Thursday, December 10

Go Online! Go Mobile! Lost in Space!


So, when you prepare your curriculum, learning environment, or course content, do you develop everything yourself (Me, Myself and I)? Or are you good at using whatever you can find? Or perhaps you combine the best of both worlds to mash-up amazing learning experiences for your students.

So, what is your secret recipe to constructing effective learning content and activities?

To succeed today and increasingly in the future (unless you know and can do everything!) being a chef-minded thinker will be crucial.

Actually, if you think about it, being a Chef-minded thinker (unless you have assistants) might not be the ideal analogy for developing learning content and activities in today's disruptive inter-galactic information flowing world. If the future's information flow and rapid change becomes as disruptive as I am imagining right now, we would most likely need an army of self-directed and motivated students (learners) to collaborate and co-create learning environments and experiences to stay intact with the learning domain we are facilitating and learning (Already dizzy, just thinking about it!).

I suppose, the history of KuKu land would not be so affected, but most learning domains will, so we better change our mindset or...

ICEL 2009
On December 1st and 2nd, I attended the 2nd International Conference of e-Learning hosted by UiTM (in cooperation with AKEPT and MEIPTA as joint organizers). The theme was:

Go Online! Go Mobile!

It was a great opportunity to discover some of the learning innovations going on in Malaysia. Also, they had a couple of great keynote speakers in Marc J. Rosenberg and Lucifer Chu, and finally a great opportunity to network and exchange some thoughts and ideas.

Besides that, I experimented with using Twitter to take learning notes, and share my discoveries and thoughts beyond the walls of the conference (check the tweets for 1-2 Dec.). By the time the conference was over, I had swooshed out 140+ tweets of ideas, frustrations, reflections, distractions, and resources (URLs).

I suppose I have a long way to go before I master the art of tweeting an event, but it certainly kept me awake throughout the conference. Also, since you only have 140 characters for each tweet, it forces you to be more concise and precise with the words you choose (Not like here!). Though, I have to admit that on certain tweets, it just spilled over to the next one. I am still learning.

Also, while I was tweeting away, others (from who-knows-where!) joined in, and added their reflections and suggestions. And then you have those tweets that spark a bit of incidental learning, which is often fun and enriching.

Finally, learning notes does not look neat in Twitter (at least mine don't!), but then again I hardly ever recap such things (Do you?). But the act of reflecting and taking notes certainly stimulates the brain to learn (and stay awake!).

So, what did I learn? Here are the highlights...

"Educators are terrible managers of technology!"
- Marc J. Rosenberg

His keynote was entitled 'Beyond E-Learning', and it was great to see him in action, and learn lessons from his vast experience in education and e-learning. I suppose the moment of shock and joy came when one of his slides showed a screenshot of my 'E-Learning in Malaysia' blog (why not ZaidLearn?).

He was basically showing some of his Malaysian e-learning discoveries since his arrival, and that included one of my blogs (Yep, if you search 'e-learning Malaysia' it is No.1 on the list, including when you click 'I'm Feeling Lucky'). Anyway, it was a nice surprise, and free promotion, so thanks for that.

So, what did I learn from this e-learning gladiator. His e-learning definition was alright:

"The use of internet technologies to deliver a broad array of anytime, anywhere solutions that enhance knowledge and performance"

In a learning shell,
Rosenberg emphasized to look beyond formal online education. He argued that we need to also infuse performance support, information repositories, communities of practice, access to experts/expertise (online), simulation/games, etc. to enhance and enrich our and students' learning experiences. He argued that we need to look beyond the 'course centric' view to the 'knowledge centric' view of learning domains, arguing also that we need to look beyond the LMS to manage it all (Amen to that!).

In the future, the focus will increasingly move from instruction to information (access), course scarcity to information abundance, learning center to workplace,
learning management to knowledge management, classes to communities, teaching to coaching and collaboration, authoring to blogging, documents to wikis, presentations to podcasts, push to pull, course catalogs to information repositories, and so on.

Yes, he also said that educators are terrible managers of technology! And I certainly can testify to that (Though, there are exceptions)! However, Rosenberg also said that the classroom will never go away, but that we need utilize our learning time with students more effectively, changing the classroom into a center for inquiry, discovery, activities, team collaboration, engagement, etc.

In addition, he talked about the new learning paradigm, which he has coined 'Learning 2.0' (learning using a fusion of formal and informal learning tools and approaches to facilitate effective and update-to-date learning).

Some of today's challenges include using wrong content, ignoring pedagogy and instructional design, and too much focus, or too little focus on technology. Also, to make e-learning work, you need to have the appropriate incentives (value, purpose, relevance, etc), and efficient methods, or the grumpy old professors are going give you trouble (been there!).

Also, you
need good user support and leadership, and finally you need to have a strategic plan. Well, that is where he comes in, and can perhaps save Malaysian higher education from losing out on the learning possibilities that the learning world really offers us today and increasingly in the future (if we only open our eyes).

He is great talker, but taking a deep look into his online presence, he is very much a learning 1.0 type of user (here is my bio, presentations, a few videos, and contact details). Where is his active blog, Twitter space, social bookmarks, etc? Not much activity there (to my knowledge), but I suppose he is too busy to really engage with learning 2.0 tools.

In short, Malaysia could do with some of his ideas, but we really need practitioners who practice what they preach, and can facilitate and inspire beyond the babble.

The slides Marc Rosenberg shared were not made available online (to my knowledge), but click here for an older presentation found, which includes most of what was shared during this keynote.

"Let Your Students Be Teachers!" - Lucifer Chu


Oh boy, this is a six foot Geek Gamer (referred to as 'Crazy guy'), you just have to see present. This dude comes to present at an International conference wearing a black t-shirt (with 'Proud to be a geek' slogan at the back), jeans, and chilled sneakers. Why should he care anyway! Mr. Chu has become a millionaire by creating Chinese translations of fantasy novels. Using much of the $1 million in royalties from his versions of “The Lord of the Rings,” Mr. Chu says he devotes himself to distributing free translations of material from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Web site (Opensource Opencourseware Prototype System).

So, what did I learn from his keynote?

He uses videos (mostly available from YouTube) to make a point, he wonders mentally and physically around the hall, while engaging and chatting with the audience (very informal!), and he speaks his mind using visuals (slides) with strikingly few words and large fonts. Pictures speaks louder than words, videos speak larger than pictures, and he speaks loudest of them all!

I suppose the moment of truth came when he asked in a joking manner to higher officials at
UiTM, why they have blocked YouTube at the campus. The crowd was craving for an answer, but none came (at least loud enough to hear). Anyway, he being himself, kind of joked his way out, and moved on to the next issue.

Mr. Chu started of his presentation reflecting briefly the wisdom of 'Art of War', and the importance for educators to know their enemy: Students! He basically wanted to share his understanding and insights of how the X and Y generations think, live, and what motivates them to learn.

In the process, he showed several mind-blowing videos (e.g. Did You Know 4.0) to inspire us think beyond our comfort zones, and embrace the new world learning order (Geeks rule the world!). Let's not complain about our students! If you can connect and find the right flavor, surely you can inspire anyone, including inmates (Thriller - 1500+ inmates dance 'Thriller' at a Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Philippines).

He also talked a lot about how mobile phones will increasingly have a huge impact on the way we learn, and that we should embrace it to facilitate learning. For example,
he looked at Google Latitude (location based service) and QR Code (generator), and asked the audience how we could use this to facilitate learning. He shared with us possibilities, but argued that the educators (not him with a big smile) should figure out how they could use such tools to construct more dynamic learning environments.

Mr. Chu, also emphasized that today's youth go online to socialize, compared to the old generation who actually go out to socialize. And finally, he talked about games and game addiction (e.g. Scribblenauts and Brain Age), and argued that we should learn from them instead, and apply some of the success factors to facilitate learning. Have you ever heard about learning addiction or education addiction? Now, that would be a serious problem :)

Besides that, he also said that (watching) 'videos' is the only method to make today's students focus on one window (So, use it a lot in class!). Finally and importantly, he argued that teachers should move away from the 'Farmer' mentality to the 'Chef' mentality (discussed above).

Mr. Chu sums up his talk with 'Whatever, Whenever, Wherever!', when it comes to learning. Learning follows you, not you follow it.

You might also want to check out Mr. Chu's OCW Blog.

The last keynote speaker discussed some of the challenges in online and m-Learning Practice in Malaysia. It explored mostly OUM's e-learning initiatives to make learning more accessible and engaging, including iRadio and the
Besides attending the keynote talks, I did attend several paper presentations during the parallel sessions, and there were some sparks here and there, such as one lecturer using Elgg to facilitate a post-graduate course. But overall, it was a shocking and boring learning experience.

It was boring, because most presenters I listened to spent too much of their 15 minutes given to talk about e-learning theories and concepts, rather than talk about their contributions, ideas and projects (practice). If you only have 15 minutes to present, why not start with the end (solution and findings), and then speed through the middle and beginning (theory and concepts). Focus on your contribution!

It was shocking, because several of the presenters seemed totally out-of-sync with the disruptive learning innovations available today and how today's youth learn (Hopefully Mr. Chu introduction has changed that a little bit). During these two conference days, I heard a lot of who-ha about Learning objects, learning management systems, storyboard templates, instructional design, and of course SCORM.

One presenter was talking about developing quality learning content and related that to SCORM, as if SCORM guarantees quality (Absolutely crap!). First, most e-learning authoring tools publish SCORM-compliant content on-the-fly anyway, so who cares. Secondly, what has content quality to do with SCORM? Alright, you want it to be reusable, accessible, interoperable, and durable, and SCORM caters to that and other technical specifications (though not very well), but that is not 'content quality', if you ask me. In other words, you can produce SCORM-compliant content, but your content could still be crap.

The essence of quality content, lies in its substance (the way it is articulated and visualized, and the learning activities encapsulating it), not in the technical specifications (SCORM). Though, it is good to have substance quality and SCORM-compliance, but SCORM-compliance is not actually necessary for content to be of quality. YouTube Edu, TED Talks and Academic Earth should ring a bell!

So, is SCORM relevant anymore in Higher education? Should we care about it? Unless you need to track every click and test item in a learning object, then don't make SCORM a requirement (or a must have feature!). Why? Because, most of the amazing learning resources for higher education are not SCORM-compliant.

Beside the SCORM obsession (some vendors are making a lot of money on that obvious crap!), there was one presenter who was so excited to have a WYSIWYG online content editor in his University's LMS, and insisted that all content development should go through that WYSIWYG window. Perhaps he should explore Prezi and thousands of other possible learning tools, before coming to such a conclusion (shocking!). In short, use a variety of rapid e-learning and web 2.0 tools to develop your content and learning environments.

Another presenter seemed frustrated with lecturers' participation in story boarding using an authoring template, which required them to enter or copy paste their content into boxes. Why not instead use a tool which lecturers are familiar with, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Word?

Although, there were some really interesting initiatives (wikis, mobile learning, gaming, blogging, etc.), I felt that several of the presenters seemed totally out-of-sync (perhaps it was acting) with the amazing learning possibilities we have today, and mostly focused on developing CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT.

So, how can we (Malaysia) move forward in terms of e-learning, or using digital learning tools to transform the way we learn?

First, we have to encourage more academics to read EduBlogs (and follow Twitter streams). Here are 100 featured learning professionals to get you started. It is alright to read e-learning books (free e-books), and published journal articles, but if you want to keep track of the latest disruptive learning innovations and learning ideas, excellent EduBlogs will serve you much better.

Secondly, we need to establish informal and formal learning sharing clusters consisting of learning professionals and academics. It could take place online (e.g. webinars and online communities), or through face-to-face gatherings.

Finally, we have to look beyond just developing quality content for students, because in the future everyone will have free access to 'World Class' content (already!), whether you are a student or not. Meaning that you need to focus more time on nurturing the ability to construct relevant and engaging learning activities and environments for your students.

The future living and working environments will require you to master the art of thinking, doing, mashing-up, innovating, connecting, networking, communicating, collaborating and learning. People will not be interested in what courses you took, but what you know, what you can do, and your ideas to innovate and make things happen.

In a sentence, we need to lifelong learn, embrace change, be adaptable/flexible, think innovativelly, and continuously explore and discover. However, to do that, Universities need to allocate educators more time to explore and discover each learning domain they facilitate (Business aside!). If not, we will end up having educators that are out-of-sync with their learning domains (experienced that!). As a result, it will be more effective to learn outside the University system.

It is already happening! And unless we innovate, adapt and change fast, our Universities will face extinction much faster than we realize. Universities will still be around, but which sane learner would want to go there, unless they simply want the paper qualification(s). Again, let's get together and transform! It can be done, but time is running out (drama!) :)


Yasser Massoud said...

You should be a reporter! Thank you you summarized the whole 2 days conference practically.
For me, it was honorable to meet other people and different society, of course you are at the top. I enjoyed Lucifer's presentation the most.

Seti@wan Dirgant@Ra said...

I thank you for the article so adds this insight.

I hope your day is always fun.