Pearls of the Week: News Educators Need-to-Know

Image representing Pearltrees as depicted in C...I’ve selected the weightiest of pearls [bookmarks] to share this week –  critical need-to-know information for educators about MOOCs and a new ed tech tool launched this week Google’s Course Builder. New developments in MOOCs are gaining momentum which are raising questions about credentialing in higher ed institutions, forcing discussions about their implications, and in some instances impacting policy decisions within universities. Course Builder on the other hand, may impact online education at a different level, and though this open-source software has garnered much attention and touted as a big opportunity for online education, I’m not convinced that this will be the case.

For those new to Pearltrees, pearls are bookmarks; noteworthy articles, blog posts and resources which I’ve collected and organized into a digital content collection tool Pearltrees. Pearling is the primary method I use to build my knowledge network. Click here to learn more.

MOOC Developments

1)  Moody’s: Massive open online courses carry mixed credit implications for Higher Ed.  Moody’s Investor Service, a respected research company that advises firms on credit ratings and financial risk, released a report this week, “Shifting Ground: Technology Begins to Alter Centuries-Old Business Model for Universities”. The fact that an investment advising service is weighing in on the MOOC discussion is significant – education is big business and MOOCs are the newest disruptor. Key points:

  • “Most universities will likely gravitate to a ‘mixed’ model that combines residential learning with the new technology, some will increasingly feature online course delivery, and some colleges may choose to create a niche by remaining focused solely on the traditional residential-classroom experience.”
  • “MOOCs and related technology have the potential to transform a university’s operations, academic and social programming, and pedagogical approach.”
  • The report is behind a pay wall – the price to download the full report is $550.00. Someone is making money from the MOOC movement. Click here to read the summary and/or to buy the report or here for the full article.

2)  A First for Udacity: A U.S. University Will Accept Transfer Credit for One of Its Courses. The decision by a university within the United States to accept transfer credit from a MOOC provider [Udacity] is big news. Colorado State University Global Campus announced last week that it will give full transfer credits (three credits) to students who successfully complete Introduction to Computer Science: Building a Search Engine offered by Udacity. Key points:

  • “Several European universities, including the University of Salzburg, the University of Freiburg, the Free University of Berlin, and the Technical University of Munich, have already given credit for an earlier Udacity course.” Click here for full story.
  • Related story: Colorado State to Offer Credits for Online Class, NYT

 3) edX Announces Option Of Proctored Exam Testing Through Collaboration With Pearson VUEWow. This is big news. edX, the joint online venture between Harvard, MIT and most recently UC Berkley, is planning on providing students with the option of taking a proctored exam at the end of a course (MOOC). The exam will need to be completed at a Pearson VUE testing center. When we consider the previous story about Udacity and colleges accepting credits from MOOCs, one can see the implications for higher education. Click here to read the Pearson VUE press release.

Google’s Course Builder

1) Google Releases Open-Source Online-Education Software. Google released an open-source platform this week, Course Builder which has the ability to create and host an online course on the Google platform. Here is Google’s statement, which accompanies the YouTube video introducing Course Builder.

Course Builder is our experimental first step in the world of online education. We hope you will use it to create your own online courses, whether they’re for 10 students or 100,000 students. Course Builder contains software and instructions for presenting your course material, including student activities and assessments ….To use it effectively, you should … [have] familiarity with HTML and JavaScript.”

I am a bit puzzled by this tool –  who really is the target market for Course Builder?  It seems to me that with so many other options available, and many already in place, why would one use Course Builder? Another consideration is users must have skills equivalent of a Web Master, know HTML and JavaScript to work with it.  I read an informative blog post by Phil Hill at e-literate about Course Builder, and he suggests that Google’s strategy is to break into the market of hosting MOOCs for big universities and MOOC providers with this application. This makes sense, given that most of the business of hosting MOOCs is currently with Amazon’s Web Services infrastructure. As I’ve said before, education is big business. Click here to read Phil Hill’s post.

If there is one thing that is constant, it is change. To view my entire collection of Pearls, visit my Pearltree page, which is open to anyone.

Pearls of the Week: News you can use in Higher Ed and Ed Tech tools

Image representing Pearltrees as depicted in C...This week was an interesting week for Pearls. For those of you new to my Pearls, Pearls are bookmarks; noteworthy articles, blog posts and resources which I’ve gathered and then organize into a Pearltree. Pearltrees is my application of choice for archiving and collecting digital content. Note: In a previous post I described how I use Pearltrees – for cataloguing and archiving digital information for work and personal projects, click here to read the post.

In this post I’ll share a selection of pearls [bookmarks] from this past week that focus on 1) Higher Ed, the challenges, storms and more, and 2) what’s new in Ed technology tools.  A summary of each article/resource follows, with the corresponding link.

Higher Education News: Challenges, storms and more

  1. Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute recently released a significant and weighty report on the state of higher education. The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm sought to answer the question, ‘what effect has education had on employment in the current Global economic crisis’? The results are interesting. So much so, I believe the report has achieved one of its objectives which was to stimulate dialogue about that state of education and its role today in job creation and economic recovery. Key Findings:
  • The job recovery numbers (2012) from the latest recession has increased the divide between the less educated and more educated.
  • The most significant job losses (2008 – 2010) were among the group with a high school diploma or less.
  • Post secondary enrollment spiked during the peak recession years (2009 – 2010).
  • Men’s enrollment numbers in Higher Ed programs are increasing, and males are entering fields traditionally dominated by women such as nursing, and life sciences.
  • To download the 46-page PDF report and/or for more information, visit the The College Advantage homepage, click here

Reaction and Commentary
A Degree Still Matters, Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed
College Degrees Aren’t Umbrellas, George Leef, Minding the Campus
Podcast: Discussion on The College Advantage, Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed

2. A Strategic Vision for Universities in 21st Century. The Bain Report completed in conjunction with University of North Dallas Texas was not well received by some upon it’s release. Apparently, the results and recommendations did not sit too well with an advisory panel of faculty and staff at the University, who had some very different views of what a 21st century university would look like. So much so, that there was a call by the university to suppress the results of the report. An interesting read for sure.

No Thanks Bain, Kevin Kiley, Inside Higher Ed
UNT Dallas Doesn’t Want you to see this Report, Holly Hacker, Dallas Morning News

Ed Tech Tools in the News

1. UnderStoodit. This app was launched in May 2012, yet I read about it just this past week. More applicable to in-class education, I believe it has great potential in Higher Ed traditional classroom settings. Understoodit is a web app that runs on virtually any smart phone, tablet, or notebook that is connected to the Internet. It allows students to anonymously, and in real-time, indicate if they understand a portion of a lecture when polled by the professor.

The potential is great for in-class professors to engage students and get a ‘read’ on whether students are understanding lecture content. Teachers get instant feedback using their own devices and can modify their lectures in the moment to increase understanding.

2. Zoom Conferencing.  I am big fan of Walt Mossberg’s column in the WSJ, Personal Technology. This past week he reviewed a new video conferencing application, Zoom. He compares Zoom to Google + Hangouts which I’ve been testing with my team at our workplace. Zoom is appealing as users do not require an account or sign-up to participate [as long as they are not the initiator of the call]. I’ll be testing this tool over the next month. Click here for the article from Walt M.

If interested in viewing more of my bookmarks, please visit my Pearltrees, click here.

How to Organize Digital Information: Web sites, blogs, and more

“The flood of data on the Web has reached mind-boggling proportions.” (NPR, 2010)

So many websites, blogs, online newsletters … so little time. How can we keep up in the digital world? More importantly, how can we transform information into knowledge? Before information becomes knowledge it’s data, yet another challenge is finding good data when it’s needed. In this post I’ll provide a strategy and recommend tools to ‘tame the beast’ we call information overload.

What is Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)?
I’ve struggled to find a system for managing ‘information’ – information that I can refer to, cite and read when needed. There’s a name for what I’m describing – PKM, or Personal Knowledge Management.  PKM is about managing information, and turning it into knowledge that is of interest to the beholder – it becomes personal. The goal of this post is to introduce a system for managing information, though if interested in reading more about Personal Knowledge Management in the digital world click here – this resource describes PKM in greater detail.

The System to PKM
The first and essential component to effective management of digital information is the system itself. I’ve outlined a framework that involves three straightforward steps.

  1. Find the right tool or application to manage your digital content. It must be seamless in its application, not feel cumbersome or onerous. [The tool in the ‘old days’ might have been a filing cabinet, a set of binders, or notebooks]
  2. Identify knowledge that is important to you. What information do you want to collect? Decide what is of interest to you and divide your interests/projects into categories or topics. [If you were to set up a filing cabinet what would the labels be on the file folders within?]
  3. Establish a method to filter and select the data (Web sites, blogs, online journals etc.) using the tool you choose to manage your system. Establish criteria to follow that will allow you to select information with discrimination. Be selective.

1) The Tool
There are many tools to choose from for managing and sharing digital information, yet the selection of the tool is critical, it can make or break your system. You want a tool that is easy to use, yet can span across all areas of your life: personal, work, and/or school. Having one tool is ideal. I tried numerous tools before I hit on the one that works for me which I’ll describe below, though I’ve listed others at the bottom of this post.

Pealtrees: I discovered Pearltrees, which is a fluid and intuitive tool that allows me to manage digital information easily. It’s also visually appealing and organic in how it brings all of my projects together. It is a Web application where the user ‘pearls’  favorites and organizes them into trees (categories). The pearls are the live links [information].

2) The Knowledge – My Categories
The image below illustrates my ‘trees’ which are the main topics or categories of interest to me. Within each tree, there are branches which represent sub-categories, and then pearls which are live links within each that archive the information that I can easily locate when I need it.

To expand a ‘tree’ I simply click on the circle associated with the category.

To the right you can see what appears when I click on ‘Blogs’ tree – the expanded category, has several sub-categories, which in this case are the blogs divided into types. When I click on each, the ‘pearls’ (live links appear). I find this easy to work with, (once set up my categories (trees)).

The downside of Pearltrees is that it’s a public application, available on the World Wide Web for anyone to view. For those not comfortable with the openness of this tool, there are other to choose from.

3) The method 

The method involves two steps, 1) assessing and deciding if the information is worthy,  and  2) using the tool to archive or ‘store’ the information. My system is straightforward, after the initial set-up of the tool, I simply ‘pearl’ the digital information by clicking the Pearltree icon in my tool bar. I can also add resources/links, when I am working within the Pearltree application.

Closing Thoughts
The most significant lesson I learned from this process was identifying what knowledge I wanted to acquire, which led to defining the categories and sub-categories for which I would seek and select information. My goal is that I can go back to my digital information when I need it and transform it into knowledge. Though there is time involved in this exercise and in developing a system for PKM, it is worth the endeavor – there is no need to drown in information, there are life preservers out there. Grab hold and begin your own PKM system.

Further Resources:
– Google Reader
– Any Bookmarking application,  i.e. Delicious, Reddit
Pocket, (formerly Read It Later)

Information Overload is not Unique to the Digital Age,Tony Cox, National Public Radio
Life in Perpetual Beta, Harold Jarche Blog
Pearltees, and Pearltrees You Tube Video
-My personal Pearltree page, click here