Monday, May 30, 2011

Educational Implications of a “Flat World”

            Consider, for a moment, education just ten years ago. Now think back fifteen or twenty years. Compare that recollection to what is seen in modern-day educational facilities and one would be astounded at the advancement of resources that are available today. Because of improvements to technology, the world has become increasingly “flat,” a term coined by Tom Friedman. Students in classrooms on opposing sides of the world are connected in seconds via internet platforms such as instant messaging, VOIP, online chat and other features. Because of this students no long have to settle for experiences merely read about in textbooks; they can now have real-life discussions with residents of a distant country they are studying, or hear directly from a survivor of World War II, or even tour far away locations without ever having left their native classroom. What may have once only been imagined is now made possible through technology.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Permanency of Internet Posts

Interested in what information might be out "there" online about yourself? Go Google your name and take a look. Go ahead. I'll wait.

If you have not taken the time to see what your online reputation is, it would be advantageous to do so. Discussions this week in our class focused around Facebook and the vast amount of information people are willing to disclose about themselves and their families. What you post about on a Friday night after having a bit too much to drink will still be online Monday morning when prospective employers begin their online search to see the "real" you behind your flawless interview and picture-perfect resume. What happens on the internet, unfortunately, does not stay on the Internet. Comments or pictures will be accessible to just about anybody and will follow you around, well, forever.

We read and discussed an interesting article that told of a teacher who was disciplined at work for a comment she had made online about her class--a comment that she assumed would only be viewable to an approved audience. (2008, Schaffhauser). This was not the case, however, and her students, colleagues and administrators were able to read what she had posted. While many in the class agree that we have rights to free speech and should be able to express ourselves, educators are held to a higher standard and should conduct themselves with rigor.

What do you think? Should teachers be able to post comments about their school, students and other aspects of their professional life?

Schaffhauser, D. (2008). Suspended Teacher in Facebook Incident Ignites Debate: Should Online Privacy for Educators Exist? The Journal.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Introduction to Wikis: A Collaboration Tool Defined

Most internet users are familiar with blogs, and many of them have even created one themselves. However, wikis are still fairly new and obscure to many casual users of the internet. As more education is done online and adult learners are turning to distance learning to continue their educational goals, the use of wikis will become more popular and a more common resource for online collaboration.

The term “wiki” comes from “the Hawaiian word for ‘quick,’ to mean a collection of Web pages that can be edited by anyone” (West, 2009. p. 3). Because of the ease of editing and contributing to a wiki, it is a great tool for online groups to collaborate on a variety of projects. Some potential uses for a wiki in an educational setting include:

·         Research papers
·         Debates or discussions
·         Resource guide/Frequently Asked Questions
·         Critical analysis

As an instructor, it is important to orient the class with the appropriate use of the wiki, the ground rules for the project and possibly to define the learners’ responsibilities. Before jumping into the actual assignment, it is advisable to give the group a “practice run” of how a wiki works. To do this, the instructor could facilitate a game where team members contribute and get the feel for how the wiki works. This is also a good ice breaker to get the class comfortable with working with each other in a new format.

Once the project is underway, it’s important that the instructor maintain the role of facilitator, but not participant. The instructor should not make changes or add to the wiki contents. Rather, if necessary, the instructor can make comments in the discussion section or lead the group to re-focus back on the project when the group discussion goes astray.

I have started a wiki to create a Frequently Asked Questions document that could be used in a corporate setting, specific to my job in Information Technology. Contributors to such a document could include other members of the IT team, HR professionals and program developers. The intended audience for the FAQ document is employees of the company that will be working with the system.

West, J. A. & West, M. L. (2009). Using wikis for online collaboration: The power of the read-write web. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let's Get Started!

The purpose of this blog is twofold: first, it satisfies the requirement from my class "Collaboration & Learning in a Virtual Environment" to establish and maintain a blog documenting my progress and what I have learned in class. But more importantly, I will have a location where I can store the information I gather through my research and study on the exciting new technologies available to educators and trainers.

Some of my posts will be casual in nature and share opinions and personal experiences dealing with these technologies while others will likely be re-posts of assignments or critical analysis required for class projects. I welcome comments and input, especially from those of you that use technology in a teaching or training environment.