling have changed little about how students learn, but the technologies now available, in combination with the accepted learning theories such as andragogy are pushing towards a radical shift in education.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why Wikipedia is Awesome

From the Wikipedia article for the song Fishin' in the Dark by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band:
The premise of the song is a couple contemplating a late night fishing expedition. Specifically, the adventurers plan to make their way to a river and chart constellations in the full moon light. In the song, the tentative date for this excursion is set in the late spring to early summer.
This is a great example of a pseudo-scientific neutral point of view.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Facilitating True Student Engagement

Our students at Western Governors University have not always been successful in other attempts at college for a variety of reasons, some internal and some external. Regardless of the reason, many of our students come to us with two loads to carry: a history of failure and a preconceived model of college that does not match our model. Whether they have tried things that have not worked elsewhere or tried things that have worked elsewhere, that rarely translates directly into success at WGU.

What seems to work for the average new student starts with a thoughtful approach to deconstructing the walls of their current and past successes and failures. This deconstruction has to be with genuine concern for each individual student. They sense disingenuity.

Having listened in on calls with students, I can tell when there appears to be a real relationship with a student and when there is tension. As faculty members, our job is to reduce that tension, in terms of removing the extraneous cognitive load that blocks students' full participation in the learning process. I have seen faculty go into a meeting with a student already tensed up and ready for a fight. Ask any faculty member who their problem child is, and they'll list off a dozen problem children. There shouldn't be that many.

Imagine going into a meeting with fists at the ready only to be disarmed by anything from a heartwrenching to a heartwarming tale from the student that explains why they have been so problematic in the past. How much better would that situation be if we're the ones who kindly work through a student's fa├žade and pulls out the same tale, along with their commitment to truly work through whatever they are facing?

Whether it's the first or fiftieth contact, when faculty go into a situation without preconceptions, doing the following will set up both student and faculty for success.

Practice active listening. Restate or paraphrase what was heard, perhaps using the phrases "what I hear you say" or "what I understand" to make it clear that you want feedback to ensure the message came across. This has two benefits: it ensures you understand what they said and it lets the other person know that you're consciously trying to understand what they're saying.

Remember what you talked about. Keep notes, whether on paper or a spreadsheet, of what you discuss. Ask about how those personal situations are progressing when you talk again next week. Refer back to a file you sent or something either of you committed to doing the previous week so they know you remember talking to them.

Give them just a little more than they asked for. Too much extra will confuse them and look like you just copied and pasted everything you had and doesn't leave anything for next time. Exactly what they asked for will meet expectations. But giving them a little more, whether that's answering what you know is the most common follow-up question before they ask it or giving them a call right as you receive their email, they know you're available for them and care about what is important to them. Explain the policy rather than just stating the policy, send a reminder email of what you discussed in your call, and so on.

Compliment more than you criticize. Put the criticism in a compliment sandwich. Find something nice to say, specific and relevant to the situation, explain what they could do better, and reassure them they have the skills to accomplish it.

Remember the real world. Make the examples you give when explaining a concept or process relate to something you know the student is familiar with from a place they work or used to work. When they don't like the case studies or homework instructions, remind them that their boss probably doesn't always give them perfect instructions either. Help them keep their eye on the prize, in thinking about what their next job or two will be after completing their degree by acting as if they already have the degree. WGU is giving them a model that is more like the real world than it is like the other colleges from which they had to drop out.

Ask for more. Is there anything that doesn't make sense? Do you have enough to keep you busy over the weekend? What else can I do for you? Don't stay confused for more than 20 minutes without calling me. Should we set up a follow-up appointment right now?

By actively listening, remembering what you talked about, giving more than is expected, being free with compliments, tying students' learning to what is to come, and ensuring you haven't left any questions unanswered, students will know they have the support of the faculty in whatever they are trying to accomplish. We may be one of the few who really give them complete support in their lives. Don't be their excuse to fail again but be their excuse to be a success. Oh, and these concepts work at any school, not just WGU; if you teach elsewhere, hopefully it's a place that cares enough about students that you would be recognized for doing this.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wide Achiever or Highest Point of Contribution?

Two conflicting articles posted over the last few months, making their way around the internet:

The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make
Capable people end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be their highest point of contribution which I define as the intersection of talent, passion and market. Then, both the company and the employee lose out.

Being able to do many things is important in many jobs today. Broad understanding also is a must. But developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage. Instead of simply doing more things we need to find, at every phase in our careers, our highest point of contribution.
Should We Aim to Be “Wide Achievers” in Our Careers?
Few career counselors today would advise you to be a wide achiever: they remain obsessed by the ideal of the specialist. We need to recognize that our culture of specialization conflicts with something most of us intuitively know but which career advisers are only beginning to understand: we each have multiple selves.

So it is time to challenge the reverence for the specialist that has become the workplace norm. We all know that disparaging phrase "jack-of-all-trades and master of none." But the original Jack was probably a fantastically interesting and creative person who was far happier doing multiple jobs than his friends who were stuck in narrow careers. We need a more positive term to celebrate the Jacks (and Jills) of the world: welcome to the age of the wide achiever.
So, which is it?  Or is it both?