Entries made in Human Factors

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A Motivating Sort of E-Textbook?

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After a national conference, what is telling is whether I’m interested in pursuing further contacts with various vendors, presenters, or attendees. The default is to not ask for a further presentation of a tool or to discuss possible collaboration. In other words, it takes a lot of motivation to get over the default state. People are busy, and they are not going to push for more information or work without good justification.

An Electronic Textbook Presentation

One presentation that ...

Blog Entry

It may be that being some years away from national-level academic conferences has offered a new perspective for me. Or it may be that the particular one that I attended just had a certain tone that was maybe a little disagreeable.

I’m not sure when I started noticing that the audience was a tough one at a recent educational tech conference held stateside. Maybe it was the night of one of the audience-wide presentations when the presenter’s ideas ...

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Co-creating a Survey (with Multimedia)

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A recent experience with co-creating a survey that included multimedia has taught me the importance of restraint. Multimedia is an integral part of e-learning. There is a wide availability of open-source digitized sounds, imagery, videos, and other learning object resources. There are also very low-cost ways to capture, create, revise, and edit such multimedia file types. However, the inclusion of multimedia in surveys is a more recent phenomenon.

Part of the reason for this shift is that the technologies in ...

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Proper Handoffs of Inherited Online Courses

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If an online course has been designed well and maintained, it will often have a life beyond its original creator (or development team) and animating professor (or instructional team). Such a course is inheritable by other instructors. The contents are still relevant over time…and the essential course is updatable in parts and pieces. The inheritable course is personalizable and customizable to the new instructors.

My sense of such online course handoffs is that the inheriting instructor often does not ...

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Reliance on a Distributed Team

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In general, with edited projects, I am not much a fan for creating a team for its own sake. I’ve long suggested that it’s better to go either solo or with a lean team for development work. The more efficiently work can be done, the better. The more people that are signed onto a project without real direct need, the more make-work there is, and the slower a project evolves.

Of late, though, I’ve found myself relying ...

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Avoiding Make-Work

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One important skill in instructional design has little to do with pedagogy and technology. It’s the skill of “avoiding make-work.” “Make-work” refers to the needless effort invested in endeavors that are not directly relevant. An analogy could be the work of moving a stack of paper from area to another. Nothing is really achieved. It just might look busy from the outside.

Where make-work comes in for instructional design is in client requests. The clients may be both administrators ...

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Beta-Testing a New Book Production System

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Every technology system that is designed for work has its limitations. Most enable workaround that help solve some of these issues. I’ve never worked on an internal work-based system that has a semi-public facing side to test out a possibility. After all, this conceptualization was not put into the initial design specifications.

What was positive was that the developers of the system were hovering a little to see how the system would be used and how they might be ...

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Unfunded Research at the Margins

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For many, what is compelling about a research field or a research question does not disappear once the funding for the research does. For many, funding for research is sporadic; for many, the only funding comes with the paycheck and some of the support structures for the research (access to data repositories, access to various types of computing, and sometimes access to labs and lab equipment). Faculty researchers have to make the case that they are productive and are advancing ...

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Face-to-Face Learning Object (LO) Walk-Throughs

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In most instructional design projects, it helps to define standards early on and to build an early prototype which can be thoroughly critiqued, so that a working stylebook may be created for project understandings and standards. This simplifies the work and heads off the expense of development time and effort, so that dead-ends may be avoided. However, this is not always possible. Some projects may begin without the client fully understanding the technologies or even knowing what he or she ...

Blog Entry

In general, instructors do not want to get into it with students. They want to maintain positive working relationships in order to promote the learning. There are topics that can be highly controversial in a writing and research class, and while students are encouraged to propose their own topics, most instructors would avoid typical hot ones like politics and religion. There is really no benefit in engaging in arguments over world views because people arrive at their own world views ...

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A YammerJam Brainstorming

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A colleague recently invited quite a few of us to a “YammerJam,” which is a speedy meeting on Yammer, a collaboration software which coalesces threads, URLs, embed text, and other elements. She mentioned that it would be a group brainstorm around certain events on a shared calendar, and boy, was it lively!

Just a few minutes before the event was about to start, several of us were already at-the-ready at our keyboards.

Riffing off Each Other’s Ideas

The moderator ...

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“Right now, the average person’s data footprint—the annual amount of data produced worldwide, per capita—is just a little short of one terabyte. That’s equivalent to about eight trillion yes-or-no questions. As a collective, that means humanity produces five zettabytes of data every year: 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (forty sextillion bits).” -- Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel’s “Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture” (2013, p. 11)

As many have asserted ...

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“OSINT” Hacking

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There is something in human nature that seems to find being a renegade appealing. There is the thrill of rule-breaking for its own sake. In the marketing materials for a penetration testing tool that I’ve been using, it is framed culturally to exploit “OSINT” or “open-source intelligence.” Open-source information involves any information or data that is available in the public realm—through formal and informal channels.

The idea is that the tool extracts certain types of information online and ...

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Engaging a Large Proof

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Just recently, a project that I’ve been working on for the past year finally came to the final stages of development. A 500 pp. proof was sent out that was the culmination of the labor of many—and it involved over 200,000 words and hundreds of images and many other pieces and parts. The task was to peruse it for glaring errors. The publisher wanted this manuscript turned around in a few days. How should one approach this ...

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Originating and Framing Research Questions

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With a course this term focused on various types of research methods in the social sciences, I think I am getting a more macro sense of the role of research not only in professions…but directly in the lives of its practitioners. More specifically, I am seeing that people who engage in research often have a certain way of engaging the world. Research is an issue of personality and training. The individual provides the impetus and the intellect, and the ...

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Going Transactional or Bust

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In multiple experiences, I’ve realized that it’s never advisable to try to necessarily inspire individuals to create writing unless the motivation and insights come from within. My project needs, important as they are to me, are pretty irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. My insight is that an editing project is like a harvesting basket. It can only draw in what has already been planted and which the farmers are willing to share.

Failed Elicitations

I had ...

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An Integrated Research Life

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This term, I will be learning about how some in the social sciences conduct research. I have long wanted to fully explore how those in other fields engage with research that is considered somewhat valid. I also am looking to see how this will inform my knowledge about the uses of technologies to bolster qualitative and mixed methods research.

As an opening salvo in a course, our professor has assigned a reading that describes the research in social sciences as ...

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Work-Based “Pet Projects”

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Occasionally, in instructional design work, there are projects that are so engaging and charming that they become “pet projects.” These are projects which offer new proof-of-concept (even if these are only local types of proof-of-concept). Or there are ideas that are alluring that need to be fully explored work-wise. Or there are unfunded aspects of a project that require full work to complete, even if the budget for that work has run dry. There may be technologies that are fully ...

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Publishing out Raw Survey Data?

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For a dreamy moment (counted in milli-seconds), the group of us around the table pondered an alluring idea. During a recent meeting, one of the members in the team asked: Would it be possible to conduct a mass-scale online survey and automatically output a report that was in publishable form—ready for consumption by all readers? In other words, could we skip altogether the machine-supported and manual data analysis? Could we skip the many dozens and dozens of data-drawn graphs ...

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Head Hunting via an Online ARG?

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Recently, there has been a lot of hype about Cicada 3301, with various articles about the gameplay elements. According to press accounts, there are elements of cyberpunk fiction. There are problems to solve including simple decryption and steganography. There are 2D codes on multiple continents. (Some have interpreted this as indicating a sophisticated organization. With the Net, I don’t. I’m sure it takes nothing more than a simple micropayment to get people to post 2D codes they receive ...

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Machine-Enhanced Diagram Drawing

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The idea of drawing with a mouse is instinctually problematic. A mouse is inexact. Its lines are not high-precision by any measure. It does not enable a lot of control. It is not like a stylus used on a calibrated device with specific software for freehand drawing. However, when a mouse is used with the right software, there is actually a fair amount of control in creating a diagram.

Most data that one tries to visualize has an inherent or ...

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Defensible Originality and Value

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A lot of effort goes into trying to ensure that an idea that one has for a journal article or professional presentation or grant-funded project is sufficiently valuable and original. The question of how to add value is part of the literature review, the broad reading on a subject, professional discussions, conference work, and general thinking. With the increased findability of everything (and on the converse, the difficult hideability of everything) and the long sense of collective memory, it’s ...

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Enabling SME Work

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Recently, I’ve worked with multiple faculty members to whom our office lent out tablet PCs loaded with desktop lecture capture tools and video editing software…and also state-of-the-art Cintiq pen displays. The campus provides site licenses to a number of software programs.

I was marveling at how much flexibility we had in terms of providing access to technologies…when I realized these endeavors fit with a general effort at disintermediating instructional design. In a sense, it helps to have ...

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Back in the day when I was serving as an advisor to a student publication, I was quick to invite students to publish their work. I could serve as a conduit to their publications. There was incentive to help fill the “news holes” in the student publication as well. However, of late, I’m realizing that I’m a little more cautious about encouraging students to publish. I am more leery of their taking the risk of going public in ...

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Recently, a publisher that I’ve worked with for a number of years shifted from a system that mostly relied on emails and dropboxes for sharing work to a new online integrated work system that enables a beginning to final-product system for distributed work. There will not have to be attempts to piecemeal a project together from a number of personal email accounts. Rather, the company will have access to all the related digital files to a project, not just ...

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Integrating Eulerian Diagrams

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In the publication, the 2D visual was nested in the text. It consisted of overlapping circles with labels for the various parts of the circle. The work looked like a Venn diagram, except that the author had labeled the image parenthetically as an Eulerian diagram. My first response involved an eyeball roll. I initially thought that someone placed a fancy name on a basic Venn diagram only.

As an instructional designer who drafts out quite a few diagrams for various ...

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A Project “Cold Start”

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Recently, I started reading a book by Howard G. Buffett titled “40 Chances.” In this work, he explains his title as coming from a talk he’d attended in which the speaker conceptualized farming seasons annually as “40 chances” over a lifetime—and the importance of getting each crop’s growing season right (so as not to miss opportunities given the low number of chances that people have). With this idea clearly in mind, and knowing how precious and limited ...

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Positioning to “Get Lucky” in Innovations

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There are always any number of books that appear in the management literature that profess to offer advice on how to better innovate, how to better lead, how to better manage the self and others. I picked one up recently to glean some information on a small aspect of the work and read the entire work as a matter-of-course. The work was of a formulaic type—drawing on the psychology literature to extract applications to innovation. The work was written ...

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Complex Project Dynamism

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In virtually every project, there will be some gappiness between initial conceptualizations of the work and what is finally delivered. The initial definition of the expected work comes in the form of grant applications, prospectuses, proposals, or other forms of formal work documentation. Or the proposal may be as informal as some text in an email or conversation via telephone or a F2F meeting.

What is finally delivered would be anything from initial plans and drafts to finalized products. Some ...

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Recently, during a presentation I did on a tool used to extract information from social media platforms, I brought up the issue again of the need for individuals in a network to know when to connect and benefit from that connection…but also when to disconnect and go-to-ground, essentially. (This latter idea is particularly important if there are transmissible elements in a social network that are negative or undesirable.) For my purposes here, I’m going to leave the concept ...

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Showcasing a Software Tool

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When people conduct trainings of a software tool, they will usually highlight a small feature and explain its application in depth. The trainings are light and focused. The context does not generally have to be explained because the tool is used in an office. (In a way, the trainings are like short YouTube training videos albeit without all that advertising.) The strategy of “atomizing” the focus to just one small feature of the tool makes sense because people often come ...

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(The Rules for) Going with an Untested Team Member?

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Sometimes, I find that I do not mentally walk through a process until a situation presents itself (when it may be smarter to preview decisions earlier on where possible). I’ve long read the research literature on effective teams and distributed work. The research findings are fairly clear that a team member’s track record matters. It’s not a good idea to go with an untried member who makes a good impression; rather, it’s more critical to look ...

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Taking Students Back to the Original Directions

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Sometimes, more than halfway into a term, some students start to lapse into a kind of fatigue. They wait until the last minute to do the work that they need to. They have forgotten the initial directions, and they start to slide in terms of quality. They will not often return to re-read the directions for the assignment, and they try to just skid by. They’ll forgot to do parts of multi-part assignments. This, of course, is a recipe ...

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Anticipating the Next Thing

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Usually, when starting a volitional book editing project, it seems pretty critical to choose a topic that one could immerse in for a long time and still have gained learning and other benefits. The topic should be something that one can work well on with a range of editorial board members and maybe share some engaging conversations. Just because there is local interest, though, does not mean that the supply of contents exists for the text.

Alignment with Contributors

However ...

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“Tell Me What to Do!”

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One of the more challenging issues to deal with as an online instructor of freshman and sophomore students is the early and sometimes continuing emails by students requesting, “Tell me what to do!” When these queries come in early in a term, the instructor generally has to point students to the resources and to re-describe where all the learning resources are and how the course works…and the students submit a couple assignments and do well…and they usually find ...

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Instructional Shtick

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At a recent conference, the keynote suggested that students can read a teacher’s shtick in a very short time. They get a sense about how the learning is set up, what the teacher’s standards are, and what is expected of them during the course. His argument was that instructors tend to be caught in particular ruts. They are fairly invariant and not prone to experimenting with new ways of teaching and learning. There is this sense that people ...

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An Early Understanding of Counterfactuals

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In a number of courses I’ve been taking, I’ve come across a more formalized use of “counterfactuals” in academic writing. Early on, I saw them as a kind of thought experiment that verged on flights of fancy. While it’s easy to dismiss them as intellectual artifacts of the imagination, as I’ve learned more, I realized that my prior assumptions were not entirely fair. I’m now coming around to the realization that counterfactuals are an aspect ...

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Fair Weighting for Difficulty

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One of the perks of my job is to take graduate courses every term, so I can see what’s new in teaching and learning, and also what’s new in terms of the uses of technologies in courses. Also, it’s good just to stay active in “study life.” One thing I’ve been noticing is a powerful idealism in many of my classes and maybe an overweening self-confidence.

A Sense of Endless Possibilities

A year ago, I took ...

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Building an Evolving TOC

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A draft Table of Contents (TOC) like drafts of most anything does not look like much. There are the general sections. There are the draft titles. There are the author names. There are the sections highlighted in different colors for organizational structure and to indicate the state of a particular work (green is good, yellow is slow, red is concerning, and magenta means that more focus is needed right away on a particular issue).

There are the wishful thinking sorts ...

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Engaging a Manuscript Re-Review

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In this past year alone, I’ve maybe had to conduct 4-5 re-reviews of manuscripts being considered for a variety of publications. Re-reviews are required when a work does not make the first cut and therefore has to be revised for a second go-around. I do not know if odds improve after an initial rejection. The argument for worse is that these have already been rejected once; the argument for better is that the initial evaluators thought that there were ...

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For years now, I’ve worked with students studying online and have a little bit of a sense of those who will follow through or not. Likewise, I’ve worked in editing for years and have been trying to understand those who will follow-through as well. To these ends, I thought I would see if I could brainstorm some heuristics to tell who will or will not follow through on an online commitment.

Early Signs of Commitment

One of the ...

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In Position

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Recent work on fairly disparate teams with varying goals (hiring, editing, data analysis, and others) has brought to mind a basic truism: basically, a person has to be within aiming distance to achieve particular work. Even if intentions are aligned with certain work, the entity (individual, team, organization, or other unit) has to have the capabilities and leadership to achieve the work.

Some basic assumptions are helpful. It helps to note that there are certain general amounts of time and ...

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The Speed of a Condensed Term

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One of my students described being huddled over her laptop while her family was camping. She was working hard to finish her homework…in sufficient time to enjoy the last bits of the camping trip. She would be returning home soon to fully focus on the summer term. I really enjoyed that image of a student making the most of her time…in the midst of wired nature.

In the summer, there are all manners of condensed learning. There are ...

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A friend of mine will be changing jobs from being an instructional designer to a content expert (subject matter expert) in the healthcare field. She will be working on a team, and her role will be to provide a gaps analysis for a learning context…and to storyboard the learning…and then she will hand off the design to various development teams to execute the work. In other words, her work will be complex and meaningful. But she will no ...

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THE NEW DIGITAL AGE: RESHAPING THE FUTURE OF PEOPLE, NATIONS AND BUSINESS. Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2013. $26.95. 315 pp. hardcover.

A large segment of “The New Digital Age” anticipates how various governments will harness the various capabilities of social media—for surveillance, law enforcement, and analysis of emergent threats. Further, in a dystopian turn, they consider various possibilities with extralegal population controls, with some apparently ripped from today’s headlines (think the ...

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THE NEW DIGITAL AGE: RESHAPING THE FUTURE OF PEOPLE, NATIONS AND BUSINESS. Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2013. $26.95. 315 pp. hardcover.

What do you get when you bring together two high-powered individuals who are engaged in a cutting-edge high-tech company (Google) and also who are firmly grounded in the terra firma of human relations on Earth (particularly in a geopolitical sense)? Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen, director of Google ...

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Exploring “Pedagogical Content Knowledge”

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A recent work I read raised the issue of “pedagogical content knowledge.” The idea behind this concept is the profound level of understanding of a domain field necessary for teaching it in a sophisticated and effective way. In other words, this connects both the subject knowledge and pedagogy [per Lee S. Shulman’s idea (1986)]. This also brings in understandings of learners and how they progress in their learning in the field.

The work I saw proposed some initial elements ...

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Remembering our Early Novice Minds

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“In the field of computer science, many of us have been surprised by the lasting result of the Rainfall problem, originally constructed and studied by Elliot Soloway. This work demonstrated the difficulty that beginning computing students have in composing a program that involves a loop, summation variable, and sentinel exit value. We’re surprised when we learn of this result, because the problem seems so easy. We’ve completely forgotten our own earlier novice minds, and we can’t imagine ...

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Hello, all: You are cordially invited to participate in a modified e-Delphi study re: MOOCs and feasibility.

This online survey is being conducted to sample some current insights, attitudes, and concerns about massive open online courses (MOOCs) to get a sense of the feasibility and near-term adoption of the offering of MOOCs by various universities and colleges. This will be conducted as a one-time modified electronic Delphi study to capture the insights of practicing faculty and administrators in higher education ...

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Ensuring Student Reading of Commentary on Work

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A quarter-long term is a very brief one: 10 weeks of fairly intense reading, analysis, and writing, in many of the courses that I teach. These courses have to be designed in a way to meet transfer requirements for thousands of other institutions of higher education. Even more important, they have to achieve certain learning aims for all learners.

Many students have been vetted before they enter the college learning system and start college-level courses. (For those entering at a ...

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Thinking MOOCs

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The current fad is still “MOOCs,” massive open online courses. A recent provost’s lecture featured a speaker who discussed some MOOC endeavors at his university. Some webinars have focused on the MOOC phenomena. A forthcoming issue in an international journal is focused around MOOCs. That said, there are some who say that the “MOOC hype cycle,” two years in, is heading to the “trough of disillusionment.” Maybe so. Maybe so.

More compelling, there are still the demographics: huge human ...

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Trying for a “Flipped” Presentation

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Several times now, I’ve given “flipped” presentations a try. The fantasy goes like this. I put a digital poster or slideshow online and include the link in the pre-conference agenda. Ideally, the audience would have looked at the materials, and in the 50-minute F2F session, we can go through demos on the software and other more engaging materials instead of setting the stage.

This is not a fair assumption. After all, most professionals in IT are busy. They have ...

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Stretching “Fit”

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So much of how I judge the success of an endeavor is by its outcome. For a project’s ultimate success, it has to reach a wider public and have a positive impact in the world. When there was a last-minute call for work, I thought I would actualize an idea that I’d long had. After all, the best time to engage a publication is when they have a perceived need for work. Well, I created the work only ...

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First Reasons

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In choosing to move across multiple states to take on a new job elsewhere, it’s generally wise to look into the near- and mid-distance to see if it makes sense to be in a particular position. This came to mind recently when I heard an intense bout of rumors that an office which I’d started my career at at this university might not be continuing with their own homegrown learning management system but might be going open-source.

Some ...

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Throwing Search Engines off Track…Not

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Years ago, one of my students had made the assertion that she her real life was an online life. In support of that assertion, she had multiple identities and accounts online. She wrote prolifically and powerfully on a range of popular culture issues. She traveled to conferences across the country to meet with friends she’d only known virtually, to put a face to the name. She also asserted then that she could keep her identities pseudonymous and that none ...

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Pulled Back into Old Projects

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It’s rarely a positive thing to be pulled back into old projects. Most PIs move on with projects that have been satisfactorily completed, and they work out other support in the bureaucracy for the work that they need. Or they maintain continuing ties (which is healthier because both sides can adapt to changes and both sides stay informed). For projects that have long moved forward—with new management several generations out, with new URLs, new designs, and other decisions ...

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Protecting Author Work

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In every publication project, there is a moment of time when one wonders whether it is going to “make” or not. In other words, is the work going to be of sufficient quality and length to appear in publication? Of late, I’ve had two back-to-back projects, and while the first will clearly “make,” the latter is somewhat questionable. Works that were promised are not coming in. The development teams working on various projects have dissolved.

For a short while ...

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Learning Opportunities on a Campus

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One of the perks of working on a university campus is the access to high-level thinkers who have achieved widely in their fields. Recently, a CEO of a global company came to campus in order to talk about his background, his work in a global corporation, and some of his top 5 lessons. These talks are engaging because they are focused on students, so the ideas have to be straightforward and pithy. (This entry is purposefully general and non-specific to ...

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A few times every year, I end up writing letters of recommendation for students and then occasionally for colleagues. These are not generally very difficult to write. I tend to know people pretty well before I would even consider writing a letter for them; otherwise, I’ll just politely decline. Usually, I will run copies of the letter by the individual and get their okay before sending anything forward. That’s out of general politeness but also out of an ...

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Reluctantly Freeriding an Open-Source Tool

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I was chagrined to look up a fund-raising page for an open-source tool that I had discovered two months ago and have been using for my academic amusement (and a little research) since. The page was polite. It made some suggestions for levels of support: some $750 per user license for a corporation per year, $150 per academic institution user annually, and the cost of a good dinner for students.

There were warring impulses in me. Part of me was ...

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Defined Pedagogical Priorities in an LMS

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Years ago, in a planning meeting for some new features for our campus LMS, there was a side conversation about building a pedagogy-agnostic platform for online learning. The concept was that the technology would enable a wide range of learning approaches and types. People could couple elements of a course, or they could de-couple elements. They were under no obligation to build a course in any particular way. Once a faculty member learned the tool thoroughly, he or she could ...

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Dependencies behind a Work

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I can’t say that I’m the most empathic person in terms of late work or a lack of deliverables from a project. (Any of my students can attest to that. They do get a pass the first time or two, if they can produce evidence, but the extensions are not forever, and they never get carte blanche.) And yet, every so often, I am caught up short with a fundamental realization: bringing a project to fruition requires a ...

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A recent project involved a number of individuals around campus collaborating around a quality checklist for e-learning. A rubric had been in evolution for several years prior, but due to political pressures, an administrator decided that a renewal of that rubric would be important. This work aligned with the interests of the university deans to promote quality in online learning. As things often do, though, the work evolved, and a more natural alignment of roles occurred, and the project got ...

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Acquiring a New Skill Set for a (Potential) Project?

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In the early phases of any conversation with a faculty member, there is a lot of assessing and cross-assessing. For my part, I am looking to see how serious the faculty member is in pursuing certain curriculum or learning object development. I am looking to see how practical they are in terms of funding. I am looking to understand how well they understand design and what it takes to actualize work. And finally, I am looking to make sure that ...

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Stumped Writing Two Paragraphs

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Every academic I know has a different way of approaching writing. They brainstorm in different ways. They manage their research differently. They use different filters for what they consider to be relevant. They structure their ideas uniquely. Those who have some depth of experience start knowing what works for them, and they are able to set up the work in the most efficient way possible for themselves.

The Background Work

For my projects, I start out with a research question ...

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Understanding the Self as a Novice Learner

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At a recent conference, the keynote speaker made a few side comments about the nature of novice learners (based on research). They generally tend not to pay attention to details. They only use the sufficient amount of attention to get by. Further, they do not often understand (the by definition unfamiliar) systems.

The Non-transferability of Expert Skill Sets

That started me thinking of how often we all engage in new environments and start all over again as novices. Anyone who ...

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One of the nightmare scenarios of democratic governments viewing autocratic or dictatorial governments is the scenario of bureaucracies grinding on endlessly, no matter what happens at the very top in governance. People are so dedicated to their positions in the political context that they cannot shift out of their roles. They keep functioning.

I started thinking about that recently when I received several emailed invitations to review draft chapters and articles by email. The invitations were from some of the ...

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Collaboratively Buying into a Campus Site License

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In my limited experiences with working across campus units to collaboratively purchase site licenses for software, most such endeavors end up with little achieved. There may be a small burst of interest, but then, everything goes to silence, and each department just purchases its own and doesn’t have to worry about anyone else. The potential savings are lost. Recently, though, a group came together and successfully set up the purchase of a site license. I thought I would examine ...

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ANALYZING SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS WITH NODEXL: INSIGHTS FROM A CONNECTED WORLD. Derek L. Hansen, Ben Schneiderman, and Marc A. Smith. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 2011. 284 pp. softcover.

What is most memorable about “Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL” is the depth of information about the various social network sites that may be crawled using NodeXL. With so many evolving social network platforms, and each capturing and storing information differently, it helps to know what an actual data extraction means.

An embedded ...

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ANALYZING SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS WITH NODEXL: INSIGHTS FROM A CONNECTED WORLD. Derek L. Hansen, Ben Schneiderman, and Marc A. Smith. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 2011. 284 pp. softcover.

One of the strengths of “Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL” is that it introduces a powerful research method and a tool that helps tap electronic media and non-electronic social network information intelligently, in a way that does not over-state what is knowable. The authors, Derek Hansen, Ben Schneiderman, and Marc A. Smith, are ...

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ANALYZING SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS WITH NODEXL: INSIGHTS FROM A CONNECTED WORLD. Derek L. Hansen, Ben Schneiderman, and Marc A. Smith. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 2011. 284 pp. softcover.

“New tools are now available to collect, analyze, visualize, and generate insights from the collections of connections formed from billions of messages, links, posts, edits, uploaded photos and videos, reviews, and recommendations. As social media have emerged as a widespread platform for human interaction, the invisible ties that link each of us to others ...

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YOU ARE NOT A GADGET: A MANIFESTO. Jaron Lanier. City: Book Publisher. 2010. $24.95. 209 pp. hardcover.

Jaron Lanier’s “You are Not a Gadget” (2010) reads the mainstream public into necessary conversations about the electronic-infused world that people are co-creating with each other. In his sense, code becomes destiny because it locks in certain types of experiences in the world. This situation is made worse when people misunderstand what computers can and cannot do. They may glorify tools ...

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YOU ARE NOT A GADGET: A MANIFESTO. Jaron Lanier. City: Book Publisher. 2010. $24.95. 209 pp. hardcover.

“We have to think about the digital layers we are laying down now in order to benefit future generations. We should be optimistic that civilization will survive this challenging century, and put some effort into creating the best possible world for those who will inherit our efforts.” -- Jaron Lanier

Various technologists have taken to the public airwaves to share their concerns about ...

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THE IMPULSE FACTOR: WHY SOME OF US PLAY IT SAFE AND OTHERS RISK IT ALL. Nick Tasler. New York: Fireside. 2008. $24.95. 256 pp. hardcover.

Traditionally, impulsivity has been understood as a risk factor for people. Too much of it looks like a lack of self-control. “At their worst, impulsive people are exactly what nasty little stereotypes would predict. They are more likely to be sexaholics, dangerous drivers, bankrupt businesspeople, and the posthumous winners of the dubious Darwin Awards ...

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IGNORANCE: HOW IT DRIVES SCIENCE. Stuart Firestein. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012. $21.95. 195 pp. hardcover.

“If ignorance, even more than data, is what propels science, then it requires the same degree of care and thought that one accords data. Whatever it may look like from outside the science establishment, the incorrect management of ignorance has far more serious consequences than screwing up with the data. There are correction procedures for mishandled data—they must be replicable, must answer ...

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DIGITAL VERTIGO: HOW TODAY’S ONLINE SOCIAL REVOLUTION IS DIVIDING, DIMINISHING, AND DISORIENTING US. Andrew Keen. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2012. $25.99. 246 pp. hardcover.

“Behind this book sits the most visible corpse of the nineteenth century—the body of the utilitarian philosopher, social reformer and prison architect Jeremy Bentham, a cadaver that has been living in public since his death in June 1832. Seeking to immortalize his own reputation as what he called ‘a benefactor of ...

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For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with a freeware tool called NodeXL, which is a plug-in for Microsoft Excel. This enables the visualization of social network diagrams. Even better, it enables the extraction of mass amounts of data from various social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and others) to map real-world networks from empirical data. There are easy ways to extract graph metrics. There are over a half-dozen visualizations that are enabled here.

The ...

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THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE: WHY SO MANY PREDICTIONS FAIL—BUT SOME DON’T. Nate Silver. New York: The Penguin Press. 2012. $27.95. 534 pp. hardcover.

The way Nate Silver tells it in “The Signal and the Noise,” people have historically gone far afield in trying to predict the future. They will focus on minutiae of details at the expense of critical thinking and the bigger picture. They will use intuition in lieu of thought. The mistaking of noise ...

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THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE: WHY SO MANY PREDICTIONS FAIL—BUT SOME DON’T. Nate Silver. New York: The Penguin Press. 2012. $27.95. 534 pp. hardcover.

Without an understanding of the larger context, misreading signals becomes much easier, and predictivity becomes moot. In this way, “The Signal and the Noise” makes a similar point to Nicholas Nassim Taleb in “The Black Swan” by pointing to the complexity of systems and the potential for chaotic outcomes (chaos theory suggests that ...

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THE SIGNAL AND THE NOISE: WHY SO MANY PREDICTIONS FAIL—BUT SOME DON’T. Nate Silver. New York: The Penguin Press. 2012. $27.95. 534 pp. hardcover.

Humans were made to make meaning of the world around them. It is a complex world about which there is much to learn and do. The senses can be overwhelmed by the amounts of information that come flooding in. To adapt, people turn the signals around them into shorthand. They use stereotypical understandings ...

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Democratizing E-Learning

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There have been some endeavors of late to promote the democratization of learning. This involves the next-generation effort from MIT’s OpenCourseware (which involved making zipped folders of course contents with virtually all copyrighted contents removed…and little to no investment by their faculty beyond the curricular materials)…to various educational channels in TEDEd , YouTube Education, BigThink, Vimeo…to MOOCs-ey efforts…and then to efforts like Khan Academy, Coursera, edX, and others.

In each turn, there have been some ...

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Getting Past Irreducible Complexity

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Usually, one of the factors I would consider before proposing a presentation topic for a conference or an article proposal is to figure out whether the “container” of the event or the article…is sufficient to contain the topic. After all, if the topic is too slim, then it won’t fill the time of the presentation and won’t attract an audience. If the topic is too complex, on the other hand, the presentation will come across as ineffectual ...

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The Limits to a For-Fun Word Count Text Analysis

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I am looking at a Wordle image output. This online tool takes a list of words or the text of a website (with an RSS feed) and creates various word art visual depictions based on the prominence of the words (as defined by word count). These “word clouds” are deeply eye-catching. They’re not really to be used for qualitative analysis, but there’s something (small) to be said for using them as such. This tool is a very light ...

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False Assumptions about Academic Publishing

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In a recent conversation with a colleague who works in online learning, we were chatting about projects. She mentioned that she thought it was a real benefit to an instructional designer to walk away with “the story” of the design to write about for publication. That started me thinking about some of the popular assumptions of academic publishing.

Not Everything is Newsworthy

Instructional design projects are not inherently newsworthy. Many of the daily supports involve little of publication interest because ...

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THINKING FAST AND SLOW. Daniel Kahneman. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2011. 488 pp. $30.00 hard cover.

Nobel laureate in economics, Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” culminates a life’s work in human decision-making under uncertainty.

Two Mental Systems

He suggests that there are two mental systems at work in people’s lives. System 1 is automatic and operates without any sense of voluntary control or effort. It is the de facto system which engages the ...