Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Back Home

I have completed my first paper for the Orientation course and I think putting the references together took me longer than writing the paper. I really should have paid more attention during the workshop on RefWorks. I will have to get my head around that prior to the fall. Aside from the scholarship, it is interesting the kinds of things like APA, RefWorks, etc., that you have to learn along the way.

One deliverable I have this week is a draft of my pathfinder. I am finding that the most difficult assignment in the course due to the fact that I am so new to the research area. I don't have a very robust set of resources at this point and am not sure if I will be able to present a very comprehensive overview at this point. Anyway, I will plug away at it and await feedback.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 14 - the rest of the way

I had some time to think over the weekend and I think I will only take one course this fall. That will give me time to read, think and write and not have to rush things.

Only three more deliverables for this first round of courses: a paper, pathfinder and a paper for the other course. The timelines are quite reasonable so I think I will be fine.

It is sad the on-site section is over for this year but I want to see everyone next summer again.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 12 - research question to date

The questions I am trying to answer in this initial literature review paper are:
1) How is blended learning defined?
2) What are the different types of blended learning?
3) Where has blended learning been successfully implemented on an institutional basis?
4) What are the supports (for students, faculty and administrators) necessary in order to implement blended learning on an institutional basis?

In terms of the broader research problem, I am trying to understand what blended learning models work in what specific contexts so that predictions and recommendations for deploying institutional blended learning initiatives.

“Educational Technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.” Januszewski and Molenda (2008).

The convergence of technology and education has been happening for roughly a hundred years. With each innovation the traditional classifications of distance and on-campus courses are blurring and blended educational opportunities and becoming more feasible. Putting it simply, blended learning represents a mixing of the two extremes of distance education and on campus courses. Ultimately the problem to be answered through my research is how can institutions best rollout blended learning initiatives?

This educational technology investigation centers on the AECT domain of management in the sense of managing the creation of an institutional vision for blended learning, putting support structures in place to successfully deploy blended learning and forming an environment where faculty and instructional designers can create and use media and other forms of technology-enabled learning to better assist students. What does an institution need to do to create an environment to successfully implement a blended learning initiative?


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 11 - the right stream

Well this morning our specialization coordinator gave a brilliant and timely presentation about the educational technology stream. A few of us in either ed tech or leadership have been wondering if we ended up choosing the right stream and I know I did.

And, whew, the m-learning presentation is done! I was quite lucky to have worked with three 'second' year students and one of my fellow 'newbies'. I think their maturity as doctoral students and our shared effort made both the revision of the wiki and the presentation itself go well. Just like in the MBA, today reminded me of how a group of 5 people can come together with very different skills and yet each contribute something to make a great product. Happily one of the guys in the group, the other 'newbie' and I have agreed to review each others papers so that is nice.

At the end of the day we had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Yaniv talk about his work in SL. What stays with me from today is not any overt 'bling' but the fact that he sat and talked with us for about 30 minutes about his thoughts and philosophy prior to showing us what he was trying to do in the SL environment. The attention we all paid to him was proof to me that someone with a good message and powerful, if somewhat understated, presence can captivate an audience.

Tomorrow I will post my updated research question and then I will have to be off-line until Sunday due to travel and time zone differences.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 10 - Only two days left on-site

In some ways the past two weeks have been very long and yet paradoxically very short. Today we had a guest speaker who talked about her candidacy paper. I am still too early into the course work stage to be really focused on the expectations at the candidacy stage of the program but it was interesting to hear how she organized her thoughts and about some of the personal issues she had at the time. She did it and that is inspiring!

The Geo-everything presentation was quite good. I learned about geo-caching and augmented reality. The benefits of these kinds of sessions is that it is really hard to keep up on all the "stuff" that is out there so having peers with different areas of expertise is great.

We also attended a presentation in Second Life. I continue to be underwhelmed (with the environment and not the presenter). I think this environment has great potential for some fields like Engineering and Bio-sciences as well as language but I just find it cumbersome. At this stage, the user needs a lengthy orientation before being able to really embrace "in world" life and maneuvers. Mostly I find myself trying to catch up to others and then wondering why I bothered. Anyway, it is an evolving technology so improvements and greater familiarity will come in time.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 9 - intellectual safari

Well it was an interesting day! Saw a terrific presentation from the Grassroots video team so I will drop in on the site after I blog a bit and leave some comments there specific to the presentation.

Our class was privileged to hear from Dr. Randy Garrison this afternoon. The presentation centered on the Community of Inquiry (COI) model and the results of a recent study he conducted. I first read about the COI in my Masters program and still think it has an intuitive appeal. The social, cognitive and teaching presences are all key to any post secondary learning experience and it was interesting today to see that the three intersecting circles are not static but will change overtime in a course. There also may be an inevitability to the fact that the social presence is more predominant at the start of a class whereas the cognitive presence increases over time, as does teacher presence. I hope to use the COI when doing my dissertation work. I am particularly interested in the faculty development side of the equation.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 8 - the start of week 2

Two things for the start of week 2!
1) Well based on some reading over the past week I found that I have to refine my working definition of educational technology:

Educational technology is any human-made tool or process used in a responsible manner to assist learners in mastering the knowledge and skills of their field such that they can apply that mastery.

2) I enjoyed tremendously the presentation today by Dr. Susan Crichton because it demonstrated how evolving technology can not only simplify the work of the researcher in some ways but result in richer data that captures more than just the words of the participants but their intonation, tone, body language, etc. Of course the researcher would have to be comfortable using cameras, etc., or have access to someone who could do this work.

Aside from the valuable perspective on research, the emphasis at the outset of the presentation on 'spiritual' considerations like a simple, uncluttered life was timely as we all confront how to deal with the paradoxes of striving for simplicity while simultaneously juggling all our complex roles in life.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 7 - Thoughts on the readings

Some thoughts on this week's readings in an attempt to interalize them but writing about them...I am finding that Creswell (2009) is a valuable resource as we start to conceptualize our research project. As I was reading his explanations of the worldviews, strategies and specific methods I immediately began trying to categorize or label myself. (Not sure if this is an inherently good or bad thing yet!) Of the world views presented, the pragmatic was the most intuitively appealing to me. Often this prgarmatic view leads researchers into mixed methods studies, which again is something that intuitively appeals to me. I guess I appreciate trying to have the best of both worlds! Why else would I want to pursue blended learning as a dissertation topic?

While it is too early to state any research methods specifically, I would think transformative mixed methods might be appropriate since I am considering using the Garrison, Anderson and Archer(2001) Community of Inquiry model as a framework for my study. Related to this, the chapter on mixed methods research planning brought up useful concepts to consider in planning including the timing, weighting, mixing and the fit of theory into the planned research process.

Aside from helping me conceptualize what may be my approach to the dissertation, I found Creswell offered many practical tips to new researchers including possible outlines or models to follow for different stages of the project as well as advice, such as to write daily if possible.

Januszewski and Molenda (2008) has been resonating with me as well but on a more conceptual level. We have already discussed our respective definitions of Educational Technology but after reading Chapter 7 I was forced to re-think one of my basic assumptions. Januszewski and Molenda assert that human "made processes that systematically apply scientific knowledge can be viewed as technological processes." (p.197) I have always conceptualized technological as something external to the human; a physical tool that was conceptualized by the mind but became a tangible product, not a set of processes.

Johnston (1987) is quoted in Januszewski and Molenda as saying "We cannot explore the potential of a medium indpendent of the programming being carried out on it." These are wise words as we explore different media trends this coming week in the form of m-learning, grassroots video and geo-everything. The ASSURE model presented on p. 209 may prove useful to us in these wiki projects and beyond it determining when and how to use new and existing media.

Finally, something that I have been thinking and talking about a fair bit this week are the notions of management versus leadership and how, really, an organization or unit needs both. The authors of Chapter 6 do a good job of discussing management in the context of educational technology and highlight the need for change management, quality, strategic planning and vision in the imlementation of educational technology projects and initiatives. Perhaps it is because of my managment studies background and the fact that I am currently managing technology projects that I found this chapter quite valuable.

So that is it for today! Looking forward to the start of week 2 tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 6 - Reflections on Guest Speakers

I wanted to wait for the end of the week before committing thoughts to hypertext on our speakers this week. Overall I found the array of speakers and topics quite amazing and intellectually stimulating.

Dr. Gail Kopp's work, as I mentioned earlier this week, demonstrated for me a critical link between knowing the literature in a field, testing the assumptions based on an evolving technology, and then critically adding to the field of knowledge.

Dr. Qing Li's presentation on enactivism was actually my favourite this week! The whole concept of whether enactivism was a learning theory or a philospohical world view was important for me because as new doctoral students we need to understand our own perpectives and lenses with regards to both philosopical views and learning theories and how distinguish which is which.

Dr. Sharon Fiesen and Dr. Michele Jacob's presentation introduced me to the concept of Design-based research and I learned it is basically Action Research. The key 'take away' point for me from this presentation is the importance of having a shared vision for technology use among the different stakeholders. Educational technology research and practice are inextricably linked with strategic leadership and project management skills.

Dr. Jennifer Lock presented her work on creating a learning community for pre-service teachers. While I find the exploration of creating, managing and sustaining online learner communities facinating, especially with the added international component, I really enjoyed the brief discussion on ethics related to the research. The fact that Dr. Lock was studying her own students (albeit after their marks where in), the sensitive nature of some of the topics such as bullying and the experiences of students prior to coming to Canada could very well cause stress on the participants through the nature of the topics and the students own experiences compounded by the fact that their thoughts on these topics would be captured, read and reported on. It flagged a few points that I will remeber as I develop my own research agenda.

I am looking forward to next week's speakers and hope to learn as much as I did this first week.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 5 - Refining the topic

The traditional lines of distinction between distance education and on campus courses are blurring largely due to the proliferation of educational technologies such as LMSs and various social networking tools that can be used in both modes. Between the two extremes of fully distance and fully on-campus, a new type of blended course has emerged. In this paper I will conduct a literature review on the state of the field of blended learning and summarize best practices in the field at this point. Ideally I would like to use the information to make recommendations on how my institution can deploy a blended learning strategy.

The questions I am trying to answer are:
1) What are the different types of blended learning?
2) Are there accepted best practices for developing a blended learning strategy?
3) What can I recommend for my institution regarding blended learning.

Please help with thoughts...


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 4 Doctoral attrition rates, etc.

Ok it is only day 4 and here I am talking about doctoral attrition rates! Let me explain...I have decided to pursue the idea of doctoral attrition as the subject of my paper for the orientation course. I'm mentioning this because, although I have only just started reading on the subject, some of this information may be of interest to my peers in the program.
  • Only about 50% of those accepted into doctoral programs finish.
  • Exact statistics are difficult to find becuase many universities do not publish records related to students who withdraw from their programs.
  • Women and minorities are more likely to withdraw from a doctoral program than men.
  • The majority of those that withdraw do so at the dissertation stage, not at the course phase.
  • Completion rates are higher in the sciences than in the humanities.
  • It can take some students years to recover their confidence after making the decision to withdraw from doctoral studies.
  • The literature points out that in the past the view was that attrition in higher level degrees was to be expected but now many universities are doing more to manage the relationships with students and keep them on track with their programs via different means.
The point that really resonates with me is that most students do fine in their courses but it is the disseration stage when they are most in danger of leaving their programs. Knowing that might help us be prepared to deal with the frustrations at that stage of the program. I think we are all off to a good start in terms of forming our own support community, starting our relationships with our supervisors and with the GDER office. All three of these will be critical to our persistence in the next 4 plus years.

And now for something completely different! For the Educational Technology course, I am going to pursue the topic of blended learning. Specifically, educational technology is transforming what can be done in the classroom and outside of it. My paper will contain a literature review to summarize the state of the field and document current best practices. I will give this more thought tonight and try to think of a research question to guide the paper.

What a beautiful, sunny evening and, bonus, it is almost Friday!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Day 3 - hump day

So it is day 3 of the program and I have to say it feels like it has been more than three days. I am finding myself in a comfortable routine of classes during the day, a workout, dinner and then online activities and readings. And as a treat I have been ending the day at the Black Lounge with my new peers for beers. In terms of looking ahead beyond the time here in Calgary, I am going to try to develop a similar structure to approach my studies in the fall when working and studying. I plan to spend 2-3 evenings online and/or researching and reading from say, 7-10 and then one day on the weekend. I am hoping that setting some parameters will ensure that I still have a bit of a life!

So I have to say I am somewhat amused by the conversations regarding what we should put in the blog and what we should put in the discussion. We are the leaders in the field so we should be able to figure this out or research best practices in each of the areas. Based on my understanding of discussion forums they are exactly that; a venue for dialogue and discussion. This implies a two-way interaction of someone posting an answer to a question and critiquing or adding in some way the response. I understand blogs to be more reflective in nature more along the lines of personal journals or ways to update peers on progress in certain areas as news arises. I think Dr. Jacobsen has wisely left it to us to figure out how we use the tools. There is certainly nothing wrong with posting the same content to both but it does seem somewhat redundant.

This leads me to my next reflection, which is about the topic of proprietary tools like Blackboard versus open source ones like Blogger, etc. I think as educators it is wise to use freeware where ever possible. The only problem is that we have no guarantee that many of the currently free apps will remain so in future, that they will not radically change, or that companies like Facebook will even exist in a year or two. For many institutions it is imperative they have some commerically procured software that offers a certain guarantee in terms of quality of service and security and regular upgrades to ensure an acceptable level of service to students. So a combination of the two is likely what will work for many insitutions.

Finally, and I did mention this in a discussion forum post, I find it amusing that many of us inEd Tech considered the Leadership stream and vice-versa. From what I learned this week so far, all of us new doctoral students are involved in leadership and educational technology decisions to some degree in our roles. So what's in a stream anyway?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 2's reflections

Looking back on today I have to say that the presentation by Dr. Kopp was an excellent demonstration on how to take an existing piece of scholarly literature and critically analyze it as well as use it to really think about in terms of use of a particular technology. Tying all the competencies doctors should have to the different types of tools they can practice with was very effective and made a strong case for the use of Virtual Patients. This is the kind of reaseach that can have really practical applications. I assume the next step would be to actually get feedback from some medical students on their expereinces with the different types of 'patients'.

The other thing that has been on my mind lately is the whole notion of learning and knowlege acquisiton. The Januszewski and Molenda (2008) book, specifically Chapter 2, discusses the different trends in terms of pedagogical theories and reviews the salient aspects of the 'big three' of behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism. While behaviourism is definitely out of favour these days, I cannot help but think that the people who were the products of the behaviourist -era days were the innovative people who put a man on the moon and who invented educational technology (computers, etc.)! Now I am not saying that the innovation was a result of behaviourist learning but rather that each generation finds its own way to express genius and in some ways succeed despite 'the system'. When I think about how knowlege has been transmitted from generation to generation, the most long-lasting method is most likely the notion of apprenticeship whereby a young person was taken under the wing of a master of the trade or knowledge area and learned everything there was to know and in turn transferred that on. That learning was most likely done by watching the master and using the tools of the trade. So can we expand our educational technology definition to include a stick used to write in the sand? A compas to show someone how to steer a ship? A pottery wheel to show someone how to make a bowl? My point is that in some respects any/all technology can be educational technology depending on the situation. Feel free to argue with me on that!

Finally, formal education with one teacher and several students in a classroom is a relatively new phenomenon in historical terms. From what we have discussed thus far in the program, I would liken the relationship of the supervisor and the doctoral candidate to that one-on-one apprenticeship model where there is a guide until such time as we are ready to be out on our own.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 1 of the Doctor of Ed program

Well today is the first day of my Ed D (or Doctor of Education program). In some ways it is quite ironic that I am pursuing Educational Technology because I did not send my first e-mail until 1997 when I got back from teaching overseas and had totally missed the rise of the Internet except for articles in the popular press. Actually that first e-mail was quite funny because the IT person who created my account said it was very important to have everything lower case and no I wrote my first e-mail to a friend of mine in all lower case letters with no punctuation. That person quickly pointed out that the IT person meant no caps or punctuation in the e-mail ADDRESS, not in the content of the e-mail! After that somewhat inauspicious introduction to the Internet and online communication, I took a couple of IT strategy courses during the MBA and really enjoyed them.

A couple of years after the MBA I became a manager in the course design and development section of a unit at Memorial University called Distance Education and Learning Technologies. That is when I really became exposed to educational technology on both the instructional design side and the media production side. Since I was doing so much learning anyway I decided to do a second Masters. This one was online and forced me to use many educational technology tools. Really, since I was managing the course development side of the shop I felt I should know what students might be experiencing.

It has been almost 2 years since my last course so it will take some discipline to get back into the student mode. I feel ready to take on this 'terminal degree' as one of my US colleagues calls it. I have always loved learning and I don't think I will feel satisfied with myself until I complete this doctoral program.

Of course at day 1 it is hard to say what the next weeks, months and years will hold but I invite anyone interested to follow me on my journey!