Posts Tagged ‘Understanding”’


Understanding the appeal of violent extremism

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

Understanding the appeal of violent extremism
Earlier this month, the White Property also released its new National Safety Approach which states that “in the extended-term, our efforts to function with other countries to counter the ideology and root causes of violent extremism will be more important than …
Study a lot more on Al-Arabiya

Neil Adshead, PhD: Calls for Platinum Squeeze – We&#39re Early But the Trend Will
I did a PhD in Australia in Economic Geology in the early 90&#39s which involved some field perform in Western Queensland and after I completed the PhD, I worked on a project involving mineral exploration for gold and silver in Papua New Guinea. From that, I …
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Town Meeting candidates for regional college boards have their say
I have a PhD in education with an emphasis in curriculum theory. My parents were each educators, and I have been reading and considering about education considering that I was a … Further, a hundred years of educational analysis has consistently demonstrated that …
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Substantial Top quality On the internet Understanding: A Discussion with USC’s Karen Gallagher

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

Technology and Learning

Karen Symms Gallagher, Dean of USC Rossier School of Education, caught my eye for two reasons.   

First, I read a couple of opinion pieces in which she argued that we need to look beyond MOOCs to the potential of providing extremely high quality and intimate for-credit degree programs that leverage new options in technology and new opportunities in non-profit / for-profit partnerships.   These columns, including Higher Ed Leaders Must Lead Online and Rethinking Higher Ed Open Online Learning stand apart for their combination of a progressive call for innovation in online education and skepticism that the locus of this innovation is limited to the world of MOOCs.

The second reason that Karen ended up on my radar screen was her designation as a  Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow.   This prestigious fellowship, which is given to only two dozen educators a year, is designed to "support extraordinary entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to transforming public education." 

The fact that Karen is a strong voice for innovation in new online learning models within the context of high quality degree programs makes her selection as a Pahara-Aspen Fellow a noteworthy development.   Discussions about online education have largely bifurcated around the MOOCs or the for-profit world, with too little attention paid to advances in the quality of online and blended programs offered at highly selective institutions.  The Pahara-Aspen Fellowship may prove to be an ideal platform in which to introduce new ideas and models into the larger conversation.

Karen graciously agreed to participate in an e-mail discussion to explore her ideas around how higher ed leaders can advance both our thinking and our models around online education.

Question:  Can you briefly describe what USC has been up to with online education?

When USC President Max Nikias announced that online education must be a priority for graduate programs, we saw the rest of the university catching up with us.  Every school has been charged with moving forward with an online program, and I’m proud that the USC Rossier School was three years ahead of many others.  We launched our online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT@USC) in June of 2009, and believe me we had our skeptics at the time! How can you possibly teach teaching online?   But we are mission-driven:  all our work is designed to further our mission to improve learning in urban schools locally, nationally and globally.   Our vision is that every student, regardless of personal circumstance, can learn and succeed.  We are not a boutique school with a few students and faculty; true impact in education requires thoughtful scale.  

The only way to scale up was to take the program online.  That’s one difference between us and most of the other schools at USC. The need in this country for more high quality teachers has never been greater.  Besides receiving the masters degree from USC, students also earn a California teacher credential.  This is important to note because we have to meet the high standards of both USC and the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing.  So, students must not only meet every week via live classes using such tools as Adobe Connect, but each student is placed in a school in his or her local community from the beginning of the program  Since the online MAT started, we have graduated over 1200 students living in all 50 states and over 40 countries.  We have partnered with over 1400 school districts. And we are expanding with new online programs this year.
 Question:  What was your rationale to partner with 2U rather than do everything internally?
The issue was capacity.  We knew the content and curriculum, we had the best faculty, and we had a track record of preparing high quality teachers, but we also knew knew we did not have the expertise to build and maintain the type of Learning Management System (LMS) that would adequately support our program.  We were not going to shortchange our students in any way.  We wanted a robust, interactive, synchronous, live experience for our students and we also wanted the back-end infrastructure to be maintained by experts, so that the functioning of the technology was always sound.  John Katzman and his team at 2U (then 2Tor) worked with us hand-in-hand until we had a platform that we knew was worthy of our quality program.
 Question:  You have been somewhat skeptical of MOOCs in your writing, and I gather that this is not the strategic direction that USC is going.  Can you elaborate?

I am actually taking a MOOC course myself right now through Coursera.  Me and 260,000 of my closest friends!  I wanted to experience for myself what all the hype is about.  And as I’ve said before, I can’t help comparing them to The Great Courses, audio tapes of wonderful classes from top universities, which my husband and I always enjoyed.  I’m absorbing information, but I’m certainly not interacting in any meaningful or face-to-face discussions. Now there is a certain amount of interactivity with my MOOC experience, I’ll admit. You can post comments through many different social media during the MOOC course which, because of the number of participants, is a bit like drinking through a fire hose.  If you think of the credits rolling by at the end of a movie, that is how fast comments roll by while reading content or watching UTube videos.  I find it almost impossible to gain anything of substance from my fellow students’ postings because they are coming so fast and furiously, and often superficially.

The kind of robust interactivity and quality demanded by a hybrid degree program like Rossier’s Master of Arts in Teaching does not come cheaply, and it certainly doesn’t come for free, like the MOOC I’m taking.
This is the difficulty with a broad term like “;online”. We’re talking about apples and oranges.  But the language we use currently to categorize online education is not refined enough to differentiate experiences or signify quality.
 Question:  Tell us about the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship.  What will this designation allow you to accomplish?  What are your goals to leverage this honor?   
It was a true honor to be selected for this Fellowship, and I’m eager to meet with my new colleagues and begin this two-year experience.   We will meet for the first time next month, so our goals as a group will be formed then.  It is flattering that for the first time they brought a dean from a School of Education to this prestigious table.  I think that programs like our online MAT and our new LAUSD charter school, USC Hybrid High School, speak loudly about us.  Our work is bold.  It can be risky.  Our mission demands that of us.  Or as I like to say, the Rossier School of Education is not your grandmother’s school of education.

What questions do you have for Karen?

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


9 Factors We Learn About Understanding From Fitbit

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

Technology and Learning

This Hanukkah/Christmas my wife and I gave each other Fitbit Ones, a wearable digital activity tracker that measures steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed and sleep.  

Since 12/12/12 I have walked 334,176 steps, climbed 550 floors, and covered 172.19 miles.   

What can we learn about learning (and teaching) from the Fitbit?

1. Learning and Exercise Are Hard: Perhaps the biggest inhibitor of improving our own performance is the belief that other people are "naturals" at a given task. We say that someone is naturally good at math, or that they have a runners body. We can never be as good as they are, so why even try? The truth is that learning and exercise are hard. Nothing good comes easy.  We all need some help. The Fitbit helps me exercise. It motives me to take more steps. Recognizing that exercise, and learning, are difficult tasks can help us look for methods that might help.  We need to think about how we can use technology to encourage learning beyond what is possible with traditional methods.

2. Nudging Towards Better Habits: What the Fitbit does is provide external rewards that hopefully nudge us to adopt better exercise habits.  I run those extra minutes on the treadmill, or take the stairs and not the elevator, in order to reach my daily goal of 10,000 steps.  Eventually those actions should become habit, I'll do then without thinking.  How can we use technology to nudge students towards better learning habits? Can we find ways to provide rewards that foster both internal motivation and better study habits? If the Fitbit is truly successful at creating better exercise habits (something that I think needs verification from experimental research), can we translate the Fitbit's fitness technology to learning technology?

3. The Power of Instant Feedback: The Fitbit provides instant feedback as to how many steps, miles, stairs climbed and calories burned that I've accomplished. All of these data points are tracked in real time on the device, and captured on my own personal web based Fitbit dashboard. I don't need to wait a day or a week to see the results. And Fitbit sends me badges, in the form of e-mail and on the my Fitbit Dashboard, for every time I reach a goal (say 10,000 steps) or a particular milestone (like 500 floors climbed). Fast feedback motivates behavior.   We need to set our courses up so that we can provide fast feedback and periodic recognition of milestones. We all know that a grade at the end of a class, or a week after an exam, is too late.   What is less obvious, and what the Fitbit teaches us, is that we may be better off creating smaller assignments and deliverables in which we can provide fast feedback and turn-around.  We should also be liberal in creating formative computer graded assessments where learners can get instant feedback on their progress.

4. Setting Goals: The Fitbit allows me to set my own activity goals. The default is 10,000 steps a day (and we know the power of defaults), but we can set that goal for anything that we like. Goals can be for calories or miles, steps or stairs.  Setting our own goals is vastly more effective than having someone set them for us. We have done a good job in our course designs of including learning objectives and goals for individual modules. Have we done enough to figure out what our learners' goals are, and then to measure their performance against those individual goals? We talk a great deal about adaptive learning and personalized learning environments, but in my experience these methods remain infrequently practiced.   

5. Tracking the Data: We don't improve what we don't measure. The Fitbit is one example of the emerging Internet of things and a source for all that big data we keep hearing about.   Every minute of every day that I where my Fitbit I'm creating vast amounts of fitness related data that can be tracked, measured, indexed, and I'm sure sold to advertisers and marketers.   All this data is effective in motivating my behavior, as I can see days when I did reach my goals and try to adjust future behaviors to avoid low activity days. We are doing a better job of tracking learning (or at least assessment) data within our courses, but we are only at the beginning of connecting and aggregating learning data for the entire length of a students' higher education career.   (And forget trying to connect K-12 with post-secondary data). The digitization of learning will help us track things like time spent reading, watching course lectures and simulations, participating in collaborative platforms, and of course taking formative and summative assessments. Will we make all this data available to our students?  Will it run longitudinally across courses? Will employers or graduate schools want to see this data?

6. The Social Element: Learning is social. Every edtech company is trying to turn their learning platforms into social learning platforms. Fitbit lets me see the activity levels of my Fitbit friends via the web based dashboard. If your friends or family buy a Fitbit, and give you permission, you can see how many miles they traveled each day. So far, I have 3 Fitbit friends at work, my wife and her sister in my network. Getting crushed each day by these (apparently incredible active) colleagues and family member is amazingly motivating. Social learning may be effective if classmates can share (can opt-in) to display learning inputs. Time spent interacting with online presentations. Numbers of course blog or discussion postings. Utilization of online, computer graded formative assessments. A Fitbit community tends to set norms around levels of activity, just as a social learning community could set norms around levels of learning effort and time.   

7. The Potential of Mobile Devices: The Fitbit works to improve fitness (if it works, again we need some experimental verification), because it is a mobile technology. Clip it on and forget about it. The data syncs automatically to my web based Fitbit account. No need to plug and download anything. The Fitbit device both tracks and displays my activity, so I can check my progress as I go through the day.   The potential of mobilizing our learning is that our students will have their courses and course materials wherever they go. A set of readings, lectures, videos, collaboration opportunities and assessments on a smart phone will be available whenever a learner has a few free minutes. Our existing digital learning platforms have, for the most part, been born on the web – not on the smart phone. Do we have a learning management system that was designed first as an app, and then secondarily as a website?   What would a born mobile learning platform look like?

8. Ecosystems and the Danger of Lock-In: The Fitbit is not only a souped-up pedometer. It is a website. It is a smartphone app. It even includes a WiFi scale (for $ 129.95) that lets up to 8 people in your household track their weight, BMI, and body fat on the Fitbit dashboard. (I've lost 5 pounds so far!).  The value add for the Fitbit is not the little device, but the way that the ecosystem hangs together and the manner in which all the data populates the Fitbit network. The danger is of course lock-in. My Fitbit data (as far as I know) is not portable, if I switch to say the Nike FuelBand I'll lose all my fitness history. We need to learn how to build our learning ecosystem while avoiding locking our learners in to one platform. Personalized learning data should be accessible across learning platforms, exportable, and ingestible in other platforms. We need to follow Amazon Kindle and Fitbit in creating a valuable ecosystem for learning, but avoid the sins of these companies in making the data (whether e-books or fitness data) proprietary.   

9. The Need for Better Devices:  As much as I love the Fitbit ecosystem, I worry about losing my Fitbit device. A clip on Fitbit is sub-optimal for my lifestyle, I think it will get knocked off, lost or left behind too easily. What I want is a Fitbit watch. Waterproof. Something I can wear all the time and forget. Something that charges by the natural motion of my body. I'm betting (hoping) that Fitbit has this device in development (does anybody know?), until then I live in fear of misplacing the gadget. We also need better mobile e-learning platforms. I dream about Apple or Google or Microsoft putting learning at the core of their mobile operating systems.  The potential to bake in learning applications at the mobile OS level, rather than leaving these apps to the application marketplace, seems to me like the smartest long-term strategic bet that any of these company's could make. Can we imagine what an iPhone, Android, or Windows phone would act like if it was purpose built for learning?

What do you think we can learn about learning from Fitbit?

Are any of you also Fitbit devotees?

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


What’s the “Half-Existence of Understanding?”

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


An interesting question caught my eye recently: what’s the half-life of knowledge, for facts we think we know?  Samuel Arbesman provides an answer in his recent Harvard Business Review article called, “;Be Forewarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying.”

Based on his new book, “;The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything we know has an Expiration Date,” the article first cites knowledge that entire generations accepted as truths that turn out to be false. For example, Pluto is not actually a planet.  He then touches on data that changes slowly over time, requiring us to constantly stay informed.  For example, he shared that, “;A friend of mine, for example, was speaking recently with an older hedge fund manager who began his story with the following: ‘Since we all know that there are 4 billion people on the planet…’” Actually, now there are over 7 billion people on Earth.  There are more examples, from babies to hand-washing practices, in the TEDx video below.

Arbesman also explains that changes to knowledge do have patterns.  He says, “;Overall, there is a shape to how knowledge grows.”   For example, by looking at the changes in data, he describes how the increases in the number of elements in the periodic table “;obeys regularities,” and how, “;even the number of universities over time obeys regularities -; from the medieval period to the modern day.”


Number of Universities Founded in Europe

Picture 3

Source: TEDx video


The Half-Life of Facts: Sam Arbesman at TEDxKC


It seems the only thing we can predict is that knowledge will keep changing. Clearly, using outdated information to support decisions has the potential to create all sorts of problems. Not only does this reminder about ‘knowledge decay’ encourage the personal pursuit of lifelong learning, but there are implications for every industry, including higher education.

Things are shifting relatively slowly in the higher education world, and as Arbesman points out, “;We should be concerned most about facts that change slowly, the facts that change over the course of years or decades or an entire lifetime.”  

How do you keep up with it all?

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U