Archive for August, 2010

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E-learning in third grade

August 22, 2010

I will try to gather examples of how open courseware and other open/free resources are/can be used for e-learning in educational programmes.

A colleague pointed me to this Danish primary school teacher’s (Roland Hachmann) blog about his Grouply activities in his History class in grade 3. He has among other used Grouply as a collaborative space for learning about chronology.

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Exploring Learning Space Designs

August 22, 2010

From the conference on ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities, I took with me several insights that I want to share and have already done so in several blogposts.

– Matters of e-learning are about open explorations of learning space designs. This, of course, can mean many things…

Phillip D. Long was one of the key note speakers and workshop presenters who is looking at different open source tools on the Internet that can be engaged as ressources in academic activities (i.e. for the educator, researcher, and the learner). At the workshop he mentioned a long list of open source tools. He is making the list available online, and I look forward to this! 

He has also written a book chapter on “Trends in Learning Space Design”. The chapter is part of a book on “Learning Spaces” available at the Educause homepage, which is surely a visit worth for anyone wanting to gain inspiration for higher education use of ICT. I also just stumbled on this interview with him. It includes interesting references to other writings by Phillip D. Long on open frameworks for education and open courseware.

– in Denmark we have several takes on what open explorations of learning space designs are about.

Christian Dalsgaard is one of the researchers who are focusing on as well as advocating open source approches to the design of learning spaces. He is among other the author of the article “Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems“. Dalsgaard encourages what he calls self-governed communication and learning environments. His approach takes point of departure in the individual student’s options to choose from and engage with the vast variety of open sources that exist and are available and free on the Internet.

Virtual Worlds like Second Life are for some researchers the point of entrance to new matters of e-learning. In Denmark, for instance, Marianne Riis has dedicated her PhD research to “Exploring 3D remediation: research, teaching and learning with and in a new media”. Her blog is worth a visit.

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Connecting Design Thinking, Teaching and Learning

August 22, 2010

The workshop with Dan Gilbert “Connecting Design Thinking, Teaching and Learning” was quite interesting.

First I noted that he mentioned that Stanford University has had the goal to “make creative requirement a goal”.

I think that creative requirement should be a goal in all educational programmes. But how do you foster this?

One way is to be good at rapidly generating ideas, identifying needs, problems, and finding solutions.

At the workshop Dan Gilbert engaged us in a rapid exercise to identify a problem related to our students.

1. do an 1-1 interview, 5 minutes each, where you take turns answering these questions:

  1. “I wish my students…”
  2. Why can’t I accomplish that…?
  3. Why?… Why…?

2. round-table: Briefly state what are the participants problems. Select one of the problems. Spent 5 minutes brainstorming suggestions for solutions to this problem. Select one solution.

3. Spend 10 minutes on preparing a presentation (with whatever is at hand) where you show and tell about the solution (in 30 sec.).

It was a fun, boundary crossing, surprisingly effective, and learningful experience :-).

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Divergent and convergent thinking processes

August 22, 2010

From Renate Fruchter (founding director of Problem Based Learning Laboratory (PBL Lab), I have learned that brainstorming proceses may consist of two kinds of thinking processes: 

  1. Divergent thinking processes: where you explore and open up
  2. Convergent thinking processes: where you narrow down, focus, and make closure

Of course, I already knew this. But Renate just introduced this in a way that I found quite easy to relate to.

Renate Fruchter’s workshop at the “ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities” was another good reminder, that the value of brainstorming processes as a kick-off for idea generation and development of designs for teaching with ICTs should not be underestimated.

Renate made it appear quite unproblematic. She introduced two principles. The BBI principle involves thinking in terms of what is needed:

  • Bricks
  • Bits
  • Interaction

The D+C principle is about thinking in action (D= design and C= Collaboration).

With these principles and a focus on instructional/teaching design generation that emphasizes problem, process, product, people, project, Renate Fruchter presented these ingredients in the process:

  • experimental 
  • being mindful about the process
  • creating clarity from complexity
  • collaboration across boarders
  • showing and telling
  • focusing on human values
  • not having a bias towards action

Keeping this in mind, the next brainstorming process may not be that troublesome :-).

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What is this?

August 22, 2010

At the conference “ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities” I learned this cool and easy way to start thinking about innovation from Dan Gilbert (founder and creative principal of Learning Innovations Inc.):

  • Take two minutes. Brainstorm on a piece of paper “What is this?” (e.g. a pencil. Not what it really is, but what it could be)

Point of this exercise? To see that innovation is a matter of opening up, being inventive, imaginative. Furthermore, innovation can be a matter of rapid generation of ideas, identification of problems, and finding solutions.

Innovation can be about finding ways to make (better) things happen faster.

I think that ‘the world’ I come from could learn a lot from this little exercise :-). Try it. It is an eye-opener!

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Conference on ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities

August 19, 2010

Today I attended the first day at the Conference on ICT and Innovative Learning Environments in Danish Universities. This is what I found useful and took with me.

Danish Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Charlotte Sahl-Madsen, opened with a speech.

The most interesting part of her speech was her announcement of a new network: “In the wake of the conference today, I will establish a national network ensuring exchange of best practice within the field of ICT-supported learning.” 

The need for this network was strongly supported by Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Dekan for the humanistic faculty, AAU) who addressed the issue that  Denmark is currently in the top five in the Network Readiness Index, but NO Danish universities are number one.

Renate Fruchter (founding director of Project Based Learning Laboratory, Stanford University, USA) also commented on the Minister’s initiative. She said that it appears that Denmark is a place where things are happening, not just talking about things that should happen. Renate Fruchter opened her speech with this acknowledgement: “Madame Minister, you are such a role model”.

Renate Fruchter and her research team has developed what she referred to as “a working educational model for cross-disciplinary global teamwork”. The ingredients in this are:

  • PBL Lab
  • R & D
  • Educational Strategy

PBL global teamwork consists of theory and ethnographic observations, practice in classes and industry, and collaboration with technologies and services.

Renate Fruchter stated that any educational working model is “as good as people using it”.

Furthermore, that we are NOT dealing with “neat disciplinary problems”, but rather “complex interdisciplinary challenges”.

Also, she claimed: “The Millenniums are here” (i.e. born digital)

All Renate Fruchter’s and her research teams projects involve fire P’s (P5BL Lab): People, problem, process, project, product.

Furthermore, each project involves: Develop, test, deploy and assess.

The goal is: “To be world leaders in global teamwork”.

The P5BL Lab is cross-disciplinary and involves: architects, management and engineers.

Each project is about “crossing the four chasms”:

  1. Discipline
  2. Technology
  3. Time/space (e.g. you can actually squeeze 3 days into 24 hours in a project including people from all over the world)
  4. Culture (both national, local, technological and organizational)

One example of the models developed by Renate Fruchter is “The fishbowl learning” which comes from a model in natural sciences where e.g. medical procedures carried out by doctors are put on display in a lecture hall encircled by glass (i.e. a fishbowl).

Renate emphasised that a foundational premise in her projects is: “That learning happens in all directions” (i.e. not just from an instructor to a learner)

Important matters to Renate Fruchter are:

  • scalability
  • sustainability
  • assessment

P5BL is an evolving ecosystem consisting of: people, places, ICT, devices and network infrastructure. It is a M3R: Mixed Media Mixed Reality.

Renate Fruchter commented that many teachers abandon computers and phones from classes: “If you think that if my body is there, then my mind is there too…”

It is important to consider the challenges as they unfold differently for:

  • learners
  • educators
  • institutions

The four stages of P5BL, are according to Renate Fruchter:

  • Experiment course
  • sustain (not just a professor with a great idea for a couple of years)
  • Institutionalize
  • constant reinvention             

I really liked Renate Fruchter’s emphasis on both culture and reinvention. Furthermore, what seems really interesting about the P5BL Lab is the focus on people, problems, projects, products and processes as a joint venture between students, teachers and industry in global teams.

Phillip Long (Professor of Innovation and Educational Technology, founding director of the Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology, University of Queensland, Australia) talked about “how does a university establish a culture of open scholarship and engage students in legitimate peripheral disciplinary participation? In is necessary to switch between “learning to be” and “learning about” he claimed. He showed a thought-provoking video “A vision of students today” that was coproduced by the students.

I just checked the Digital Ethnography work groups home page, which is where the video can be found, and this is definitely a recommendable place to visit for inspiration on how to integrate video into our university teaching practices.

Another instance of how videos are actively finding their ways into Danish Universities was illustrated by Per Holten-Andersen (Dean at The Faculty of Life Sciences). Just try to search for videos and Copenhagen University. You will find a lot of commercial videos on YouTube with an international approach. LIFE is another example of a strong emphasis on the global aspects of knowledge exchange and collaboration. “The Faculty developed its language policy nine years ago and adopted a ten-year implementation plan, i.e. the policy shall be fully implemented by the year 2010.” This is among other represented in the fact that LIFE offers information for international students in 20 languages.

While most speakers were concerned with ICT, Morten Misfeldt ‘s(Associate professor at Department of Curriculum Studies, DPU) speak was notably concerned with the flexibilities that are built into (or not) the physical frames and study environments of universities.

As Hanne LethAndersen (Professor and managing director of CBS Learning Lab) commented: when considering ICT in Danish universities it is central that we look at differentiated incitements, because there exist large differences between educational programmes e.g. whether they represent small or big areas. Furthermore, she stated that we need to take more than ICT and the physical environment into consideration. Also subject area, educational models and goals/objectives, and many other things must be taken into consideration. Furthermore, she stated, students are not just learners. They are also producers and creators, and how do we acknowledge these contributions? (e.g. in the assessment system).

Jørgen Bang (associate professor at Information and Media Studies, AU) stated that in 2007 the European Union and politics went from a focus on e-learning to a focus on lifelong learning, which means that universities need to look not only into the ICT-support related to the everyday conduct of teaching activities, but also into how ICT may take part in creating new educational possibilities in a lifelong learning perspective. According to Jørgen Bang, Danish universities need to put more focus on and emphasize lifelong learning as an integrated aspect of the further development of Danish universities.

Associated with this, Simon Heilesen (associate professor in net media and  computer-mediated communication, RUC) underlined that Roskilde University has moved away from the term e-learning and instead they are referring to “academic IT” (i.e. using ICT where it is meaningful not only in relation to the educational programs but also in administration, as support for research etc.).

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Serious games and educational cultures

August 16, 2010

I guess it’s about time that I reveal in more details what my current research is all about… 🙂

My postdoc is part of a research project called Serious Games on a Global Market Place involving researchers from several Danish universities (i.e. The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, The IT-university, University of Southern Denmark, and The Technical University of Denmark) and among other Danish serious games developers (e.g. Mingoville A/S and Serious Games Interactive). The KINO Programme Committee under The Danish Counsel for Strategic Research has supported the research financially.

My subproject is titled: Educational Cultures and Serious Games on a Global Market Place. The project focuses on following engagements with English education and the netbased virtual universe/serious game called Mingoville.

Mingoville.com is by its developers described as a “second language online-based course featuring fun English learning games, grammar, songs and more” for children. (YouTube videos about Mingoville)

Mingoville exist in 33 languages and registration in countries around the world is free except for Denmark. In 2005 Mingoville was developed by delc (Dansk e-learning center) as part of a Danish competition in developing new types of digital teaching materials for primary school in Denmark. The competition was led by the Danish Ministry of Education, and Mingoville was then developed for and targeted 3rd to 4th grade pupils and beginning English teaching and learning in Denmark.

Mingoville Classic (today “Learn Now”) was launched in 2006 and in June 2009 a Mingoville virtual world (today “Play Now”) for kids was launched in addition. Mingoville has (according to the developers) more than one million users across the world.

 

One example of the wide distribution and possible influence of Mingoville on English Education is an initiative (spring 2009) lead by the Portuguese Ministry of Education which distributed small laptop computers for all children in primary schools in Portugal. Mingoville is provided as a link among the programmes on all the laptop computers.

Another example is Chile. July 2009 Chile’s government launched an initiative associated with their ambition to digitalize the nation. In Chile approx. 2 % of the population speaks English. This is by Chile’s government considered a problem because English is considered a central foreign language on a global market place. In Chile a central problem is that they cannot generate enough qualified English teachers. One subproject of the government’s recent initiatives is therefore focusing on language and supports English teaching. The initiative is a partnership between educational institutions, companies and the government. The English project consists among other in educating English teachers in Chile in teaching English with Mingoville.

Also in Denmark more than 500 schools have been registered (by the Mingoville developers) as users. 

It may in a sense be viewed as something new that teaching materials developed in one country may become distributed and engaged as actors in variations of contexts of engagements all over the world. The big question of course is in which ways does Mingoville partially engage and become partially engaged as an actor (if it does) in English education? 

A huge challenge in the project is to engage with the manifold construction sites for Mingoville. Project Educational Cultures and Serious Games on a Global Market Place attempts to open up a relational study of different partially coexisting (dis-)engagements with Mingoville, and the associated entanglements, realizations and movements of Mingoville and English education. The study follows circulations of Mingoville as a partially existing (in a sense ephemeral) phenomenon multiple, which cannot be easily described in any one comprehensive way. To follow the circulations of Mingoville should here be understood as following Mingoville as an emerging and shifting form that becomes partially contained by and partially contains English education (if it does) in heterogeneous ways as it is moved around.  

The subproject must be viewed in relationship with the overall Serious Games Project and its aims.

My work is inspired among other particularly by STS/ANT researchers Bruno Latour, Marilyn Strathern, John Law, and Annemarie Mol.

In relation to other subprojects in the Serious Games on a Global Market Place other qualitative and semi-ethnographic studies have been conducted in Danish primary schools in 2007-2008. Furthermore a pilot study was conducted during a week in Portugal in April 2009 at a primary school.  These have focused on research initiated attempts to engage Mingoville in English teaching, and the effects of these.

My empirical gatherings consist of ‘online and offline’ studies of Mingoville as it is developed by Mingoville A/S in an office in Copenhagen, together with empirical gatherings in schools, homes, municipalities and governments ‘in the world’. 

Quite concretely I try to follow the movements and emerging circulations and establishments of Mingoville inside and across these manifold contexts of knowledges and engagements. Except for the fieldwork in Portugal (conducted with an experimental outset in a ‘would-you-like-to-try-Mingoville-in-your-classroom-approach’), my fieldwork takes point of departure in researching everyday (dis)engagements with Mingoville and include:

  • Mingoville in Mingoville A/S

 

  • Following everyday school activities and particularly English lessons with(out) Mingoville in a 7-9 grade special education class in Denmark

 

  • Following home education/teaching/training with Mingoville in two homes in Denmark and one home in Norway

 

  • Following (together with my colleague Bente Meyer) English with(out) Mingoville in grade 5 and 6 in a Finnish school 

 

  • Following (together with my colleague Bente Meyer) Mingoville into private homes of pupils in grade 5 and 6 in the Finnish School

 

  •  Telephone conversations with a number of schools in Denmark that have in one way or another (dis-)engaged with Mingoville

 

  • Following Mingoville (and other virtual worlds /virtual universes/serious games for kids) online