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Friday, July 20, 2007

WebCT Frustrations

I've just started a course entitled Advanced Technologies for Distance Education offered by West Georgia University. The University System of Georgia has now placed all their distance education programs under one roof--WebCT Vista. This is my first time using this platform, and I must admit that I have found it very frustrating. To begin with, WebCT Vista only works with certain JAVA runtime environments as well as certain browser versions--neither of which I was using. In fact, my JAVA versions were more recent. So I spent several hours trying to configure my applications to work with WebCT. Now the Browser Check indicates I have everything installed correctly, but I can't access the HTML Creator--definitely a feature that I would find useful in order to enhance my postings.

Our first assignment had us use HTML code to create an enhanced posting and discuss why knowing HTML could be useful. I must admit that knowing HTML can prove to be very practical. First, in my experience with using Microsoft Publisher to create a webpage, Publisher bloats the HTML code—adding unnecessary code. Remember--every extra line makes your page just that tiny bit slower to load - and all those fractions of a second add up! Many parts of the world are still using dial-up.

Learning HTML can widen your scope - you can look at your code, and understand what it is doing. Making a change to your page will be much easier. Moving parts of your page around can sometimes simply be a matter of moving that section of code. You won't have a lot of extra code that isn't doing anything - and who wants to type more than they have to? So your pages will be quicker to load.

If you want to test your code, try http://www.jmarshall.com/easy/html/testbed_f1.html. You can go to his main page for easy HTML tips.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

adopting a new innovation--models for change

A number of factors interact to influence the diffusion of an innovation. Diffusion research, in its simplest form, investigates how these major factors, and a multitude of other factors, interact to facilitate or impede the adoption of a specific product or practice among members of a particular adopter group. Rogers and Hord and Hall offer two models which describe how people develop as they learn about an innovation and the stages of that process. In Managing Technological Change, Tony Bates provides practical, systematic strategies for creating the new, technologically competitive academic organization. These theorists will form the foundation for my KAM I research into how to effectively implement technological change from the viewpoint of effective faculty development programming.

Breadth Objectives

  • Compare and contrast views of these theorists regarding social change and how it occurs.
  • Analyze how these theorists indicate what the barriers to social change are and how to overcome them.
  • Compare and contrast how these theorists explain how social change occurs in the education system.
  • Analyze how these theorists effect social change through the integration of technology in education.

Breadth Resources:

Bates, A.W. (2000). Managing technological change: strategies for college and university leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hall, G.E. & Hord, S.M. (2001). Implementing Change: Patterns, Principles, and Potholes. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hord, S., Rutherford, W. L., Huling-Austin, L., & Hall, G. E. (2003). Taking Charge of Change, (3rd ed.) Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 1998.

Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.). New York: The Free Press

Friday, July 13, 2007

Diffusion of Innovations

Educational institutions, not only at the primary and secondary levels but also in higher education, have invested significant amounts of time and money in educational technologies. Although the number of teachers adopting these technologies for use in their classrooms and in delivering courses/information online has been increasing, there still remains a large number who are reluctant to adopt them. Colleges and universities are inconsistent in their positions. Whereas many institutions are beginning to jump on the online learning bandwagon, many instructors still prefer face-to-face lecture mode in the classroom. Technology holds great potential for enhancing teaching; however, many administrators are left searching for effective ways to promote technology’s use to expand instructional methods. Instructors must be willing and able to use these tools.

In 1962, Everett M. Rogers summarized 405 research studies and published the book Diffusion of Innovations, formally defining diffusion of innovation theory. Diffusion is “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system" and innovation as "an idea, practice, or project that is perceived as new by individuals or their unit of adoption" (pp. 10-11). Rogers based his diffusion of innovations theory on recognized theories in sociology, psychology, and communications.

According to Rogers, individuals within an organization do not adopt an innovation at the same time. Instead, they adopt over a sequence of time; therefore, individuals can be classified into adopter categories on the basis on when they first begin using an idea. Rogers theorized that innovations would spread through society in an S curve, as the early adopters use an innovation first, followed by the majority, until a technology or innovation becomes commonly used and accepted. He indicated that adopters of any new innovation or idea could be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%), based on a bell curve. Butler and Sellbom (2001) indicate that the rate of adoption follows a cumulative pattern, starting low and increasing until about half the population has adopted the innovation. Diffusion then decreases, eventually approaching zero, as nearly everyone has adopted the technology.

According to Rogers, adopters of all categories go through a five-stage process. First, the adopter is exposed to the innovation and gains knowledge and understanding. Then either individually or with the help of others, the adopter is persuaded to form a positive viewpoint about the innovation. Next, the adopter decides to try it out. If the innovation works, the adopter implements it, putting it to appropriate uses. Finally, the adopter’s experience confirms his/her decision and he/she continues to benefit from its use.

Where are you? Where am I? Well, it depends. Mostly, it depends on the group you're putting me in. In 1986, when I first started using a computer (an Apple IIgs) and then moved to a Mac, I was probably an innovator. I kept pushing to see how I could better use this new tool. In 1999, I earned my M.Ed. Through that program, I had been exposed to the Internet, to HyperCard, to Cable in the Classroom. The only Internet connection was in the College of Education’s main office (dial-up, of course). I was hooked.

I am constantly looking for ways to create a constructivist classroom—to help my students be critical thinkers. At South Aiken High School in 2000, there were only 15 computers located in the library available for teachers to bring their students in to use. I had at least 30 students in each class. Students worked in groups to complete WebQuests—a strategy I had found on one of my surfing adventures. Bernie Dodge had only coined that term in 1995. Because I am constantly surfing the web and open to new technological innovations, I am probably often an innovator (where I am) or an early adopter (in the population in general). My Director told me the other day that I was in the 21st century and many of the other teachers and staff where I work are still in the Stone Age. I see my job as bringing them at least into the 20th century. There are so many possibilities!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Final KAM II Submitted

Today is a banner day. I submitted my final draft of KAM II to Walden University.

KAM II study refers to human growth and development. My study focuses on the relationship between constructivist adult learning theories and online learning, especially as the theories relate to the development of authentic, student-centered, and collaborative online learning environments.

For the Breadth component of this KAM, self-directed learning, transformative learning, situated learning, and communities of practice provide the theoretical framework for exploring psychological, sociological, and cultural aspects of adult development through the lifespan. The emphasis is on major adult development theorists including: Malcolm Knowles, Jack Mezirow, and Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. Malcolm Knowles is known as the “father of adult learning.” His seminal works define his adult learning theory, “andragogy.” According to Mezirow, learning by reflecting critically on one’s own experiences, assumptions, beliefs, feelings, and mental perspectives in order to develop new or revised interpretations is the fundamental aim of adult education. Instructional models based on the social constructivist perspective also stress the need for collaboration among learners and with practitioners in the society (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

Learning is a social and interpretive activity in which several members collaboratively construct their own understandings of information, objects, and events to explain their surroundings. It is the result of active engagement in and with the world joined with reflections upon the relationship between ideas, actions, and outcomes. Collaborative activity presents an opportunity for reflection and interpretation of events by providing a shared context for the interpretation of individual experience. Opportunities for creating and sustaining collaborative, reflective learning experiences for a distributed student body are supported by new technological advances in web-based instruction. Online collaborative tools such as discussion forums (whether asynchronous or synchronous) make it possible to carry out group projects as well as foster rich and constructive interactions between students, independent of their location, schedule, or any other distance or time constraint. Research in the Depth section included research articles detailing how instructors can facilitate interactivity and collaboration through the use of discussion boards and group problem-solving.

Tutoring is a complex set of behaviors that can most effectively be taught in an environment that provides demonstration of effective techniques, allows for practice in real tutoring situations, and gives opportunities for reflection and discussion. One strategy that holds considerable potential for supporting more open, collaborative, reflective activities is problem-based learning.
Problem-based learning involves teaching through goal-directed activity situated in authentic circumstances. The World Wide Web supports collaborative problem based learning in several ways—wide array of information and resources available, conferencing/discussion board capabilities. Given the various factors which need to be addressed in developing an effective problem-based learning environment, the best blend of problem type, technological environment, and support mechanism is not immediately obvious. The Application portion describes the incorporation of student-centered instruction in the online discussion component of the hybrid tutor training program for the Tutorial and Enrichment Center at where I work.


Monday, July 2, 2007

Tapped In Professional Development Festival

Many of the bloggers I know are writing about the fantastic experience at the recent National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). I learned so much that my head is swimming. There were so many sessions I wanted to attend; I wish I could have cloned myself. Then there were the exhibits...I decided to focus on sessions that could provide information for my dissertation and KAM (Knowledge Area Module) research for Walden--faculty development, technology integration in the classroom, Web 2.0.

In one such session, I was introduced to a professional development community called Tapped In. Tapped In is an online community of K-16 teachers, staff, and researchers engaged in both formal professional development programs and informal collaborative activities with colleagues. Tapped in is set up as a virtual campus, which members occupying buildings and offices. Professional development discussions occur in "rooms." What's great about all this is that it is FREE! I signed on recently and learned that they will be hosting a professional development festival on July 25.

The festival is a day-long event led by volunteer educators who share their expertise and insight while facilitating discussions with members of the Tapped In community. This year’s theme is “Playing to Learn,” featuring ways to enrich the classroom experience with games – playing them, creating them, evaluating them and incorporating them into the curriculum! Please join us for this exiting event! Check out the schedule of events at http://tappedin.org/tappedin/web/festival/

While many of the activities at Tapped In seem to be geared toward K-12, I think this environment would be a wonderful way to create faculty learning communities to discuss ways to integrate technology into higher education and to better facilitate online learning. The session I attended at NECC discussed the partnership between NCTAF and three universities who work with their area public schools (University of Washington, University of Memphis, University of Colorado at Denver) on a grant project to increase teacher retention. NCTAF has leased a "virtual building" on the Tapped In site with a floor for each of the partner sites. Within Tapped In, student teachers, new teachers, and Education professors are able to take advantage of professional development opportunities. The sites can also tailor their offerings to the participants' needs.