Field Trip to Menlo

Remember field trips? What ever happened to those?

Remember field trips? What ever happened to those?

Well, I am glad to report that yesterday, LearnDAT team members and some others from IT Services here at Michigan State University took part in one.

Sure, we didn’t ride in a big yellow bus and I am pretty sure none of us had to have permission forms filled out, but it sure felt like an authentic field trip none-the-less.

You see, we had the privilege of visiting our friends over at Menlo Innovations today. Richard Sheridan, CEO, founder, and chief story-teller at Menlo gave us a tour of their facilities, practices and philosophies. He began by explaining how the entire vision is premised upon building a culture of joy. Immediately, one of the attendants asked, “Did you say ‘joy’?”

Richard then went on to explain that he did, indeed, say “joy” despite Menlo being a software innovation company. The surprise at the word joy in the context of the software industry is not uncommon, but Menlo is simply not a common place. That is what makes Menlo a constant revolving door for tourists like us who have gotten wind of some amazing things happening there.

Not many places can claim that their primary tool for project management is 3×5 cards, and especially a place that builds software solutions.

Other notable culture shock experiences during the tour included the wide open floor plan, the 40 hour work-week (with no overtime or limits of when employees are “allowed” to take vacation), and seeing bikes, pets, and children all around the room. The culture of transparency and trust breeds some fascinating results that made for a very interesting tour, to say the least.

According to Sheridan, the issues and difficulties they experience as an organization are not much different than what any organization experiences except for the way in which they handle them. In fact, one of the quotes seen right on the wall stated, “make mistakes faster.” Menlo intentionally identifies managerial practices based upon fear-tactics and eradicates them so that trust is built with clients and the Menlo team alike.

As Sheridan and his team continue to demonstrate leadership and innovation, you might consider joining one of their tours. See what kinds of things you could learn and conversations that could be started as a result. I know that we are glad we did. In fact, they could take the whole field of design and technology for a trip if you ask me.

See photos from our field trip on our Facebook page

Wasteful Fear

This is a song I wrote to any preacher of the status quo or of a viewpoint that is closed minded & ignorant. It is a call to a better voice.

This is a song I wrote to any preacher of the status quo or of a viewpoint that is closed minded & ignorant. It is a call to a better use of their voice.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQnk_5clrSA]

Have you ever thought about how you think?

webdesign, design, idea iconSo, metacognition is one of those big college words that is most often referred to as “thinking about thinking.”

The post below does a great job summarizing both what this means and the benefits it can provide to improve our teaching and learning skills both formally and informally.

Metacognition And Learning: Strategies For Instructional Design: The eLearning Coach: Instructional Design and eLearning.

Don’t miss the the great ideas listed at the end!

How about you? What do you do to help yourself or others become better at learning?

MAET Summer 2012

This summer, I have had the privilege of helping teach in Michigan State University’s Masters Program in Educational Technology. The session I have been helping with includes CEP 800: Learning in school and other settings, CEP 815: Technology & Leadership, & CEP 822: Approaches to Ed Research.

This summer, I have had the privilege of helping teach in Michigan State University’s Masters Program in Educational Technology. The session I have been helping with includes CEP 800: Learning in school and other settings, CEP 815: Technology & Leadership, & CEP 822: Approaches to Ed Research.

The outstanding teachers who are a part of this course have been identifying researchable problems in education and developing a research proposal. Specifically, they have been using a backwards design format to articulate a dream they have for their educational context and to generate support for a plan going forward with it.

In the midst of this undertaking we have been learning about how learning itself involves active, socially-mediated construction of knowledge in school, home, community, and work settings. We have explored project management, planning and evaluation, ethical and social implications of integrating emerging technologies, as well as relationship building.

You can see a glimpse of the learning we have been doing together here:

Motivation in an Online Learning Environment

IndifferenceCreative Commons License Photo Credit: Marc Soller via Compfight


The following were some questions asked of me as I evaluated the TEC-VARIETY Model in the “Instructional Ideas & Tech Tools for Online Success” CourseSites MOOC which I am participating in. I like how this activity enabled me to think deeper about the topic of learner motivation in online environments which is near and dear to my heart. Overall, I find that this is an outstanding model with plenty of supporting empirical research that supports much of it, but it also makes me wonder if it could still be improved upon further. I don’t get the sense that the original developers of this model would want anything but this to happen.

TEC-VARIETY Model

  1. Tone/Climate: Psych Safety, Comfort, Belonging
  2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsive, Supports
  3. Curiosity: Fun, Fantasy, Control
  4. Variety: Novelty, Intrigue, Unknowns
  5. Autonomy: Choice, Flexibility, Opportunities
  6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  7. Interactive: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Excitement
  9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  10. Yields: Goal Driven, Products, Success, Ownership

What is missing or might be changed in Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY model?

One thing I think might be missing would be a more nuanced explanation of the problem that it is attempting to intervene for. The TEC-Variety model seems to lean heavily on the problem being sensitivity to the tool usage of a given medium, issues regarding training on pedagogical issues and the nature of asynchronous environments. It might be important to stress that there are other systemic problems that are crucial aspects to the problem of learner motivation that some interventions will simply not be able to address.

Another missing link are ones that were self-identified to be incomplete which were the actual solutions. Some solutions were specific examples of interventions to use, but there was little support for the effects these particular suggestions have had on past usages.

Other suggestions were vague and general in nature which could take one down multiple other specific solution options raising other questions as they went. Some general words in the model that could be considered for inclusion would be belongingness, peer-assessment, exploration, inquiry, reflection, experience, simulation, time-on-task, and the creation of one’s own meaningful learning models.

At the same time, many of these generalities could be connected and possibly consolidated into a more simple and general model in order to be a more solid framework upon to build from.

What do you like best about Bonk’s TEC-VARIETY model for motivation and retention online?

I like the emphasis on learner engagement because this is an affective domain that can be measured and will yield learning results.

Do you have any online motivational success story examples or cases that you wish to share?

Generally, courses that helped me navigate my own goal trajectories and involved meaningful levels of engagement toward the refinement and actualization of these goals with creative achievement modeling have been the most meaningful to me. I had one online course that built these models of my demonstrations into an end of the course project that brought things all together regarding what I had done each week to demonstrate my creative competency of the intended learning outcomes while being able to reflect on how these related to my context and career goals.

How do you deal with motivation and retention issues online?

The best way to deal with motivation and retention is to have a deep understanding of people in general, the diversity of what makes them tick, the uniqueness of their contexts, characteristics, their challenges, fears, hopes, stories and inspirational narratives that guide them.

What motivational problems have you experienced with online learners in fully online or blended environments?

Well, some could be motivational problems I have experienced elsewhere and others might actually be perpetuated by the medium itself. For instance, on one hand you have the ever-existing business of people’s lives, laziness, lack of resources and energy, distractions, obligations and all other influential contextualizations (aka excuses). On the other hand, the online environment itself can lend toward even less accountability if the learner and instructor are technologically fearful, incompetent, poorly-resourced, inadequately oriented and in need of a less isolating measures.

Have you experienced any motivational problems personally?

Oh no, never.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBNe8CUePTQ]

“Transforming Higher Education with Emerging Technologies” | EDUCAUSE 2012

Chris Dede from Harvard gave an outstanding talk called “Transforming Higher Education with Emerging Technologies” at the recent Educause Learning Initiative in Austin Texas on the morning of February 14th. In vuDAT (where I work), we had the privilege of hosting an online streaming of this talk and host of others for those interested in attending at Michigan State University.

This talk envisioned the transformation of teaching and learning for 21st-century skills and citizenship. The focus highlighted an array of interactive Web 2.0 technologies designed to aid in collaboration, social interaction, and creation. Both formative and summative assessments strategies were described. These strategies were proposed to be able to leverage the holistic data derived from an immersive simulation interfaces such as augmented reality with mobile devices as well as virtual worlds.

One of Dede’s main points was that education has historically been purposefully removed from the chaotic world in order to reflect analytically. He argues that now with these emerging technologies there are opportunities to strengthen links between life inside and outside the classroom.

Video of this session can be viewed here.

What are your reactions to his vision?

How to use google voice for extremely easy on-the-fly podcasting:

Many online course instructors use announcements to communicate on a regular basis with the learners. Some instructors create introductions to modules using video, audio, or presentation tools. Leveraging google voice for “on-the-fly” podcasts allows instructors to be able to quickly and easily record their announcments so that learners can hear the announcement coming directly from their instructor to give the course a more personalized tone.

  • See my tutorial on this here: http://bit.ly/AB3hbe
  • View/duplicate/edit/use my slides from here: How to use google voice for extremely easy on-the-fly podcasting: – Google Docs http://bit.ly/z6xUoE

Why use web conferencing with my students?

Adding a Synchronous Component to Online Courses | Faculty Focus-Annotations:

What does web conferencing bring to the classroom?

  • Interactive web conferencing increases accessibility.
  • Interactive web conferencing increases student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction.
  • Interaction is also increased because there is a set time where the class comes together synchronously, which helps eliminate feelings of isolation or lack of interpersonal connections with classmates and the instructor that may occur in a fully asynchronous online course.
  • Interactive web conferencing promotes active learning.
  • Interactive web conferencing adds variety
  • Make sure the learning goals, and not the technology, drive the instruction.
  • Establish a protocol for how students should ask to speak or alert the instructor they are finished commenting so that passing the microphone is easier in larger groups.
  • Change initial settings so that everyone can chat with all attendees and students have ability to do everything (like annotate).
  • Add the technical support number to every invitation to a meeting.

What is some practical advice for web conferencing with a class?

  • Since we often have multiple peripheral devices connected to our computers remind your students to select the microphone and speaker source they intend to use.Remind participants to keep background noise and paper shuffling to a minimum and to mute their microphone when they do not need to speak.
  • Keep e-mail running in the background and have your phone handy in case students try and contact you when having technical difficulties.
  • Always check that students can hear you (and others) well and ask them to alert you if they are having trouble hearing.

On-The-Fly Podcasting Using Google Voice?

How to use google voice for extremely easy on-the-fly podcasting:

  1. Make sure you have a google voice account if you don’t already have one and sign into your inbox area.
  2. Call your google voice number and leave yourself a message.
  3. When the message populates in your inbox, select the “more” option and then select “Embed”:

4. Add a caption for your podcast (this is optional).

5. Copy the embed code into your computer’s clipboard (control + “c” on the P.C. & Command + “c” on the Mac)

6. Go to your course in Blackboard and select to create a new announcement.

7. Give the announcement a title and then select the “Toggle HTML Source Code” button in the rich text editor toolbar and paste in the embed code that is in your clipboard (control + “v” on the P.C. & Command + “v” on the Mac)

8. Hit the “Toggle HTML Source Code” button in the rich text editor toolbar.

9. Hit the “Toggle HTML Source Code” button in the rich text editor toolbar one more time.

10. Make sure that the “width: 100px” is changed to “width: 500px” in the embed code and then hit submit!

*This same process can be followed for a recorded phone call from google voice which can be done by using these instructions.

The end result will have a flash player embedded media player from Google Voice that the learner will see in the announcements page so that they can listen to your nifty podcast: