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Reflections on creating open learning, open research, open science and engagement with the public.

Updated: 2017-08-05T05:33:15.029-05:00


Academic Websites Ain't Got It--The A/B test


The most dismaying article I have read in recent months is The A/B Test:  Inside the Technology that is Changing Business  in Wired.  So here is the basic idea.  Brian Christian describes a process of changing updating websites that relies of data rather than what the designers or authors think is "right," "beautiful," or "useful."  Here is the basic idea.  Rather than make design and layout decisions based on hunches or design principles, the point is the make the decisions based on how users actually use the website.  I know, I know, .. use data to actual make decisions... seems elementary, right. 

My experience in developing websites in academic settings is that most people don't even know that you can collect analytic data on websites and most academic staff wouldn't know what to do with analytic data.  The typical academic website rarely even goes through any basic user testing to see how it works.  Yikes. 

The A/B test is simple.  There are numerous ways to design websites and multiple of ways of organizing information.  The A/B Test idea is the try things out and see what works.  Compare design A with design B and see what users like by randomly presenting some users with one version and other views with other versions.  Over time this approach this approach will refine the design of the website and provide a means to develop a design that fits the user rather than the designers.

Here are the basic principles that Christian outlines:

1.  Choose Everything  instead of having to make choices.
2. Data makes the call rather than the person at the top makes the call.
3.  The risk is making only tiny improvements rather than the risk is making a huge mistake.
4.  Data can make the very idea of lessons obsolete rather than experience teaches us lessons.

Scholarship and Klout


My colleagues won't appreciate this comment, but I can't help but think that Klout will matter in the future in scholarship.  In some sense it all ready does, but we measure Klout by way of citations in referred journals.  I can't imagine this will be sufficient going forward.  At present my citations on Google Scholar exceed my Wekcitations is the major scientific databases.  What does this mean?  Am I more citable online than in print?  Is this more important?  My citations in Google Scholar does not include my Facebook views, my blog posts discussions, my tweets (there are none incidentally).

In the recent issue of Wired, there is the suggestion that my Klout score my help me get better dinner reservations (have they ever lived outside a major metropolitan city,  think not?).  Although I can't imagine my Klout score earning me coupons and free refrigerators, I can't help but think that scientific scholarship will ultimately develop some version of the Klout-type scores for scientific publications that will capture the wider use and reference to scientific studies beyond the current level of citation indices. 

Martin Weller who writes about digital scholarship makes a similar argument in a recent issue of The Chronicle for Higher Education.  Weller has written a thoughtful book about the course of academic scholarship in The Digital Scholar. 

Comments, teaching & HuffPo Divorce


My most recent post on the Huffington Post has gotten the most comments to date.  (about 290 in 3 days).  Most of my other posts generally only got less than 50 comments.

The comments vary widely.  On the one hand, you now get to hear what the students in the back of your class are whispering to each other during the lecture.  For example, in response to the title of my post "Are the courts biased in favor of mothers, one commenter, wrote,  "When someone tells you there are no dumb questions, refer them to this headline."  Funny and snarky.

Overall, this post got some very thoughtful and interesting commenters.  [These are probably like the students who sit in the front of the class.]  For example, 715W posted the following,
The solution is to put divorce into an administra­­tive system rather than the judicial system.
To each divorce case, assign an administra­­tor trained in mediation/­­conflict resolution­­.
The commenter goes on the explain more about how this system of managing custody issues would work with this system.  

There were also a number of commenter who cited specific research and/or other scholarship that enriched the discussion.  Chris Sirhc writes
"The court's ability to determine the best interest of the child is limited. See Robert Emery's review of custody evaluators­. He is particular­ly daming: 'There is essentiall­y no psychologi­cal science to support the measures and constructs designed specifical­ly for the assessment of child custody arrangemen­ts for individual children.' "
 In many cases these publications we new to me or added significant new perspectives to the discussion.  This is the type of discussion that I would hope my work fosters.

The third type of postings are the personal stories.  In many of the cases in this particular post the stories are by men who appear to have had particularly challenging, perhaps unfair treatment by the court system.  Michael Morrison wrote,
"I'm one of those odd-ball men who was awarded custody of his daughters. A couple of years later, Mom landed in jail, and decided that she wanted custody of the kids...Rem­ember, she was in jail.

Every few weeks, I'd be subpoenaed to appear in court. The experience was absolutely surreal: She would appear in her finest orange jail garb, and explain to the judge why she thought she should have custody. I would then have to explain why I thought custody shouldn't be awarded to an inmate.

This went on for months. It was absurd, and the court would never have countenanc­ed this sort of lunacy had the genders been reversed."

Overall, I think this was a good discussion.

Huffington Post Social Media & Web Strategy-- Mix Education with Tabloid


A central challenge in all teaching is to get the attention of the student.  So how is this done on the web? 

Bob Garfield, On the Media, asks this question of Farad Manjoo of Slate.  Here is what he says about the strategy at the Huffington Post:

"One of the brilliant things about what Huffington Post does is it really understands this sort of mix of tabloid news and straight news and politically sensational news better than almost any publication on the Internet. And it has this mix down really well, so that it publishes stories about politics, about legitimate news stories and then it also publishes the kinds you just cited."
 So what should this tell the rest of us about education?  What is the combination of topics that we might be using to get the attention of our students?  In parent education, should be include a place to share cute baby pictures and diaries of new parents?  What is the "sensational news" we could include about parenting? 

Of course, some will ask, is this appropriate?  Again, what should we do here?  What compromises our integrity and what is just savvy marketing? 

There are a number of good articles at On the Media on web strategy and search engine optimization, strategies for the "most emailed stories"  that are worth listening to or reading.  Also, note the multiple delivery methods used by On the Media with its content.  They did a very thoughtful discussion of the pros and cons of the impact of the internet on society. 

Interesting Huff Post pattern


The editors at Huffington Post are doing a nice job of mixing the various postings-- various practitioners (therapists, lawyers, authors of various types), a little research and lots of celebrity divorces.  It would be interesting to see the pattern of page views on all these items, but there may be much to learn about how to get and keep people's attention. 

One interesting little episode surrounds a recent study on conflict and divorce by researchers at the U of Michigan. 

On December 8, 2011, I posted the following commentary on this study and today (Feb 24, 2011), the authors' did an interview with the Huff Post editors that headlined the page. 

Linking News, research and outreach--An example


One of the central themes in my work  (See my proposal for linking science to practice)  has been to champion the linking of research, news, and outreach activities in order to connect all these activities in a more synchronous manner.

This past week I found this example based on a research study conducted at the University of Michigan.

In this news release about a study regarding marital conflict there was a link to a website inviting readers to compare their own personal ways of resolving conflict with those of the participants in the study.  If you click on this link you are taken to a brief survey that includes a series of questions that appear to be typical questions one would find in marital conflict instrument.  After completing the questions, your responses are compared to the "average" responses by survey participants.  In the final screen you are also given a variety of referral sources for counseling and other types of help.

The good part of this work is that the this is an interesting way to engage readers in exploring these ideas a little further and also linking them to potential types of help.  But there are also substantial limits to this.  First, the results that you are provided are not very easy to comprehend unless you are used to reading scientific tables.  These results could be provided in a more comprehensible way that indicated in words or with other visual aides that explained the meaning of the results.  I am sure that the scientists were reluctant to provide too much "explanation" because of genuine concerns about using a brief tool such as this for "diagnostic" purposes.  This is an important consideration, but these results could still be presented in a more insightful way.  The other problem is that the only "advice" that is offered by this quiz is counseling.  Surely most couples who are seeking insight and/or help do not need this level of intervention.  The "help" offered at this point in the quiz/activity could have included self-help books on marriage, links to appropriate websites and other material that addresses couple relationships, etc.  In my "perfect" world of linking research and outreach, I would recommend that the authors of the study and/or their colleagues produce some useful activities and/or resources based on their research and professional experiences.

Overall, this is a good step in the right direction for taking more advantage of the distribution of scientific information to the public.  This takes it beyond the mere "announcement" of a set of findings and invites the public to explore the ideas more deeply and in this case, apply it to their own personal lives.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother-- Another opportunity to teach parenting


The book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is stirring an important discussion of the role of parents in their children's success.  Some of the controversy over this book was stirred up by the Wall Street Journal that titled an article, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior."    But the topics discussed by Ms. Chua raise important questions about parent expectations, discipline, peers, practice, and so forth. 

Here are some interesting discussions:  Huffington Post:  

Slate magazine is hosting a discussion of the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua on January 27th. 

Participating Online about Parenting


This cartoon which shows a gun with the word "parenting" as the safety switch was a major topic of discussion in my house this week.  It raised lots of questions. 

1.  Are parents to blame for gun violence?
2.  Are parents "responsible for gun violence"?
3.  What are our responsibilities about dealing with our adult children's positive or negative behaviors?
4.  What are the challenges of finding resources/supports for our adult children with difficulties?
5.  What are the limits of our ability as parents to influence our children?
6.  If not parents, then how do we explain the troublesome behavior of young adults?

We didn't have any firm opinions on these matters.  As family life educators and professionals who study parenting, child development and families, should we be talking about this issues.  Should we respond to cartoons like this? 

Autism: The Long Tail of Misinformation (Seth Mnookin)


There has been a consensus among scientists for many years that there is little evidence that vaccines cause autism, but that has not stopped many in the general public to continue to believe this idea.  In some parts of the US and UK there are still significant numbers of parents who are refusing to have their children vaccinated.

We are still learning how people of using the Internet to maintain ideas that have been discredited in various sources.  There is much we need to learn here.

Here are three interesting commentaries that deserve careful consideration as we think about the long tail of misinformation.

Seth Mnookin:  The Panic Virus (On the Media interview)-- book--The Panic Virus
Newsweek article-- Autism and the Affluent

Science Friday  Paul Offit -interview

Citizen Scientists?


The web is increasing the opportunities for more people to become involved in science and to participate in data collection, data analysis, etc.  This New York Times article highlights a number of efforts to engage people in scientific work.  In addition to the examples in the article there are additional links and examples in the comments section.

Almost all these examples are from physical sciences, where are the social and behavioral science examples?  We are missing something here? 

Half-Life of a Blog Post


This is old news for veteran bloggers, but I was just curious about my contribution to the Huffington Post Divorce section on the Divorce Research of 2010 and the comments. 

The article was posted at 3:23 am, Dec 28, 2010.  By Noon that day there were seven comments. 

Here are the number of comments between Noon - 8pm that day

Noon     14
1 pm      38
2 pm      52
3 pm      35
4 pm      22
5 pm      17
6 pm       8
7 pm      11
8 pm        5

Between 9 pm and and 10 pm there were five more comments and then between 11 pm and 1 am on Dec 29, 2010, there were 25 comments In the 48 following hours there were 4 additional comments. 

This does not mean that this contribution is still not being viewed (I don't have access to these data.), but it does mean that at least in  this particular case, the commenting on this post lasted about 12 hours.  I am sure that the Huffington Post has more data about the pattern of comments, the demographics of the "commenters" themselves, but this does give you a feel for the brevity of the life of a discussion on the Huffington Post and probably many "news" sites. 

Celebrity Divorce as a Teaching Tool


The most frequent topics on the Huffington Post Divorce page is about celebrity divorces. 

I haven't done a systematic analysis, but I would suspect that more than 90% of the postings are about celebrities. 

This has made me wonder about whether there are ways to use people's interest in celebrities to teach or to interest people in useful information about divorce, relationships, family life, etc. 

Here is an example by one of the editors of Us magazine:   There are a couple of ideas that probably apply generally to non-celebrity couples such as spending time together and considering who you share information with about your marriage-- for most of us we have little worry about some meddlesome paparazzi or television reporter revealing our lives, but friends and family can be intrusive or harmful in some cases. 

But much of what is in this article isn't very helpful to ordinary couples because we don't face the same challenges of high-profile celebrities... so I am not sure if this strategy makes any sense. 

It is also possible that "celebrity names and events" can be used to get accidental page views by unsuspecting web surfers or to use as celebrity news events as a bridge to everyday lives.  For example, parents fighting over custody as a basis for talking about the effects of custody battles on children and so forth.  

I am going to look for opportunities to try out some approaches to incorporating celebrities into my postings. 

Reactions to Divorce Research 2010 Blog Post


About 36 hours ago, Huffington Post Divorce editor, Ashley Reich and I posted the results of ten research articles published in scientific journals in 2010.  (see this post for more background.)As of this morning there were also 300 comments, over 900 re-tweets, and 60+ shares on Facebook.  Interesting.  The postings are mostly the findings themselves without much embellishment.  Six of these studies were in the news earlier in the year, but four of the studies have not had a news release prepared and/or released to the public.  Readers also have the opportunity to rate the "most interesting" study and/or findings.  Again as of today, the most interesting finding is from Gharzarian and Buehler study of the way in which marital conflict is linked to academic achievement.  (complete study here)  Again this is a study that I don't think has been in the news in general. I have not done an extensive analysis of the comments, but they are interesting.  Some indicate that there are some savvy readers such as this comment that shows the author is quite familiar with the research literature and methods:"There is an entire academic industry based on exploring the impacts of divorce on children. Most use a cross-sect­ional design, examining difference­s between children from divorced & intact households­. These designs lead to self-selec­tion issues (despite attempts to control for confoundin­g factors), as children are not randomly assigned to the divorced or intact group. Longitudin­al studies, which circumvent these problems, are becoming more common and often corroborat­e cross-sect­ional findings, although the effect sizes are typically much smaller. With regards to the tuition finding, an earlier study of Albuquerqu­e men found that men invested most in the college expenses of their biological children of their current spouse, then roughly equal in current step-child­ren and biological children of previous spouses, and by far the least in former step-child­ren from previous marriages. The fact that these effects were found from both the point of view of the child and the father suggests that the effect is real."   There are also comments like this one which indicates that some readers make it sound like they understand the statistics and scientific methods, but do not completely understand the source and substance of this work: "I don't doubt at all that divorce has a negative effect on kids... I have made some comments to that idea regarding public education.But, while there may be correlatio­n—and maybe some causation—­I doubt many of these studies are very statistica­lly significan­t. Are we really supposed to believe that if our parents get divorced we are 100% more likely to have a stroke BECAUSE they decided to get divorced? Spurious data and info ki//s me... the example we used was that divorce rate (coinciden­tally) doubled for each country club a man belonged to; therefore, 1 membership doubled the chances, 2 membership­s tripled the rate... I doubt that golf is the leading cause of divorce."Overall, many of the comments suggest that they are reading the findings and thinking about the issues that are presented.  This makes me hopeful about the degree to which behavioral scientists can use new media methodologies to distribute their findings. [...]

New York Times-- Teaching Family Life Education


The New York Times creates an interesting feature in which they use the "news" as a basis for creating lesson plans for students.  Here is there overall approach and strategy:

Here is a sample lesson on children's experiences of living with with their fathers or mothers after divorce.

In general this work is designed for teachers, but there are opportunities for young people to also contribute or take part in this work.  The overall design of this work is nicely done and would be helpful to teachers.  In general, there don't seem to be many examples that use behavioral or social science materials, but this probably reflects the fact that these topics do not easily fit most school curricula. 

This model might be adapted by teachers and/or curriculum developers themselves to develop lessons from a wider variety of news and information sources.

Here are some examples on the topics of marriage and divorce.

2010 Year In Review of Divorce Research for Huffington Post


Late on Thursday, Dec 22nd, I got an email from the editor at the Huffington Divorce page about helping to identify the "research findings" for the year 2010. Friday morning, Dec 23rd, I woke up early and did a quick review of my own collection of "interesting divorce articles" and a review of the major scientific databases and identified about 40 research studies that seemed to represent the important new findings that were shaping our understanding of divorce and also might be of interest to the general public. So I sent the following list of topical ideas to the editor:military service and divorcepatterns of divorce in Chinathe genetic contributions to divorcea better understanding of how marital conflict affects childrenthe risk of former partner violence around the time of pregnancy/birthperceived household task sharing and marital happiness (or not)Children with special needs including autism and likelihood of divorceNew online program for stepfamilies that looks promisingNew evidence that indicates the effectiveness of mediation programs for divorcing couplesThe editor replied that this was an interesting list and asked if I was willing to write short summaries of all of these except autism and the stepfamily program. She either indicated that they already had these or these were less interesting. (not sure of this). So I began to re-read and summarize each of the articles I had selected on each of these topics. Although this seemed like it would be pretty easy, I suspect that I spent 4-5 hours on this. I spent a lot of time on two articles related to genetics and divorce and I realized I just did not have a sufficient grasp of this science to do a summary that I trusted. One my New Year's resolutions will be to learn more about this area of science so I can better understand developments in this area. Anyway I sent off my summaries which will be edited and become part of this year in review slide show for the Huffington Post. This coming year I am going to spend more time putting this review together and do a quick monthly review of new articles so that I have a better representation of the research at the end of the year.The following article appeared at the Huffington Post: you will see my original contribution (before editing) of my submission to the Huffington Post. ------------------------summary--------------------------------------- Interesting Research Studies Related to Divorce (2010). Military service and divorceMilitary service couples are more likely to get divorced, a recent prevention program offers help. Scott Stanley and his colleagues have designed a marital relationship program called, Strong Bonds, that is designed to teach military couples important communication and conflict management skills. Married U.S. Army couples recently participated in a test of whether this program would reduce divorce. One-half the group participated in the program and the other half did not. The results showed that about 2% of the couples who participated in the program were divorced one year later and 6% of the couples were divorced who did not participate in the program. These findings suggest that couple education can reduce the risk of divorce.Stanley, S. M., Allen, E. S., Markman, H. J., Rhoades, G. K., & Prentice, D. L. (2010). Decreasing divorce in U.S. army couples: Results from a randomized controlled trial using PREP for strong bonds. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 9(2), 149-160. doi:10.1080/15332691003694901 of divorce in C[...]

Outline of an Educational Blog Post on Divorce


In writing for the Huffington Divorce page, I am trying to develop blog posts that have the following structure:

a) interesting/engaging/provocative opening sentence
b) a couple of interesting practical ideas that could be helpful to someone
c) links, directions, ideas about how learn more or do something to more.

This is one of my better posts in which I feel like I executed my approach well:

Additionally, I cite the research literature when appropriate and I use scientist's names to link to ideas or findings. I am also trying to take a hopeful, but realistic perspective on these issues. To do this I try to distinguish between what can be changed and what can't be changed in order to provide a broader perspective.

Blogging for Huffington Post on Divorce


For the past month or so I have been writing for the Huffington Post Divorce page. This work gives a chance to return to my primary professional work which is as a educator regarding issues related to families.

For several years I have admonished and cajoled colleagues about the need for scientists and teachers to use the web as a platform for teaching. (See my comments about the importance of scientists and professionals blogging about the link between autism and vaccines.) When I was approached by the editors at the Huffington Post about being a blogger for their newly launching web page on divorce , I knew I had to do this. I have now posted four posts (about one per week). (See my Huffington Posts work here: )

My first post on the role of religion in shaping attitudes about divorce got the most (151) comments (both thoughtful and odd). My most recent post on the role of conflict in preventing divorce got the smallest number of comments (2). It is hard to know why one post gets more comments than others.

I will continue to try this medium. Here I will describe my various reactions to "teaching" in the Huffington Post.

Participation vs. Web 2.0


I keep learning new ideas from Henry Jenkins. In a recent note about DIY (Do it yourself) Media, Jenkins makes two important points that are critical to how we think about models of learning on the web.

First, he critiques the use of the term "DIY" noting that the emphasis is not on "oneself," but on a group of people, he writes,
"what may be radical about the DIY ethos is that learning relies on these mutual support networks, creativity is understood as a trait of communities, and expression occurs through collaboration. Given these circumstances, phrases like "Do It Ourselves" or "Do It Together" better capture collective enterprises within networked publics."
I think his emphasis is right. I have the same difficulty with "personalized learning environments" that seem to emphasize the idea that each of us is some type of autonomous learner rather than emphasizing platforms and processes that engage people in the pursuit of a common understanding and learning.

Later in this article he comments on ideas from Gee (2007) saying,
"Unlike schools, where everyone is expected to do (and be good at) the same things, these participatory cultures allow each person to set their own goals, learn at their own pace, come and go as they please, and yet they are also motivated by the responses of others, often spending more time engaged with the activities because of a sense of responsibility to their guild or fandom. They enable a balance between self-expression and collaborative learning which may be the sweet spot for DIY learning."
Again this emphasizes the idea of learning communities rather than individual learning.

The last point in this article is his idea about differences between the Web 2.0 model and "participatory" culture. He writes,
"Despite a rhetoric of collaboration and community, they often still conceive of their users as autonomous individuals whose primary relationship is to the company that provides them services and not to each other. There is a real danger in mapping the Web 2.0 business model onto educational practices, thus seeing students as "consumers" rather than "participants" within the educational process."
I have often used terms like "Education 2.0," etc. but Jenkins makes an important distinction that may be missed as we talk about these ideas. He notes a big difference in these models is the extent to which mentoring and scaffolding is emphasized versus service to the business enterprise. Jenkins is reminding us of an important distinction that is critical to the structure of learning communities.

Talking about Science


Scientists are failing in their efforts to communicate with the public. Dennis Meredith in a new book, Explaining Research and an accompanying blog has some good ideas about how scientists can communicate more effectively about science.

His blog includes examples of video, audio, blogs and more that illustrate effective way to talk about scientific ideas. In a recent commentary he writes,
"Many academic scientists might consider themselves expert explainers because a significant part of their job entails explaining research to undergraduates in their teaching. But even the most skillful scientist-teachers aren’t necessarily skilled science explainers. Speaking to “captive” student audiences is very different from communicating with any other lay audience, who often must be actively persuaded to be interested in a scientific topic."
Educating the public about science is critical to our ability to make effective decisions and to understand how to deal with the many complex problems of human society. We have learned much about the world, but until that knowledge is available and understandable to the public it won't make much difference.

If you want to understand the future of education-- consider this!


James Fallows has written a fascinating article in the Atlantic How to Save the News that describes the ways in which Google has been working with news organizations and experimenting with ways to continue to have high quality news reporting.

As I read this, I keep substituting the word "education" or "university" for newspapers and keep asking myself how can be take advantage of these ideas.

Here is a quote about newspapers that has application to education and universities.
"Burdened as they are with these 'legacy' print costs, newspapers typically spend about 15 percent of their revenue on what, to the Internet world, are their only valuable assets: the people who report, analyze, and edit the news."
Fallows goes on to note that most of the cost of newspapers in for paper, printing and distribution, not the core aspect of reporting the news.

Now substitute these legacy costs for education-- classrooms, books and you begin to see where we are going.

Fallows describes the conceptual shift that newspapers are going to have to make. He says,
[in the past] "'publishing' meant printing information on sheets of paper; eventually, it will mean distributing information on a Web site or mobile device."
The conceptual shift is from viewing the work as "distributing information." In a similar way most educators have defined "education" as face-to-face lectures with some form of testing. We are going to need to begin to see our job "engaging people in learning activities" without reference to the form or location of those activities.

Education will also have to think about its business model in the online world. Fallows suggests that the the new business model for the news business is as follows:
"The three pillars of the new online business model, as I heard them invariably described, are distribution, engagement, and monetization. That is: getting news to more people, and more people to news-oriented sites; making the presentation of news more interesting, varied, and involving; and converting these larger and more strongly committed audiences into revenue, through both subscription fees and ads."
This may seem obvious, but Fallows goes on to describe tools that Google has been inventing such as "living stories," "fast flip" and "youtube direct" which seem to have interesting applications to teaching. More importantly, these innovations remind us that teachers need to be asking technologist for the tools that will help us with distribution, engagement and monetization. There are undoubtedly some betters ways to do instruction online that are currently available.

Survey of Parents who use the Internet


Despite all the anecdotal evidence that parents are using the Internet as a part of their role in parenting there is very little solid scientific evidence that tells us much about what they are doing.

Colleagues from the University of Minnesota are trying to fill in this gap with a survey of parents.

The Parenting 2.0 research project, sponsored by the University of Minnesota, is looking for parents who use the Internet to participate in an online research study. The study involves filling out a 20-minute online survey about how and why you use the Internet. If you know parents or work with parents, we would appreciate your sending the message below to them. Attached, we have also included a message that can be posted on websites or Facebook. Please use the message that best meets your needs.

The purpose of the Parenting 2.0 research project is to learn more about the ways that and the reasons why parents use technology. Results from this study will be used to help develop parent education resources.

If you have any questions about the study, please visit our website at:

or contact Dr. Jodi Dworkin at or Dr. Susan Walker at If you are interested in getting information about the results, click here to sign up to be notified about the findings.

Integrating Ubiquitous Fragments of Knowledge


The idea that learning can be embedded in many contexts, setting and experiences is among the most powerful ideas related to new media and education. Cope and Kalantzis in their chapter on an agenda for educational transformation, suggest that educational transformation needs to blur the boundaries between institutions, space and time in an effort to create learning opportunities that are embedded in many other parts of life.

At one level this seems exactly right. I don't want to have to attend a class every time I have a question or want to learn something. There are a lot of advantages to me learning it at the moment, in the setting I happen to be in. However, as we unpack learning from classrooms, curricula and face-to-face teaching, how to be retain the "structure" of instruction and guidance that were woven into these learning experiences? We still need structures and scaffolding for learning experiences in many cases. Each learner should not have to find their own path through the thicket of fragmented bits of of "ubiquitous" learning. Likewise, teachers (both formal and informal) should all have to build their own learning platforms in order to teach.

Ubiquitous Learning: An Exploration


At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the College of Education has launched an initiative to explore "ubiquitous learning." As a part of this initiative Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis edited a book that begins to explore the idea of ubiquitous learning. Beginning today and over the next several weeks, I am going to read this book and comment about the ideas. First, what is the definition of "ubiquitous learning?" Several definitions are offered by the authors of this book. 1. the definition of "ubiquitous" [learning] include[s] the idea that learners can engage with knowledge about "anything", and that this learning can be experienced by "anyone" (Kalantzis & Cope, 2009, p. x).2. "the process of learning and the products of learning are rapidly merging into ubiquitous knowledge engagement" (Kalantzis & Cope, 2009, p. x). 3. "Ubiquitous learning is more than just the latest educational idea or method. At its core the term conveys a vision of learning that is connected across all stages on which we play out our lives. Learning occurs not just in classroom, but in the home, workplace, playground, library, museum, nature center, and in our daily interactions with others. Moreover, learning becomes part of doing; we do not learn in order to live more fully but rather learn as we live to the fullest. Learning happens through active engagement, and significantly, it is no longer identified with reading a text or listening to lectures but rather occurs through all the senses-- sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste" (Bruce, 2009, p. 21)So do we need a new term for learning? There many other new terms-- elearning, mobile learning, "learning anytime, anywhere," etc. Bruce's definition above captures for me the central idea that term is trying to convey-- this idea that learning is not set apart from the other parts of living. And, of course, it never was except that as education was formalized and led by professionals, we have tended to ignore the vast amount of learning that was taking place outside of classrooms and formal institutions. Using today's technology tools we can begin to rebuild an integrated learning platform that bridges informal and formal learning opportunities in new and and interesting ways-- this is ubiquitous learning. But as Cope and Kalantzis note, "Digital technologies arrive, and almost immediately, old pedagogical practices of didactic teaching, content delivery for student ingestion, and testing for the right answers are mapped onto them and called "learning management systems" (2009, p. 4). In short, despite the opportunity to create learning opportunities that are different from our current classroom-based, group instructional model, we use our new tools to create the old model. So how do we do something different, some better? This is the problem that this book is designed to explore. [...]

Informal Science Education--Could this be the future?


"The seemingly endless debate about how to improve US science education seems to make the tacit assumption that learning happens only in the classroom" (p. 813) So begins an interesting editorial in Nature, April 2010, titled, "Learning in the Wild" that suggests that we need to be paying much more attention to informal science learning. The authors go on to write,
"researchers who study learning are increasingly questioning this assumption. Their evidence strongly suggests that most of what the general public knows about science is picked up outside school, through things such as television programmes, websites, magazine articles, visits to zoos and museums — and even through hobbies such as gardening and birdwatching" (p. 813).
This goes right to the heart of the idea that we need to build alot of science microlearning opportunities that engage people's interests and lead them into deeper more complex learning activities. In the editorial the author's note,
"This process of 'informal science education' is patchy, ad hoc and at the mercy of individual whim, all of which makes it much more difficult to measure than formal instruction. But it is also pervasive, cumulative and often much more effective at getting people excited about science — and an individual's realization that he or she can work things out unaided promotes a profoundly motivating sense of empowerment" (p. 814).
I am in agreement with this statement:
"education authorities need to recognize the importance of informal science education and do more to promote it — if only as a way to motivate students in the classroom" (p. 814).
Rather than thinking of science education as either formal or informal, we need to build learning systems that move easily from the informal playful educational experiences to the deeper, richer experiences. This will both foster better learning, but it will be much more fun.

Games Can Change Behavior-- Jesse Schell


Could we use games to teach important ideas and change behaviors. See an edited clip (about 7 minutes long) from Jesse Schell about the future of games. At the end he asks "who is going to lead us to this future?" Will the answer be some educators or will we let game designers invent the future of learning?

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See the complete talk on the Future of Games (30 minutes).