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Blog o' Greg

Greg's thoughts on education and technology (and anything else that comes to mind)
  • Connecting the Dots

    EDC 668: Managing Technology for Change... That's the title of a course I took in the final trimester of my Online MA in Educational Technology (OMET) program at Pepperdine University. The OMET architects and faculty have done such a good job of integrating the curriculum of this program that it's hard to look at just this class without also connecting it with learnings from all of the other classes. Here's my attempt.

    The course looked at the current state of technology, the educational environment, and the political climate that's shaping education. It showed me that the business world is changing to adopt new and emerging technologies. It identified the critical problem that the Federal, state and local educational policymakers are caught in a cycle that's hard to break, and that students within the public education system are being left behind the global curve. The course highlighted the value of technology as a vehicle for engaging learners; as a medium for collecting, organizing and publishing artifacts of experience and the learning process; and for connecting learners with instructors, other learners, and prospective employers. In this class, we created a working portfolio as we progressed. As an undergraduate art major, I already appreciated the value of portfolios, although I had never created one for the purpose of sharing my values and non-artistic experience. The idea of a portfolio closely aligns with work I've done in my other two Summer 2007 courses: EDC 638D and EDC 667. In those courses, I looked at discovering what I stand for, shaping myself into a product based on those core beliefs and values, and evangelizing my core beliefs. I see my portfolio as an important promotional piece that contributes to that end.

    This course also explores the value of rubrics and peer review as alternative forms of assessment. I believe the primary value of rubrics is that, since alternatives to "drill and kill" learning and standards-based testing are often difficult to assess, rubrics provide a qualitative, yet accurate, measure that student, teacher, and assessor (if different from teacher) can all understand and refer to before, during, and after the assignment. The OMET program has proven the value of reflection, and rubrics give concrete feedback to inspire reflection. Peer review comes in many forms, and I believe it's often more powerful than instructor feedback.

    In summary, there's a growing problem in that the educational system (especially K-12) in the US is not adequately preparing students to enter the rapidly evolving work environment. Technology can aid in the learning experience, and it can help students market and position themselves for a quickly evolving, globally competitive business world. And finally, all the technology in the world will not help unless we also employ effective measures of feedback and assessment.

    This course is almost perfect. Melissa Anderson is a rare mentor of many who truly practices what she preaches. The course is a living example of the principles it conveys. I only have two recommendations: 1) the course could be a little less individual and a little more team-focused (I really like team interactions, and I know the rest of my cadre has grown from team interactions), and 2) in support of a cadre member's recommendation (Scott James), look at ways of having students collaborate with students in other universities, possibly even from other countries.

    Posted Jul 16 2007, 07:59 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Can Web 3.0 help us regain feeling on the web?

    I might just be speaking for myself, but I tend to lose sensation between my ears the moment my uber-geek friends start speaking in xmlese about new Web 2.0 tools with names as mashed up as the etherial features they offer. I'm an old-school geek with +/-25 years of tech experience--I'm not sure which side of advantage this hard-wired background puts me on. I can say that my year-long immersion in Web 2.0 from the ed tech master's program I'm completing (Pepperdine University's OMET) has helped me regain some feeling. I still feel tinges of Vertigo when I look at lists of available RSS aggregators and tools, wondering if I'll ever say I couldn't live without them. However, I have found value in read/write web capability, in General, and I have changed my habits to adopt the use of a few web-based tools. I can say that I wouldn't write in a paper-based journal for my own personal reflection, but I like blogging and enjoy the interactivity it affords. Not many people place themselves in painful, totally immersive situations, so most never realize the benefits of the read/write web.

    There's a lot of chatter about Web 3.0, but the talk comes from the geeks that developed Web 2.0. The rest of us need and appreciate those geeks and the passion that consumes them, but we also should have a voice in the shaping of Web 3.0. I'm in the process of setting up a discussion forum on this topic. For now, take a look at my video and feel free to leave a comment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4qXFiYXNG0

    Posted Jul 07 2007, 11:40 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Global Change Management

    From where does global change derive? How can we use global change to promote deeper learning around the globe?

    Global change occurs as a result of political, social or environmental events and the evolving global technological infrastructure. Much of the global change we witness is largely unplanned; the equation for global change is typically too complex for strategists and political leaders to plan and implement. At the global level, political leaders tend to observe change and react by attempting to control it.

    Global change can be perceived as positive or negative, but regardless or the perception, we can take advantage of change for the purpose of promoting deeper learning. The Internet is a major factor in the flattening of the world. People of all nations use this communications pipe to tap into the global body of knowledge. Web 2.0 technology has enabled anyone to contribute, share and collaborate. Our challenge is to reach out across borders using these enabling technologies and start a conversation with people who are different from us. Our Second Life event and website for choice in education has sparked international interest. Yesterday, we received an email from an educator in England who is so committed to educational reform that he plans to attend our event even though it's at 3:00AM England time. I was excited to hear that we already have a fan base. I'm ecstatic to know that there are no borders or boundaries!

    Posted Jun 30 2007, 01:21 AM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Change Management at the Individual and Local Level

    From where does personal and local change derive? How can we use change to promote deeper learning as individuals and in our local settings?

    We all have within ourselves the ability to change ourselves and our environments. Throughout my year in Pepperdine's OMET program, I've been looking at personal change. From where did it derive? It started with my desire for a master's degree. I wasn't looking for personal change--it found me!

    Change comes only when there's a desire for change. Personal change requires desire, self-discipline, and a vision of what that change might look like. Spreading personal change to your local environment has the same requirements, but it also requires the ability to communicate your vision and evangelize it. In Selling the Dream, Guy Kawasaki claims that traditional sales focuses on making money while evangelism focuses on making change. Evangelists are passionate about their visions, and they are poweful forces for local change.

    How do we use change to promote deeper learning? First and foremost, we need to give students the chance to connect what they learn with what matters most in their own lives. As we see when kids play games, they absorb much more than they ever would sitting at a classroom desk listening to a teacher talk (even if the teacher was talking about games). Csikszentmihalyi's Flow theory reinforces this premise. As individuals, we cannot expect to change NCLB and standardized testing, but we can teach to those standards in more meaningful, lasting ways than by memorization alone. We can incorporate project-based learning wherever possible. We can give learners more choice about how they learn what they need to learn. There's plenty we can do at the local level; it's even possible that some local change might defy gravity and trickle up.

    Posted Jun 24 2007, 11:38 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Globalization and the Impact on Education, Part 2

    How might the US respond to the tides of change resulting from globalization? What role does education play in this response?

     

    The bell-shaped curve of the American middle class is changing to have more of a dumbell shape. Globalization has had its biggest effect on middle-class jobs, especially those which can be defined as a process and don't require imagination or creativity. Programmers, technical support representatives, and even tax preparers are easily outsourced, thanks to a widening global free market and the advent of the Internet, fiber-optics and satellite communications. You might think the outcome for the American middle class looks bleak; however, it may not be so bad if Americans find new and better ways to tie k12 and higher education to the careers that await learners. In The World is Flat, Friedman tells us that a new middle class is beginning to emerge--one that capitalizes on American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Friedman claims that it's critically important for schools to start teaching new skills and strengthening inherent traits to bring out creativity and adaptability.

     

    It's probably not the best idea to wait for the US Government to respond to the call for educational reform that emphasizes creativity and life-long learning and authentically ties learning with life. NCLB and the Spellings Commission show that the government remains focused on objective, measurable, testable standards that will continue to crank out workers who can produce and compute, but not necessarily collaborate or create. It is our responsibility as teachers and parents to supplement the school standards by helping students make the connections to life that are missing from our memorize and test system. Teachers can teach to the standards and incorporate progressive principles like those in Wiggins' Understanding By Design. Schools such as Napa's New Technology High School are employing project-based learning to authenticate the learning experience. They've also created a foundation to share the model with other districts who are interested in project-based learning. Our response to globalization will come from the ground up. When we reach the tipping point, school districts across the country will begin to shift focus from left-brain development to whole-mind development. Hopefully, this will happen before China, India, and other developing countries take the creative lead.

    Posted Jun 14 2007, 02:02 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Globalization and the Impact on Education, Part 1

    How does globalization change the needs and demands on US, K12, higher education and corporate learning environments?

    As I began to mention in my previous blog entry, globalization and Friedman's "flattening" of the world is causing Americans to rethink the notion of job security. Globalization, the Internet, and democratization has opened the market for middle-class jobs to the world. Increasingly, jobs that can be defined as processes and are not gepgrahpically anchored are moved to countries that have skilled workers who are hungry for work. Where does this leave the American workforce? We need to identify those jobs and skills that will give Americans an edge. Much of the work that is considered anchored is service industry work--food service, auto repair, medicine--but the service industry depends on industries that design and manufacture products and other not-so-anchored industries. Our current educational systems serve job markets for anchored service industries reaonably well, but we need to carefully look at the other jobs--the middle-class jobs that are rapidly disappearing. It is possible to replace the jobs lost to engineers, programmers, and customer service representatives in India, but it requires that we rethink our core educational values. We need to find the time and resources to foster creativity and adaptability among learners. We need learners to synthesize and invent. We can't abandon the standards, but we could do a better job of creating authentic learning experiences that will better prepare students to enter the global workforce.

    Posted Jun 11 2007, 01:18 AM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • NCLB and the Spellings Commission

    How do NCLB and the Spellings Commission affect change in the use of educational technology?

    The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 established Federal standards for states, districts, and schools with the goal of improving performance and increasing accountability. The Spellings Commission was formed in 2005 to examine the post-secondary education system and develop a national strategy for improvement. The commission also looked at high school preparation for post-secondary education.

    Both are Federal attempts to fix state and local problems. Both look for more accountability from states, districts, and schools. The problem with accountability is that there must be some metric by which to gauge the level of success or failure. Enter standardized testing and teaching to standards. Firm, government-imposed standards and stiff penalties for not meeting or exceeding those standards is creating a need to find ways to use technology to make teaching to the standards more effective. Therefore, much of the available money for educational technology is going toward tools that will help process students and tests. Resources that could be invested in technologies that would help students make connections and authenticate the learning experience are instead spent ramping up the factory assembly line. Legislators and their commissions are genuinely trying to raise the bar fro education. But as we've been reading in Friedman's The World Is Flat, today's student needs to be adaptable and creative--two skills that are not on any standardized test.

    Posted Jun 03 2007, 12:42 AM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Wikis, Web 2.0, podcasting, and audio/video conferencing

    Do wikis make a difference in educational experiences? What role might Web 2.0 play in fostering change in education? How does voice and/or presence change the way learners interact with one another?

    Wikis can be a tool for collaboration or a source of consternation, depending on who you ask. Throughout OMET, we have used wikis to share ideas, develop plans, and collaborate in general. I have found wikis to be useful. I recently tried to introduce the use of a wiki in a project at work. The group was lukewarm to the new technology. After trying for about three weeks to keep the wiki alive, I let it die. One group member commented that he didn't have enough control over formatting on the wiki. The group returned to emailing Word documents. What happened? My group wasn't ready to switch to a new tool that could uproot the use of a tool that has served as a staple for years.

    I think the strength of Web 2.0 is the ability to bring curriculum to learners. RSS subscriptions enable the use of podcasts and news/learning feeds in courses. Web 2.0 also brings the ability to easily write to the web, which means the web is now prime for collaboration. Of course, learners need to see the value in this new capability.

    Distance learners now have options for communicating with each other. Voice over IP and video conferencing are really just taking hold in the mainstream of learners. Several times this year, I have used video conferencing for some 1:1 meetings. I have to say that, while it was nice to see the face of the person I was talking with, it wasn't a requirement. Skype conferencing or text-based communication would have worked just as well. There probably are occasions when video has value. I, however, am a digital immigrant compared to many younger learners who equate value with "cool factor."

    Posted May 30 2007, 05:05 AM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Interactive simulations, video games, and technology-infused lab environments

    How can authentic learning tools improve student engagement and deepen learning? What does the apprenticeship model tell us about learning?

    Authentic learning tools put learners in situations that challenge. When authentic learning occurs, learners strive to gain knowledge out of interest rather than the desire to pass a test or please a parent. This is the type of learning that makes permanent cognitive connections.

    The apprenticeship model is a form of social constructivism where groups work on projects under the guidance of an instructor. The premise of this model is based on Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development," where learners work on tasks that are slightly more difficult than the learners are capable of performing on their own. This is the zone where learners are constantly challenged and never bored. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of "flow" also looks at this state of mind, calling it optimal experience.

    Posted May 20 2007, 10:25 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Portfolios, rubrics, and peer review

    Why do educational organizations choose to employ portfolios? What value does the use of rubrics in evaluating activities and portfolios bring? How can peer review affect learning progress and growth?

    Portfolios are good for instructors and educational institutions as they are for students. Portfolios help to facilitate good organization, which should make life a little easier for instructors who need to review a large volume of work. More importantly, educational organizations are realizing that portfolios are living documents that help students visualize themselves on their career paths. They can easily see where they are, which helps them visualize where they want to go. Portfolios are meant to be maintained throughout a career.

    The rubric is of value because portfolios need to be engaging and easy for the intended audience to understand. The rubric provides a set of evaluation criteria that reviewers can clearly and consistently follow. Students should be able to understand the review feedback based on the rubric, and they know what they need to work on to make their portfolios stronger, at least in the eyes of the reviewers.

    Peer review is often kinder and gentler than that of an instructor or industry professional. When I review the work of my friends, I usually compliment the strong points and overlook the weaker points (unless there are obvious mistakes that require correction). However, when students review the work of their peers, they often inspire each other to do better. If I stumble upon someone's work that is clearly more creativethan mine, I'm driven to rethink my own work.

    Posted May 14 2007, 02:05 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Why an e-portfolio?

    What will we be responsible for this semester? What is the role of an electronic portfolio in my ongoing academic and professional career in educational technology?

    This semester, besides completing and presenting my action research report, I will look at ways of promoting change in my environment, and I will identify new opportunities for applying educational technology in an effort to spark positive change.

    An electronic portfolio will help me reach my goals in several ways. It will serve as a container for my most relevant work. It will keep my thoughts organized. It will evolve as I progress through my career. It will also provide interested parties with pertinent information about me. I can have multiple portfolios, depending on my interests. Electronic portfolios are usually web-accessible, but they are also portable enough to reside on a disc or memory card.

    An electronic portfolio is important to me because I need to build credibility in the area of educational technology. I want to apply my skills and creativity in K12 and higher ed. Since I'm a corporate educator, I need to show my worth in this different environment. Even though I plan to help school districts in a voluntary capacity, I still need to "sell" my services. An electronic portfolio will help me do that.

    Posted May 10 2007, 04:17 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • Students and Their Technology: If you can't beat em'...

    I have two kids in public school: an elementary schooler and a middle schooler. They both keep up on their homework, do well with standardized testing, consistently receive high marks, and hate school. Before attending a master's program in educational technology, I viewed the grumblings of dissatisfaction as peer-induced. My kids have caring, supportive teachers. They stay on top of their work. What could be so bad? I'm starting to see that it's not so much peer pressure from low-performing, school-despising friends. What's missing from school is that kids don't feel engaged.

    When I attended Catholic grade school in the '60s, my nun-teachers didn't need to be engaging--they had a ruler in hand to keep us attentive. When I left school, I had mild, not-so-engaging distractions such as parents, siblings, and neighborhood bullies. I also had one major, engaging distractor: the TV. Aside from Church activity and family vacations, the family TV served as our primary form of entertainment. As such, it wasn't so hard for my parents to control my exposure to it.

    Today's middle-class kid isn't so sheltered. Technology is ubiquitous, except at school. My kids are subject to constant exposure to technology and media. The modern capitalism we've all grown to both love and hate has served as a perfect petrie dish for the growth of technology and media. With media comes marketing; the pair pack a one-two punch of engagement that staggers its contenders. Throw in the ability to communicate and anytime, anywhere access and... you get where I'm going. It's no wonder my kids feel disengaged at school. I feel lucky they don't fake they're sick so they can stay home.

    A good friend and colleague sent me a link to a YouTube video that was created by Utah's Jordan School District. It builds a strong case for using the technology that students embrace to help engage them in school:

    Posted Apr 17 2007, 04:59 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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  • My maiden blog entry

    This is my first blog post to blogversity. I signed up for blogversity in preparation for my transition from my school-administered graduate school blogging environment to my own real-world education blogging environment. My goal is to continue to grow and participate in discussion around education and educational technology.

    You can see the chronicles of my journey through Pepperdine University's Online Master's in Educational Technology at http://students.pepperdine.edu/ghinshaw/.

    You can follow my cadre's trail of blogs at http://www.myomet.com/blog/.

    Here's to a lifetime of meaningful learning!
    Greg

    Posted Apr 09 2007, 10:16 PM by ghinshaw with no comments
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