Distance Learning Technologies

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          As technology improves, so do the possibilities for educators.  Now teachers can showcase student work in actual museums and digitally see the results.  In fact, students in California can send their artwork to New York City museums for display.  They can then visit their work virtually, interact with curators and critique work in a digital space.  Does this sound impossible?  I will give you three ways to make this happen in your classroom.

                First, Museeo is a paid program that will help you create a stunning virtual tour.  This is marketed to museums, but simply sending an e-mail to the site will allow them to create a special pricing option for your institution.  This fee includes a virtual tour creation with 360° panoramic views, multimedia presentations and auto tours (Mellow, 2013).  The virtual tour includes hotspots and clickable exhibits.  Once the user clicks on the exhibits, the multimedia presentation appears for each exhibit.  Additionally, you are able to update the content quickly and easily (Mellow, 2013).  The visual appeal and engagement offered by this site makes it a fantastic first choice for this project (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012).  Museeo can be combined with Today’s Meet, which is a free online backchannel.  One of the difficulties of communicating with a curator is that they are only available for applications like Skype during a particular time.  Using a backchannel, students can ask questions and collaborate with the curator during their normal class time.  This means that the teacher can allow all classes to be part of this discussion and the curator can simply leave the page open on his/her device while performing other duties.  Students will receive timely feedback to their questions about the exhibits and the teacher can print a transcript of the entire conversation at the end of the day.  As D. Warlick explains, everyone learns.  The teacher, students and even the curator can formulate ideas and deepen their understanding of the pieces (Warlick, 2009).  One of the best features of this avenue is that it can be printed at the end of the session and stakeholders outside of the classroom can read the conversation (Warlick, 2009).  After the virtual tour and conversation with the curator, students can work together to critique two pieces of artwork.  The artwork can be uploaded to Voice Thread as a new discussion thread.  Then students, teachers and the curator can comment on the artwork and each other’s critiques.  The beauty of Voice Thread is the ability to integrate audio and text comments.  This way students are able to contribute in a way that makes them most comfortable.  Here is an example of artwork uploaded to Voice Thread, https://voicethread.com/share/175064/.  Once this has been done with the two pieces, comments can be made as demonstrated by this next example, https://voicethread.com/share/318023/

                If Museeo is too expensive, a free option to create a virtual museum for storage on your own servers is Google Sketchup.  I utilized this with my students to create a virtual wax museum.  You can create the three dimensional image of the museum and then import pictures and video into the museum.  We attached a PlayStation controller and walked through the museum as if it was a virtual tour.  The only drawback is the file is relatively large.  At the end of the virtual tour, students can communicate with the curators via Google Chat.  This allows up to ten people to communicate via video chat, so several classrooms can chat with the curator simultaneously.  Digital copies of the two pieces of artwork can then be uploaded into two separate Google Documents and students can critique them collaboratively.  This collaborative tool allows the students to discuss the artwork in real time and documents their thoughts.  Students can then organize this into one collaborative paper or other outcome.  As Google has become more prominent in education, they have strived to create collaborative environments that pay attention to CIPA and COPA laws regarding student identification.  This is a boon for an educator who is just beginning to utilize technology.  With an internet connection and an appropriate digital space, the virtual tour can be uploaded and accessed via any device.  The availability of these tools across different digital devices make them an ideal option (Simonson, et. al, 2012).

                For the more advanced technology user, I will recommend one of my new favorite tools created by MIT.  It is Aurasma.  This application can be utilized to create an augmented reality tour within the classroom or other environment.  Although this would not replicate the museum, replicas of the artwork can be hung as waypoints.  These waypoints can then be attached to flash animations, video chats, webpage explanations or other media that the instructor finds relevant.  Using this application, I would include a waypoint that links to the curator for a face-time chat.  I would also include waypoints that link to a blog for documenting ideas and criticisms of the artwork.  A blog is an opportunity for anyone to publish on the internet and access can be restricted to meet privacy regulations (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  Then I would take the students on a tour of our augmented reality museum at the school, including digital images of the artwork in its current museum setting.  Here is an example of a waypoint utilizing Aurasma, http://www.aurasma.com/campaigns#/working-mother

                All of these web 2.0 tools can engage the learner in an authentic learner centered environment (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  Each of these options allows the learner to interact with the material at his/her own rate.  It also allows learners to construct meaning socially, which is important for creating a deeper understanding of the course content (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  When learning objectives are clearly defined and technology infrastructure is understood, incorporating Web 2.0 tools can truly enhance the learning environment.

References

Easypano. (2013). Flash virtual tour. Retrieved from http://www.easypano.com/flash-virtual-tour.html

Mellow. (2013). Museeo: Virtual museum application. Retrieved from http://www.museeo.com/

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston: MA.  Pearson.

Warlick, D. (2009, December 20). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=2088

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Communicating Effectively

                As I viewed “The Art of Effective Communication,” I was reminded that one form of communication is never enough.  Our days at work are filled with meetings.  Some days there is barely enough time to eat lunch.  When communicating a message, it is always best to do it face-to-face.  There is less chance for misinterpretation (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  However, in a workplace face-to-face contact may be forgotten before the work is completed.  Therefore, best practice is to communicate important messages via face-to-face contact and follow the meeting with written communication.

 

E-mail

                The first form of communication presented was email.  This is a very important form of communication as over 60 billion emails are sent each day (Rockefeller Archive Center, 2006).  However, this email was inappropriate to a corporate setting.  It began with the salutation Hi.  When sending company email, one should use a formal heading and closing (Rockefeller Archive Center, 2006).  Additionally, the subject of this email was unclear and the message was not concise.  When sending company email, it is important to keep the message brief and to the point (Rockefeller Archive Center, 2006).  I also recommend using the subject line to delineate the missing report by name, including the high importance exclamation and a read receipt.  Most of the time, project managers do not know if the intended audience read it (Portney, et. al, 2008).  A read receipt will allow the sender to know when the email was read.  This can also be used for documentation later if necessary (Rockefeller Archive Center, 2006). 

 

Voicemail

                The second form of communication presented was a voicemail.  In our current environment, this is the least desirable form of communication.  In fact, many organizations (including my own) now forward voicemail to email.  Voicemail leaves ambiguity and has no way for the sender to verify that the recipient ever received it.  If you decide to leave a voicemail, there are some important things to consider.  In the example, the voicemail was less than 30 seconds which was good.  However, it was definitely not scripted.  It sounded like she was not sure what to say next.  When leaving a voicemail, there are a few important guidelines.  First, script what you are going to say (Cherry, 2013).  Keep it short and communicate your availability.  It is best practices to give a timeframe to reach you (Cherry, 2013).  Instead of saying, I know you are busy or I need this report so that I do not miss my deadline, try I have completed my portion of the report.  I simply need to input your data.  Benchmarking your progress is a great way to demonstrate that you are working hard as well and ease the tension of asking for an overdue report.

 

Face-to-Face

                The final method of communication was face-to-face.  There are several important things to consider when delivering a message in person.  First, use the appropriate greeting and make sure you are calm.  Blurting out the message can cause miscommunication (Howard, 2007).  These things were done well in the example.  However, the speaker should choose words carefully to create a concise simple message (Howard, 2007).  This was not done.  At the end of the conversation, I felt like it was not important to complete the work she was asking for.  Her nonverbal communication was very relaxed and friendly.  This did not convey the importance of her words.  She also did not receive a new timeline.  It is important that she not leave the conversation without an answer.  Finally, when engaging in face-to-face communication, it is important to confirm in writing what was discussed in person (Portney, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton, 2008).  This gives you documentation of the conversation and helps to remind the parties of deadlines.

 

Lessons

                Overall, communication is the most important thing that you do in the workplace.  While I interpreted all three modalities similarly, this is not the case for every communication.  Each modality has specific features that need to be recognized.  For example, an email’s tone is determined by the use of capitalization and sentence structure.  A voicemail is interpreted by the tone and pauses.  A face-to-face interaction is typically interpreted via the nonverbal signals.  When communicating, it is important to utilize the guidelines and be aware of your unintended messages.  As a project manager or an instructional designer you rely on other people to complete portions of the project.  Using these simple guidelines will help ensure your timely completion of projects.

 

References

Cherry, P. (2013). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.pbresults.com/sales-article/8-simple-rules-for-leaving-compelling-voicemail-messages.html

Howard, D. (2007). Basic guidelines for interpersonal communication (onsite and distance). Retrieved from http://www.dianehoward.com/Dr_Howard_Guidelines_Effective_Interpersonal_Communication.htm

Laureate Education, Inc., (2010).  Communicating with Stakeholders.  [Web]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3398237_1%26url%3D

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Rockefeller Archive Center. (2006). E-mail guidelines for managers and employees. Retrieved from Collaborative Electronics Project website: http://www.rockarch.org/CERP/pdf/emailguidelines.pdf

 

Post Mortem – Failing as a Project Manager

                I have always been an academic, but having children created a need for other skills.  As my children grew, I adapted.  First I learned to build children’s toys.  Then I learned to sew superhero curtains and pillows.  I ran Boy Scout troops and learned how to kick a soccer ball properly.  I even learned to fix my own car so that my boys would have that skill for the future.  In essence, I was beginning to think I had mastered all of the skills required to raise boys.  Until my husband and teenagers asked me to create a room dedicated to their hobbies.  For those of you who do not know, I am struggle with spatial awareness, but my husband and children seem to have no problem understanding the limitations of a space.  So I took the role of Project Manager instead of just getting started.

                As an Instructional Designer, I know the basics of Project Management and I started with a needs assessment.  First I called a family meeting to determine which hobbies we could house in the space and what furniture would be best suited to this project.  My husband became the project champion (Greer, 2010).  We set aside a budget and collected all of the resources we could find around the house.  Everyone was assigned a role with clearly defined jobs (Greer, 2010).  My oldest son agreed to move furniture and paint, while my middle child was responsible for painting and decorating.  My husband would decide on furniture.  I created a virtual room of the same dimensions and began shopping on craigslist for all of the items we required.  Assigning specific jobs made the process much smoother.  We had a virtual blueprint and new furniture in less than a week.

                Then came the implementation phase.  It began wonderfully, everyone completed their assigned tasks ahead of schedule and the room was ready for assembly in two days.  That is when everything fell apart.  My husband was supposed to help me install a shelf the length of an entire wall.  First, we could not find the studs.  Then we realized that the supports for the shelf did not support it properly.  When we placed the first gaming console on it, the entire thing fell off the supports.  Our project stalled for almost a month while we worked on fitting a shelf the length of the wall.  Finally, in desperation I brought in two desks and eliminated the shelf from the design.  We were over budget and well past our completion date.  My schedule was now just a pretty piece of paper and we still had extra furniture in the living room.  Our project sponsor was completely frustrated.  As the project manager, I had to get this group back on track.  With a little prodding and a brand new Xbox for motivation, we were able to celebrate the room’s completion one week later.  We commemorated this special project with a boys’ night.  My house was filled with boys and men until the wee hours of the morning.  Although our project stalled, the room was a true man cave when we finished, complete with more Xboxes than should be in one house.

Our lesson:  don’t assume your husband is handy.  Overestimating his skill put us over budget and behind or completion date.  If I were to do this again, I would bring in an expert (my friend’s husband) to build the table.  In the end, I learned a valuable lesson about Project Management.  Things do not always go according to plan.  You need a backup plan or at least the flexibility to know when something just is not going to work.  As you work on your own projects, I wish you luck and the flexibility to be successful.

 

References

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Distance Learning

Distance Learning has become a buzz word lately.  Teachers are concerned about how this will affect their jobs and students are concerned about how this will affect their future.  Universities have begun to incorporate distance education courses with increasing frequency.  In 2010, over six million students were enrolled in at least one distance learning course (Lytle, 2011).  This leaves a dramatic impact on the landscape of education.

                The advent of modern technology and the ability to be connected anytime, anywhere has dramatically changed the way distance education occurs.  While many believe that distance education became popular shortly after Facebook changed the way we share our lives, this is simply not true.  Distance education has been around since the 1800s (Laureate, 2010).  It began in Europe with correspondence courses and moved into the United States around 1876.  When radio became popular, distance courses were offered via radio programs, including the broadcasting of courses by Pennsylvania State (Laureate, 2010).  In 1975, courses became available on VHS.  As the television became more popular, distance education began its shift from radio to television.

                  The public broadcasting network revolutionized this process with children’s programing like Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow.  This has continued with documentaries on the science channel and National Geographic specials.  Distance education has become so popular on television that there are entire networks dedicated to teaching adults skills, i.e. DYI and Food Network.  As these shows become more popular, teachers and parents share the information they learn with children and young adults.  This natural progression of education continues today.

                Colleges like Walden University and the University of Phoenix offer degree programs to learners that never set foot in a brick and mortar classroom.  YouTube offers a multitude of instructional videos, including one that I used to change the headlight on my car.  Even the traditional public school has changed.  Teachers are flipping their classrooms to be viewed by students at home.  Discovery Education, National Geographic, NASA and others are offering content to students without boundaries.  There are even public schools that are completely digital (Virtual Public School of North Carolina). 

                  In this climate of change, it is natural to reflect on one’s experiences.  When I began my graduate studies, I felt that distance education was a new option.  I do not remember anyone calling what I did outside of class learning.  Yet, we all learn via distance education.  Our children watch television shows teaching them appropriate behaviors and pre-reading skills.  My friend built an outdoor room with knowledge obtained from the internet.  I have done my own maintenance on my car for ten years using You Tube videos.  My classroom boasts a fully integrated Learning Management System that includes assessment, assignments, videos and resources.  It is this reflection that has changed my myopic view of distance learning to include any learning that occurs without lectures from the teacher.  There is simply a physical distance between the teacher and the learner.  As the bring your own device movement takes hold and this generation of digital natives emerges from school, our view of distance education will continue to change.  I cannot wait to see how our new generation changes learning to occur without boundaries and on any device you own.  Someday, we may see our students learning in virtual classrooms with their counterparts around the world.  Those in the poorest, most rural neighborhoods in the world will be able to benefit from highly qualified teachers (Huett, Moller, Foshay & Coleman, 2008).


 

References

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.

Laureate Education, Inc., 2010. Distance Education.  The Next Generation.  [Web]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=/webapps/blackboard/execute/launcher?type=Course&id=_3396926_1&url=

Lytle, R. (2011). Study: Online Education Continues Growth.  US News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2011/11/11/study-online-education-continues-growth