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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Ultimate Field Trip Competition: Interview with BP

There are many ways to learn, and one of the most dramatic approaches to situated, experiential learning is a field seminar or field trip. Welcome to an interview with Jason Terrell, Talent Attraction Manager, US University Relations, BP, who discusses BP's "Ultimate Field Trip Experience."   

Monday, October 20, 2014

Interview with Jeff Kissinger, Rollins College Certificate in Instructional Design: Innovators in Instructional Design Series

The need for innovative instructional design that works in many different types of organizational settings for many different types of learners is surging now with the advent of mobile devices. Welcome to an interview with Jeff Kissinger, Rollins College. Jeff designs and administers new programs in one of the nation's most innovative college, which is known for its passionate approach to instruction and learner engagement.

What is your name and your relation to elearning?
Hi, my name is Jeff Kissinger, Jeff, and what is my relation to eLearning?  Well, at my core I am a curious learner and teacher, always have been.  I am fascinated by how we make sense of the world around us, interact with each other, and attempt to gain novel insights.  eLearning, to me, is connected learning, which I suppose one could easily say of all learning; that it doesn’t happen in isolation and is always situated.  But, for the sake of the topic and this question, and your blog Susan, eLearning might be considered connected, social, omnipresent learning enabled by various technologies and ecosystems.

My relation to eLearning is quite simply my love of teaching, learning, and tools and creative ideas that serve these. I began to develop a true passion and connoisseurship for this convergence many, many years ago teaching students with exceptionalities applying adaptive technologies for their diverse needs at an urban high school in Orlando.  I got to see first-hand how creative uses of tools and technologies could enable higher student learning and outcomes, but more so than that how it changed their lives.  From that teaching experience alone I knew that I had to always be striving for better understanding, competence, and capacity to help create the best learning opportunities possible.  So, again, to me, I see eLearning as a shortcut to describe the learning in our connected age, whether formal or informal, and where modality is not the predominant defining factor.
What do you consider your core philosophy of elearning?

My philosophy of elearning, and simply learning, is based on a solid foundation of open access to knowledge, critique, and creation.  I began my career teaching English in a rural area of Florida but truly began to develop a connoisseurship at the nexus of pedagogy and technology while teaching students with exceptionalities in an urban high school.  This experience planted the seed for a life-long thirst to uncover, explore, and share novel learning affordances of emerging teaching/learning practices and technologies.

At the core of these inquiries is a focus on Connectivism and the omnipresent social layer of our modern existence and the necessary literacies we must continuously hone.   In my teaching, regardless of context or modality, I see the world through a multidisciplinary lens, where technology and tools serve the learners and seek to improve how we learn. 

How do you decide what kinds of instructional technology to use?  
Drawing on my resourceful, scrappy years teaching in special education I was always searching for creative ways to enhance student learning opportunities with whatever tools and technology I could get my hands on.  Ironically, in those days most of us wanted more PC-based tools, and I had a bunch of hand-me-down Apple LCIII’s in my adaptive technology classroom/lab.  So, I learned early on to use what I had, in the best possible way, however what this helped me fine-tune in my own teaching was to focus on the learner and not the tool.

The tool will present itself if you have this non-technocentric lens.  This perspective has served me and my students well over the years guiding key decisions in instructional technology selection and application.  I guess the other thing I would say, and why I feel Apple technologies align so well with teaching and learning is that the tools need to become common and fold into everyday life and use.  We can’t have environments and tools that create needless cognitive overload or distractions that get in the way of why we are here, which is to learn, create, share, discover…

Where do you think that elearning is going?  I think when one looks out on the learning landscape we see plate tectonics shifting.   There is a mad gold rush within ed tech, and it seems like there are new ideas and tools popping up daily, which I love.  The challenge will be to make sense of it all, in a sober fashion, to best serve learners.

Practically speaking, I see analytics beginning to emerge in useful ways, a continued move to learner-centeredness, and a unbundling and disaggregation of resources, services, and paths.  Designs, practices, and enabling technologies that foster this organic unbundling of available learning options, focusing on competencies and more authentic higher levels of learning and assessment, will be the successful models that emerge and persist.   

What is Rollins College's new Certificate in Instructional Design? Who is it for?  
The Rollins College Instructional Design program is a learning experience comprised of 5 online courses and a capstone course that is offered in a 6 month sequence.  Designed for adult learners by expert practitioners and leaders in the learning and training field.  These courses are taught by faculty and leaders from higher education, k12, and workplace training.

The learning outcomes are:
  • Apply project management principles for local and virtual workgroups
  • Develop connoisseurship for learning technologies along with current and burgeoning theories and practices
  • Effectively employ technology in the design, development, management, and evaluation of knowledge creation
  • Participate in the professional growth of the learning design and training communities of practice.
  • Develop and practice a reflective commitment of continuous improvement to creating quality learning opportunities
6. Create an instructional program for a defined population and purpose
The topics covered include: instructional alignment, learning motivation and engagement, assessment, mobile and social learning, eLearning, learning technologies, analytics, and authoring. 

Why now? What makes this ID certificate unique?
The Rollins College Instructional Design curriculum has been a labor of love and has been a culmination of my and my colleague’s years of experience teaching and learning.  What we looked out at the ID job market we saw a misalignment with programs, degrees, and certificates.  We wanted to create an experience for learning professionals, or those seeking to break into these careers, that gave them the foundational knowledge to make effective learning design decisions that produced tangible outcomes.

Employing practical, authentic learning activities and assessments, the curriculum is designed to serve professionals in workplace training, k12, and higher education.  Unlike many of the ID programs we saw, which were heavily technocentric and didactic, we designed a set of learning experiences that we would have wanted years ago that affords graduates the confidence, skill set, and connoisseurship to be successful. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interview with Anne Higgins, Author of Reconnaissance (Texture Press, 2014)

Poetry connects to readers in many ways, and the sources of inspiration can come from experiences, ideas, relationships, and emotions. Welcome to an interview with Anne Higgins, whose latest book, Reconnaissance, has just been published by Texture Press. As sample of her work can be found here.

What is your name, and your primary occupation / avocation(s)?

Anne Higgins. My primary occupation is teaching.  I’ve been teaching English for roughly 40 years, from middle school level through college. My avocation is writing poetry and watching birds.  I also have a religious vocation; at the age of 30 I joined a religious community, the Daughters of Charity.

Anne Higgins 
Anne Higgins in 1970 - Ireland

Anne Higgins in 1978 as a novitiate
 What are some of your thoughts about the role of poetry in today's society?

It’s ever ancient, ever new. Today’s society needs it for the inner life. I agree with William Carlos Williams when he said “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

How do you see poetry in relation to other discourses?

It has equal importance, though not many think so.

What do you consider to be the difference between poetry and poetics?

Poetics is the study of the way poetry is written; poetry is the work itself.

How would you describe your own sense of poetics?

I would describe it the way literary theorist Jonathan Culler does: Poetics is the study of linguistic techniques in poetry; it’s concerned with the understanding of how a text's different elements come together and produce certain effects on the reader.

I have never studied literary theory per se: my study of poetry (back in the sixties) focused on form criticism, and I am still mostly interested in the words and how they are put together in the poem.

Your recent book is Reconnaissance.  What would you like a reader to know about it?  How would you like readers to read the text(s)?  What kinds of interpretive strategies / meaning-making processes would you recommend?  How can the work make connections with readers?

I titled the book Reconnaissance, because to me the word means “to know again.”  One of the dictionary definitions is:  preliminary survey to gain information; especially : an exploratory military survey of enemy territory. From the  French, literally, recognition.

So the poems are about knowing things again; especially, seeing things with new eyes.

I am a lover of spy novels, especially the work of John Le Carre. Because of the underlying motif of surveillance that the word reconnaissance implies, I used words associated with spies and spying for the divider pages: Binoculars, Debriefing Magritte, Interrogations, and Safe House.

Magritte - Girl Eating Bird
The title of the book also comes from a painting from Rene Magritte: Le Reconnaissance Infinie.  The wonderful and ingenious cover was created by Arlene Ang, incorporating the sky from the Magritte painting, framed by a camera lens, and visited by a “hated housefly” from my poem “Like the Eyes of Insects.”
Le Reconnaissance Infinie
I try to write accessible poems, though I know some of the ones in this book are more riddle-like.  I love to play with words, and would encourage readers to just play along with me. Readers should also be able to connect with many of the subjects of the poems: traffic, aging, illness, families, etc.
Magritte - Companions of Fear
 Most of the poems are open form, but I did include one sestina – the one about the terrible fire in Our Lady of the Angels elementary school in Chicago in the 1950’s.

Fire at Our Lady of the Angels elementary school - 1950s
Please describe what you would consider to be your prevailing philosophy of life.

To me, life is full of mystery , synchronicity, and irony. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interview with Andrea Leyden, ExamTime: Focus on Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning comes in many different forms and for many different users. Welcome to an interview with Andrea Leyden, ExamTime

1.    What is your name and relation to e-learning?
My name is Andrea Leyden and I am  part of the ExamTime team. ExamTime is an elearning platform designed to encompass a variety of areas including social, mobile and adaptive learning to enhance the effectiveness of education.

ExamTime is a web-based learning solution which provides students and teachers with free access to elearning tools to create, share and discover resources including Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes. The tools on the site encourage engagement and participation in the learning process by developing independent thinking and analytical skills in students.

2.    What is adaptive learning and how does it work?
Adaptive learning is an educational method which uses computers and other technology to adapt the learning experience based on the students' needs and progress.  

3.    What are some of the advantages?
There is a huge benefit from personalizing education by continually assessing student knowledge and skills. Applying this learning method in the classroom means that students have more control over their learning and their individual needs are heard. Education is not an area where "one size fits all."
Not only does adaptive learning help students by identifying knowledge gaps and barriers to assimilation of new information, it also highlights where a student's strengths lie. Identifying and highlighting weaknesses alone will only work towards student isolation and under-achievement. Build confidence by showing your students that their skillset is important and beneficial.

4.    How is ExamTime adaptive?
ExamTime has added new tracking and progress tools meaning students can apply adaptive learning to their own study. Students can analyze their progress based on their completion of resources such as Flashcards and Quizzes within a subject. After creating a comprehensive set of study notes and collecting resources using the pinning option, the new subject analytics feature will highlight the areas which need more work and where weaknesses have arisen. Resources can also be tracked individually to understand and assess key knowledge.

The Quiz feature is particularly helpful in this area. Creating an online quiz demonstrates if there is a gap in student's knowledge of key concepts and ideas in your subject.

Outlined below are some steps that allow students to use ExamTime for adaptive learning:
a.    Create Subjects for each course:

b.    Build a comprehensive set of study resources by creating and pinning with Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes. Here are some examples:
Mind Maps

c.    Organize resources by categorizing study aids into topics:

d.    Test knowledge by completing Quizzes and Flashcard decks:
e.    Analyze understanding of core concepts based on this testing by using the Analytics feature within each subject. This step in the process is key to using ExamTime for adaptive learning. Using the Subject Analytics feature, students can see their score and progress after they have tested themselves. The graph will highlight areas where study has been focused and show where there is a gap in student knowledge. The related resources section within each subject will provide even more opportunity for students to have access to knowledge in areas they are lacking.

There are future plans to develop this feature even further so students and teachers can analyze progress even more so and adapt their learning needs based on this.

The Quiz feature is particularly helpful in this area. Creating an online quiz demonstrates if there is a gap in student's knowledge of key concepts and ideas in your subject.

6.    What are some of the topics used in ExamTime?
ExamTime supports active learning by encouraging students' creation of resources such as Mind Map, Flashcards, Quizzes and Notes. As a result of this philosophy, users have the ability to create any subject or topic they specialize or are involved in. That being said, the most popular subjects on the site which are already created are Math, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History and Geography.

7.    Can you give a few examples of case studies?
Selam Habtemariam, an 8th grade student has been using ExamTime to progress her learning for over a year. She comments that "in the last school year I started taking high school classes such as Physical Science and Geometry so I had to try a little harder to pass those classes. I tried my hardest studying with ExamTime and sure enough, I ended up getting the highest score in the class."

Not only does this show that studying hard and giving it your all is important, it also shows how much ExamTime can help students achieve their study goals.

Rafranz Davis, an established US education blogger and instructional technology specialist, helps teachers to empower students to become autonomous learners using innovative teaching strategies. Davis and her students seek out new ways to approach learning by sharing new discoveries.
Her students flipped their role by teaching her and other teachers how they were using the free online learning platform ExamTime to impact their learning.

"You can't get this kind of work on paper," Davis comments while her students show her how easy it is to create a Mind Map online.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

eLearnChat Interview: Rick Zanotti and Dawn J. Mahoney

I had a great time on the webshow, eLearnChat, with host Rick Zanotti and fellow elearning expert Dawn J. Mahoney -- they are quite funny when they start riffing and I have to say it was seriously fun. We talked about new trends in training, and how to be effective in a global context when we're looking at very specific topics and areas for training.

A great time was had by all -- I was in lovely Guadalajara, Mexico, where friends, culture, climate, and bandwidth are the best

I'm still smiling. I suspect that the Gizmo the Corgi (aka E-Learning Queen) is not... Things were said... Secrets revealed...

At any rate, I encourage you to kick back and stream...
eLearnChat, with Rick Zanotti and Dawn J. Mahoney

Friday, August 29, 2014

Business Simulations: Improving Applications - Interview with Veijo Kyosti, Cesim - Innovators in E-Learning Series

Business simulations and other types of interactive elearning are more important than ever, especially as the simulations have more connections to real-world applications and problems. Welcome to an interview with Veijo Kyösti of Cesim, a Finnish educational technology company.

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

My name is Veijo Kyösti, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cesim, a Finland based educational technology company focused on developing business simulation games for higher education institutions and corporations. I have been in the industry for over 15 years and am deeply passionate about closing the gap between business theory and the skills actually needed in the workforce today.

Veijo Kyösti, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Cesim

2.  What do you see as the benefits of simulations?

Simulations are an excellent tool for instructors to illuminate a variety of business concepts in a risk free online environment that is built on the principle of learning by doing. Students gain invaluable teamwork, decision-making and problem solving skills amongst others, and will better understand the interconnectedness of a company’s functional areas. Employers often lament the divide between the knowledge of graduates and the skills needed in the workforce, so by understanding what drives profitability before ever having worked at a real organisation, students will significantly improve their chances of employment after graduation.

You can read more about the benefits of business simulations here.

3.  What are some of the newest developments in simulations?

We are seeing an increased demand for more ways to evaluate the performance of students, so we have recently rolled out the individual results feature which allows instructors to assess students  one by one in addition to the default team performance.

Increased modularity and customization is also something we are trying to improve with every iteration, so that instructors can take our off the shelf products and modify them easily if they want to. This is a great way to keep the simulation content fresh from one semester to another.

4.  What are some of the business simulations you've developed? Please describe a few of them. Please include screen shots.

We have a range of discipline and industry specific simulations  including Cesim Global Challenge (strategy & international business), Cesim SimFirm (general management), Cesim OnService (SME & entrepreneurship), Cesim SimBrand (marketing management), Cesim Hospitality (hotel & restaurant management) and Cesim Bank (banking & finance).

5.  How are your business simulations being used? Where? Who uses them

The simulations are most typically used in graduate and undergraduate business courses by instructors at higher education institutions, as well as in corporate training programs by facilitators. Over 300 institutions around the world have used our business simulations to teach 100k+ participants.

More business simulations success stories can be found on our website.

6. What is the future of business simulations?

Generally speaking the potential of simulations is still unrealized at the majority of organizations so there is plenty of room for further growth. In order to facilitate the educational institutions and industry tapping into the full potential of simulations, vendors need to provide simulations that are easy to use, flexible, cost-effective, and link concretely to the learning objectives. In addition, since the overarching learning trend is towards e-learning and blended learning the simulations must be fully compatible with that development.


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