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

Marketing in Higher Ed… Please consider the following:

headset, voicecall iconEssay criticizes the brand messages colleges and universities are using | Inside Higher Ed.

This article provided a good synopsis of my own frustrations with poorly thought-through and executed marketing strategies in higher-education. Please, let us draw our own conclusions!

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]

Chapter 4. Community: The Hidden Context for Learning | EDUCAUSE

These were some highlights I made from this Educause chapter on Community as it relates to teaching and learning:

  • “Why we conduct education as we do is a puzzling question. How to do it better is a big challenge. For us, the idea that learning should be the primary purpose of education has been a beacon—we might all agree that learning is a purpose of education—but is it the primary purpose?
  • A community is a group of people with a common purpose, shared values, and agreement on goals. It has powerful qualities that shape learning. A community has the power to motivate its members to exceptional performance. M. Scott Peck5 defined community as “a group whose members have made a commitment to communicating with one another on an ever more deep and authentic level.”
  • social cognitive learning theory argues for a rich environment in which students and faculty share meaningful experiences that go beyond the one-way information flow characteristic of typical lectures in traditional classrooms.
  • knowledge may be seen as vested in a distributed network across communities of practice, not in individuals.13 In other words, community-centered education will help prepare graduates to live and work in a world that requires greater collaboration.
  • Universities’ fixed costs from the high proportion of labor result in the cost of attending college rising faster than inflation. This creates pressures for cost-cutting, for example, by increasing class sizes.
  • Some commentators have observed an unspoken pact—faculty don’t expect much of students so that they can concentrate on the growing demands of research, and students don’t demand rigorous instruction so that they can concentrate on their social lives.
  • During the mid-20th century, as classrooms became larger, the level of social interaction diminished within the classroom, with the student role becoming increasingly one of a scribe. The sense of community within higher education has become increasingly obscured, with negative consequences for both faculty and students.
    • Suggestions
      • Invite stakeholders to participate.
      • Select and empower a talented leader.
      • Understand and appreciate differences in perspective.
      • Eliminate roadblocks to community learning.
      • Balance patience and performance.
  • Inviting people with different perspectives to contribute to collective decision making can be time-consuming in the development phase but ultimately is less time-consuming than leaving them out.
  • As Margaret J. Wheatley26 pointed out, “It doesn’t work to just ask people to sign on when they haven’t been involved in the design process, when they haven’t experienced the plan as a living, breathing thing.” Involvement, and rewarding involvement (especially cross-unit collaboration), are essential to having people bring their full selves to the task of making change.
  • Creativity cannot be scheduled or commanded. Often, patience is needed to allow new ideas to flourish. On the other hand, extensive discussion and debate in the name of patience, while edifying, can be time-consuming and costly, eroding construction budgets.
  • Replicating what has been done in the past is not the most effective approach when charting a new paradigm; it can lead to designing spaces for yesterday’s needs—ultimately, a very costly mistake. The community needs to find the delicate balance between patience and performance.
  • Faculty frequently struggle over wanting to spend time with active learning methods while covering a prescribed list of topics in the allotted time.
  • Communication tools such as enterprise-level e-mail and calendaring as well as learning management systems are important tools, but there is a surprising lag in the widespread development and adoption of applications that allow the spontaneous and ad hoc teaming that characterize an active community. The potential of peer-to-peer tools such as Virtual Office from Groove Networks show promise for teaming, as does powerful, inexpensive, mobile computing hardware that is always connected to the Internet.
  • A community-centered mission speaks to the importance of working through conflict rather than avoiding it.
  • As we become purposeful and conscious of what makes spaces more supportive of learning, we need to analyze new and existing spaces and ask how community contributes to the learning that occurs.”

Oblinger, D. (2006). Learning spaces (pp. 4.1-4.22). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE.

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: