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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: