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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Personalized Learning

About 10 years ago, I set up the first Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) in female public schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Within one year, the plan was implemented on a small scale (one school).  While it was a lot of hard work for one person, looking back at it, it was the right project at the right time.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of support from the school administrators at the time, it did not reach the level I had anticipated.  Nowadays, technology and education have evolved.  Learning where education is headed gives me butterflies in my stomach from the excitement!

In Craig Howard's article Web 2.0 sites for collaborative self-access: The learning advisor vs. Google® in the Studies in Self-Access Learning (SiSAL) Journal, Howard discusses collaborative self-access language learning.  While he mentions that it is not quite new, he lists the different names it has appeared under: internet-mediated language learning, long distance CMC, and collaborative exchanges to name a few.  Collaborative language learning seems to be one form of personalized learning.  One can personalize it according to age, level, target language, native language, etc  For instance, if I am a native English speaker and my target language is Arabic, I may need to practice not only grammar and writing, but pronunciation as well.  In Arabic, there are many "initially doubled consonants".  For example, "sh" in Arabic is one letter: ش and so one.

Before, language learning was more about joining a language learning class at a language center or buying software that cost upwards of $100, such as Berlitz and Rosetta Stone.  Now, we have open access to language learning websites, many free of charge.  Having previously visited some of English language learning websites, I have decided to list a few that may be of use to the readers:

1.          BBC Languages:
2.          Babbel:
3.          English Central:
4.          EnglishPod:
5.          iTalkie:
6.          Livemocha:

 Let's hope they may be useful to you!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Podcasting: Can You Hear Me? Loud and Clear!

A podcast is a succession of audio or video digital media files that can be downloaded and played on a player such as an iPod.  To be honest, I've only listened to a podcast for class and in truth, it bored me to tears.  The reason?  It was an hour long and the monotone voices were too much to bear.  However, not all podcasts are boring.  Although anyone with an audio file and an internet can make a podcast, it appears that there is an art to successful podcasting.  Here is what I have learned:

  • Make it short (20 minutes is good).
  • Do NOT ramble or talk about your "technical difficulties".  We all have them.  I want to hear what you have to say about the topic.
  • Check out PodCast Awards ( for the highest rated podcasts, all separated by category.
  • Keep in mind your audience.

According to Ashley Deal in Podcasting.  A Teaching with Technology White Paper. from EDUCAUSE, "Many students perceive lecture podcasts as a tool for review, rather than as a replacement for attending lectures".  I tend to disagree somewhat.  If a student is sick, why can't he or she listen/watch the podcast to help make up for it?  Maybe follow it with a summary of the podcast.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Window to Educational Blogging

Blogging: what gives?  People across the world have been blogging for years.  From personal blogs to mommy blogs to adventure blogs to political blogs, it has given many people around the world a platform to express their thoughts and ideas.  While some blogs are funny (, while others are more "business-like" ( ).  Some are a mixture of everything: news, entertainment, health, and so on ( 

Blogging can be a great educational tool.  According to Stephen Downes in EDUCAUSE Review on Educational Blogging:

"The students at St-Joseph are reflective of a trend that is sweeping the world of online learning: the use of weblogs to support learning. And even though the world of fifth grade may seem remote to educators in the college and university system, these students, when they enter postsecondary education, may have had more experience writing online for an audience than writing with a pen and paper for a teacher. Such students will bring with them a new set of skills and attitudes."

It allows students to interact and collaborate online to make their learning richer with new skills.  I, for one, am glad I began this blog for my class as it has given me not only practice, but a platform to speak my mind about technology and education.  I can share videos and links that I think are helpful to others.  I can receive comments and respond (interacting with others).  There is so much blogging can do, especially in education.  We just need to open our eyes..

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mobile Learning

In the past several weeks, we have discussed e-books, open education, participatory learning, shared online video, and many more.  This week, we will discuss mobile learning and where we are headed with it.  In Seeds Of Empowerment, an amazing project brought on by Paul Kim of Stanford University.  They find ways to bring access to an education to those who cannot afford it.  If UNESCO's reports that 400 million people will never see a book in their lives is not motivation enough, then what is.  Seeds of Empowerment's mission is:

"The Seeds of Empowerment team intends to develop and implement projects that will 'plant seeds of hope and opportunity' for the underserved around the world. Our projects use cutting-edge technology to create self-sustaining business models that empower the powerless by improving their access to an education".  Below is a video detailing their Mobile Science Project:

Mobile learning is opening the doors to learn anywhere and at anytime.  Seeds of Empowerment is only one project that is taking off and helping provide those who do not have access to it a global solution.  Where is our contribution?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Virtual Reality and Gaming: The New Direction in Learning?

I must admit that although I think educational games are a great way to learn, I have yet to sit back, relax, and play a few educational games on my iPad.  My kids use it more than I do!  But I am intrigued by virtual reality.  In class, we were presented with QR code, or Quick Response code, that is a two-dimensional matrix barcode (  Basically you scan and wallah!  You get a video or a link to a website or promotional video or whatever it may be.  It is actually quite fun!

Check out the QR code for my blog:


If you have a QR scanner on your smart phone, it will take you directly to my blog.  Aah, the wonders of technology when you finally understand it!

Second Life is another an online virtual world.  Users can create avatars to use it to interact with one another.  At work, people can hold virtual meetings with one another.  In school, it can be used with students interacting with one another.  In the military, there can be virtual "war rooms" for army personnel to practice. 

Here is a look at a YouTube video explaining Second Life for all you visual learners:

Second Life is collaborative, interactive, global, and a learning tool.  As interesting as it may seem, I do not have much interest in it.  Just my thoughts..

Monday, October 31, 2011

Collaborative Learning

One of the articles I read for this week was the Lee and Hutton article "Using Interactive Videoconferencing Technology for Global Awareness: The Case of ISIS" in the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning.  In this article, my attention was on Indiana University's International Studies In Schools (ISIS) program that was a collaboration between Indiana University's Office of International Programs and the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE).  With ISIS, learners interact with people from other cultures or with experts on topics that have global significance.  Such series, such as "European Security Issues in the 21st Century" or "Daily Life in Kenya", give perspective directly from the source.  Teachers contact ISIS to tailor programs that fit their needs.  Whether it is for a geography or a history class, it provides all those involved with a unique learning experience that was not there 15-20 years ago.

No longer is geography or money a barrier in receiving a global education.  I can learn anywhere at anytime.  That's the beauty of it.  And ISIS also offers technical support by Virtual Indiana Classroom Network Operations Support Specialists (VICNOSS).  In interviews from The Case Study at Jamestown, Lee performed an ethnographic study of two middle school classrooms that were using the ISIS program.  He found that teachers provided positive feedback regarding implementation and students were quite interested in the technology.  Of the challenges, the excitement subsided after the initial exposure and there was not sufficient planning in using volunteers for the program.  For more information, you can go to:

Some tools that can be used for collaboration are:
1.      Adobe Connect Pro:
2.      AnyMeeting:
3.      Collanos:
4.      ConceptShare:
5.      Google Groups:;
6.      Google Docs:  
7.      Diigo:
8.      Dimdim:
9.      Elluminate:
10.  Facebook:
11.  Google Hangouts:
12.  GoToMeeting:
13.  GroupTweet:
15.  OpenStudy:
16.  PBworks:
17.  SlideRocket:
18.  Skillshare:  
19.  Skype:
20.  StartWright (virtual teams):
21.  TwitterGroups:
22.  TypeWithMe:
23.  Twibes (Twitter Groups):
24.  Twiddla:
25.  Twitter:
26.  Twitter Groups:
27.  Ustream:
28.  Virtual Edge for Teams:
29.  WebEx:
30.  Wet Paint:
31.  Wikispaces:
32.  Windows Live Groups:
33.  Writeboard:
34.  Yahoo! Groups:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hello YouTubers!

Technology nowadays is allowing media creation and distribution to be cheaper and faster than ever before.  Uploading a video to YouTube is common.  According to "Video Use and Higher Education: Options for the Future" (report by Copyright Clearance Center, Intelligent Television, and New York University),
13 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube per minute.  The following table illustrates what percentage of faculty use video and what type:

People collaborate on videos allowing for more openness and free exchange.  More and more companies are getting free advertisement and influence on the marketplace through video.  What should be of utmost importance is how video is used to further education and humankind.  Now this is just my point of view.  What video does for the world is amazing.  In a previous post, I included a reference to a website called "Nautilus Live".  On it, a person can view a live underwater exploration.  Imagine what type of species one can encounter or how a child's mind can associate with science in seeing something almost right before their eyes?

There are so many websites out there with informational videos that can help direct a person's life goals.  I have found videos on TED to be inspirational, videos on YouTube to be stress-relieving, and videos on MIT's OCW to be educational.  I have found videos on websites like to be informative in world news events.  I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. 

Having tried to figure out ways to overcome the cultural barriers that one might face in certain countries regarding video use, Professor Curtis Bonk suggested using TeacherTube (directed more at teacher use).  He also suggested getting permission from the school administration for viewing a certain list of videos/websites and one can go from there.  Hey, if you've got video, you've got my attention.

The Power of Online Video

I have to say I admire those who can just read an article or listen to a lecture and understand it immediately.  Unfortunately, I need some type of visual: a graph, a picture, a video, etc.  It doesn't matter what it is so as long as I can see it.  It helps information "stick" in my mind.  I will never forget the first time I saw video of astronauts in space or of the floods in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. 

Video is also a powerful learning tool.  Teachers have used it in the classroom for decades.  What has changed since my days in K-12?  We no longer have VHS tapes (sad, I know).  We now have DVDs and flash drives and the internet and...  Video is all around us.  We access YouTube from not only our laptops, but from our mobile phones (I'll discuss mobile learning in November).  Here is a video of Salman Khan's TED Talk about using video to reinvent education:

Khan seems to have summed up many of our R685 weekly topics in one: Open Educational Resources, Shared Online Video, Participatory Learning, Personalized Learning, and more.  The availability of video gives educators options for helping their learners learn.  I recall our teachers back in high school having us read a book and then watch the video of it.  For instance, with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, we read the book all semester in class.  At the end of the semester, we watched the movie and then wrote a paper about the similarities and differences between the book and movie.  Reading the whole book was a bit daunting, but watching the movie was a breeze (hey, it summed it up in two hours - can't get better than that!).

Video is also powerful in helping learners watch live explorations and expeditions.  Although the Naulitus 2011 Live Expedition has ended for this year, it had one of the most amazing videos of live feed from a submarine.  Watching video of shipwrecks and new underwater species was irreplaceable as a learning experience.  Those with a fear of water can join in without having their fears come as an obstacle.  Learning is powerful!!

Monday, October 17, 2011


Ever had to Google something and one of top results was a page like this (see above)?  That's because Wikipedia has become one of the most visited websites for information.  So what is a wiki?  A wiki is a website that allows the creation, collaboration, and editing by multiple users.  With a Wiki, people from around the world can collaborate and build internet-based relationships.  According to Wikipedia, collaboration is defined as "working together to achieve collective results that the participants would be incapable of accomplishing working alone". 

Collaboration may seem easy for most, but one must keep in mind cultural differences when there are some.  With computer-mediated communication (CMC), problems can arise between members of different cultures.  Misunderstandings and miscommunication might happen.  For instance, if someone said something like, "When pigs fly" to a Muslim, they might get offended as it is widely known that Muslims cannot eat pork.  Of course a person cannot know everything about every religion or culture, but they might give themselves a chance to be more culturally sensitive, which in turn will help provide a more productive collaboration.

I found this great presentation on SlideShare by Mcannonbrookes entitled "Organisational Wiki Adoption":

I must note here that Wikipedia adopts a Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy in that information provided must be neutral and unbiased. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Participatory Learning

Let me ask you this: how many teens do you know that you would consider tech savvy?  Out of say five teens, would you think one or two are tech savvy or more like four or five?  If I told you that more than one half of all teens have created some sort of media content, would that seem accurate?  According the Pew Internet & American Life project, not only is that accurate, but one third of teens who use the Internet have shared this content.  In Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century published by the MacArthur Foundation, "participatory culture" is "a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one's creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices".  Some forms of participatory culture are:

1. Affiliations - Formal or informal memberships such as Facebook, MySpace, message boards, etc.
2. Expressions - Producing creative forms such as mash-ups, digital sampling, fan videomaking, etc.
3. Collaborative Problem-solving - Working in teams, formally or informally, to complete a task such as Wikipedia, reality gaming, etc.
4. Circulations - Flow of media such as podcasting, blogging, etc.

Peer-to-peer learning, diversification of cultural expression, development of skills in the modern workplace (such as performance, multitasking, networking, etc.), among other benefits, help these youth acquire important skills and competencies through popular culture.  More opportunities for youth to collaborate world-wide thus creating more opportunity for interaction and understanding between cultures.  Besides the benefits, we must take a look at pedagogical concerns such as participation gap, transparency problem, and ethics challenge.  Do youth have equal access?  Can these youth see how media shapes perceptions of the world?  Are they prepared ethically to take on such challenges? 

One of the concerns that I had was whether or not students would actually learn these skills in a formal school setting or not.  If not, I am afraid it will cause highly motivated students to become discouraged and disillusioned with formal eductional institutions and maybe even dropout.  These members believe in the weight of their contributions and social connections to some degree. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Open Education for an Open World

Education has long been one of the most talked about subjects.  Whether it is about what school to apply for or how to pay for college, it is on the minds of almost all parents and young adults.  If I knew that someday I could go to Harvard or Stanford and have my education paid for so that when I graduate I have no student loans, I would feel like the luckiest person in the world!  Fortunately for me, I am funded, but I still think about those who are not.  I do not have the means to pay for them, but I do know that they can still learn from the best of the best without paying a dime.  In comes the Massechusetts Institute of Technology's OpenCourseWare.  Online lectures mostly free to anyone who would like to take an MIT course.  No need for an application, for funding, or for costly exams (GRE and GMAT ring a bell?).  You just take the course in the comfort of your home.

The following is the percentage of users from around the world for MIT's OCW website:

So whether I can afford it or not or whether I can leave my country or not, I can still get the education I so desire.  So who watches the courses?  MIT's OCW audience is divided into:

Keep in mind that this does not mean you will get any kind of degree or certificate from MIT.  OCW just allows you to access these lectures for your own benefit.  The Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike allows the users to access and share the site if it is for non-commercial purposes and must credit the author/licensor.  For more information, go to:

Another interesting project that I have come across is the Opencourse Opencourseware Prototype System or OOPS as it is commonly referred to.  This all-volunteer organization, headquartered in Taiwan, was originally designed to translate open course materials from MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) into Chinese.  An article appeared in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 8, Number 3 entitled "OOPS, Turning MIT Opencourseware into Chinese: An analysis of a community of practive of global translators" by Mimi Lee, Meng-Fen Lin, and Curtis Bonk, it outlines the issues "central to the emergence, success, and challenges of the community such as OOPS".  These three issues are catagorized as:

1. Leadership
2. Paricipation incentives
3. Storytelling

Is there a strong, stable leader that has "vision and effort... to cultivate peace and mutual understanding?  If the participants are mainly volunteers, would that lower the quality standards and productivity?  Is storytelling between the members about the process of translating vital to the community?  These and many more questions can be found in the article.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Extreme or Nontraditional Learning

Let's say you wanted to learn about expeditions in the Arctic, but did not want to watch DVDs of one which was probably at least a decade old.  You could do that at home.  No, you want an experience and since you cannot go yourself, you decide to find a clever way to do so.  If that is the case, then someone has done you a favor: GoNorth! is an online hybrid adventure learning program that allows the K-12 learner to take part in live expeditions by dogteams.  GoNorth! is a project that focuses on two approached to learning: experiential learning and inquiry-based learning.  Students face real-world problems and they are to identify problems, analyze data, interact with experts on the expeditions, and so on.  These authentic learning experiences allow for collaborative learning for the K-12 curriculum. 

Not interested in the Arctic much?  Then try the Jason Project, where you can watch live ocean expeditions.  This project partnered up with NASA, the Smithsonian, and National Geographic, to name a few.  Learners connect with scientists and researchers in real-time and virtually for "enriching science learning experiences".  Nautilus Live provides live video 24/7 from the ship E/V Nautilus. 
Students can learn from anywhere, anytime in the most extreme ways.  Want to go on a polar husky expedition, but cannot afford it?  Check.  Want to go deep under the sea, but you are afraid of water?  Check.  There are many ways we can learn and as they say "the sky's the limit".  I wonder if I can go up in space next...

GoNorth! Project:
The Jason Project:
Nautilus Live:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blended and E-Learning

According to the seventh annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning published in 2009, there was a 17% rise in online enrollments.  One of the reasons could be the economic times.  As the U.S. economy declines, there is more and more demand for online learning.  According to this report, historically bad economic times were good for higher education enrollments.  Whether it is for a better job or advancements in their current jobs, there is no denying that there is an increase in these enrollments.  According to the report, in Fall 2008, over 4.6 million students took at least one online course. 

In the New York Times' article "Live vs. Distance Learning: Measuring the Differences, Trip Gabriel reports that according to the Department of Education's analysis of 99 studies, online learning was more effective than face-to-face learning.  As a student myself who has taken an online course, there are advantages and disadvantages of online learning.  One of the advantages is that if someone is employed, he or she can probably find the time for the course while working.  Another advantage is that if one of my children gets sick, I can still go online and not miss class.  On the other hand, a disadvantage would be that I would not have the face-to-face interaction with my professors/classmates, but that's where blended-learning comes in.  Students can do both - learn online and in the classroom.  Their learning can be more personalized to fit their needs.  The following video is by Curtis J. Bonk, Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University and author of The World is Open and The Handbook of Blended Learning and is the 12th in a series of videos posted on YouTube:

For more on "Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009" go to:

To read the New York Times' "Live vs. Distance Learning: Measuring the Differences" go to:

Monday, September 12, 2011

The E-Book Explosion

Once upon a time, there were books - hardcover and paperback.  One day, this young man carried a dictionary, thesaurus, two textbooks, and a novel all in his back pack everyday to school and back.  Then the e-Reader came along.  That same young man could carry his dictionary, thesaurus, 20 textbooks, and 100 novels all in his backpack and barely feel like he had anything in his backpack.  The world had changed and books were at his fingertips - usually in 60 seconds or less. 

In the time that it takes to go to a bookstore, find a book, pay for it, and get home, a person could have downloaded a book and read the first chapter or two.  With e-Readers such as Kindle, iPad, and Nook, one can have hundreds of books that weigh less than a pound.  Long gone are the days when people toted books at airports and on busses.  Schools such as Abilene Christian University and Seton Hall have offered their students iPads and are helping them integrate different forms of mobile learning. 

The high cost of textbooks can be to blame for student demand for e-Readers and e-Books.  Representative David Wu (D - Oregon) says the House Education Committe "recieves more mail from constituents about textbook prices than about any other issue" (  With college textbook prices going up approximately 6% a year, e-books are the best alternative to save money and back pain.  The following video discusses how backpacks and back pain for children:

Are the days of highlighting and underlining long gone?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Digital Learning Skills: Enabled - Engaged - Empowered

You have probably heard of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a standards-based educational reform act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001.  What was supposed to be a powerful, nation-wide reform turned out to be resisted by states and local school districts for lack of help by the federal government, specifically in regards to lack of funding (Loveless, 2006).  The sanctions that were to result from minorities and underprivileged students not reaching their yearly progress were a looming threat to these same educators, and in turn made it more difficult to reach their goals.

However, volunteers in the state of California took it upon themselves back in 1996 to participate in the first ever NetDay school wiring event.  As part of the Speak Up project, more than 50,000 volunteers - teachers, students, parents, technology executives, city mayors, religious leaders, and more - came together to provide students with the emerging technology tools and services that would enable, engage, and empower these students to compete in the 21st century global economy.  Their belief?  Education would break the cycle of poverty.  Their motto?  "Don't tell me we can't".  Pure and simple. 

 The roles of educators were important.  Librarians and technology coordinators would enable student use of emerging technologies through planning, support, and recommendations.  Classroom teachers would engage these same students in rich learning experiences through these technologies.  Finally, school and district administrators would empower the teachers and students to envision the future of digital learning. 

The following key trends were discussed:

Key Trend 1:  Mobile Learning

The huge increase in the past couple of years of mobile learning allows for a more "anytime, anywhere, un-tethered learning" (Speak Up 2010).  More and more students are owning iPhones, BlackBerrys, and other smart phones that enable them to listen to podcasts, watch videos, and view/send emails related to school work.  While not without its own problems. it is a useful tool in using emerging technologies in education.

Key Trend 2: Online and Blended Learning

More and more interest is shown for online and blended learning by students and parents alike.  It offers more course options and resolves any scheduling conflicts that might arise.  It also offers more personalized learning for the student.  The main reason to offer it by administrators is to "keep students engaged" (38%), followed by "academic remediation" and "increased graduation rates" (both 33%).  The main barriers preventing educators from offering online learning is "lack of interaction" and "lack of funding" (both 30%), with "lack of teacher interest or skill" at only 13%.

Key Trend 3: Digital Content

The costs of traditional textbooks, long a burden on most students, is giving rise to e-textbooks and digital content.  Using these digital resources offer students the similar instruction, but in a cheaper, more interesting way than carrying around a backpack full of books that not only impact your wallet, but your back as well.  According to the Illinois State Board of Education's Carrying Backpacks: Physical Effects (June 2006), "injury can occur When a child tries to overcompensate for the extra weight by leaning forward, arching his or her back or leaning to the side."

The following figures gives a teachers' view of the impact of technology on their students and the teachers' effectiveness:

One does not need a national act to make a change in education and to keep up with the world and emerging technologies.  A group of dedicated people, whether educators, administrators, students, parents, clergymen, etc., can make a change.  To view the complete report, go to: 

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Education Revolution - The World is Open

You've probably heard of the national bestseller The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman, but have you heard The World is Open by Curtis J. Bonk?  While Friedman's book was more about politics and economics, Bonk's is revolutionizing education.  Just use technology and you change education - plain and simple, right?  Not so.  It is not about purchasing a new gadget, its about how you use it.

Take smart phones for example.  If one has, say, an iPhone or an iPad, he or she can download apps from iTunes University to help him/her learn.  One can have classes from Stanford, Yale, MIT or Harvard for free.  Yes, you heard it - FREE!  Maybe I didn't have the scores to get me accepted into these fine universities, but I can access the knowledge without having to pay or leave the house.  I can learn from YouTube, Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and many others without having to relocate or pay a single dime. 

An interesting framework is Professor Bonk's WE-ALL-LEARN:

Web Searching in the World of e-Books
E-Learning and Blended Learning

Availability of Open Source and Free Software
Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
Learning Object Repositories and Portals

Learner Participation in Open Info Communities
Electronic Collaboration and Interaction
Alternate Reality Learning
Real-Time Mobility and Portability
Networks of Personalized Learning

Having waited a whole year to take this class, R685 The World is Open with Web Technology, I was not disappointed!  I look forward to every week and what it has to offer.  I'm on the road to being a learning expert!

For a sense of what the future holds, go to Professor Bonk's YouTube video "Trends on the Horizon":