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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anti-Bullying E-Learning // Interview with Pavel Tchourliaev, Kiwi Commons: Innovaters in E-Learning Series

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
My name is Pavel Tchourliaev, and I’m the COO of Kiwi Commons Inc. At Kiwi Commons, we feel that e-learning is essential in educating kids and raising them in a digital world. While we are very aware of the risks that surround the online world, we also feel that emerging technologies, if used responsibly, can be a great learning tool to engage students in the classroom, and an intuitive way to continue their learning at home.

Pavel Tchourliaev

2. In your opinion, what is cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying is the use of online technology and social media to deliver deliberate, repeated, and hostile messages and pictures (using e-mail, instant messaging, texting, or sending images via cell phones, blogs, Web pages, and/or chat rooms) by an individual or group with the intent of causing harm to someone.

3. What are common manifestations of cyber-bullying? What does it look like when children engage in it?
The most common way cyber-bullying occurs is through the use of social media where it’s easy to target people. It’s generally done through ridicule, humiliation, spreading rumours and other means that threaten a victim’s reputation and safety. It is arguably more pernicious than schoolyard bullying because it can occur at any time and its young (often anonymous) perpetrators cannot be brought to justice by traditional authority figures like teachers. To the victim’s chagrin, it can persist indefinitely.

4. How can one combat cyber-bullying?
Restricting access to social media sites until children are old enough, can help prevent the early on-set of cyber-bullying problems. ‘Blocking’ itself however, is not a solution. Parents can combat cyber-bullying through communication and education about online issues. Teaching empathy at a young age can help deter children from becoming bullies when they are older. It is also important to have open conversations about kids’ online lives and create an understanding that whatever is said in the digital world can have consequences in “real life.”

5. Are there ways that social media can help children develop empathy and courtesy? How?
Social media is a great way for children to learn what it is like to be in another person’s shoes. It can teach empathy by exposing them to the real issues that their peers might deal with on a regular basis. The lesson that needs to be taught when they come across these issues online is to not be a bystander to bullying. It takes courage to speak up against bullies, but it can make a world of a difference to a person who is being harassed.

6. What is Kiwi Commons?
Kiwi Commons Inc. is an organization dedicated to Internet safety-related topics such as cyberbullying online privacy and gaming addiction. We deliver free seminars in schools through our non-profit division - Kiwi Seminars. Kiwi Filter is a great web filtering tool for parents with kids ages 4 to 11.

Kiwi Commons itself is a blog, with a mission of educating parents and teachers about the risks that surround youth on the Internet so that they are better equipped to educate their own kids. The website also provides resources for both parents and teachers about how to deal with specific issues, hands-on.

7. How does filtering really get at the core issue of bullying? It seems to me that it would take more than simply blocking content. Please explain how you would address cyber-bullying in a more integrated, larger way.
Kiwi Filter goes beyond just blocking content because it works using a whitelist that parents can create themselves. Creation of these safe website lists encourages communication between parents and children about websites they need or want access to. Filtering is also a good deterent for cyber-bullying as it can remove access or reduce time spent on social media websites.

Since bullying is often driven by a victim’s reaction, lack of it can help prevent the escalation of the problem. An understanding of the risks and a responsible online behaviour should be established before children are allowed to use social media sites.

Kiwi provides tools and information necessary for parents to address topics such as bullying, whether they believe their child is being bullied or is a bully. You can view these resources at:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Interview with Jody Hoff, Federal Reserve Bank: Innovators in E-Learning Series

With all the recent efforts by the U.S. federal government to respond to the ongoing economic challenges, the demand for understanding the role of the Federal Reserve Bank has grown dramatically. In response, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSB) has developed an informative and innovative way to help learners of all levels gain an understanding of the banking crisis of 2008, in addition to ongoing current challenges.

The materials that the FRBSF has developed are appropriate for online and hybrid courses, and would fit in well in portfolios developed for many different subjects, ranging from economics to marketing.

Welcome to an interview with Jody Hoff, Senior Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

1. What is your name, your organization, and your relation to elearning?

a. Jody Hoff, Senior Manager

b. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

c. I direct our education efforts for the 12th District which includes nine western states. An important component of our educational strategy leverages elearning approaches to reach our key audiences, including students and educators.

2. What is the Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco (FRBSF) doing in the area of elearning?

a. In the Education group, we are in the process of shifting our strategy to provide content to students and teachers in an electronic format. Examples are the Crisis and Response and What is the Fed? web resources. In addition, we are rolling out a new project called DataPost that will provide a weekly chart/visualization of the economy with a brief explanation of the story behind the data, discussion questions for the classroom, and the actual data set so that students can experiment with their own visualization or chart.

3. What is the mission of the FRBSF's educational outreach? Why? What do you hope to see in the future?

a. Our education mission is to provide meaningful learning opportunities about the Federal Reserve, economics, and the economy.

b. As an institution, the Federal Reserve is charged with implementing monetary policy to promote a healthy economy, job growth, and stable prices. We are committed to providing a variety of opportunities for people to learn about the Federal Reserve and its role in the U. S. economy.

c. The explosive growth in access to technology and information is erasing the traditional split between teachers and students. I recently witnessed two teenagers utilize a YouTube video to complete their algebra homework. They were having trouble remembering the classroom lecture from earlier in the day and rather than dig through the textbook, they pulled up a video on the exact topic, watched it for about 90 seconds and then completed the problem. We view our online resources, like the Crisis & Response site, as offering a self- serve, if you will, source of information and analysis. Our strategy is to support learning in a way that gives the user some control about how to process the information. OurWhat is the Fed? resource follows this model with text, conceptual images, discussion questions, and a monetary policy game called The Fed Chairman Game.

4. You've used a combination of video, animated graphics, and an interesting schema-building instructional strategy that allows learners to move to ever increasing levels of detail and depth. Could you describe how that happens in your site, and why you took that approach?

a. The sites are organized around essential questions and bullet point answers. We wanted to provide a way for the reader to get their arms around the big picture before diving into the specifics of the content. We also wanted to provide a variety of tools for the reader to develop their own meaning about the narrative. We used compelling data and graphs to support the bullet point answers and also created a number of conceptual images to help readers understand unfamiliar terms such as ‘macro-prudential supervision’.

b. Our approach was to frame the issues around essential questions that would tell the story of the economy without completely overwhelming the reader. We wanted to experiment with an approach that didn’t just drop you in the deep end of the pool and hope you could swim. Rather, we wanted to provide an entry point to the story that you could follow to increasing levels of complexity.

5. Cause and effect plays a big role in the fundamental narrative and logic structure of your site and the approach you take. It seems extremely effective and appropriate given the economic crisis and the need to untangle the basic "why's" and "how's" of what occurred. Could you discuss how you settled on which major issues to address?

a. Because of the challenge of synthesizing the complexity of the crisis into a concise, essential question format, our most senior economists wrote the narrative. And, we spent a great deal of time thinking through the story of the crisis and how best to contextualize the issues.

6. What are your plans for the future? Do you have any plans to encourage banks to put in links in their online banking portals? If so, how do you see your role in relation to local banks and also users of banking services?

a. That’s an interesting question. A direction we are exploring for the future is the use of short, immersive video “talks” to quickly and directly pull the viewer into a look at the economy from the perspective of a research economist. Our goal is to share new understanding and insight about economic processes. These efforts are focused primarily on educators, students, and the general public.

7. Please discuss an aspect or two of your philosophy of elearning.

a. My philosophy of learning is based on the constructionist perspective that places the learner at the center of the action. We design content with a specific context and provide tools that support the learner’s efforts to understand and create meaning. Taking that perspective to the elearning environment, we’ve incorporated many of the instructional design principles outlined in Richard Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. The Crisis and Response site is really all about trying to reduce the cognitive load for the non-expert members of the public, including teachers and students, who want to understand more about the complexity of the financial crisis. Our What is the Fed? resource and upcoming new DataPost project also incorporate these design principles.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Jill Ambrose, CourseSmart: Innovators in E-Learning Series

E-textbooks and other digital assets have become extremely important in the world of textbooks. The texts are evolving quickly, in both the way that they are delivered and in the kinds of instructional activities, materials, and collaborations that are included.

Welcome to an interview with Jill Ambrose, Chief Marketing Officer at CourseSmart.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
Jill Ambrose, chief marketing officer at CourseSmart, the world’s largest provider of eTextbooks and digital course materials. CourseSmart believes in anywhere, anytime access of course materials for everyone. Therefore CourseSmart enables and supports access to e-learning.

Jill Ambrose, CourseSmart

2. What are some of the latest trends in e-learning?
I would say the two biggest trends in e-learning right now are the push towards mobile access and learning as well as interactive course materials that improve learning outcomes.

With today’s students being more tech savvy and taking their college learning experiences beyond just the classroom, mobile access to e-learning tools has become increasingly important. CourseSmart has been committed to meeting the growing mobile needs of today’s students, and just this year, we led the industry in mobile innovations by introducing the first eReader app for Android™-based devices which joined our other industry firsts – the iPhone® and iPad® apps, launched in 2009 and 2010, respectively. We also launched an HTML5 single platform reader (another industry first) allowing users to access digital course materials online, offline or on mobile devices. And earlier this summer, CourseSmart launched the industry’s first social commerce tab on Facebook, giving students unprecedented access to eTextbooks through a site where they already spend a lot of their time.

CourseSmart is the only digital course provider that offers eResources from multiple publishers. eResources are highly engaging and interactive learning products that make faculty teaching more effective and student learning more engaging by providing immediate feedback to the student to ensure comprehension of key learnings. eResources include an automated, integrated grading system that provides real-time feedback to ensure comprehension of key learnings by the user.

It’s not just about what’s “fun and interesting” in their eTextbooks, but rather, it’s what truly helps students with learning and ultimately the comprehension of that learning experience.
All eResources are not alike but many include quizzes, tutorials, interactive exercises, videos, links to other websites and the digital text.

3. How have digital textbooks changed over the last 5 years?
First off, the content has not changed. Availability and how you interact with the content is where there have been dramatic increases.

Regarding availability, digital course materials and eTextbooks are now available through multiple channels; online, through some Publishers and the campus bookstore. The sheer volume of the CourseSmart catalog of eTextbooks continues to grow everyday and currently includes more than 20,000 eTextbooks which represents 90% of all core higher education textbooks in use today.

How you interact with the content has also changed. Mobile access is a big shift in the last few years with the increase of smartphone and tablet usage as well as emerging mobile app technology. At CourseSmart alone, almost one third of all users (faculty and students alike) prefer to read their materials on a tablet rather than on a computer. Product features have also improved significantly, as CourseSmart has continued to listen to consumer feedback, adapting our features to meet the changing needs of students. This includes improved highlighting and note-taking functionality, the ability to cut and paste sections of text, email select content to classmates, etc.

4. What do you see as some of the main trends in cloud-based digital texts?
An important element that CourseSmart recognizes in the use of digital texts is the ability to access texts when needed, without limiting storage to only one device or access through multiple devices, as well as creating the ability to synchronize notes and highlights when you are working between computers and devices. This is where the case for cloud-based digital textbooks becomes especially relevant to our customers. The availability and portability of cloud-based applications, such as CourseSmart’s library of eTextbooks and digital course materials, means that students and faculty can access the texts and course materials anytime, anywhere. Access is available from any web-enabled device or through one of CourseSmart’s downloadable apps. Our cloud-based model perfectly fits with the on-the-go lifestyle and need for portability without the burden of carrying around heavy textbooks. Even notes on the texts, if entered within CourseSmart’s interface, are portable!

The cloud-based nature of eTextbooks and digital resources also eliminates the need for costly investments in storage and infrastructure by schools and students to store loads of downloaded materials. While CourseSmart eTextbooks and digital course materials can be accessed offline, they remain stored on the cloud, taking advantage of the efficiency of cloud storage.

5. How well do CourseSmart texts integrate with learning management systems?
They integrate extremely well. CourseSmart is dedicated to providing a streamlined teaching and learning experience for faculty and students. CourseSmart Solutions for instructors and institutions can be fully integrated with various learning management systems like Pearson LearningStudio, Blackboard® and Desire2Learn, allowing instructors and students to access their course materials in their current daily workflow. Current solutions may be found at Arizona State University, University of Michigan and Western Governors University to name a few.

6. (Revised) What kinds of multimedia do you typically bundle with an e-text? Do you have standalone audio (mp3 format) that students can download to their portable devices, or do they have to access the e-text through the CourseSmart portal each time they want to watch a video or listen to an audio podcast?
Publishers determine the content that should be offered as an eTextbook or an eResource. The publisher also determines appropriate content that should be bundled with eTextbooks. There are various forms of multimedia used with titles offered by the publishers. Again, these are determined by the publisher. The types of multimedia selected are based on how well they support the concepts being taught.

All of CourseSmart’s eTextbooks are stored within the cloud and are accessible to students and faculty anytime, anywhere via a Web-enabled device connected to the Internet. At this time, only CourseSmart’s non-multimedia content can be accessed offline.

© 2011 CourseSmart, LLC. All rights reserved. CourseSmart® is a registered trademark of CourseSmart, LLC. All other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Interview with Joe Landsberger, Website Study Guides and Strategies

Welcome to an interview with Joe Landsberger, who has put together extensive online study guides and study tools to meet the needs of students everywhere. While courses can be relatively easy to find and OpenCourseWare more prevalent, it is often difficult to find effective study tools, particularly in different languages.

Joe Landsberger:
For the past 16 years, I have researched and authored content, as well as developed and financially supported its Website Study Guides and Strategies. This stemmed from my professional and educational background in assisting learners and developing training modules in a university setting, as well as discovering the educational potential of the Internet back in the early 1990’s. In a chance encounter with an academic support professional at a conference, I discovered that a Website should be a useful tool delivering study strategies in a learning center environment. With publication of those first pages in a Website, I immediately began to receive appreciation from developing countries. A cadre of dedicated volunteer translators and collaborations also emerged to where its resources are translated in 39 languages.

Joe Landsberger
Study Guides and Strategies

Over 250 topics in content have been developed. Some have been developed as part of a logical sequence, some by chance encounters identifying a need, and even a few by request. They include options in learning as types, in the classroom, with others, online; time and project management; test preparation and taking; reading and writing guides. Each Webpage adheres to a similarly bulleted style and format in a consistent design and navigation template, which is of course reversed for right-to-left text as Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian.

Initially the content was verbal without images, but as capabilities progressed more were illustrated. In 2003 Flash was deployed in order to facilitating engagement with content, and over 100 interactive exercises are now online as well. Aside from developing these exercises, another effort toward enhancing the effectiveness of the resource has been made to group, and even sequence topics. One limit to the singular nature of the Website, is that there is no institutional affiliation, which impedes research into determining effectiveness or in terms of outcomes, and also limits my opportunities for funding (while a public service, the organization is not non-profit, just without profit!). However, over 60,000 (educational) institutions link to the site worldwide, and traffic has continued to grow each of its 16 years, currently increasing at 23% in 2011 to over nine million visitors.

Due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, it has been difficult to gauge characteristics of visitors, whether student, teacher, support professional or parent. however presented this profile (December 2010): "Compared with internet averages the site's audience tends to be aged under 25 and 55-65; they are also disproportionately low-income, moderately educated, childless women browsing from school and home." English accounts for about 80% of pages accessed. Interestingly, only about 5% of visitors use handheld/mobile devices.

Approximately 51% of traffic originates in the US, 6% the Philippines, 4% Canada, 3.6% Mexico, 3.5% India. Over the years the international traffic has increased as more guides are translated. One curious source of traffic originated in a developing country. When I inquired from a researcher the reason, he stated that the guides seemed research-based, freely accessible, and that his country did not have the resources either to develop them, or to provide academic support in school settings.

Aside from adding topics, translations, and exercises future projects will respond to advances in technology. Recognizing the limitations of Flash and evolving standards and specifications for web-based e-learning (SCORM), I eagerly await HTML5, as well as other applications and developments in promoting interactivity for the topics and content of the Website.

Currently all 1500 pages of content are being migrated into CSS, with 20 of 39 languages completed. This effort has magnified the limitations of myself as developer. I had to dedicate several months of time not only to assess the next iteration, but also, lacking any collegial environment, teach myself the development and implementation. This last has involved a line-by-line review of not only code, but also the content itself. Foreign languages presented a unique challenge that was remedied by machine translators and Internet searches to verify and optimize text!

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