Saturday, November 15, 2008

Web and Library 2.0

Greetings! Welcome to the presentation blog for the Fall 2008 NILRC pre-conference held in collaboration with the Illinois Council of Community College Administrators.

I use presentation blogs instead of power points because blogs are:
  • Native to the Web - reside online for reference following the conference
  • Permit interaction through the comment mode
  • Facilitate easy hyperlinks (all of the posting titles are hyperlinks to resources on the topic)
  • Provide random access to postings - rather than paging through a serial list of slides
  • Provide a lasting (and evolving) resource on the topic

You will find many more presentation blogs at my home page - linked to the title of this posting.

Take a quick tour of the blog - you will note that the right column includes daily RSS-updates from three blogs - Online Learning Update, Educational Technology, and Techno-News. Also note that the titles of each of the postings links to relevant resources.

Please post comments to keep the discussion going!

Active vs. Passive Learning Approaches

For centuries passive learning has been a favored approach of teaching at the unversity level. Faculty members would teach large groups of students in lecture halls. There would be essentially no interaction, no engagement, no active learning. Take a moment to view this video produced by Michael Wesch's spring 2007 cultural anthropology class at Kansas State University. It explains well that passive approaches do not succeed with the 21st century student.

More on the study here:

A presentation blog dedicated to active learning:

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) just released results of a national study that shows online students report deeper learning and more engaged learning than their on-campus counterparts:

Telecommuting Students

The nature of the student in post-secondary education is changing. Increasingly, students are older, part-time and online. Community Colleges are leading the way in this trend. Among all higher ed institutions, 4,000,000 learners - more than 20% of the enrolled students - are taking at least one online class. More than half of those are enrolled at community colleges. And, college leaders seem to think that the economic challenges we face are helping to encourage more prospective learners to consider online learning.

These telecommuting students are even more depdendent on Web 2.0 technologies to access librarians and library resources.

Linked to the title is the newly-released Sloan Consortium survey of online learning in higher education.

Three Pedagogical Approaches

Three major approaches to teaching in the classroom have emerged in the past century or so.
  • The Objectivism/Behavorism approach where an emphasis is placed on cultivating desired behaviors
  • The Cognitivism/Pragmatism approach where an emphasis is placed on organization, structuring and memorization.
  • The Constructivism/Interpretivism approach where an emphasis is placed on building knowledge that is unique and specific to the learner.

Research has pointed to Constructivism as a particularly effective way to approach online learning. An emphasis is placed on interaction and engagement:
instructor < - > student < - > student < - > discipline

The constructivist approach also strongly supports active learning. Based in social constructivism of the early and mid 20th century, this approach to teaching and learning suggests that we, as instructors, do not impart knowledge, rather we help our learners to build thier own personal knowledge. We can best do that through active learning.

  1. Knowledge involves active cognizing by the individual.
  2. Knowledge is adaptive, facilitating individual and social efficacy.
  3. Knowledge is subjective and self-organized, not objective.
  4. Knowledge acquisition involves both sociocultural and individual processes.

Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age

In 2004, Canadian educator George Siemens published his thoughts on a new learning theory he called Connectivism. It posits that the pipe is more important than the content of the pipe. (much like another Candian - the medium is the message) And it is based on these principles:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Knowledge resides not just in the human brain, but also in the networks (both social and electronic) that we build.

"The Machine is Us" ~ Web 2.0 Changes Everything

In 2004, Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly media was trying to come up with a title for a conference to bring in some of the disillusioned IT workers who had been turned out of work by the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001/2002. O'Reilly came up with the title Web 2.0 (as in the second version of software. That term has been applied to a myriad of applications - even non Web - in the intervening years. There have been many definitions that have emerged. But, my favorite is to define Web 2.0 in (an inherently 2.0 technology) the YouTube video by KSU Prof Michael Wesch:

Drinking from the Firehose

There is a plethora of Web 2.0 applications for online research, collaboration, and related activities. All of these are in constant revision. How do we choose? How can we tell which ones will have the "staying power" that will enable them to survive for more than a few months. Key questions to ask before making the selection include:

  • Who is deploying the technology?
  • Who else uses the technology?
  • What are the competitors?
  • Are there supportive reviews?

Linked above are CNet's top 100 Web 2.0 applications of 2008. Browse the list by category to uncover some great new surprises!

Below is a link to 100 free tutorials for Web 2.0 use in libraries:

Building Blogs of Success - Reach and Engagement

One of the early and still-most-successful Web 2.0 technologies is the blog (short for weB-LOG). First created in 1997, the blog is simply a web page that is easily updated with postings normally arranged in reverse chronological order. But, there are key features of blogs that make them so very successful:

Take for example the Online Learning Update (see link to title). Composed nightly in a recliner in a tiny town surrounded by corn and bean fields, this little blog earns a very high ranking by Google. In the past day alone, people from around the world have visited this modest blog via the Web, but five times as many each day visit via the postings via RSS technologies.


As simple as posting a blog, is RSS. Really Simple Syndication is one way in which we can share our thoughts, perspectives, new ideas, links to research, and many more of the granular components of teaching and learning. Automatically (transparently) generated - RSS is simply a description of an update to a blog, podcast, wiki, or almost any Web page. It enables students to receive auto-updates from the instructor. And, not just when they are formally students - they can continue to subscribe, enabling them to continue to receive upates after the end of the semester on into their careers. And, they can feed back into the class of current students.

For more on this concept, see the proceedings of the Distance Teaching and Learning Conference: Particularly exciting is that this opens the door to collaborations among students, professionals, and faculty members around the world.

"I have followers!" - He Twittered

But, is RSS the preferred communication channel? Studies show that email has become the "old" person's mode of communication. RSS is used by many. But, text messaging has become a preferred mode of communication - just ask the political pundits about the role txt played in this year's campaign!

By the way, one way to deliver your RSS to both the email box of the digital immigrants and the cell phones of the digital natives is to use .

Faculty members can keep in touch with students around the clock all semester (and beyond). With a single tweet, a prof can be in the pocket and purses of all of their students - reminding them of due dates, passing along new ideas, nudging them to study, and keeping them appraised of new research.Simple, transparent, powerful social networking sharing information and helping to build knowledge.

The Embedded Librarian

Research is at the heart of much coursework. And the librarian is the expert guide. Why then, is the librarian not sitting in on every class - providing input, alerting all to updates in resources, and guiding both instructor and student along the way?

At the University of Southern Maine and a growing number of institutions, academic librarians are embedded in the classes through the LMS discussion board. Enrolled as a co-instructor or assistant, the librarian has access to all of the discussion boards and is able to monitor multiple classes on a daily basis. At long last the librarian becomes an equal partner with the instructor at the virtual front of the classroom to help provide guidance and leadership in the teaching/learning process.

Would a blog work for this?

Beyond the Bricks - Networking Ning Thing

What if we were creating colleges today? Would we create geographically-separated oases that compete more than they collaborate? Or, would we look for ways to link resources and people together to collaborate and most efficiently provide services?

Social networking is changing the way we engage one another. Many of us are familiar with MySpace and Facebook and LinkedIn, but what about Ning? This is a very robust, free resource that promotes collaboration.

The New Century Learning Consortium Ning linked above is an example of how we might begin working together.

Searching - and reSearching on the Web (beyond Google and Yahoo!)

It seems that many students do not know that there are alternatives to Google and Yahoo! While those search engines are very useful tools, there are hundreds of alternative search engines that enable us to look at the Web in a new way and enable us to extract information that we had not thought feasible previously. For example, we can search for spoken words in audio and in video files. We can view connections among Web pages in a graphical way. And, we can search the tail of the Web.

On the Horizon

EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium look at emerging technologies each year and publish a report on those that they believe will impact higher education in one year, three years, five years. The 2008 report is linked above; the 2009 report should be coming out soon. This is a good way to keep abreast of the changes that are on the near horizon.

NeuroSky Inc. has developed a non-invasive, dry, bio-sensor family of products that capture the electrical waves generated by neurological activity and eye movements and translate mental state information into digital signals for simple Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI). The Mindset headset is a brainwave sensing device that is now commercially available. Talk about transparency! Just think and you can control on-screen objects.

Here are a couple of YouTube reports - one showing the Mindset in operation:

And, Stanford University held a seminar to examine the Emotiv Epoc headset:

Singularity beyond the Horizon

The technological singularity may be much closer than many realize - perhaps as soon as 2013. The singularity is defined by Ray Kurzweil:

The Singularity is technological change so rapid and so profound that it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. Some would say that we cannot comprehend the Singularity, at least with our current level of understanding, and that it is impossible, therefore, to look past its "event horizon" and make sense of what lies beyond.

It is also defined as the point at which a computer will pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence in which a third party cannot distinguish between a human and the computer.

Ray Kurzweil (pt1of3) The Singularity Summit at Stanford

Ray Kurzweil - parts two and three are available at YouTube - they explain in greater detail the progress toward the singularity.

IBM is leading a coalition of researchers developing brain-like computers:

Plans are underway to develop a university without professors - but, with computers:

Contact Information

Ray Schroeder
Professor Emeritus and Director
Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning
University of Illinois at Springfield
Springfield, IL 62703