About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The dangers of good communication in the networked society

This week was very busy in our region as the president came to one of the community colleges in the region. It was very exciting as both my children were able to listen to his speech, the president's motorcade went by the son's school, and one of my daughter's teachers attended the speech live (they had a police escort for their school bus from the farm where they were doing scientific field work so she could attend in shoes borrowed from one of the students as she was wearing heavy boots coated with mud!).

I took the time out from my day to listen to the speech as it was telecast live on our campus. But for the second time now, I have been disappointed in one of the president's speech. Upon reflecting about my disappointment with the president's speech, I realized what the problem was. I feel as if there is a role for me to participate in the healthcare, economic, and educational discussions going on at the federal level. The White House has done a good job of setting up incoming messages. However, I feel they need to close the loop. I feel as if my messages posted on their site is just one out of a million (just like buying a lottery ticket) and it just goes into the cyber black hole. How are my posts any different than discussing my opinions with my husband as we watch the president speak. I KNOW my husband's not listening to my remarks and could care less about MY opinions. Rather, my husband would like to get HIS point across and have me agree with him. Although it took a number of years of marrige to figure it out, now I just agree with him and keep my opinions (if they are contrary) to myself.

I feel the same way with the communication system the way it currently is set up at the White House. I don't see an online community developing where there are public discussions of what others have posted, nor is there anyone facilitating these discussions online. The closest has been links to blogs where there are some discussions. Likewise, when you send an email comment, you are put on the listserv, but you don't get a message saying, "Thank-you for offering your opinion on ....(the issue, which can be electronically generated). The messages ...(explain what happens to the messages: chosen randomly to be read, all read by volunteers and passed on to policy makers, deleted the next day and not read?)." This at least allows the writer to feel like they are being heard.

Implications for others developing communication policy

As the communication technologies allow us to connect with larger networks and communities outside of our geographic location we can learn from our current administration.

Lesson 1: People want to be heard. This includes having their opinions VALIDATED even if the listener doesn't agree. "I understand what you are saying, but I don't agree," or "that's a good point, but..." Even a message that states, "We have so many comments that we may not be able to respond personally. However, be assured that we are reading your comments."

Lesson 2: Let those you are communicating with know what your processes are. How will communications be used? Who reads and responds to the communication? What are the time frames?

Lesson 3: Understand the networks. Usually, networks are based on common values and ideas. An perceived insult or snub can be very damaging, but a note of encouragment can have positive ripples through a network. Only imagine the impact had the president sent an email (even if it were a form one) to my daughter's school or teacher. This could then be forwarded through each of the students' own social networks.

Lesson 4: Don't ask for feedback unless you are going to use it. This is something marketers and researchers learn early. Related to this is make sure you are asking the right questions. I always begin with very broad questions, then narrow in on the discussion. The broad questions will help you to determine where the conversation/dialog should be steered.

Lesson 5: Understand that those who use new technologies have high expectations. It is difficult to control those within a network and someone that uses web 2.0 must prepare for those who are receiving your messages to disagree and want to give their opinions. As a result, it is important that some policy is developed on how to handle "audience" reaction.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Integrating elearning into the classroom: Technology

This next section, I am not going to recommend any specific technology. In fact, as I found out the first semester I taught an educational technology course, often instructors and instructional designers have little or no input into WHAT technologies they can use.

So the first step in developing elearning is to befriend the ITS department. Don't start with, "What technologies are available that I can use in the my teaching?" as most will list the technologies as they understand instructors using it (i.e. blackboard is a classroom technology that we have so you will use that because that is why the organization ordered it).

Instead, describe to your ITS friend what you would like to do WITH the technology. For example, I am looking for technology that will allow my students to access elearning from any computer, post their work, and then be able to discuss it either simultaneously or asynchronously, work at the same time on making corrections to their work (written or multimedia), and maintain a record so that I, as the instructor can give them regular feedback as they work on the project. They may come back with questions of their own. Will they be working from home or school? What level of skill do you have? How much control/support do you think you will need?

In presenting the technology choice as a problem for the ITS worker to work with you on, you are giving them greater choices to choose from that they may have experience with. Often, they will go with what technologies other use based on their limited experience of what goes on in the classroom. You can't assume that they understand what happens in eLEARNING. However, it is also important not to underestimate their expertise. After many years of working with faculty, the best ITS personnel know how appease faculty who have "heard about a great technology" yet have not taken in into consideration the technological requirements, the security issues, and the type of support needed by the users.

Categories of affordances

Another useful tip in speaking with ITS is to understand the affordances that any given technology can provide. Often technology designed for one affordance, can actually have a different affordance or use. ITS may be limited in what technologies they can use due to security concerns, user patterns and traffic, lack of resources, or knowledge of the technologies within ITS.

I have had my students look at their instructional design and identify the "uses" or affordances of technology. For example, a music teacher had one of his students studying at Juliard School of Music in New York City as part of their chorus. He wanted his student's classmates to be able to interact with him about concerts and even listen to the chorus. He decided to use streaming media after he discussed with his technology person what was available. However, when I asked him how he would coordinate schedules with his student in NYC, he realized streaming might be difficult. He went back to the tech directed and asked what technology was available where the student interact with the other students. He suggested using the streaming technology, but having his student uploading the video (this was a few years ago before YouTube) on their system and then streaming the video on demand when the Music Teacher needed it.

I find elearning has basically 4 affordances: communication, sharing and storing information, filtering and connecting ideas (meaning making), and creating knowledge. In fact, even the simplest technology can be used for each of these categories. It is important as an instructional designer to establish the protocols that will allow students to use the technology for those affordances. For example, email could be used for communication through groups or individual messages. By attaching files and having prearranged subject headings, email could also be used to share information and keep a record. Some email programs, such as gmail, allow a series of correspondence to be grouped together, the accumulation being used for meaning making and connecting the same ideas through the conversation (the use of the forward and reply functions). Finally, documents that are edited by a group, thus "creating knowledge" could be done through emails. It would be important that the documents are given version numbers in addition to being grouped together.

In the example above, the instructor would need to scaffold student learning through the development of protocols either in the instructional design or by the students themselves. New technology would not be necessary, rather new uses for existing technologies would need to be developed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Integrating elearning into the classroom: the preliminaries

The first step in integrating elearning into the classroom, either as an activity, a day of training, or a semester class is to establish why you have chosen elearning in the first place.

  • What are your goals in using elearning?
  • What do you expect your students to get out of the experience?
  • Do you have the support of administrators (resource, moral, or technical)?
  • If not, where will you get the resources or technical support, and how will you motivate students to use the elearning as a way of learning?
  • How much time do you have to develop the activity, course, project? How much time do you have to implement the activity, course, project?
  • What are the expectations of stakeholders in using elearning?

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to determine if this is really something you can implement. While I am a great supporter of elearning, nothing is worse than having very little time to train instructors on the use of technology for use in one day's time (yes, I have seen that happen before, resulting in total failure of "elearning"). Likewise, many organizations opt for elearning as a time saving mechanism or cost cutting. If time is not saved (which most of us involved in elearning know is rarely a savings in time, but rather an increase) or costs are decreased, but at the expense of effective learning, then administrators and other stakeholders will be disappointed. Sometimes it is better to POSTPONE elearning until it can be done well.

Different levels of education

I read blogs that address a wide variety of education levels. My own Introduction to Distance Learning course had instructors from pre-school to community learning to universities and secondary schools. I have worked with them all at integrating elearning into their curriculum. However, there are differences between the different levels. Therefore, some of the questions each level of education needs to address includes:

  • What skills do students have in learning, technology, and time management coming into the activity?
  • What legal, moral, educational, and technology restrictions and regulations will students and instructors need to comply with at the level?
  • How much autonomy can the student and instructor have for this elearning activity?
  • What skills will students need to develop in order to accomplish elearning (i.e. level of literacy, foreign language skills, keyboarding skills, communication skills)? How (and who) will these skills be developed?
  • What other stakeholders will need to be consulted in supporting the students' elearning? For pre-schoolers, for example, both the caregivers and support staff (if designated as disabled, this might have included physical and speech theorpists, social workers, and special education teachers). For employees, this might be supervisors or ITS to allow access to blocked sites or special software down loads.

Make it relevant to use elearning

Finally, many just integrate elearning into learning because that is what everyone else is doing. As the first set of questions indicate, it is not always relevant to use elearning.

In my experience, there are three main reasons for integrating elearning into a curriculum:

1. To reorganize time for instructors to create a better use of time (i.e. going to a conference or teaching at multiple locations at the same time) or to allow instructors to teach when they cannot physically be present with the students
2. To provide opportunities for students that might be limited by classroom space, schedules, or resources (including funding)
3. To develop technological skills and understanding of the use of technology in the 21st century society

It is always important that you choose a course, activity, or project that will be relevant for the student, the curriculum goals, and the organizational capacity to support elearning. I always recommend that my students begin with the question, "What can you NOT do now, that elearning might allow you to do?" This might be giving individualized attention, connecting students to the outside world, allow your students more time to reflect as a means of learning, provide access to information to a greater number of people, or help to develop specific skills such as communication, writing, or reading. It depends on the organization, the curriculum goals, and the level of education.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Integrating elearning into the classroom

This post is in part due to poor reading skills on my part. Ken Allen wrote a post "the loneliness of the elearner," which I read as, "the loneliness of the elevator." This got me to thinking about the metaphor of the elevator in elearning:

Interestingly enough, I thought your title read, "the loneliness of the ELEVATOR" (I guess I should get my glasses fixed). Ironically, being alone in a space like second life is probably by being alone in an elevator. Where do you look? Is someone watching you that you can't see? What if you get stuck? You only have the disembodied voice to tell you, "Help is on the way." And if you are on the elevator with someone, you feel too awkward to speak to them unless something goes wrong. What are the unspoken rules of engagement on an elevator?

At the same time, my daughter's school has decided to integrate some days of online learning into the curriculum, partly to give teachers the opportunity to meet without students for professional development, and partly to prepare students for online learning in college. I was asked to lend my experience in developing these online activities. With that in mind, I have been thinking of the components that needs to go into the design of these activities.

In my introduction to distance learning course, I break the course up into 4 components: technology, instructional design, social presence, and assessment. Over the next few posts I will look at each of these components and what I feel needs to be considered for an online activity as part of a face to face course.

Friday, September 11, 2009


This post has taken me 8 years to write. Yesterday, as I was walking to class on a campus I haven't taught at for 5 years, the day reminded me eerily of a day 8 years ago. That day, 8 years ago, I arrived on campus early to prepare for an 11:30 class. Ironically, it was a beautiful fall day, without a cloud in the sky.

As I sat in my office, someone came down the hall from the faculty lounge and announced the an airplane had crashed into the world trade center. I thought, "oh, that's awful," but went on with my class prep. I figured I'd hear more as the morning went on. When the second crash happened moments later, faculty began to stream out to the lounge where the TV was on. We watched in horror as the building burned. It wasn't until a young colleague of mine gasped and said, "It's falling!" that we really understood the impact. She and I both left to go to our offices, not able to see the whole thing play out. Both of us were in tears.

This was only the beginning of a long day, however, as we did not realize the impact it would have on our campus, families, and communities. A while later, not able to work, I went to the faculty lounge where were wondering what we should do with our classes. One of the professors came in looking very upset. He had told the class that given the nature of the tragedy of the World Trade Center, he would understand if students wanted to leave and watch what was going on. When a female student, looking stricken, asked what had happened, he explained and proceeded to watch her become hysterical. Her father worked in the WTC.

It soon became evident that this was something that was going to affect many of students as we pull a large number from the New York City area. Should we cancel class? How could we think of teaching after the impact it was having on our campus?

Added to this was the worry whether this would be it or if there would be other areas in our region impacted. Many of us had children in school and because the impact on the region, many of the schools were closing early (ours included). However, the school decided to continue classes as scheduled. It was weeks later that we were told the reasoning for this: many of the students with families in the NYC areas wanted to go home. However, it was deemed that the saftest thing was to have them stay on campus in safe, secure areas when 1) there was no public transportation available to the area as everything had been shut down, 2)there were major traffic jams in the area as people fled and others tried to get in to help, and 3) many of the parents were in a state of shock and wanted to make sure their children were away from ground 0. I taught my two classes, picked up my kids and went home.

My children had to be picked up by my in-laws as my husband's job was one designated as a vital job (there were many, as a computer programmer we couldn't figure out how his could be so vital, but they wouldn't let him leave). Both of us, though, had a moment of panic after the initial crash. What if they decided to target other land marks in the Northeast or New York state? We were on the opposite side of the river from where my children were and we would have had a problem if the bridge closed. We appreciated having family nearby to help.

Of course, not all my family was nearby. My husband's sister and brother-in-law were Las Vegas as the transportation system was halted for a week. My mother was at her summer home off the cost of Long Island. When the twin towers were taken out, so were most of the equipment used to broadcast news reports. She had to hear from my sister in Chicago, who called when she saw the first news report, what had happened. By the end of the day, however, she was hearing first hand accounts as many of our neighbors fled the city to stay at their summer homes until it was safe to go back. In some cases, this was a year later (including a neighbor I grew up with who lived across the street from the WTC).

That evening, we (as I think most people) went out to eat as a family, just to grab some pizza. As we drove home, there was a sense of peace and community as people sat outside (it had turned warm during the day) and lit candles for those killed in the attack. There were some people from our town killed; many friends, relatives, alumni, and colleagues from our campus killed; new neighbors that relocated from the city; and many volunteers that spent months (and who are feeling the health effects from it) down on ground zero. For me, the strangest thing was the silence that settled over the community. I remember jumping the first time I heard a plane go over our house a week after 9-11, normally hearing planes a common occurance. I wondered if I had heard the hijacked plane from Boston that morning as I went to school, as they determined the flight went over our community.

A couple of years later, my nieces were visiting from Michigan. We brought them to the New York State Museum, where there is a great exhibit on 9-11. I was surprised at how moved they were by the exhibit. Anyone that might come to the Albany, NY region should definiately visit it. They said that while they had seen the images (over and over), the exhibit gave it more reality, the shock, horror, and humanity of the tragedy.

While I was fortunate not to know anyone personnally who was killed, I knew many who had loved ones killed. It changed our community. And for one day, the grief of what happened on 9-11 brought us together and made our region eerily peaceful.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I AM a subject matter expert

In the Learning Circuit's Big Question, Tony Karrer poses the following questions:

Working effectively with subject matter experts

There's a lot to this topic, and certainly it's an on-going challenge. Some specific questions that are raised in this area:

* What should all IDs know about working with a SME?
* What can you and can't you expect a SME to do?
* Does it work to have SMEs create rapid eLearning?
* How does social and informal learning impact how you engage with SMEs?
* What's your favorite instructive story of working with a SME?

I'm going to approach this from the point of view of the SME as I either do my own ID or have worked in groups in which I was the SME.

I am perhaps unique in that as a SME (in my case, I was the SME for courses in Marketing Research and Foreign Language-French and Spanish), I do know about Instructional Design in the context of online learning. However, I think many ID's underestimate (or overestimate) the instructional understanding of a SME. Many times they have their own understanding of how students learn and will give information based on that understanding.

For example, when developing the courses on Foreign Language, many of the SME's had a strong belief in the drill and repeat way of learning the foreign language. The ID had a different view of language learning. The discussions often was around the pedagogy of language learning rather than the content itself as the content came out of the pedagogy. Interestingly enough, many of the SME's weren't even aware of their pedagogy until they began to share their expertise in terms of what should or should not go into the curriculum.

Personally, I believe all learning should be in context. Rapid elearning is possible as long as it is tailored for a certain population. The SME needs to know and understand their target population before they can contribute to any elearning. For example, I used to develop curriculum for short term training in English Language to prepare groups going to the US for training. I needed to know why the group was going, what type of training they would need in the US, and how much time they had to prepare. Even now, I could develop a curriculum and text for any group within a week for English Language Training as long as I had their profiles. A "general" course would not be effective nor would it use my expertise effectively as I knew what a group of illiterate, rural administrators going to Tennessee would need as opposed to a group of educated (many outside of the country) auditors going to the NE US would need.

Many SME's, I can tell you from experience working with colleagues who are SME's, find elearning and the technology that affords informal learning as something inferior. They may perceive ID's as the "technicians" who really know nothing of the topic (nor should they in the SME's opinion). They often feel that pedagogy is the whelm of the SME and the ID should not do anything but put the real information into a "pretty" design. Likewise, I have worked with ID's who try to force my expertise into a format that I don't believe will work given my understanding of the subject.

I have a classmate who works at RPI. They have a great process for working with SME's. Theirs is a truly collaborative process in which they spend time developing trust with the SME's and designing learning based on the SME's own style. They are very careful not to tell an SME's that what they want to do cannot be done, but rather demonstrating different options from which the SME can choose. Often the same ID will work with the same SME over a period of time (which also helps to develop the partnership needed). They also have a great series of questions which they use when initially working with a new SME. This includes questions about their view of pedagogy.

To me, the most important thing to do when working with an SME is to spend the initial time getting know the SME and developing a trusting partnership, whether they are in the same physical space or not.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Combination of things I can't multi-task

In a recent comment on Ken Allen's blog, Karyn Romeis cited some studies that indicated that it is not whether we can multi-task or not, but rather what actions we can multi-task in combination. This got me to thinking about what I can and cannot multi-task.

What I can't multi-task:

I can't drive and talk at the same time
I can't write my blog and listen to what my kids are saying
I can't cook and plan the next day's schedule
I can't correct papers and plan tomorrow's class
I can't search for something on the internet and listen to my kids

Things I can multi-task

I can drive and listen to my kids' stories
I can read blogs and listen to what my kids are saying
I can cook and read
I can correct papers and watch TV
I can search for something on the internet and give my kids directions

Things I can never multitask

Finally, there are somethings that I need total concentration for, with no ability to multi-task as I work on these things:

Driving during poor weather
Writing a paper (including my dissertation)
Analyzing data
Taking down numbers or writing something that is being spelt out for me.

What does this mean?

In analyzing those that I can and those that I can't multitask in combination, I think I have trouble multi-tasking when there are two communication inputs or two communication outputs (creating and listening, for example). I also cannot multitask when the task itself is complex (a multitask) and I am still developing heuristics to accomplish the task. Once I have the skills or heuristics, it is easier for me to multitask as I can go on "auto-pilot" for those tasks for which I have developed heuristics.

I am not sure if this is something universal or unique to me (i.e. Gardner's "intelligences" where some might be able to multi-task using those skills in which they have an innate ability). I'd be interested in know what other people can and can't multi-task.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why do I blog?

Ken Allen is hosting the comments for the Green Pen Society, and posted the question: What gets you flying when you feel you want to write?”

I'm not sure if I'm answering his question, per se. However, when I look over my blog posts over the last 3 years I see I can categorize my reasons for blogging as: learning, reflection, reaching out, and recording.


I love to read blogs. I often think about what I read and come up with great ideas (in my own mind). However, my own family really is not interested in the same things I am. Blogging allows me to continue both formal and informal learning by working out and reformulating ideas that I have heard at school, questions from my students, read in blogs or the periodicals I read on regular basis (such as the Financial Times), and even analyze and come up with my own theories on what is going on in those areas in which I am interested.

Often, while I am thinking about what I will write, I think back to other posts or comments I might have made and go back to reread what I have written in the past. I rarely reread papers or articles that I have had published. But I do go back and reread blog posts, which often look different with time. This allows me to revisit ideas and build on them as I gain new experiences.


There are times when I just can't quiet my brain (usually at about 3:00 in the morning at the beginning of the semesters!). Blogging allows me to reflect on these ideas and put them into words. This requires a great deal of reflection and analysis, putting together ideas and verbalizing them. Sometimes they are just seeds of an idea that I am able to flesh out as I try to figure out how to word them.

This post is a great example. While I am working on a dissertation having to do with technology, writing and groups, I never thought about how to articulate the thought processes that setting up collaboratively written documents require. Without the chance to reflect, I would not have realized the level of learning that happens when I blog (see the section above). Blogging organizes my thoughts and quiets my mind so I can sleep at night!

Reaching out

This is perhaps the best thing about blogging. As I mentioned in my comment to Tony Karrer on a similar topic:

While I agree that the writing helps you to think, the difference between blogging and journaling is the public aspect of it. While no one may read your blog (I often feel this is the case with my own blog), a blogger is writing for that mysterious reader out there...for someone that might understand what they are saying. When you get a great comment on your blog (not something like, "Great post" but a question that you hadn't thought about or a different perspective) you have more than an internal conjugation of your ideas.

I love to read blogs and find blogs that address the issues I'm interested in. Whenever someone new posts on my blog, I click on their name to see if they have a blog. I figure if they are reading what I am writing, they probably are writing about what I am interested in reading about. I have found some great blogs this way. This networking makes the blogging seem more connected and less "personal." I feel that even if only one other person reads the blog, it is better than just writing for myself in which no one can challenge what I write, give me a different perspective, or give me additional information to support my ideas. I like the way the blogging connects my writing to others, something that I think is very important in writing (and writing instruction).


Finally, yes, as old fashioned as it sounds, I like blogging because it records my progress through life and learning. When I go back to my old posts, sometimes I'm really impressed with my insight; other times I can't believe my ignorance! I am a great believer in history, however. I feel that this is a record (as is everyone's blog) of my story at a certain period in history. I love rereading my father's letters to me during my teenage years when I was either away at camp or at school (college). My own kids are able to read them and get a sense of our relationship, his sense of humor, what was important for us as a family in terms of the world around us, in his own words. I feel a blog can be used the same way, making our thinking transparent.

Well, as I said, I'm not sure this answer's Ken's question, but his question got me thinking about why I blog.