What Marshall McLuhan’s ‘Global Village’ Tells Us About Education Technology in 2014

imgresThe Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century (1989) published posthumously, is one of Marshall McLuhan’s best works. It’s quite remarkable how this book published over twenty years ago, provides the reader with a contemplative perspective on the role of technology in 2014. While reading, I found myself thinking about educational technology quite differently—thinking more about the effects, nuances, and implications technology has beyond education. Effects on relationships, learning (and teaching) in the context of our culture and long-term implications for society in general. The book is about far more than education, it delves into technology and its influence on communication patterns, family structures, and entertainment. The book prompts reflection and forward thinking at the same time.

McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher and educator of communication theory, and considered a public intellectual of his time. His work on media theory is still studied today. The Global Village was a culmination of his years of work on media, a collaborative effort between McLuhan and long-time friend and colleague Bruce Powers. It summarizes McLuhan’s lifelong exploration and analysis of media, culture and man’s relationship with technology.


McLuhan designed the tetrad as a pedagogical tool to of examine the effects on society of any technology/medium by dividing its effects into four categories and displaying them simultaneously.

McLuhan and Powers introduce a framework for analyzing media via a tetrad. A tetrad is any set of four things; McLuhan uses the tetrad as a pedagogical tool for examining an artifact or concept (not necessarily a communication medium) through a metaphoric lens, which according to McLuhan translates to “two grounds and two figures in dynamic and analogical relationship to each other”. You can see how the idea can stretch one’s cognitive processes. The framework began to make more sense to me when reviewing the tetradic glossary at the end of the book which examines twenty or more ideas and artifacts through the tetrad framework, including periodic tables, a clock, cable television, and the telephone.  McLuhan designed four questions to explore a medium under analysis using the tetrad framework:

  1. What does the medium enhance?
  2. What does the medium make obsolete?
  3. What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
  4. What does the medium flip into when pushed to extremes?

Wouldn’t it be challenging in a media and communications class, or even in an education theory class to have students apply the tetrad structure to current technological tools and applications? How might the iPhone be viewed? Or Twitter? Though provoking to say the least.

The more I read of McLuhan’s work, and about McLuhan himself, the more I believe this man was a genius. He predicts not only events, but how media tools and advancements in technology affect society as a whole—that no one could have imagined or even considered in the 70′s and 80′s. Yet McLuhan could almost see into the future, see how our society is shaped and influenced good and bad by technology.

Worthwhile [short] Clips to Watch on McLuhan’s Views on Technology

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‘Technology is not just a happenstance…’ video clip via marshallmcluhanspeaks.com

Further Reading:

Review of Instructional Design Models Applied to K-12 Learning Environments


Over the last few months I’ve conducted extensive research into instructional design models used in the process of course design. I’ve researched the history of instructional design [also known as 'instructional systems design'] and its applications from the 1930’s to present. I’m writing, or least attempting to write, a book for educators that describes how to develop effective, relevant courses in our digital age using a dynamic instructional design model. The first chapter covers the history of instructional design with a focus on education learning environments as opposed to business or military settings. And though I’ve found considerable literature about design principles, methods and models applicable to higher education, there is dearth of published writings on instructional design models specific to K-12.

K-12 Educators Need Instructional Design Skills
Even in current literature there appears to be few resources for K-12 educators that provide instructional design models with accompanying principles to guide the development or re-design of courses for K-12 learning environments – whether it be for blended, face-to-face or online courses. However, the gap is justified by the fact that teachers for the most part, have access to already developed curriculum materials either via textbooks for specific subjects created by the publisher, materials created by instructional designers within a school district, or lesson plans/curriculum available via various platforms, i.e. Open Education Resources, Open Connexions, Discovery Education, museums for education, etc.  However, I suggest that there is a need for K-12 educators to be equipped with skills in instructional design. Teachers need this skill set to adapt  curriculum in order to provide relevant learning experiences for their students. Furthermore, with the proliferation of technology tools and applications that teachers have access to and are even encouraged to use, i.e. the flipped classroom method, or iPads, suggests that teachers need to know how to use these tools effectively—to be able to assess if, and how a given education tool supports the desired learning objectives. And if it does, how to incorporate the tool using a sound pedagogical strategy.  I’ve encountered several examples of instructional design advice for K-12 teachers that are well-meaning, but fall short on pedagogy and instructive guidelines for implementation.

The lack of a current instructional design model for K-12 and higher education is partly what has motivated me to create one – however the purpose of this post is to review existing models specific to K-12 and examine the principles of each to identify what may be useful in today’s learning contexts.  I also encourage readers to share any design experience or advice that might be helpful to other readers.

Instructional Design Models Defined
Before reviewing details of the models, I’ll share a definition – what a course design model is, and why a design model is even worth considering.

“Models, like myths and metaphors, help us to make sense of our world. Whether derived from whim or from serious research, a model offers its user a means of comprehending an otherwise incomprehensible problem. An instructional design model gives structure and meaning to an I.D. [instructional design] problem, enabling the would-be designer to negotiate her design task with a semblance of conscious understanding. Models help us to visualize the problem, to break it down into discrete, manageable units.” - Martin Ryder, University of Colorado Denver, School of Education

Design Models Frequently Referenced for K-12 Learning
Though the definition and application of course design models vary widely, some educators have classified models into different types as the following article, Comparison of Alternative Instructional Design Models does:

“Instructional Design models are classified into three types, classroom, product and system (Gustafson & Branch, 2002). Classroom models are of interest to, and are usually designed for, professional teachers from K-12, community colleges, vocational schools, and other related areas. These models take into consideration the environment of teachers… The output of these models is small, a unit or module of instruction used within the school year.” - Marlene Fauser, Kirk Henry, and David Kent Norman

In principle I disagree with this classification and description. Instructional design models should be flexible enough to be applied to all learning environments – K-12, face-to-face, blended environments, higher education, etc. However, there is value in analyzing the models, and identifying previous and current applications in various settings—in this instance K-12.

Gerlach/Ely Model
In 1971 Vernom S. Gerlach and Donald P. Ely developed the Gerlach & Ely instructional model; a prescriptive model that is most suitable to instructional planning/designing when the learning objectives and instructional content are predetermined.  Its key feature is that the steps of content selection and specification of objectives are completed synchronously (diagram below), making it applicable to a K-12 environment.

Gerlach and Ely Instructional Design Model

Gerlach and Ely Instructional Design Model

The ASSURE model developed by Heinich, Molenda, Russell & Smaldino uses an acronym to describe its fundamental principles: Analyze Learners, State Objectives, Select media and materials, Utilize media and materials, Require learner participation, and Evaluate and revise. Sharon Smaldino’s following statement [teacher and one of the model's creators] describes the philosophy of the model, “To ASSURE good learning, I believe it is not one single thing that a teacher or designer should consider, but I do believe that there are areas of emphasis“.  instructional Design.org



Morrison, Ross and Kemp Model
This model is the most flexible. The circular nature suggests that design is fluid, with no specific beginning point, which the authors describe as adaptable. There are nine core elements that make up the model, and the diagram indicates that each element is mutually supporting.  The textbook, Designing Effective Instruction written by the developers of the model (Morrison, Ross & Kemp) indicates that the focus of the model is for classroom instruction.  The most recent edition of the book [now in its sixth], discusses the role of technology in the classroom and describes how to incorporate technological tools in instructional planning.

One of the benefits touted for this model is its flexibility due to the circular nature and lack of starting point, though I view this as a significant flaw in the design as it ignores key principles of creating effective instruction which does require at least a logical sequence based on how people learn.


Kemp, Morrison and Ross Model of Instructional Design

I realize that I have only included a few of the many models, however the ones I’ve mentioned appear to be referred to, and implemented widely.  Stay tuned for more posts about instructional design as I work through the research and writing of my book.


Need-to-Know News: Role Reversal of Teacher & Students, A Revealing MOOC Scorecard & New Take on Robo Grading

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.


The lab manual and its iPad version were created by Columbia medical students themselves. The manual is accessed on the iPad during the lab–the screen covered in plastic.  The digital version also includes interactive quizzes.

1) Role Reversal: Students and Teachers
The Wall Street Journal published a report this week, Unleashing Innovation in Education dedicated to innovative programs and events happening in higher education and K-12. There are numerous articles and videos of interest—a breadth of topics, and a variety of media used to report the stories makes this a  good read. One in particular caught my attention— medical students creating their own textbook; it illustrates the changing dynamic between student and teacher.

Here’s the reversal, students are now actors in their learning, not observers, and teachers at times become the observer as well as the actor.  We can see this play out with these young medical students who created a digital textbook/manual, Columbia Clinical Gross Anatomy Dissection Manual. They saw a need to replace the textbook assigned for their anatomy class —”Grant’s Dissector” published over 60 years ago.  The students, not happy with their spiral-bound Grant text, decided to create their own. And they did so, over the summer by taking thousands of pictures of the dissecting process. One of their professors advised them along the way. The students used Apple’s iBooks program to create the text, and embedded interactive quizzes within.

Insight: This example showcases the shift that is happening with students and learning. Students not only want to get involved in learning and be part of the curriculum, but expect to be able to do so. The role of the educator shifts in response, evidenced in this example by the professor that guided and advised the students during the process. The role of the professor is not minimized, but is changing. Instructors now need to adopt a variety of teaching styles in order to adapt to the student and situation.

2) MOOC Scorecard Says Much
Another article in the WSJ report worthy of review is An Early Report Card on Massive Open Online Courses.  It covers the background of MOOCs well, the key players, the platforms etc. But most telling is the MOOC scorecard graphic which outlines student demographic data released by Canvas Network, Cousera and Udacity.  Though it’s not a meta-analysis by any means as the numbers are stand-alone for each platform, nor is it statistically significant data that is generalizable, however there are patterns and themes that stand out. One in particular is the education level of students in Canvas Network data —over 75% of MOOC students in the sample held at least a four-year degree. This falls in line with other reports I’ve read outlining similar data on specific MOOC courses, which I described in a previous post.

Insight: MOOCs may not be best format for undergraduate and high school students. They still [in most cases] need guidance, feedback and instruction from a skilled educator. Learning in an open course requires a skill set that undergraduates develop while they are in college. This is where they should learn how to learn, get support and guidance from instructors, whether that be face-to-face or in small online environments.


Figure 1 from Stanford report displaying image of linear regression representing over 40,000 student code homework submissions. Colours correspond to performance on a battery of unit tests.

3) Robo-Clustering for Student Feedback
Automated essay grading, where a computer grades an essay with programmed software is controversial. It’s been hotly debated among educators in the blogosphere over the last several months. Here’s another robo-type approach that’s not automated essay grading per se, but automated clustering of assignments which allows instructors to give feedback to students en masse.

From what I gather from reading the report by the program developers [Stanford professors] here’s how it works—student assignment submissions are entered into a database and clustered by similar response patterns. The professor then reviews and provides feedback on one assignment from a given cluster; this feedback is then broadcast to the rest of the students in the same cluster.

“Clustering submissions along key metrics is a natural way to reduce the amount of work required. The hope is that homework submissions within the same cluster are similar enough, that feedback for one member can be propagated to the rest of the cluster.” (Huang, Piech, Nguyen & Guibas, 2013)

The researchers suggest the application can be applied to other grading scenarios, i.e. AP exam grading, or to brick-and-mortar classes which give the same homework assignments over multiple sessions. I can [sort of] see the value of this program, though it seems a stretch to think it will be applicable to broader education contexts anytime soon—but the data sure makes beautiful artwork (see figure 1).

MOOCs, Milkshakes and Clay Shirky’s book ‘Cognitive Surplus’


The ‘Milkshake Mistake’ described in Clay Shirky’s Book

I’m a big fan of professor and writer Clay Shirky. The insights he shares about digital culture via his writings are sharp and thoughtful. I read Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizers last year and found it relevant and instructive despite its publication date of 2008. On its heels is Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Collaboraters (2010), which is accurate not only in the predictions made of how society behaves today with our abundance of time, connectivity and tech tools, but of most value was how it changed my views about MOOCs’ role in education.

I realize that the education community [myself included] may have been thinking about the purpose of xMOOCs all wrong. We’ve been caught up in the details of the MOOC itself— the pass rates, the content, the delivery, the grading, etc., and in turn the applicability of MOOCs to higher education. Yet its the profile of the participants and their behaviours that we should have focused on, not the MOOC characteristics. It was Shirky’s story in Cognitive Surplus about ‘Milkshake Mistakes’ that prompted this revelation. I’ll elaborate further, but first a brief overview of the book.

Overview of Cognitive Surplus
Shirky examines how North American society spends much of their leisure time, which during the 1960′s was on television; millions of hours on passive media consumption. Yet with the expansion of the internet and the reduced barriers to access, there has been a dramatic shift to more active media consumption. Shirky describes in Cognitive Surplus how the collaborative energy (time) that individuals collectively contribute to causes; community and global, are changing how societies function. Wikipedia, patientslikeme.com, and pickuppals.com are examples Shirky shares that illustrate his point. Groups that come together to participate in online spaces created to provide knowledge, support, and/or community action via the internet. Shirky describes the internet as the ‘connective tissue’ that binds people together.

From Milkshakes to MOOCs
The instructive story about milkshakes comes early on in the book—chapter one. The vignette is a marketing story from an article published in MIT Sloan Management Review, Finding the Right Job for your Product (2007).  Shirky’s example is not about comparing education to a product, but illustrates how thinking differently about a user’s experience should be the focus, not the product or tool.

CognitiveSurplusCoverThe journals’ article uses the milkshake story to make a point about product development, how McDonald’s was seeking to improve sales and market share of its milkshakes. The story describes how several marketing experts in an effort to solve a product problem were focusing on the milkshakes, and to a lesser degree its customers. They were examining how to improve the milkshake’s appeal; the flavor, sweetness, consistency, even its packaging.  However, one marketer examined the situation differently. He analyzed how customers used the shake, when and why. The results were interesting, he determined that the milkshake customers where commuters, buying the shake for breakfast on their way to work. The shake fit their breakfast bill; easy to consume in the car, not too hot, a one-handed meal, it was somewhat tasty. This was McDonald’s ‘aha’ moment—finding a solution about the product that wasn’t about the product, but about what the customers were using the product for. The example illustrates how assumptions about traditional practices [what is eaten for breakfast], can get in the way of thinking about new solutions.

Shirky uses the McDonald’s example to help the reader think about media differently, “we talk about the effects of the web or text messages, it’s easy to make the milkshake mistake and  focus on the tools themselves” (p 12).  We need to focus on user behaviours, and the solution we are looking for and not the tool, or product itself [i.e. technological tools] to solve problems. Below is an excerpt from the article that highlights the point, and I’ve added words to demonstrate the applicability to education.

“The odds of getting it right will be much higher when we frame the market’s [education’s] structure to mirror the ways that customers [students] experience life [learning].”

Application to MOOCS
There are parallels to how many educators perceived and analyzed MOOCs initially. Many thought MOOCs would challenge and potentially replace traditional higher education. The focus was on the MOOCs details: the significant student drop out rates, the content delivery methods (the varying quality of recorded lectures), the course rigor (or lack thereof) the peer-review grading platforms etc. All these factors were made in comparison to traditional methods of higher education. The yard stick for the MOOC was the traditional, face-to-face college course. This was the problem. Granted, this made sense given the number of universities that rushed to apply the MOOC model to undergraduate education for purposes that were somewhat unclear, but appeared valid.

Yet have we not been preoccupied with the details of the product, the MOOC as per the Milkshake example?  Perhaps we should be looking at MOOCs from a different angle—who is taking the courses and why, the behaviours of the students, and then analyzing the results before making predictions that MOOCs will disrupt traditional higher education. When drilling down and examining MOOCs students and their behaviours we find this:

  • Many students sign up, but few become active, and even fewer complete the course.
  • Many of the active students, if not the majority of MOOC students have a college degree, and in some cases more than one.
  • Many are working professionals, are over the age of thirty.
  • Many students are outside of North America, countries including, UK, Australia, India and countries within the Russian Federation
  • Course completion rates are low – usually around 10%
  • MOOC students cite reasons for taking the course as personal, interest, to brush up on their skills or to learn something new.
  • A small minority of students participate on class discussion boards within classes (ranging from 4 to 10% of active students). Those that do participate, do so actively, are articulate and appear motivated. *

Granted much of this data was not available until many courses were underway – and we needed the early adopters to even be able to have data to analyze. However several programs continued to develop even after this data on MOOCs became available. San Jose State University for example, implemented a pilot program with Udacity offering three courses for undergraduate students, including a remedial math course. Now looking at the behaviour patterns of MOOC participants, does it seem logical that a remedial math course would be successful? No surprise the results from this program were dismal. Another Colorado State University-Global Campus offered students the chance to take a use a MOOC for credit, as long as they passed the proctoed exam (at a cost of $89). Apparently there were no takers.

Fortunately a few schools and even MOOC providers have been paying attention to MOOC participant behaviours. Coursera implemented a professional development program for teachers, offering a series of courses for education professionals. Likewise some companies, Microsoft for example, have recognized the opportunity and partnered with Udacity to create specific courses for working professionals in skill areas that are in need at the company. Georgia Tech may be on the right path by offering an Online Master’s Degree of Computer Science. The profile of the potential students is more in keeping with the MOOC profile of students.

Overall the MOOC phenomenon has been a catalyst for conversations about change within higher education institutions. Such discussion and analysis about education practices and methods is needed. However, to further the conversation and move discussions and actions in a positive direction, thoughtful analysis and consideration of the students; their behaviours and educational needs is required before applying the technological tool [or product] to fix the problem. Think of the Milkshake Mistake  —McDonald’s needed to create a new breakfast product, not a new version of the same milkshake.

* References: I’ve included the links here to papers, and blog posts that have been published by professors of institutions offering MOOCs that shared results of demographic data on participants collected from surveys completed by students on a voluntary basis.


Clay Shirky’s Ted Talk, How cognitive surplus will change world. TedX.com

Four Excellent Resources for Course Designers

This post features a collection of carefully selected resources specific to course design for online and blended courses.

designI’m in the process of building a bank of resources accessible from this blog geared to educators seeking skill development in facilitating and designing online courses. Previous posts featured resources specific to teaching online courses, and in this post I share four instructional design resources. Resources include a brief description that highlights the value of each and an icon indicating its type.  For the list of previously featured resources and/or for the icon legend please refer to the resources tab of this site.

Toolbox1) An excellent site created by Contact North to serve faculty and instructors of post-secondary institutions in Ontario, Canada is The Ontario Online Learning Portal. It is an open resource that provides numerous tools and information on the latest research and trends in online education. Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 8.21.52 PMThe site also hosts a series ‘Game Changers‘ which features case studies from institutions around the world that are implementing innovative methods in online education. The most practical resources for course designers can be found in the ‘Tips and Tools’ section. Here educators will find tools in downloadable formats such as the template to plan online learning, and 10 Principles to Select Technology.

Icon representing a website with a depth of resources2) Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition site is THE mother of all instructional design sites. Of all the ID sites I list here, I frequent this site the most, as do many others according to the list of accolades on the ‘about‘ page. It does feature advertising in the most annoying places on its pages, however the depth and breadth of the content make it worth the [minor] aggravation. A warning though, one can get lost on this site in the labyrinth of pages, though the tabs at the top of the page are an excellent guide to topics as is the site map with its Table of Contents.

Website Link3) This site—instructionaldesign.org, is a good reference site providing the basics of instructional design [ID] and learning theories. It includes a glossary of ID terms and a list of several instructional design models. What I find most valuable is the comprehensive listing of learning theories.  Each theory is described in-depth; listed with each theory are its principles, application, and examples of the principles in real-world settings. It also includes references and links to related websites.

pdf4)  This PDF paper, I found on Avetica weblog, which appears to be a blog based upon a student’s research project [thesis perhaps?] about online learning [there is no 'about' page, so I"m not quite sure]. I found this paper Summary of Quality e-learning: Designing pedagogically effective web-based environments for enhancing student online learning in higher education on the blog, and it is worthy of review and consideration for anyone involved in instructional design. It describes a model for online course design I have not seen elsewhere—IDOL, developed by Siragusa (2005) after completing a study on effective design principles and learning strategies for higher education students.

“Teachers and instructional designers can use it to design, develop, evaluate and refine their e-learning environments. The IDOL model (Instructional Design for Online Learning) is accompanied with 24 dimensions/ recommendations that accommodate varying pedagogical needs of learners as well as varying modes of course delivery; entirely online to online learning provided as a supplement to face to face learning. The model is based upon Reeves and Reeves’ (1997) model for creating pedagogically effective online learning environments. IDOL contains 24 pedagogical dimensions which are divided into 3 categories: analysis, strategy and evaluation”. 

Related Posts:

Need-to-Know News: edX Reveals Surprising Results from MOOC Study & New online model “Skillfeed”

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series I aim to share noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform the traditional model of education.

Of the numerous developments last week, edX the MOOC consortium revealed startling data in a research paper that details behaviour patterns of students in the Circuits and Electronics (6.002x) MOOC. Educators involved in MOOC instruction or development will find this research insightful. Shutterstock, a company that provides digital images for a fee, launched a platform for tech courses under a subscription model, which may be a direction online learning providers will follow. Finally, I’ve included two new, and quite unique ed tech tools that may be of interest to K-12 and/or higher education instructors.

1) edX’s Surprising Results Reported in First Research Paper on MOOCs



When edX first formed, its president Anant Agarwal emphasized that one of the core reasons driving the consortium’s initiative was research— the platform would be used to analyze and share results of new educational methods afforded by technology. Up until this point there has been little discussion about courses and/or results from the edX platform, Coursera and Udacity have dominated the headlines. Yet edX should be taking a different path given its not-for-profit premise. And this week we did [finally] get a glimpse into what appears to be extensive research going on behind the scenes. The Open Access journal, Research & Practice in Assessment released the paper Studying Learning in the Worldwide Classroom Research into edX’s First MOOC.

“Circuits and Electronics” (6.002x), which began in March 2012, was the first MOOC developed by edX. Over 155,000 students initially registered for 6.002x, which was composed of video lectures, interactive problems, online laboratories, and a discussion forum. As the course ended in June 2012, researchers began to analyze the rich sources of data it generated. This article describes both the first stage of this research, which examined the students’ use of resources by time spent on each, and a second stage that is producing an in-depth picture of who the 6.002x students were …. [and the] pedagogical components [that] contributed to their level of success in the course.” (Breslow, Pritchard, DeBoer, Stump, Ho & Seaton, 2013)


  • Over 90% of the activity on discussion forums resulted from students just viewing /reading what others students had written—these students did not post, or comment or contribute in any way to discussions threads. Perhaps we need to change our way of thinking about how students use discussion forums, since students that do contribute can enhance and deepen learning and comprehension for students that don’t/or are unable to contribute. Though these silent students may be considered passive, this may not be the case, nor should they be considered lurkers. These students may very well be learning and making sense of course material on their own terms.
  • The demographics of the student body are notable. Over 155,000 students enrolled from over 194 countries, yet the the country that provided the largest percentage of students was the U.S. with 17% of the 155,000, followed by India at 8% of the total, the UK at just over 5%, followed by Columbia (4%) and Spain (2%). Only 622 students from China enrolled (less than 1%). These numbers suggest that language and culture are potential barriers to MOOC participation. The paper provides further details and data.

2) New Online Platform for Tech Skills: Skillfeed

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Screen shot of skillfeed.com home page.

Shutterstock Inc. announced the launch of an online learning marketplace [platform] featuring online instruction via videos for amateurs and professionals working with digital images and media. Skillfeed is similar to Khan Academy, but is for people looking to learn just-in-time skills needed for working with digital media. But, rather than a free platform, or pay-by-course model, it is a subscription based [and quite affordable] model.

[Skillfeed is] “Designed for brushing up on existing skills or developing extensive new ones, Skillfeed offers two types of courses: 1) Comprehensive Courses – Videos of 20 minutes or more, designed to develop in-depth professional skills, such as HTMLor Adobe InDesign, 2) Skill Snacks – Short videos you can watch on your lunch break to pick up new tips and techniques on a range of topics from Photoshop to video editing.”  Press Release, June 4, 2013


  • An appealing format that is easy to use for the busy professional or amateur that wants specific and high quality instruction, and is willing to pay for it.
  • This subscription format has great potential—I can see a market for such platforms as professionals look to simplify the search process for quality instructional videos in specific skill areas, and as a source for ongoing professional development.  Skillfeed.com

3) Ed Tech Tools

  • Storybird: “Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. We curate artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories.”
  • Text2MindMap: “The simple way to create mind maps online. Text 2 Mind Map has provided a free and simple mind mapping tool online since 2008.”

Have a great week.

Need-to-Know-News: Technology Trends & Education, Coursera goes Hybrid

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series my aim is to share noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform the traditional model of education.

what-is-innovation-300x199There were significant developments this week in the education arena, but two reports published by non-education institutions are worthy of review. One describes behaviour patterns and statistics of Internet users globally, and the other shares innovative technologies we should pay attention toseveral that will affect how we go about educating learners. Some are imminent, some longer term, but either way there will be more changes ahead for education. Another significant development this week is Coursera’s announcement that shocked many, though perhaps we are becoming numb to the MOOC news? Either way I’ll review briefly the key developments.

1) Internet Usage Trends
This week Mary Meeker, a partner in a venture capitalist firm presented her much anticipated Internet Trends Report. Meeker is a highly regarded expert on consumer Internet behaviours and patterns. Her presentations provide rich data that is examined by marketers, economists and business leaders. What about educators? I suggest there is valuable information for leaders of education institutions to consider; patterns that may have implications for enrollment patterns and student needs on campus and off:


UP wristband by Jawbone equipped with sensors ‘to know yourself better’ @ jawbone.com/up

i) The use of Internet connected devices is shifting towards tablets and other mobile devices away from PCs. This suggests that students will likely be toting tablets to class, and even donning wearable mobile-connected devices. The computer lab could be a thing of the past. It may shift to a BYOD lab, bring-your-own-device lab. Educators may consider making course content accessible and customized to mobile devices. According to Meeker, tablets are set to beat PC shipments at the end of this year, and in countries like China and South Korea, mobile Internet traffic is already lapping desktops. Wearable devices will be next segment in mobile devices, Google Glass, UP wristbands etc.

ii) Speaking of content, sources for content of all types are becoming even more accessible and available, as Meeker reports sharing of content is a growing significantly. The world’s content is increasingly findable, shared and tagged. The digital info that’s created and shared — from documents, to images to tweets — grew nine times in five years.

iii) International student participation rates in online classes will likely increase as the number of Internet users continues to expand globally. Internet usage expansions is driven by emerging markets, i.e. Indonesia [growth of 58% over previous year], Philippines, Argentina (slide 4). Internet Trends Report 2013, Mary Meeker, Slideshare

McKinsey & Company Disruptive Technologies: This report describes twelve technologies that have “the potential to have enhance lives of people around the globe through a cleaner environment and better health”. Some are similar to Ms. Meeker’s, though not all. I like how this report is presented in the slide show—’gallery of disruptive technologies’ which gives a concise overview. How will these impact education? After reading about ‘advanced robotics‘, I realize this parallels ongoing discussions in education circles about automated grading, Also mobile devices and access is a growing segment. Students will likely want to continue to be able to learn anytime and anywhere.

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 2.49.14 PM

Mobile Internet is the #1 Trend Reported by Mckinsey & Company

Some technologies detailed in the report have been gestating for years and thus will be familiar. Others are more surprising. Examples of the 12 disruptive technologies include:  Mobile Internet, Advanced robotics—that is, increasingly capable robots or robotic tools, with enhanced “senses,” dexterity, and intelligence [and]  Internet of Things.

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.27.37 AMMcKinsey Global Institute Interview with former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya is a must watch, [or read of the transcript]. If one considers  Palihapitiya’s predictions on upcoming trends, we can see that the need for a computer scientists and engineers, and the need to know another languagecode.

“And so the way to think about that is, for example, when you think about education. Education today teaches you social science, it teaches you philosophy, it teaches you English, it teaches you math. But we don’t view technological understanding, or the knowledge of a framework, as the equivalent of understanding any other language”.  Managing disruptive technology: A conversation with investor Chamath Palihapitiya, McKinsey Global Institute

2) Coursera News
Up until now Coursera has not been able to offer students courses for credit; a certificate yes, but college credit no. Udacity and edX however have been making strides in having courses offered for credit in partnership with other higher education institutions, or at least using their content in regular classes to do so. Now Coursera has jumped on board to join in, but when one looks under the hood, the ten public schools that partnered with Coursera may not be using courses strictly for credit. Some schools suggest Coursera content will  used in the classroom, which falls more in line with blended learning, or hybrid learning, which is really not so new after all.

“This is going to transform the way that we teach on college campuses; it is not going to substitute for it,” says , Coursera’s co-founder and a computer science professor at Stanford University”. Online Colleges Get a Big Boost, But Doubts Persist, Carlos Sanchez, May 30, 2013, NPR, All Tech Considered

Stay tuned for updates through Twitter @OnlinelearningI. Have a great weekend.

Need-to-Watch-Videos: Three Clips that Promote Thinking Outside-of-the-Box

iStock_box7XSmallI interrupt this regularly featured ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series to bring you three media clips that may promote thinking-outside-of-the-box—a different way to look at three much discussed and researched issues in education. I engaged with three media clips this week that were not targeted to educators specifically, but provided deep insights; each clip presents a unique perspective on a provocative topic in education.

1) What predicts Student Success?
Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

Much researched, pondered and discussedwhat predicts a student’s success? This Ted Talk features Angela Duckworth, an educational psychologist who left teaching seventh graders to search for that elusive factor that predicts student success in school. She conducted extensive research to find out. Her research revealed that it’s not IQ, family income, precociousness, or talent, but it’s grit. Grit is defined as passion, perseverance, and relentless drive. Students and adults with grit are in it for the long-haul, they don’t give up when faced with obstacles, but continue moving towards a goal they have set out to achieve.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, the book by Paul Tough discusses Duckworth’s work and writes about schools and programs that aim to teach grit through character building education. I read this book recently, and would recommend it to parents and educators interested in learning what contributes to the grit factor [though it's still inconclusive].

2) Educators and Artificial Intelligence
Interview: Charting technology’s new directions: A conversation with MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson.

This clip featuring MIT’s professor Erik Brynjolfsson shifted my [resolute] viewpoint on the role of machines in teaching and student learning. Brynjolfsson discusses recent innovations in artificial intelligence and how it will impact society significantly over the next five years. Though Brynjolfsson didn’t mention education specifically, his talk motivated me to think about the relationship between man and technology quite differently.

I posted several comments this week in response to a blog post about this topic on e-literate, Getting students useful feedback from machine learning. This is the second post on e-literate about machine learning, and both have generated much discussion. My position has been one in opposition to machine assistance, regardless of how it is used. This specific post describes a conversational agent that supports student dialogue in small group discussions by a technique called accountable talk.  When I watched this interview clip something clicked. As I listened to Brynjolfsson speaking of how machines, artificial intelligence can be used in conjunction with humans to create better conditions, I thought of the potential that machines might be able to create with teachers to create better learning conditions.  I haven’t changed my mind completely, but I am looking at this topic from a different point of view.

“… humans and machines are complementary. Machines aren’t perfect or even very good substitutes for humans in some areas. But by working together, by racing with machines, we can do more than the machines by themselves or humans by themselves could do.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 9.36.09 PM3. How an education icon adapted to the Internet
An interview with Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica

The Internet is disrupting traditional models, ways of doing business in all sectors including education. This interview highlights the issue of adaptation and a change of thinking in response to technology.  Many organizations have adapted quite successfully, some have failed and others continue to struggle.  Which is why I found the interview with the president of Encyclopedia Britannica most intriguing. One would think this iconic company, relied upon for over two hundred years as a primary source of information would be doomed in the age of the Internet. Yet it is not so. Encyclopedia Britannica is flourishing and successful  even though it ceased to print its famous set of reference books last year after 244 years. The company has shifted its model by responding to the societal shifts resulting from technological advancements. In the interview, the president speaks of the natural evolution of the product.

We had known for some time that this day was coming. Given how little revenue the print set generated, and given that we had long ago shifted to a digital-first editorial process, the bound volumes had become a distraction and a chore to put together. They could no longer hold the vast amount of information our customers demanded or be kept as up-to-date as today’s users expect.

The way the company adapted to the digital age is most remarkable. It made me think about how Encyclopedia Britannica was able to respond to the digital age where others have failed. Are there any parallels between Encyclopedia Britannica and education institutions? Some would say absolutely not—Encyclopedia Britannica is a business. I see it differently, what about you?

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Click this image which links to HBR’s webpage featuring the recorded interview and its transcript.

I hope you enjoyed these videos and were inspired in one way or another.