E-Learn 2014 Presentations

From  October 27-30, I attended the 19th annual, international conference AACE E-Learn in New Orleans. Here are the slides for my talks:


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‘The algorithms that dominate our world’- and the platform that will dominate digital storytelling?

I cam across this posting about ‘the algorithms that dominate our world‘ and loved the accessible writing and great visual presentation – It led me to discover a new social media platform with a fascinating concept: Medium is platform where people can share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters. From the description: “It’s designed for little stories that make your day better and manifestos that change the world. It’s used by everyone from professional journalists to amateur cooks. It’s simple, beautiful, collaborative, and it helps you find the right audience for whatever you have to say.”

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Adding Character to Your Presentation

Here is a brief video tutorial on how to create characters based on a person’s photographs in PowerPoint, using standard functionality such as shapes and the drawing tool. I have used this technique (photo-based characters) in the past, to develop illustrations for presentations and e-learning material and presentations – most recelty for a talk at the TCC 2014 conference. However, I have always relied on the support of grpahic designers who developed the illustrations in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Maybe it is time to open PowerPoint and try it out myself!


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The MOOC Rollercoaster – Resources – Special Issue of JOLT

This is definetely on my reading list.


Foreword to the Special Section: MOOCs – Evolution or Revolution?
Sir John Daniel

* Research Papers *

Challenges to Research in MOOCs
Helene Fournier, Rita Kop, and Guillaume Durand

Participants’ Perceptions of Learning and Networking in Connectivist MOOCs
Mohsen Saadatmand and Kristiina Kumpulainen

* Case Study *

MOOCs: Striking the Right Balance between Facilitation and Self-Determination
Tita Beaven, Mirjam Hauck, Anna Comas-Quinn, Tim Lewis, and Beatriz de los Arcos

* Position Papers *

MOOC Pedagogy: Gleaning Good Practice from Existing MOOCs
Maha Bali

Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy
Jen Ross, Christine Sinclair, Jeremy Knox, Siân Bayne, and Hamish Macleod

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Big data: White House Report

The White House has just released a report on “Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values” (85 pages, PDF) along with a collection of supporting documents. The report is the culmination of a 90-day review by the Administration, spearheaded by Counselor John Podesta. The blog posting by danah boyd offers a look behind the scenes from one of the contributors to the report.

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Colorless green ideas sleep furiously…

An interesting article on automated essay grading and the potential and limitations of parsing programs:


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Open Textbook ‘Teaching In A Digital Age’ by Tony Bates

See more at: http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/02/18/my-vision-for-an-open-textbook/

and here: http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/03/03/getting-started-in-writing-an-open-textbook/

What Tony Bates describes sounds like an exciting project and an English counterpart to the open textbook initiative L3T in the German speaking areas. This collaborative textbook on learning and teaching with technology is the result of the joint effort of 116 authors, 80 reviewers, several proof readers and layout specialists: http://l3t.eu The book is licensed as creative commons and accessible in various digital formats as well as print on demand (which also allows readers to create a personalized selection of chapters). I contributed a chapter on ‘media theory and learning’ to both the 2011 and 2013 edition and served as a reviewer for the 2011 edition. in both roles, I was impressed how smoothly such a large project can be completed. The editors (Sandra Schoen & Martin Ebner) used open journal systems to facilitate the workflow, which worked really well. Though this is usually an architecture for, well, open journals, it can work nicely for books, particularly edited volumes. I like the workflow, with preview, review, copyediting and proofing stages.

It looks like Tony Bates is planning on using PressBooks for his project.  A derivation of WordPress, it will output in html, pdf or e-pub formats. I have not worked with PressBooks but it definitely sound like an interesting approach. Many potential contributors will have experience in using WordPress and as such the environment has the potential to provide a low technological barrier for involvement.

Apart from the technological infrastructure, I think it is helpful to provide a template that encourages the use of different instructional elements in each textbook chapter – advance organizers, examples, activities, questions, explorations, glossary terms,…. The platform trello (https://trello.com/) can be a great tool to coordinate the many different tasks that go into publishing an open textbook – cover design, authoring chapters,  reviewing, proofreading, layouting, organizing writing sprints, ….

One last thing that I personally would love to see – or rather hear: An audio version of the textbook. I am excited about this idea and have started following Tony’s blog.


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AACE Special Interest Group ADD E-Learn: Member Survey Results and Plans for 2014

Making the complex clear, turning difficult into intriguing, raising intellectual curiosity, supporting creative problem solving, posing authentic challenges, building effective scaffolds – contemporary e-learning goes beyond the latest tools and technologies. The special interest group “Designing, Developing, and Assessing E-Learning” aims to bring together researchers and practitioners to debate and collaborate on a variety of instructional design themes. The SIG promotes activities for future E-Learn conferences. This presentation summarizes the results of an online survey among ADD E-Learn members and promotes plans for E-Learn 2014. These plans include

  1. Organizing ‘ADD E-Learn Special Issue Roundtable’: This informal meeting will focus on Special Issue contributions, joint writing/ research initiatives, project collaboration.
  2. ADD E-Learn Symposium: Several members articulated their interest in a separate conference track for the SIG. To meet this need for a focused track, we will organize a symposium for AACE E-Learn 2014.

In addition, we have planned several activities during the conference/ at the Special Interest Group Meeting:

  • ADD E-Learn Voices: Brief audio interviews with SIG members on their projects, ideas, research …
  • ADD E-Learn Practice2Teach: Opportunities to recruit instructional design guest speakers for classes
  • ADD E-Learn Focus Topics: Selection of 2-3 focus areas for collaboration in 2014/15
  • Other topics that will be discussed at the meeting include the launch of the SIG Website, the community’s vision / mission statement as well as activities and leadership for 2014/15.
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#ToRead: It’s Complicated

“Over the past decade, social media has evolved from being an esoteric jumble of technologies to a set of sites and services that are at the heart of contemporary culture.” In her new book ‘It’s complicated‘ danah boyd, a researcher at Microsoft Research,  Assistant Professor at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, presents the results of her long-term, ethnographic research on how teenagers communicate, engage, immerse and interact in online communities and social networks.

Reading ‘It’s complicated’ is remarkably simple. First of all, access is easy, and if you prefer, instant and free: The publication is available open access online in PDF format or for purchase in various bookstores as print and e-book. Second, the book’s language and structure are both clear and compelling. boyd is an avowed activist and explicitly aims at wide distribution. She seeks to engage a large and diverse audience of scholars, educators, parents and policy makers.

Even if you are not interested in the online life of the American teen, I recommend taking a look at the introductory chapter. It offers a thorough overview of the historical evolution of social media and contemplates cultural and technical aspects of technology. Focusing on four affordances, boyd discusses how social media channels foster -not determine – characteristic use patterns. These affordances are:

  1. persistence: the durability of online expressions and content;
  2. visibility: the potential audience who can bear witness;
  3. spreadability: the ease with which content can be shared; and
  4. searchability: the ability to find content.

“Networked publics are here to stay”, boyd explains. Rather than resisting technology, she urges her readers to allow children to develop the skills and perspective to productively navigate the complicated social media landscape. Given that  73% of  adults in the US use online social networking sites (Pew Internet, 2013), boyd has a strong point when she advocates fostering media literacy rather then condemning media use.

The book’s theme – understanding how social media are intricately interwoven in our day-to-day communication behavior and what this means for our cognitive, emotional and social well-being – reminded me of Sherry Turkle’s publication ‘Alone Together’ (2012). Whereas Turkle paints a bleak picture of technology getting in the way of closeness, boyd states that teens use digital channels primarily to connect with friends. As teenagers’ physical meeting spaces are more and more constricted, online networking sites offer the freedom to chat and hang out.

Both authors deploy similar research methods – qualitative, ethnographic field work – and have a thorough background in computer and web technologies.  What is intriguing me is that I find both perspectives interesting, convincing and valuable.

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New Pew Internet Survey on Reading Habits: E-Books on the Rise

Source: Pew Internet Research Center (2014). E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps. (PDF, online).

Quick Facts at a glance:

  • Rising level of familiarity with e-books: The percentage of US-American adults who read an e-book in the past year has risen to 28%, up from 23% at the end of 2012.
  • Complement, not replacement: Most people who read e-books also read print books, and just 4% of readers are “e-book only.”
  • Rising level of device ownership: Overall, 50% of US-American adults now have a dedicated handheld device–either a tablet computer like an iPad, or an e-reader such as a Kindle or Nook–for reading e-books.
  • More tablets then e-readers: 42% own tablet computers; 32% own e-book reading device like a Kindle or Nook reader.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between January 2-5, 2014 among a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States.


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