Whitehouse.gov — B.T. vs. A.T.

The Internet Archive (archive.org) has a “WayBackMachine” allowing you to see what web sites looked like in the past. It’s kinda fun to see how a particular site has evolved over time. It’s also helpful when (heaven forbid) someone takes down (deletes) a bunch of resources you found useful. Someone like, I don’t know, a new president…

Here are some of the pages that have seemingly disappeared overnight. Click on the images to follow the links and see how the pages looked yesterday Before Trump (B.T.) and today (A.T.).

Immigration — B.T.

Immigration — A.T.

Climate Change — B.T.

Climate Change — A.T.



Civil Rights — B.T.

Civil Rights — A.T.

Health Care — B.T.

Health Care — A.T.

Obama’s Inauguration Day 

Trumps Inauguration Day

I’m all for giving Trump some time to pull things together, but leading you to essentially 404 pages seems a little odd. All of his “content” could have been prepared ahead of time and turned on at the changing of the guard (apparently the “Work” hasn’t begun yet). Comparing Obama’s inaugural page to Trump’s, you can’t help but wonder why the “The Agenda” is missing from the latter.
We’ll see…


Correlation/Causation Assignment Idea

This tweet crossed my path, and it made me think about data, how it is interpreted and often used to support arguments it has no business supporting.

The whole idea is correlation does not imply causation. The connections between the two axes in any of the graphs provided at “Spurious correlations” seem unrelated. But then I thought, what if there really was some connection (regardless how small) between any of the two paired variables.

So here is the assignment I thought might work in a wide variety of disciplines that discuss how data is used to support arguments (in most cases causation is implied).

Students pick a graph/relationship from the site/book they find interesting . They then actually research and find as much data as they can about the two variables and attempt to weave a convincing, data-driven narrative for why the relationship between the two is due to causation and not just a random correlation. I could see this going in directions all the way from creative storytelling (semi-fictional) to some potential leads for more research (factual). How fun is that?!?

I would love to hear ideas for how to take this half-baked idea and make it great!

Thanks to @markchubb3!



Academic Technology Wish List (and Anti-wish List)

So I sent out a request to the Educause Instructional Technology listserv asking for their one or two most desired (or valued) classroom technologies. The feedback was considerable and also pretty unanimous. I’ll try to summarize the responses below:


The #1, undisputed champion on the most desired classroom technology list is for simplistic (“one button”) network friendly device/platform agnostic screen sharing that can be used by instructors and students. This led to a discussion about other ways people have attacked the problem. We know there are lots of hardware/network issues around screen sharing (some success stories with AirServer, AppleTV, Solstice, etc.), but a few people suggested what I’ll call “software” solutions. Deb Hoyt and Chaz Barbour resolved some of their issues using Echo360 ALP. Steve Covello offered  youseeu.com and goreact.com as solutions for real time sharing and note taking alongside a video stream. I think approaching this from the software side of things makes a lot of sense (at least for now). I can share a link to Collaborate Ultra and everyone in class can immediately share their screen (and can chat, share files and whiteboard) from any laptop (tablet sharing coming soon). Until now, I think I’ve vastly underestimated how the functionality that Ultra, and the plethora of other virtual meeting tools most of us have access to, can easily address many of the screen sharing issues in our classrooms. I will definitely be testing this out more with our faculty. Win!

Though a distant second there was considerable talk about replacing projectors with large (multi-touch) displays. A variety of questions came up around this topic as well. Is the display large enough for people in the back of the space to see it? Are multiple displays needed? Does the display(s) compete with valued real estate (whiteboard space). This was clear: don’t cover up whiteboard space with a monitor! As display prices continue to fall, we’ll be seeing more of them replacing projectors; especially in smaller classrooms. Monitors on the sides of the room with whiteboard in the middle or monitors/whiteboards that can slide back and forth seemed favorable. Ron Balko suggested roll-up OLED screens in place of projectors & reflective screens. Won’t be long!

A few comments on BYOD: No clear consensus here yet. More people for BYOD than against though.

Other wish list items:

  • Better control over lighting in rooms
  • One-button lecture capture (http://onebutton.psu.edu may work for you)
  • Mobile and multi-configurable tables and chairs
  • Flexible and collaborative work-spaces for students and instructors
  • Multi-touch video wall that can replace a whiteboard
  • AVB Support by Cisco
  • A great looking and functioning doc cam that does not cost 2k+
  • All device interconnects being cat6 would be so awesome.
  • CEC to be a real standard
  • Apple to license airplay!

Brent Saltzman provided several wish list items:

Things he currently loves:

  • Liberty AV’s HDMI adapter ring
  • Extron IN1606 Switcher
  • Extron DTP products
  • Extron XPA 1002/2001 Audio Amplifiers
  • Extron FF220T Ceiling Speakers
  • Extron Cable Cubby
  • TechFlex F6 Split Braided Tubing
  • Biamp Tesira
  • Spectrum Furniture’s Instructor Media Workstation

And things for his Anti-wish list (thanks Mike Cunningham for suggesting this)… Things to go away:

  • Smartboards, Sympodiums, and anything made by SMART Technologies.
  • Clickers (actual physical audience response hardware)
  • Mini DisplayPort and Mini/Micro HDMI adapters
  • VHS decks
  • HDCP and EDID
  • Java
  • Apple TV’s

Others’ Anti-wish list suggestions:

  • Computers running outdated operating systems
  • Overhead projectors
  • VHS players
  • VGA connectors

Hopefully you found this summary helpful. Will be interesting to revisit in a year or so. Thanks for all the great input!


Photos from flickr courtesy of Alan Levine and VWCC Media Geeks

The UnTextbook

Having some time to reflect on my second OpenEd conference in as many years has me stuck on something that I very occasionally heard mentioned at this year’s conference amid what some felt was dominated by talk about open textbooks…

Adam Croom lays out some data on the use of the word “textbook” in OpenEd conference abstracts since 2012. I don’t think anyone would argue textbooks are an incredibly hot topic across the spectrum of educational environments and will likely continue to be for some time. Seeing  the balance of power start to shift from publishers to educators is impressive. Momentum is growing. I opened an OpenStax email this morning and found this:

11-24-2015 10-47-44 AM

Open textbooks are great. OpenStax is great. Post conference, Amanda Coolidge posted about the importance of reducing textbook costs for students. Robin DeRosa talked about access to information and the importance of learners contributing to, and sharing of information. More angles can be found at #opened15. Lots of brilliant thoughts helping continue the conversations and asking new questions.

There seems to be a lot of effort and focus put on this throttling concept that open textbooks = publisher textbooks (in appearance, “quality“, rigor, etc.). I know the vast majority of people familiar with OER know the 5Rs of open resources and the advantages they provide over publisher content. They know open textbooks can “be” so much more than publisher textbooks. I just didn’t see much evidence of people doing or even thinking of doing something more than what publishers have to offer. Are we inadvertently limiting what open textbooks could become simply by continuing to call them textbooks?

Publisher textbooks have worked for generations of teachers and learners; and they still work. Textbooks are steeped in a mixture of deep tradition, prestige, and privileged access to information. Stacked on book shelves, they may be weighty trophies for courses endured, or nearly sacred containers of quotations, data, or instructions. But perhaps most of all, they are complete. That is, whether we agree with the author or not, there is a finite amount contained within. There is a beginning and an end; encounters with either often provide great satisfaction to writer and reader alike. With static content between the beginning and the end, there is comfort in the possibility of knowing or learning every word, phrase, or concept it contains. When we shift our thinking to open textbooks, it is hard to let go of some of the most comfortable qualities of the traditional textbook.

The majority of open textbooks we hear about are “finished” products that also have beginnings and endings. Just as my email from OpenStax said, they are asking me to adopt one of their textbooks.  That means replace. And I’m all for it, for the reasons above and the many more eloquent arguments out there.

But I want to be mindful of what “open” and the 5 Rs make possible beyond adoption. If the advantages of OER are taken to the extreme:

  • Contribution of “content” need not be limited to an expert(s). People with expertise continually update, improve, and enhance the content and features of the resource. Revise. Remix.
  • The resources can be Reused and Retained by instructors and students, and is also made available for Redistribution.
  • Open texbooks are never “finished” so they are not a product. They are always an ongoing, evolving process.

This last point is the real kicker here. The beauty of open + process is that it literally opens the door to conversations, collaborations, and community. It shifts the focus from static content (product) to active and engaged communities of practice that extend beyond classroom walls (process). As Gill Green said in his OpenEd15 session, “OER isn’t about the ring, it’s about the relationship.” I’m all for saving students money and increasing equity of access to course resources. But I really don’t want to let the traditional concept of a publisher’s textbook be the standard by which Open resources  are measured. The people that engage with OER can have a much bigger impact on teaching and learning than textbooks ever could.

I recognize we don’t quite yet have the tools, workflows, and infrastructure in place to efficiently leverage all that OER permit us to do. OER repositories are great, but in some ways, they are silos. But people are thinking about how to connect bits of information in new and exciting ways. Michael Caulfield’s Federated WordPress and Hugh McGuire’s networked PressBooks projects are providing insight and potential frameworks for re-imagining static, silo-ed digital content as more transferable and transformable, evolving works in progress. Stay tuned.


Lifelong Learner

“I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.”
 ~ Albert Einstein

I see it in social media profile taglines, conference bios, CVs and resumes. Several years ago during my graduate degree in instructional technology I was introduced to the phrase “lifelong learner.” It likely surfaced alongside an exploration of Malcolm Knowles and andragogy. The Department of Education and Science (2000) describes lifelong learning as the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge. Back then, I remember thinking it was a self-characterization I could pretty much get behind. With more than one graduate program behind me and being deep in another, I had already spent many years seeking answers to questions in relatively traditional higher education settings. Years later, I still consider myself a lifelong learner; probably always will. But really, who in higher education would not say they are a lifelong learner? Aren’t we all perpetual students? At a point in their careers, do some faculty believe they have read (or written) the last book in their field? Do some lose the motivation to keep exploring or feel like, as my partner’s mother would say, “My hard drive is full,” and choose (consciously or not) to gloss over the “data” that is inconsistent with their current understanding of the world.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
~ Albert Einstein

Students expect instructors to be subject matter experts. Teachers are supposed to have the knowledge and make that knowledge accessible to students. Though that model still persists, we are now seeing more and more exciting examples of teachers opening up their courses, and inviting students to be more active participants in the “content,” the assessments, the very nature of the teaching and learning process — right alongside the teacher. As just about anyone with an advanced degree can attest, the more I know about something, the more I know I don’t know. As I face new or updated information, I am faced with a decision. I either embrace the opportunity to continue the pursuit of knowledge by incorporating that information with the story in my head, or I shut down and focus elsewhere. This decision is essentially a “fight or flight” response; expand and embrace the challenge or avoid and self-preserve.

If you are still reading this, you probably align with the “fight” decision. So fight it is. I’m not entirely comfortable with “fight” when it comes to my continued unfolding of what I think I know. Perhaps “wrestle” is more appropriate. Though the wrestle often requires considerable effort to reconcile, I won’t be put upon by new information delivered via new textbook editions, journal articles, blog posts, and a variety of social and news media outlets. Rather than being seen as a burden, I want to embrace the challenge to extend my understanding of the world. I want to take the pages that are shared with me and adopt, adapt, and incrementally adjust my story. This may be an ever-evolving story, but it is my story (with a big CC-BY stamped on the cover). As far as I can tell, I won’t see the words “The End” anytime soon. How’s your story?

The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.”
Freire – Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Exceptional Quality

In response to David Wiley’s “Stop Saying ‘High Quality,’” his follow-up “Being Clear on ‘High Quality’” and Jeremy Browne’s comment to that second post, I have to agree with Jeremy and his apparent hesitation to using “effective” as the loftiest goal for educational resources. Indeed, there are a wide variety of factors that could influence the effectiveness of a given resource; what is highly effective for one student may not be for another. More importantly, determining the effectiveness of a resource implies something has been measured. This measuring most often happens after students have interacted with the resource in a course. The only way to capitalize on the effective quality of the resource is to use it again, in the same state it was offered when measured. Identifying effectiveness implies an end point of sorts, a check box. That arrangement, is the antithesis of what OER is all about. At its core, OER is about open; and with open comes continual change. Ironically, Wiley’s call to revise, and his proposed Remix Hypothesis highlights the elevated import of this characteristic of OER.

So as not to “kick up [more] dust” as Jeremy suggests, and to give a feeble nod to Caufield’s “Type 2 comments,” I suggest using “engaging” to supplant “effective” when referring to what our highest goals for educational resources should be. As an instructional designer (one of my many hats), I have a much better idea of how a resource may engage a student before the interaction occurs, than how effective it will be in actual practice with a group of students I initially know nothing about. Regardless of whether or not the student is engaged by the resource, I can assess its engagement potential before the student-content interaction occurs. After the interaction I can assess the effectiveness of how well the resource engaged students and contributed to their attainment of intended outcomes. Then, in the spirit of OER, I can revise/remix the resource to enhance the level of engagement.

In regards to scope, only focusing on an individual resource, like a textbook or other educational resource is too limiting for my liking. I don’t know of a “high quality” educator that believes an isolated resource used in their course will make or break their students’ ability to attain course objectives (of course they hope all will). Using an “engaging” text book does not ensure “learning” will occur. Likewise, using a less engaging text book does not prevent learning either. What percentage of students receive credentials using a textbook in isolation? Students are engaged in courses filled with a variety of content, activities and assignments. We provide opportunities for them to interact with the content, their instructor, their peers and the world. All of these opportunities contribute to student engagement and the likelihood that meaningful learning will occur.

Perhaps I’m not close enough to publishers and their lingo to be offended by using “high quality” to describe exemplar educational resources; especially when referring to courses, their content and the opportunities they provide students. In his second post I’m pleased to see Wiley recant his call to stop using the phrase “high quality.” Why should the publishers usurp the fine language I use to describe engaging learning experiences?