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What better way to dust off the old blog than a post about angst. As a long time online learner and now instructor / instructional designer, I see (and feel) a lot of online learning angst ... most of it having something to do with MOOCs, a concept I have followed closely and watched evolve ever since my experience in David Wiley's Introduction to Open Education in 2007, my observations of the pioneering efforts of Alec Couros to open up the walled gardens in early 2008, and in following the Connectivism MOOC later in 2008. Rightly or wrongly (it feels wrongly at the moment), I haven't spent much effort recently dissecting my perceptions of this angst, most likely because my contemplative platform on EdTechWeekly ... and this blog ... have gone dark. However, I have also been silent because it has become extremely hard for me to integrate my conceptions of online learning, open education ... and yes, even MOOCs ... that I developed over years within a small echo chamber with the conceptions that are bombarding me now that the masses have arrived. While many of the words are the same, the definitions, missions, perceptions, visions, etc. are decidedly different and it is pains me to have to parse, quantify, and qualify those differences in order to engage in this enlarged conversation. Οι σκυλοτροφες, οπως η ξηρα τροφη για σκυλους, οι κονσέρβες για σκυλουσς και οι λιχουδιές για σκυλους, αποτελούν οτι χρειάζεται καθημερινά ο σκύλος σας. Το barfing ή ωμοφαγία ειναι να ταϊζουνε τον σκυλο μας ωμο κρεας. Τα petshop ειναι Online μαγαζια που εχουν τροφές και οτι αλλο χρειαζεται ο σκυλος σας και τα υπολοιπα κατοικιδια. Οι ρατσες σκυλων ειναι παρα πολλες. Για καθε ρατσα υπαρχουν διαφορετικα προιοντα σκυλων. Τα κουταβια ειναι τα μικρα σκυλακια που μπορεις να τα αγορασεις απο τα petshop αγορα σκυλου.
I wanted to expand on my video introduction to attempt to clarify a few of my remarks that didn't exactly hit the mark when I listened back to my on-the-fly video. I said (or tried to say) something along the lines of, "our virtual network has been good at starting conversations about issues, but they haven't seemed to be as effective as a means to implement solutions" ... or something like that.
I think an example would help to illustrate my point. As I mentioned in my intro, I've hung out my freelance shingle and I've been pleasantly surprised at the ease in which potential projects (or problems / needs / opportunities) have come my way. Seems the world has lots and lots of issues / problems / needs / gaps / opportunities looking for solutions. However, as one lonely gal sitting in my home office in Chicago ... I am quickly realizing that collaboration is essential to take on the projects that I want to do ... and projects that real live actual PEOPLE want to have done (as opposed to the solutions looking for problems that we educators / designers / fill-in-blank love to tweet and blog about).
Oh, my ... it has been almost a year since I posted on my blog. I spent a few hours updating my drupal installation (yes ... I'm still challenging myself to keep it up ... for now) ... and fired up my camera phone and created this introduction. Back to school I go ...
I dipped my toe in the PLENK2010 MOOC today with the following discussion post that I wanted to capture here ...
I'm not sure that the technologies are the greatest impediment to making this work. I think it's a combination of a few things... off the top of my head...
- The notion that content is something that derives from the educator and the institution rather than through a negotiation process --> tough to continue if the focus of the course is on the content pre-described
- Student ownership of their own content --> difficult to continue a discussion when the main interaction is in a closed environment
- Educational goals --> if a course has a set 'endpoint' a test that needs to be passed, it defines a point at which learning has been 'accomplished'.
... to which I replied ...
I just uploaded the final version of my paper (see attached Participant Experiences in an Informal twitter.com Sub-network) accepted for presentation at the AACE E-Learn 2010 Conference. I opted for the Virtual Presentation option, so I won't be heading to Orlando to be there f2f. I have also attached the narrated PPT slides that are on the conference site, as well.
Here is the official citation:
Maddrell, J. A. (2010). Participant experiences in an informal twitter.com sub-network. In World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2010 (pp. 2018-2023). Orlando, Florida, USA: AACE.
I finalized my contract today to work on the instructional evaluation team for the RealWorld - InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge. The RW phase involves teams of grade 9 to 12 learners and facilitators working on design solutions to problems associated with the James Webb Space Telescope. In the IW phase, teams of 3 to 4 students move into a virtual environment to finish the competiion. While the RW phase of the competition is open to all grade 9 to 12 classrooms, participation in the IW phase is limited to US citizens ... sorry, I didn't make the rules or fund the grant :) Registration to the website is free and open to anyone, so log on and poke around the site or take the challenge with kids in your classroom.
I didn't know it before now, but dissertating isn't just a made-up word that I have been tossing around today as I yell to the world that I began collecting data for my dissertation research. I can't get into a lot of details as the folks I am observing and surveying this semester may stop by my blog and I wouldn't want to lead any witnesses! However, I will try to post some vague tidbits at milestones in the process ... and I will be keeping an off-line journal of the experience which I will upload when all is said and done. Most importantly for publication now, (a) my committee approved my proposal in June, (b) the ODU IRB approved my proposal in July, and (c) today I began dissertating!
We tend to get our undies in a bundle over learner-learner; learner-content; learner-teacher interactions, but this issue of the learner-institution transaction / interaction deserves a lot more attention. Last night at ODU, we had our new student orientation with doctoral students coming into the program this semester (held on Adobe Connect with participants all over North America and recorded for those who could not attend) and we spent over an hour just going over issues of learner-institution interaction .. what log on do I need to register for classes? who do I contact about financial aid? how do I submit my plan of work to the university? where do I get the software do I need to connect into class? how do I access recordings of sessions of classes I miss? While this is far from the "sexy" side of instruction (if there is one?), it is where the rubber meets the road in formal education. Students tend to love or leave a program based on how fantastic / horrid these learner-institution transactions are handled.
This summer, the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) sponsored a Distance Learning Symposium held at the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, IN. While presenters will be turning their papers and presentations into chapters for an upcoming book, for now (how long?) they have posted the symposium papers for open review.
I attended and presented on (what else?) backchannel communication during the live web conferenced lecture session. I have attached my symposium paper and presentation to this post. While my paper considers the backchannel in terms of cognitive load (influence on germane, extraneous, intrinsic load), my presentation highlighted general observations from Dr. Alec Couros' Fall 2009 ECI 831 class at the University of Regina, specifically a session facilitated by Dr. Rick Schwier who also attended and presented at the symposium. As usual, it was interesting how few seemed to have experienced an active text-chat occurring simultaneously with a live lecture session. This could be due to the disconnect between those who "study" distance learning and those who regularly "practice" it .. or because distance learning is so often facilitated asynchronously.
I see that a special edition on the CoI is coming out (currently online first) in the Internet and Higher Education. Not sure if those without library access can open the PDFs (I just link to them ... I don't set the access policy). In my initial glance, I still don't see any studies specifically linking CoI presences to actual (not learner perceived) learning outcomes.
Comps are done. Classes are done. First draft of lit. review and methods done for dissertation. First round of comments back from my advisor. Taking the advice of my advisor, I am not trying to change the education world with my dissertation ... just focusing on it as the next stepping stone in my journey (... and btw ... no, I don't know what I will be doing when I finish "it").
Attached is my final report on my qualitative case study of the twitter sub-network comprised of reciprocol following relationships with user edtechtalk. Feel free to add you comments ... I prefer nice comments.
Stumbled on some interesting resources and articles regarding qualitative data analysis (QDA):
I purchased Transana and downloaded the trial version of the commercial Atlas QDA. Beyond the twitter project, I have a back-channel project where I am trying to sync up audio / video / text chat during analysis and I think Transana will be helpful for that purpose. Otherwise, good old Excel seems to work quite nicely :)
My data collection is done and I have a ton to read and re-read. I am clearly at the "so what?" stage and still struggling with the impact of where (and who) I focused on during the data collection stage. That said, I do think I captured data to help me answer my primary research questions. Therefore, it may be more a case of gaining knowledge during the process that would re-focus my original research questions. For example, what about those who DON'T post anymore or very often? I focused on the sample of posters during my 5 hours of observation and I feel by picking 10 1/2 hour slots during various times during a 10 day period I did a fair job of getting "off work" and "on work" commentary, but I made no effort (purposely) to reach out to those who don't post. Which makes me wonder if there is something "different" in the motivations of those who post versus those who don't (self-promotion, familiarity with online connections, privacy concerns, etc). Clearly questions for another study for another day, but plays into my "so what?" question. Is my focus sufficiently important?
I spent the week at AECT in Louisville, KY. The funny thing is the conference is attended by those who are paid to be edu-geeks, but I had about the most powered down week in the past 3 years. I had the awesome opportunity to meet f2f with 12 or so of my fellow ODU PhD students, as well as all of the professors in the instructional design and technology program. However, we spent very little time talking tech and just ... talked (oh, and ate and drank ... and laughed ... a lot).
By now, I am very aware of the various levels of friends one makes and keeps (and loses) in the online world ... and used to the "first meeting" of "long time online friends". However, I am always amazed at the incredibly short time it takes for "online friends" to transition to "f2f friends". Well before we got to KY, I knew how many kids everyone has, where they work, and what they looked like (enough to grab most in bear hugs as I first saw them in the conference hall). As we talk about a lot on ETW, there is nearly complete transparency in long time online relationships. While one can TRY to create a different online persona, the "real" person inevitably shines through to the point that there are usually no surprises during the first f2f meetings. However, my school friends for some reason seem to percieve me as a bit of a teacher's pet (suck up?). I have NO idea where they get such a perception :)
Just waiting now to hear if I have HSR approval to send out the interview. I tossed up the interview questions on SurveyMonkey last night and it should take participants around 15 minutes to answer the questions. I made each question a "required" response, but all they have to do is put a character in each box to flip through. From past experience, I am seeing the need to make questions required as I could end up with nothing for the effort. I also am allowing participants to return to the survey, but I will eventually cut it off when it is time to analyze. If they click on the link, they go right back to where they left off.
I used an online random number generator and linked the number to the numbered list of user names (sorted by alphabet). Probably overkill, but I was tempted to throw out the surveys to those names I recognized ... bad researcher! I'm sending out 10 interview requst at first in hopes of getting 3 back and I'll continue sending out invites until 3 respond. Who knows, maybe I will end up sending out to all 499 :)
I concluded my Twitter observations last night and compiled all of my notes into one file. I am too tempted to quantitatively review my data ... so I am going to get it out of my system here ...
I have over 1,093 individual tweets to review which I dumped into Excel to helps me ID posts with @ which I am using as a guide to when the tweets are directed at a person vs broadcast messages. Also, by sorting out those with # tags or http:// I can see ID topics. Over the 10 1/2 hour observations, the tweets came from 499 unique users. This is about 15% of the users with reciprocal following relationships with edtechtalk ... seems kind of high given it is only over a 5 hour time period, right? Also, one user tweeted 16 times (while the mean was 2 ... sorry, I couldn't help myself).
Interestingly, I didn't see tweets from some of closest online buds which makes me wonder about the impact of the snapshots in time on my perceptions / observations. In other words, is my view / perspective from my 5 observations different than it would be if I had made the observations at a different time?
I'm in the struggle between finding an interesting dissertation topic that will propel me through the end of the process and one that I can put a neat bow on within a "reasonable" time period. To that end, here is the beginning of some thoughts ...
Here is an interesting take on the "macro" twitter world (taken from the twitter API for all of twitter) that maybe can help me compare / contrast what I see in my "micro" world (for example, where folks post from, average number of followers, tweets, etc). http://www.techcrunch.com/
Going through the Twitter data collection I see that webinar means commercial ... click to URL and you are greeted with cheesy graphics of earnest looking people in suits on the phone, looking at a computer, smiling around a conference table with words like "strategic / "newest" / "monitor progress" / "agenda" / "goal alignment". In contrast, teachers and other edtechers just say something like " Catch the live stream of blah, blah" or "So and So is presenting over at ..." Just a wee example of the culture and language embedded in the network.
I thought I "knew" the edtech network before I started this Twitter project ... or least I felt confident explaining it to others at conferences and on EdTechWeekly. However, 7 days into the data mining of the 3,500 or so reciprocal following / followed by relationships with Twitter user edtechtalk, I realize that I have purposefully (but largely subconsciously) filtered my understanding based on what I thought I knew about the network. In other words, I followed the activities of those I knew about, framed my understanding based on those I knew, and rarely went outside a small subnetwork within the larger edtech network.
My professor and (principle research investigator) routed my Twitter proposal to Human Subjects in the College of Education today. I also have two of my three research protocols stitched together, so things are moving forward despite (or maybe because of) comps. Kind of like cleaning during final exams ... other work becomes a happy distraction at times :)
Look what my Johnny did!
I began poking around My Sample® to try to think about ways to slice and dice what I am seeing. I plan to start my formal observations on Saturday, but I did a sneak peek. Some students in class suggested that maybe I am biting off too much with the thousands of potential tweeters, but from what I see that really won't be the case, especially if I stick to my plan of observing from different spots during the day. Time will tell ...
I just received my first of 3 essay questions for my comps. I hate to wish away weeks of my life, but I can't wait for Thanksgiving :)
So, I'm getting everything set up to begin an observation of the activity on the ETT twitter account. However, when I checked in on the account earlier this month, I saw that ETT was following about 1,500 out of the 4,300 or so followers. Assuming that no one had taken the time to troll through the followers to follow those with a like interest in edtech, I went seeking a tool to more quickly breeze through profiles and click "follow" for those where there is an edtech "match". This process is still quite painful on twitter.com, so I was happy to stumble upon refollow.com, a site that allows you to filter your follow and followed by lists based on key words and other criteria, such as those who have posted in the last 1/15/30/90 days or those who lock / unlock their tweets, etc. I now have the following list to 3,100 based primarily reciprocated following relationships with those who chose to follow ETT ... which is the pool of folks I wanted to target. I filtered out those who lock their tweets as I can't use them in the study without getting informed consent from each one (an interesting group to study, but beyond the scope of what I can do in a short time frame). Also, I targeted those who have posted in the past 90 days as I am not going to do anything with those who don't post (such as try to understand why they don't post ... another question for another day).
A recent free report published in Faculty focus summarizes a survey of Twitter usage and trends among higher ed faculty. As noted in the summary to the report, about 20% are familiar or very familiar with Twitter and of those who use it 7% use it in the classroom. It is this group of teachers who scare me a bit and begs a familiar question that has been nagging at me for some time. Should twitter (or any social-networking tool) be forced on to learners to facilitate their social interactions? Just because the teacher finds value for their own personal and professional development, what evidence do we have that a similar benefit will accrue to their students forced into the social network? I also wonder what we can generalize about the habits and conversations of a VOLUNTARY network of Twitter users. Can their behavior shed light on the behavior of those who have the network forced upon them? My gut-feeling hunch is "nope" ...
Nardi, Shiano, and Gumbreckt (2004) summarize an ethnographic study of blogging considering motivations, social interactivity, and relationships between blogger and audience. From prior studies on blogging, blog "types" can be roughly categorized into three "types" including personal journals / online diary (the majority), "filters" which provide commentary and information from other websites, knowledge logs. However, from this study the authors suggest that the blogs are less like personal diaries than they were like radio broadcasts with limited interactivity. The bloggers were looking for readers, but with interaction that the bloggers controlled.
Nardi et al. followed the blogs of 23 bloggers and interviewed the "informants" with a fixed set of questions. All were in either California or New York and well-education and either employed or in school. As in prior studies, they trolled the Stanford University portal looking for the words "blog" and snowballed the sample by asking for friend-of-a-friend relationships.
Reciprocity ... certainly a concept that comes up frequently in discussions of networks. It came up again in a recent article by Huberman, Romero, and Wu (2008) regarding Twitter in which the authors' found that 90 percent of a users' friends reciprocate attention by being friends of the user which they suggest plays a role in defining the hidden networks within Twitter. Interestingly, they also found that that pattern of reciprocity is consistent regardless of the number of friends. So, what does that degree of reciprocity mean with regard to the hidden network? Does it signal a hidden network of strong-tie network relationships or point to the existence of a slew of weak-tie bridges? Probably a good bit of both. Maybe the answer to that is in the number of direct messages and @replies between those with reciprocal relationships. Looking at my own Twitter account, I don't know a good number of the 600 or so followers, but I generally follow them back if their profiles suggest a common interest. Maybe that would make a good sub-questions to ask during an interview ... What prompts you to follow those who follow you? Describe the relationship you perceive with those who follow you and who you follow back.