blogger counters

Friday, September 18, 2009

Interview with Bryan Orme, E-Learning Innovators Series

Developing technologies that facilitate discussion and encourage learners to engage is critical to maintaining student engagement and motivating them to stay active in the course. Welcome to an interview with Bryan Orme, co-founder of CreateDebate, an online debate forum.

What is your name, your affiliation, and your connection to e-learning?

My name is Bryan Orme, I am a co-founder of CreateDebate. CreateDebate is an online debate forum that can be used in the classroom as a web-based virtual learning environment (VLE) to drive collaboration, discussion and critical thinking.

What is your view of how people interact and learn in the e-learning space?

In my view, the e-learning space is evolving as technology redefines how teachers and students communicate and collaborate with each other and among themselves. It's an exciting time because technology is being used in new ways to supplement traditional classroom activities and enhance the overall learning experience.

People learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. E-learning technology has unlocked new possibilities for teachers eager to engage students with a collaborative learning approach. For instance, it is quite easy for a teacher to incorporate CreateDebate into an existing lesson plan to drive discussion and constructive reasoning through participation and collaboration.

Please give an example of a discussion that leads to a learning encounter. How do you open people's minds rather than simply reinforcing bias or rigidity?

On the topic of American Imperialism, one history teacher uses CreateDebate to enliven the instructional component by supplementing his lecture with an interactive debate. The lesson plan begins with a central question: With regard to the exploration and establishment of the United States, do the pros outweigh the cons?

As the lesson plan unfolds, students are given the opportunity to write arguments supporting the either pro or con positions. The students are also encouraged to vote for or against the arguments written by their peers. As a result, the most convincing arguments are voted to the top of each position. The net effect is a competition where students are striving to craft well-written, logical arguments.

Each time the students are given an opportunity to write new arguments and vote for the most convincing, the teacher leads a discussion in class to review the most popular arguments. As the lesson plan progresses, the students are encouraged to incorporate new ideas into their arguments and reminded that they can change their votes. By the end of the instructional component, the debate reads like a lesson plan summary.

This teacher has harnessed e-learning by providing a forum for his students to learn through competitive collaboration. As the interactive debate has been threaded throughout the lesson plan, the views of his students have been shaped through instruction and peer-collaboration. All of his students have become active participants in the learning process.

What do you see as the connection between creativity and debate?

Creativity is a mental and social process through which new ideas and concepts are generated. Debate is a method of interaction between people where ideas and concepts are analyzed, argued and judged. Creativity and debate are two dots connected by ideas and concepts.

What is CreateDebate? How does it work? What are the underlying learning theories that support its application in the elearning space?

CreateDebate in the Classroom enables teachers to customize and build an online debate community that can be easily incorporated into almost any lesson plan. Typically, teachers will create debates around questions that will build on the current course of study. The goal is to engage students and enrich the classroom conversation through peer collaboration. Debates can be conducted in the classroom “real-time” (if computers with Internet access are available) or participation can be assigned as homework and reviewed in class.

CreateDebate is built on Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, which states that when students are able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate subjects they are learning at a much higher level than rote memorization of facts. CreateDebate is also based on James Surowiecki's theory of Collective Wisdom, which argues that the aggregation of information in groups leads to better conclusions and decisions. By engaging in collaborative debate, students are able to exchange ideas and theories that eventually lead to better conclusions than simply calling on the student that raises their hand.

Do you have any future plans? How are you planning to leverage new technologies?

We plan on expanding the CreateDebate platform to make it even more valuable and useful for both students and teachers. We are creating lesson plans that teachers can leverage to encourage debate and discussion in their classroom depending on the grade level of their students as well as the topic of study.

We also plan on enhancing our social networking features to allow teachers to collaborate on what works best in their classrooms and share ideas for how to most effectively leverage debate in their curricula. Additionally, we plan on creating functionality to allow classrooms from around the world that have the same learning objectives debate each other by using the CreateDebate platform. We are actively working with teachers to create new features that make CreateDebate even more valuable for use in the classroom.

Free download of E-Learner Survival Guide!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Interview with Christopher Cummings,, Innovators in E-Learning Series

Learning Spanish online, in virtual worlds or via distributed instruction (virtual tutors, etc.), continues to expand as people find interacting in real time via avatar or chat to be stimulating, engaging, and effective. Have the reference materials kept up? Have virtual dictionaries expanded their instructional strategies? It is a tough question and one we pose to Christopher Cummings, CEO of Curiosity Media, which operates

What is your name and your connection with e-learning?
My name is Christopher Cummings and I am the CEO of Curiosity Media. Curiosity Media operates the world's largest Spanish learning website, SpanishDict. The site reaches over 3,000,000 people each month and provides free, high quality Spanish reference and learning material.

What is your philosophy of e-learning in relationship to language acquisition?
The number one most important challenge to overcome when learning a new language is persistence. Language learning requires practice and a sustained commitment. Our philosophy is to develop tools make it easy for people to stay committed by keeping them engaged. features interactive videos taught by a real Spanish teacher. We supplement each video with multimedia flashcards, games, and writing and speaking activities. These videos and features are then packaged into courses that guide people step-by-step--from beginner to advanced levels--to learning Spanish. All of this is made available for free on our website.

Please describe your new product and how it works. What makes it different or special?
The new version of the website makes it even easier to learn Spanish. We now offer 90 profressional video lessons, hundreds multimedia flashcard sets, and two commercial dictionaries. We also offer an exciting new "Answers" section where people can ask and answer questions. The best answers are voted to the top, creating an extensive database of common and not so common questions and answers.

Here's a tough question: Does the world need another dictionary? How does yours encourage collaboration, interaction, and social networking / learning community development?
We started in the site in 1999, back when the world really did need another dictionary--one that was online, easily searchable, and had audio pronunciations of the words. That formula is what launched the site on its pathway to popularity. Since then we have led a number of innovations on the world of online dictionaries: we use one simple search box for both English and Spanish words, recognize what language you've entered, and bring you to the right translation immediately. We auto suggest words in English and Spanish as you type. We have audio prononuciations for every word. And perhaps most importantly, we licensed some of the best dictionaries available, so that our search results give not only the translations, but example sentences, regional variations, and the information you need to actually be able to use the word with confidence.

We have an incredibly active community. In the question and answers section, people are constantly helping one another. The answers section enhances the results from our dictionary: each time you look up a word we also search for relative posts from the answers section for that word. This can often provide help with hard to find translations and tricky usage scenarios. If we don't already have an answer to your question, we make it dead simple to ask a new question. It's really amazing to see that virtually all questions that are asked get good, solid answers from members of the community.

How do you keep Flashcards from being passive?
We try to make the flashcards interactive with the games that we have linked to each flashcard set. People learn words with the flashcards, and they practice what they have learned with the automatically created multiple choice quizzes, listening games, and a memory recall section that is associate with each word list. Users earn points on these games for each correct answers, and they are able to challenge their friends and other members of the site to see who can earn the most points on any given flashcard set. Finally, we also users to create their own flashcards sets and games. We link this to the dictionary so that is really easy to look up a word you don't know and then add it to a flashcard set of words you are learning.

What is Curiosity Media? Do you have plans for future projects?

Curiosity Media is the company behind SpanishDict. Looking ahead, we are constantly adding new features to SpanishDict and trying to reach more people with the resources we have on the site. We will soon be launching a full-featured iPhone app. This will make it even easier for people to lookup words on the go or brush up on their Spanish with our word game and talking phrase book. Stay tuned for the that. We are also going to be reaching out to more Spanish speakers looking to learn English. Our whole site has been translated into Spanish, and we now have video lessons that teach English to Spanish speakers. I think these will be a couple of the future projects to watch out for on SpanishDict.

What is your core learning philosophy?

Approach the world with a curious and open mind and you will be amazed at what you learn.

Blog Archive