This post reviews three stellar tools available online for free that help students [online and face-to-face] study individually or in groups, organize course notes and materials, focus on key content areas—learn more efficiently, and effectively.
1) Video No.tes [free with Google email account]
This is the very best note-taking tool for videos I’ve used. Easy to use—links to Google Drive, can be private or shared with other students. Simple—sign into the platform with Google email [if you are already logged into Google simply click on the sign-in button], a window opens up, copy the URL from the video, whether YouTube or from a MOOC platform such as Coursera, Udacity, etc, and get started taking notes. Notes synch to the video. This is brilliant.
Saves time by allowing students to go to key points without watching entire video
Students can share notes with other classmates, allowing for collaboration and studying with classmates
VideoNo.tes: Improving How We Learn with Online Video, YouTube
2) Evernote [free with sign-up using any email address]
Evernote is one of the most versatile, robust, and comprehensive tools that I use on a daily basis. It is more than a study-organaiztion tool, it also has features for instructors that are simple and effective for giving students’ feedback, organizing class material etc. Below are features specific to students’ needs [in a future post I’ll focus on Evernote for instructors].
I designate a notebook for each course (image above), with notes, images and files pertaining to the course within each. The notes created within Evernote include features allowing one to add audio notes (just click the microphone icon record and save, the file is embedded in the note), add links, insert images and screen shots with ease (drag-and-drop) and add tags so I can easily find common themes at a later date. The camera feature is another excellent tool; I take pictures of handwritten notes, add them as a document file. There is a sharing feature; I can share specific notes with other classmates, either by email, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. There is an option to collaborate on notes, though this is for Premium members, which is at a cost of $45 per year.
Organizes course materials, notes, images etc. all in one place
Includes audio audio note feature for recording quick notes in class or while studying
Accessible and synchs across all devices: laptop, smart phone, tablet
Allows sharing of notes with classmates or instructor by email, Twitter, etc.
Evernote does so much more for students—I’ve included an article from a college student who shares 10 tips for students to de-stress about college life
10 Tips for Using Evernote to De-Stress College from Student Ambassador Megan Cotte, Evernote Blog
I have written about Google docs in previous posts—but I will again highlight the value for students, as it is no doubt one of the best online collaboration tools available for documents, presentations and spreadsheets. For groups projects, it is an essential tool that allows seamless collaboration. For example, with a group project whether for an online class or face-to-face, a Word doc in Google drive is easy to set up. To start working with a collaborative document, one person creates the document, gives it a title and clicks the share button. At this point, one’s given a choice to select one of three options for sharing (screen shot above right), and all that’s needed to share with the group are the email addresses of the teammates.
Team members can work asynchronously on the document or in real-time. Working in real-time on a Google Docs is dynamic; there is a chat function that facilitates discussions during the collaboration, one can see who is editing what, and each team member is identified by name, and a coloured icon.
Versatile—can meet the needs of numerous projects
Accessible from all devices
Google Doc features allow seamless real-time collaboration
Happy New Year! After reading several year-in-review blog posts and two from blogs I follow closely [e-literate and Hack Education], I was motivated to write a similar post. I’m also writing this post in hopes that it will overcome my writer’s block [I’ve struggled with writing a post for three days now]. Let the words come forth!
I’ve included below the top five posts for Online Learning Insights in 2013 and close with thanks to readers and specific individuals that have commented consistently here.
Top Five Posts of 2013 on Online Learning Insights
Five-step Strategy for Student Success with Online Learning, posted on September 28, 2012, which struck me as odd given the post generated very little traffic at all in 2012. However that’s inconsequential—all that matters is that the post provided support and help to online students in some way in 2013 [and continues to do so].
Thanks to Readers, Tweeters and Commenters
Thank you readers of this blog; I am grateful for all readers whether occasional or regular. Special thanks to followers, and to readers that Tweet, link to, and share posts. I also am grateful for all those that take extra time to comment in response to posts—each furthers the dialogue by engaging, sharing resources which ultimately contributes to the learning community. Special thanks to the top commenters of Online Learning Insights listed below. I’ve also included a link to his or her blog, or Google + page.
The conference was introspective, forward-thinking, and uncluttered. Acknowledging the buzzwords upfront, putting them on the table had the effect of clearing the air. It felt similar to peeling back the top layers of an onion—allowing participants to get to the core discussions on the issues facing higher ed.
Keynotes of the Conference
The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, a graduate of Harvard University, long-time educator and supporter of higher education, opened the conference. Another, Dr. David Helfand, physicist and professor of Columbia University described Quest University—an unconventional model for a new liberal arts university based in British Columbia during Thursday’s lunchtime keynote. And Da Hsuan Feng, Senior Vice President, Tsing Hua University delivered a presentation The Ascension of Asia-Pacific Higher Education on the rise and rapid expansion of universities in Asia [which will likely affect Western education institutions in the very near future].
Highlights of Keynotes: Opening Keynote
Governor Johnston has a deep passion for education; he started as a professor of law, become a dean, then vice-chancellor of McGill University, and finally a president of the University of Waterloo in Canada. Highlights his advice to educators and administrators:
1. Reach out to other educators within and outside the institution
2. To department heads: encourage work and collaboration with outside institutions
3. Reach out to other countries—make connections outside of one’s institution
4. Leverage technologies
5. Create chaos in classroom stimulate students to think beyond the credential
Day One: Lunch Keynote
David Helfand is former president of the American Astronomical Society, an astronomy professor of Columbia University [currently on leave], and is now the president and vice-chancellor of Quest University—Canada’s first independent, not-for-profit university founded in 2002.
Helfand described how Quest University began, which was with a blank piece of paper. A new model for a 21st century university, created for today’s multi-tasking, connected student.
1. Goal of QuestU: create most engaging undergraduate education
2. Structure: Quest in stark contrast to traditional university—it has no departments, professors are called tutors—every class sits around a table with a maximum of 21 students. There are no majors.
3. Curriculum: Liberal arts education, all students complete the same 16 courses. Each student picks a question to solve and takes two years to research, analyze and present the problem as a capstone project that is delivered to a panel in his or her fourth year. Based on Colorado college, block system. Take courses in a series. Students have one month to explore one subject—are able to delve deep into each topic.
Day Two: Lunch Keynote
Dr. Da Hsuan Feng of National Tsing Hua University gave a compelling talk on the emergence and future of Asian Universities. This talk was quite incredible, requiring a post all its own, though in summary intellectual courage and academic agility were its core themes.
Technology in the classroom
The skills gap—perception or reality?
New graduates in workplace
New models for higher education
Concurrent sessions were run as panel discussions on topics specific to higher education with selection of individuals to provide a breadth of perspective that included faculty, employers, students and administrators, addressing pressing topics in higher education.
Though the conference presenters and participants were primarily represented by Canadian institutions and organizations, there were a numerous faculty, administrators and journalists from the United States. Though there are cultural differences between Canada and USA’s higher ed systems, viewing challenges from another’s perspective proved to be instructive. Over the next couple of posts I’ll delve into at least two of the themes that may be of interest to readers, though I’ve highlighted key takeaways.
1. Institutions and its educators will need to be academically agile and intellectually courageous to thrive in the current climate of change and digital chaos.
2. New and innovative models of higher education will emerge in response to the pent-up demand for life-long education.
3. More pathways to alternative forms of higher education will develop, offering accessible and viable options of education for post-secondary students.
4. Education institutions in North America will change in ways yet to be determined as universities in Asia and other parts of the world grow, expand and educate millions of students.
Learning in the open—in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for instance is somewhat like the Wild West of the 19th century—undisciplined, with few rules and no regulations. These same characteristics have been used to describe learning in a connectivist MOOC [cMOOC], a form of open learning where there is no set curriculum, process, or particular method. Learning in the open with the world-wide web as the classroom is unsettling for many and overwhelming for most. But the rewards are rich; personal and professional growth that is hard to achieve in a face-to-face setting.
Definition – Open Learning: learning based on independent study or initiative rather than formal classroom instruction [Oxford Dictionary]. In today’s learning context, open learning encompasses connectivism; a theory of learning that identifies learning as a process of creating connections and engaging within a network. Connectivism considers the world-wide web a platform for learning, with its nodes representing connections that are people, information, images or data. A connectivist MOOC is an example of an environment created with some structure to facilitate open learning.
Though learning in the open does not come naturally—one has to learn how-to-learn in an open environment. After participating in numerous MOOCs, it’s apparent that a very different and unique skill set is required; a different set of competencies than what is used in traditional learning environments. I recently shared strategies and tips for open learning in a webinar as part of a cMOOC, Open Online Experience, 2013. I’ve shared my slides from the webinar here, and outlined essential skills for participants of the open—the Wild West of learning.
“I began this MOOC with the greatest of intentions…I found so much information however, that I am lost in the information overload. I think that I am posting in week three, but I am not sure.” Comment from a high school teacher enrolled in a cMOOC that illustrates what most participants feel like in their first [or even] second MOOC.
Habits for Teachers of the Future
It’s hard to imagine what education will look like ten even twenty years from now, but the need to adapt beings now. Though teachers and professors as subject matter experts hasn’t changed, nor will it anytime soon, the delivery formats for instruction and learning has. Contact North recently published ‘Seven Habits of the Professor of the Future’, an article that suggests the skills educators will need by 2020. The skills are varied, and face-to-face instruction is included. But note the variety of the skills mentioned in addition to face-to-face teaching. Note also the emphasis on collaboration—collaboration on a massive scale, and creating new resources using a variety media. These habits connect to open learning. Learning in the open is the new way to learn, create, collaborate, assess, and develop, personally and professionally.
Skills for Open Learning
In practice however—what does open learning look like? Just as in traditional learning, this form of learning takes time and much effort, though tenacity, discipline and a keen desire to learn are traits of connectivism. Open learning is self-directed, where the learner sets his or her goals, creates a learning path, selects resources and tools accessible within a network. Within a cMOOC environment the learning experience is even richer, as a group of like-minded learners are learning collectively, connected together by a space or platform on the web, i.e. a wiki, blog or LMS platform. Making connections, both personal and conceptual are core elements of open learning. These latter skills are the most challenging, yet vital to open.
During the webinar Learning in the Open with OOE13 we discussed these skills and examined challenges with open learning. The consensus was that open learning is different from what most of us were used to; it can be chaotic, overwhelming and confusing. But how-to-be successful with open learning can be learned. Strategies discussed are in the slideshare below.
Learning in the open is non-linear, unpredictable and without guard rails that education institutions or companies create to structure learning in traditional settings. Learning in the open is the Wild West, a new frontier of learning, a new opportunity to grow and connect. Though I’ve shared here how to embrace open learning and experience the benefits, the Coles notes version are as follows: 1) reflect and blog consistently about what you are learning, and 2) share and engage with others via a social media platform of choice—add value by providing quality resources, links and ‘nodes’ of knowledge.
What better time than the week after Labor Day, the traditional back-to-school kick-off, for educators to embrace opportunities for professional and personal development (PD). Though for some just the thought of beginning a PD course of any kind is overwhelming, even stressful. The most frequently cited barrier to engaging in extracurricular learning activities is time; not having enough of it, not being able to find it, and wishing for more. Warranted too, given the frenetic pace of our current culture. This post explores why embracing an online PD experience, whether an un-course, a MOOC or other, is enriching, fulfilling and motivating. I also address the time factor, and suggest how to approach investing time for PD learning with a different perspective so it becomes stress relieving, not stress inducing.
My original plan for this post was to share two PD learning opportunities that begin next week, Open Education Experience 2013, and How to Teach Online with Leeward College [both cMOOCs], but I decided to share first a viewpoint on PD that may be helpful for readers. I’ll will conclude though, with details on the two learning opportunities.
The beauty of engaging in learning online within a community, in a MOOC format for instance, is that it’s driven by individuals’ learning goals, their contributions, and provides learning opportunities beyond what could be experienced solely in a face-to-face space. There’s also the added bonus of the opportunity to create a network of people to learn from and with, often referred to as a personal learning network. Yet learning this way should not be viewed as an extra activity on a to-do list. What makes PD successful is when learners choose to engage in experiences that inspire, that spark interest and motivation. Learning is not a chore when integrated within—with what you do, what you are passionate about. I’ll provide an example here from my experience to illustrate the point.
This month I’m learning through Statistics in Education for Mere Mortals, from Canvas Network. I’m not taking this course because I love statistics, and I’ve already completed several statistics courses. But I chose to take the course because of a work project I’m involved with. I’m in the process of researching pedagogical methods and principles that are applicable to online learning environments, and at the same time studying participation patterns of MOOC learners. The course [which could be classified as a xMOOC], coincides time wise and content wise with what I’m working on now. The professor is not only teaching theoretical concepts associated with educational research, but is using the course participants for a research study about MOOCs. He’ll be sharing the results with the participants of the course. I benefit in two ways, 1) by experiencing the instructional methods used within the course which allows me to study pedagogy used in a given online course, and 2) by being able to review and analyze the MOOC research results. Thus, I find myself making time to invest in the course.
I’ve also completed a few cMOOCs, connectivist MOOCs, which is a different experience from an xMOOC altogether. To clarify though, one experience is not better than the other, they are merely different. My cMOOC experiences have been expansive, social, even organic in the sense that my learning was developed through a series of varied connections that fit together to produce sometimes unexpected [learning] results. Each of the learning experiences I’ve described here work for me at a certain time within a given year. Though I invest in personal and professional learning for the most part year-round, it’s the type and level of participation that varies, and is dependent upon numerous factors including current work projects, personal commitments, etc.
How to Make it Happen
Professional development is most successful, when time is devoted to learning that aligns with one’s work, personal projects, interests, and/or passions. The result is, that rather than having to find the time for PD, it happens because we make time. Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that even with the best laid plans for PD, it can’t always happen. ‘Stuff’ can get it in the way—life happens. Having a strategy for learning though does support success with PD in the long run.
Tips for Making Time for PD
There is a learning curve to learning effectively in an online environment — how to discern what to engage with, when and how. Even how to use technical tools associated with online learning, whether it be the course site, Twitter, a blog platform, etc requires time to learn. I could devote a whole post to this topic, and I will do so in the #OOE 2013 course, during a webinar I’m facilitating, “Success in OOE 2013: How to Make the Most of your Learning Experience” on September 18, 2013 (OOE 2013 calendar here).
In the meantime, below are three quick and dirty tips:
1) set aside a set amount of time each week for your own learning, block the time in your calendar
2) find a course or learning experience that interests you, and register. Check out mooc.ca to find a calendar of upcoming MOOCs in a breadth of topics
3) write about what you are learning: blog, write articles, or keep a personal journal (though usually you learn more when you share). That’s only the beginning. I’ve included some resources to move beyond the quick and dirty at the end of the post.
Two Learning Experiences 1) Open Online Experience 2013 is a 10-month long learning experience that aims to provide participants with a rich, immersive experience into the study and use of educational technology in teaching and learning. It is a professional development program with a difference: it is open to any teacher or faculty member who has internet access, and it has been designed on a “connectivist” model. To register, click here.
2) How To Teach Online” is a massive, open, online course (MOOC) that takes a broad view of teaching online. This five-week MOOC is for instructors of all experiences who teach online. Whether you are new to online teaching or want to improve your craft of teaching, “How To Teach Online” is a great place to share, connect, and learn from others around the world.
This is an open-access MOOC – no fees are required to join and participate. For this MOOC to be successful, we emphasize and are dependent upon, participant contributions and discussions as a means of exploring how to teach online. Your contributions are what makes the MOOC a success. Click here to register.
This post explores Personal Learning Portfolios [PLPs], an extension of a Personal Learning Environment. I review briefly PLPs for professionals, but focus on the potential and promise that PLPs hold for our students.
I wrote recently about Personal Learning Environments [PLE], Personal Learning Networks [PLN] and the need for educators to develop both as a means to support their professional and personal growth and learning. A PLE can be viewed as a system that is built on the concept of creating a personalized framework for learning, tailored to one’s goals and interests.
Personal Learning Portfolios for Professionals
Both posts generated meaningful discussion— with many comments coming from participants in the Education Technology & Media course (#ETMOOC). The topic of the course last week was ‘connected learning’, and discourse focused on PLEs and PLNs. Several themes emerged, yet one was consistent—the idea of a place within one’s Personal Learning Environment to document and record ‘open’ learning courses and content created, learning plans, Badges earned, and/or work completed; the concept of Personal Learning Portfolio was mentioned several times. In one post, How to make Learning Visible, Helen Blunden, a workplace training consultant, wrote about portfolios for professionals and shared her learning from a recent online workshop, Professional Learning Portfolios Workshop. Helen explored how the digital portfolio can be used as a record of formal and informal learning in the workplace as part of one’s PLE, and even presented the idea to one of her clients [her post is useful for those wanting to develop their own PLP].
Yet, it is the following comment made during an asynchronous discussion between myself and two other educators that sparked the idea of introducing the concept of a PLP to students:
“….my “hub” all of my digital work [this educator uses her blog as her ‘hub’, a platform for her portfolio]. It’s my portfolio, digital me, digital footprint etc. I felt scattered about, I no longer feel that way. Many people prefer to have a digital portfolio separate to their blog, in other places, like Mahara, I prefer autonomy of, and take responsibility for, my online life. If I had my time again as a classroom teacher, I would like to start this process from day 1.” [Comment from educator Penny Bentley on this post]
Personal Learning Portfolios: An Essential for Students
The comment above, feeling ‘scattered about’ is not uncommon. Yet, can we help students now, by showing them how to manage their digital lives and learning effectively by providing them with the [digital] literacy skills needed. This is where I see a Personal Learning Portfolio as an essential tool forstudents, both high school and college age individuals. As education becomes unbundled, fragmented, similar to a ‘jigsaw’ as described by author and professor, Richard DeMillo, a learning portfolio that is owned and controlled by the student, that establishes a student’s digital identify is almost obligatory. I suggest that a PLP could be used as a starting point for students to begin developing their own Personal Learning Environment, establishing a pathway and identity as a lifelong learner.
“It is now economically feasible for a student anywhere in the world to piece together, jigsaw like, a curriculum that matches his or her needs and to have both the curriculum and the student’s performance certified in a way that is accepted by academic institutions and employers alike. The focus on higher education has irrevocably shifted from institutions to students”.Richard Demillo, (2013)
We already are moving in the direction of ‘pieced together’ learning experience—with the prevalence of open and online courses, some which will be for credit, and some not. How will students record and potentially share their learning? What about media projects, or papers written? Or a learning plan and goals? This is where the portfolio comes in. The diagram below illustrates how the concepts work together. This diagram is adapted from Steve Wheeler’s blog post, Anatomy of a PLE.
Definition of Personal Learning Portfolio
Following is my proposed definition and vision of a Personal Learning Portfolio for students, which is not the same as an e-portfolio or electronic portfolio that was prevalent and much discussed in higher education and K-12 sometime between 2004 and 2005. The e-portfolio of the past was used primarily for the institution’s purposes, as an assessment tool for instructors to evaluate student learning, and for assessment of program and school quality, used often for an institution’s accreditation process. The tool was institution and not student-centric. After reading An Overview of e-Portfolios,from the EDUCAUSE library, it is obvious who was driving the program and for what purpose, and it wasn’t for the student (Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005).
My ‘working definition’ of a PLP for students:
Personal Learning Portfolio is a virtual, personal space that serves as a dynamic planning tool, archive, profile, and showcase of an individual’s lifelong learning experiences, goals and achievements. It is created by the learner, controlled by the learner, and is on a platform of his or her choice. Though the tool is geared to be an open tool that records the digital footprint of the individual, the learner controls who has access to any section of the portfolio at any given time.
Helping Students to Develop a Portfolio – How?
I suggest that the concept of the PLP be introduced to students in high school or at the college level, and be viewed as the catalyst or a gateway to students developing their own PLE and PLN. The PLP for students is the first step, with the learning environment and network evolving over time.
Components of a PLP could include: 1) personal profile—a similar experience a student would have had in creating a profile for a social networking site such as Facebook, 2) educational record of one course, where student includes his or her learning created [assignments], and reflections [blog posts] from the course. Over time other courses could be added,includingbadges, earned, certificates and/or degrees, thus serving as an education record or archive, 3) blog, and 4) media projects, that students may have completed as part of the course, and this might be a place to include a video introducing him or herself.
Previous Research and Models of PLP
I am not the first one to come up with this idea, scholar Wendy Drexler proposed a similar idea in her research paper, The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy (2010). Drexler introduces the Networked Student Model in her paper, which builds upon the concept of the Networked Teacher Model, developed by Alec Courus (2008). What is useful in the paper for educators to consider is the research project where Drexler documents a project with a small group of high school students that completed a project to build a Personal Learning Environment using digital tools around a topic of interest. The results are worth examining for those that are considering moving forward with a PLP for high school and/or college students.
If education is moving towards open learning, unbundling, and a student-centric model as it appears to be, we as educators will have no choice but to support the shift and get students to take charge of their own learning, be responsible and self-directed. We can support them as lifelong learners with guidance in creating a Personal Learning Portfolio that may lead to a learning environment and network of their own. My hope is that this post may prompt further discussion or consideration among educators about personal learning environments, networks and portfolios, so at the very least, readers can be a model to students of what a lifelong learner is and does.
Example of Student Learning Portfolios
David A. Dupell’s ePorfolio. David is a business student, a Junior at Temple University, Fox School of Business. All students have ePortfolios in this program (created and maintained by the student, though each has to be ‘approved’ before it is visible), and each student has a blog associated with his or her portfolio. The program at the school is an interesting one. The website states: “The FOX MIS community platform enables social education – a concept that integrates learning, teaching, professional development, placement, and administration and socialization by applying open source social media and Web 2.0 concepts.“
Evelyn Thorne’s e-portfolio (2013). This site appears to be maintained [actively] by the student herself. She outlines the goals of her courses, assignments, and updates the site on what she has accomplished. Her ‘logbook entries’ appear to begin with a question posed as it would have been for her studies, which she then reflects on and responds to.
Instructor Driven Portfolio Projects for Students
Personal Learning Portfolio, (2012). MAET East Lansing (Year 1). This site appears to created and maintained by the instructor for his or her class where the assignment is for students to create a portfolio. The page does provide a good example of clearly outlined expectations for students. This appears to be a good introduction to the concept of portfolios and creating an identify on the Web.