Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is Twitter useful in education?

Earlier this semester I decided to add a Twitter widget to my Blackboard site, after an enthusiastic student began tweeting during one of my first-year lectures. I saw this as a great oppotunity to engage the students - beginning conversations during the class, and continuing them throughout the week.

At first, I would often display the widget on screen during the lecture, and discuss any tweets as they came through. But after a while the tweets slowed down. There were only half a dozen or so eager students using the service, and the novelty of this tool soon died.

Maybe I was just too early with this trial. Are there enough users of Twitter amongst our undergraduate student population yet?

Have you used Twitter in your teaching or learning? Do you think it could be a good educational tool? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Google Wave has arrived...

... well, for some people it has. I'm still waiting for my invitation!

Google Wave is going to be brilliant for teaching and learning. Here's why:

  • It's designed for collaboration - good teaching practice encourages learners to work together.
  • Conversations (waves) are place and time independent - you can invite new participants into a wave at any time, and they can replay the conversation to "catch up". Flexible learning (time and place) will be well-supported!
  • It will grow - Google will allow third-party developers to extend Wave beyond its initial design. After personally experiencing the power of open source educational tools (such as Moodle), I am convinced that innovative educators will find amazing ways to build learning experiences in Wave.
  • And most importantly, it takes the best Web 2.0 tools and combines them together into one application: wikis, multimedia, email, instant messaging, online applications, and more.
Here's a great little video from the creative team at epipheo studios explaining how Google Wave will change the way that we communicate online...

So, what do you think? Will it help you to teach or learn?

(And can somebody please send me an invitation?)

UPDATE (10 November 2009): I'm now on Wave (thanks Sid)! Add (and ping) me if you want to explore:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Exams on PC?

When was the last time you wrote the "old-fashioned" way - pen and paper - for three hours straight?

Think about that last big report, academic paper, or letter that you wrote, and it's likely that it all happened on a keyboard and screen, not on paper. And the younger you are, the less likely you hand-write much these days - except for exams! We still expect our students to do something very unnatural when it comes time to sit an exam - up to three hours of handwriting. But that looks like changing...

The NSW Board of Studies has indicated that, by 2012, computers will be used in exams. This gives us three years to work out some of the complex issues that are inevitable with such a change - cheating, collusion, and invigilation to name a few.

So, is this a good idea, or do you mourn the loss of an important skill - the ability to use a traditional writing implement? What do you think?

Good Practice Principle #1 - Student-faculty contact

Do you spend time getting to know your students? Not only their names, but their interests and opinions? And do they get to know you?

One of the dangers of some online education is that it can distance the learner from the teacher, not only geographically, but personally. Recently I was chatting with a colleague, who teaches a large number of students in an off-campus unit. She made the comment that her online students often address her as "Mr", even at the end of a 13-week semester, as they have never met, never seen her, and never got to know her (she has a gender-neutral name). It's certainly not her fault, rather the traditional distance education systems that we are forced to use (Blackboard is one of the culprits!).

The online experience doesn't have to be de-humanising. Consider the following Web 2.0 tools that can be used to connect with students:
  • Video
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Skype
  • Blogging (both as a blogger and as a commenter on student blogs)

I use all of these tools in my teaching, and they work brilliantly. There are benefits for me (getting to know my students), and for my students (increased connection to their teacher, and their learning experience).

I guess that's why it's called "social media"!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tag Galaxy (thing #6)

A quick post to highlight one of my favourite Flickr mashups, Tag Galaxy. It's a highly engaging, graphical interface for searching for images on Flickr using the visual metaphor of a "galaxy" of planets.

Searching for images has never been so much fun!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ignorant rules (thing #5)

Recently I was amazed to read the current set of rules displayed in computer labs at Monash University's Faculty of Business and Economics. Included in the list is the following: "No downloading, exchanging and streaming of audio and video files".

I await the day when our IT administrators accept the fact that "audio" and "video" are valid media for teaching and learning. The ignorant assumption that "multimedia equals illegal file sharing" has to be changed - quickly!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Web 2.0 - Students' perspective

As part of the eMarketing unit that I teach, I offered students the opportunity to create an instructional video as part of their assessment. We've been exploring the evolution of the web, so Rick and James created this video, which they also have embedded on their new webpage, with links and references.

I plan to extend my use of video in student assessment over the coming years. Our students are becoming more proficient at creating multimedia work like this, and the process of doing so enhances their understanding of the concepts and theories they are studying.

Have you ever explored the use of student-created video in your teaching? Do you think that it's a good way for our students to learn?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

23 Things

Earlier this year I suggested that our Department run a "23 Things" program - an online self-directed exploration of Web 2.0 tools. Last week we commenced the program, and now, with a team of colleagues, we are exploring social media and how it can be used in teaching and learning.

Over the next couple of months, I'll be using this blog to share some aspects of my journey. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm still here!

A quick post to explain the lack of action here recently. The 2009 teaching year has commenced, and I've been so busy that I haven't found time to keep this blog up-to-date.

With 550 new first-year students enrolled in my Marketing unit, combined with my goal of producing three (1, 2, 3) podcast programs and a new video series each week, it hasn't been possible to dedicate time to keep RenewEd going.

But please stay tuned - I'll be back soon with more EduBlog goodness!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Web 2.0's Seven Principles for Good Practice

Twenty-two years ago, well before we were using the internet for teaching and learning, Arthur Chickering and Zelda Gamson compiled a list of Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. A copy of this list lived on the corkboard above my desk for the first few years that I was teaching. Although the corkboard is long gone, the list is still as important to me now as it was back then.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be discussing how these seven principles are still relevant today, and how Web 2.0 applications embedded into our teaching can help us to improve the outcomes for our students.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bill Gates - Didn't that dinosaur retire?

In case you haven't yet seen it, Bill Gates spoke last week at the annual TED conference. The world's media widely reported his "malaria stunt", where he released a swarm of mosquitoes into the audience, saying: "there's no reason only poor people should have the experience". Sounds like Bill's lost the plot?

What wasn't reported was his bullshit on how technology can improve education:
Putting a few cameras in the classroom and saying that things are being recorded on an ongoing basis is very practical in all public schools... You can take those great courses and make them available so that a kid could go out and watch the physics course, learn from that. If you have a kid who's behind, you would know you could assign them that video to watch and review the concept. And in fact, these free courses could not only be available just on the Internet, but you could make it so that DVDs were always available, and so anybody who has access to a DVD player can have the very best teachers.
Sorry Bill, but this is not a good use of technology in education. Where's the interaction? Where's the engagement? How will our learners construct knowledge by watching a DVD? Learning is not a passive spectator sport!

It appears that retirement was the best move for old Bill... we are no longer living in the 1980's.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The New King

Most of my readers will already know that I teach Marketing at Monash University, in the Faculty of Business and Economics. And most will also be aware that Monash has just appointed a new Dean of Business and Economics, Professor Stephen King.

It was very refreshing to read the recent article in The Australian in which he spoke about the need to "re-engage a faculty that some believe has lost touch".

From what I have seen, Professor King appears to be an ideal appointment. As an active blogger (CoRE Economics), he understands the potential of engaging with the business world through new media. This experience, combined with his apparent commitment to teaching quality, is good news for all progressive teachers and students at Monash.

I'm certainly looking forward to the next couple of years, and the positive changes that will no doubt be implemented.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The death of education, but the dawn of learning

"The US Department of Commerce ranked 55 industry sectors by their level of IT intensiveness. Education was ranked #55, the lowest, below Coal Mining."

Thanks to Zac for pointing this one out to me.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Great ad from Kaplan University

Maybe it's just the marketer in me, but as an educator, I love this ad...

Thanks to Scott McLeod for pointing this one out!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Goodbye lectures!

Recent news from MIT - lectures are out, and smaller, interactive classes are in!

This recent story from the NY Times reports that MIT's Physics department "has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent."

Rather than the traditional 300-student lecture, this undergraduate course now consists of smaller, interactive classes. Students work together, discussing, sharing and exploring as they learn. The new high-tech classrooms are configured with networked PCs on shared tables, whiteboards, and display screens. The "lecturer", rather than talking at the students, briefly presents a set of principles, which the students then explore together, greatly enhancing their understanding.

MIT certainly aren't the first to recognise the importance of interaction and collaboration in true student-centered learning, but this news article will raise awareness of a trend that (hopefully) we'll all be following soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Summer holidays - says who?

I've been offline for the past six weeks or so, taking a break over summer. I'm back into it this week, with a mountain of paperwork on my desk, an overflowing inbox, and Google Reader bursting at the seams! But while I've been relaxing, one of my Marketing students has been continuing to engage with the Marketing community through his blog(s).

Let me introduce Zac Martin, a 19 year-old, undergraduate Marketing student at Monash University. In between going to the beach, partying, and looking for part-time work this summer, Zac has continued to blog about Marketing, taking control of his learning, and building a name (and future) for himself in the process. Like most Gen Y students, social media is part of his life, and it always will be.

I don't expect all of my students to be as motivated as Zac, but there are some serious lessons for all educators here. We should be preparing our courses for many more "Zacs" over the coming years.

This is what Zac is teaching me:
  • The classroom is no longer an isolated space. Our students can (and will) connect with the outside world more than ever before.
  • Learning is not isolated to a 13-week semester. It is a lifelong process, and we should build our courses accordingly.
  • Students can take control of their own learning, changing the role of the teacher from "expert" to "coach".

Thanks Zac - I'm proud to be associated with you - and slightly embarrassed that you've been working while I've been relaxing!