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, December 31, 2010

Blogs that I read regularly (top blog list for 2011)

About twice a year, I review my igoogle home page, editing out those blogs that I don't read and adding blogs that I may find myself accessing more often. I decided that others might want to see who I read on a regular basis and perhaps find new sources of information (which I do on a regular basis).

Daily reads

These blogs are ones that I read as soon as they are posted. While the authors may not post on a daily basis, I look for any new posts almost daily. In reviewing these posts, the reason I look for them daily is because I feel a "kindred spirit" with them (as Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables would say).

Karyn Romeis (Karyn's erratic learning journal) : Her blog deals not only with learning issues, but many times she includes cultural observations and family issues that I can connect with (especially as I also have two teens). I like the way she integrates her personal life into the blog and the honesty in which she writes about any issue. I like to think I do the same with my own blog

Andy Coverdale (Phd blog (dot) net) Like me, Andy is working on his Ph.d. In addition, I'm very interested in the visual communication aspect of his research. I connect with many of the academic issues he discusses in his blog including how the university works, the process of research, collaborating with colleagues, and emerging ideas (especially in academia).

Ken Allen (Blogger in middle earth). I have been a fan of Ken's blog for a long time as, like Karyn, there is a high level of integrity in his postings that cover a wide range of topics that he is interested in. Unfortunately, this year he has only posted sporadically ( I am afraid that he is being held hostage in Second Life as when he began to dabble in that program was when he stopped posting regularly). Hopefully, he will pick up the blog posts again this year.

Weekly perusals

The next group of blogs are those that I skim at least once a week (sometimes more often if I have extra time) because of the quality of information in their posts.

Jenny Luca: Lucacept-Intercepting the Web. Although she is half way around the world, it is amazing how relevant her blog is to what happens in k-12 (primary and secondary school) here in the US. Her School's out Friday are must reads for me (although I usually read them on Mondays). Many of her posts deal with integrating technology into primary and secondary education on a practical, practitioner's view point.

Quinn Clark: Learnlet's and Harold Jarche often have related content. Both are educational technology consultants, mostly in professional and/or organizational training. Quinn also has posts dealing with some of the issues for other levels of education. Both of these blogs have theoretical models, research related links, and frameworks for learning that are very educational. I usually skim through and find the most relevant issues to read as just keeping up with their posts would require too much of my time (this is the richness of their posts).

Tom Haskins: growing changing learning creating Tom deals with issues at both the university level and those in the field of business (especially management, marketing, and communication education). Reading his posts helps me stay current with the field in which I am teaching. For a business professor, his posts are remarkably insightful educationally (my experience with business professors is that they are grounded in old fashioned teaching methods, usually in the behaviorist tradition).

Michael Hanley: Elearning Curve As basically a non-techy in the area of computer mediated communication, I find Michael's blog an invaluable source of information. Each post is well thought out, grounded in current research, but also easily accessible to the basic novice. His series study an area in-depth which makes it easy to search past postings when there is a topic I may need help on.

Sahana Chattopadhyay: ID and other reflections. Like Jenny Luca, Sahana's blog (geared towards adult learning) is very relevant, although she lives and works in a totally different culture than my own. There are times when I have gone back to check her location, because the issues she discusses are so relevant to issues in instructional design I face here. Her posts always have good supporting resources. She does more than regurgitates interesting resources, she puts theories into practice with good analyses and examples.

Old Stand-bys

There are some sites that I check in on when I have the time as I know the posts will be interesting (as well as the conversation). I don't have as much time to participate in these blogs as I used to as I work on my dissertation, but I access these blogs, especially if there is a specific area I want to investigate.

Tony Karrer: eLearning Technology A popular elearning blog which allows readers to get a pulse of trends in elearning and organizational training.

Jane Hart: Jane's E-Learning Pick of the day. Still the best site to look for new technolgy.

Nancy White: Nancy White's Full Circle Blog. For anyone doing research on collaboration or communities of practice, this is an invaluable resource. I just wish she would post more frequently than she did this year.

Christine Martell: Exploring with Images Christine repositioned her business and her blog last year. She now includes many of her own original artwork. I love to just sign on and look through her images as it always makes me smile. Her art has such a soothing, happy spirit to it.

New Blogs for me this year

Mark Berthelemy: Learning Conversations Although I had visited his blog sporadically over the past few years, this year I finally added Mark's blog onto my igoogle page. He has a number of interesting insights, especially into learning and learning with technology.

cv harquail: Authentic Organizations This is a hard one to describe. This blog aligns with my dissertation research and addresses organizational behavior, but from a critical literacy perspective. It includes posts on organizational behavior, culture, and a feminist perspective. At the very least, it is always interesting in its perspective; at its best it is very enlightening.

So what are you reading?

I'm always looking for new blogs. What blogs would you recommend?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Prezi, a new way of thinking about presentations

Yesterday I gave my first presentation using Prezi. I had heard about the software and had even registered for the educational version, but then had promptly forgotten about it. Then one of my students used it in a class assignment. So giving a presentation on Presentations to my daughter's class, I decided to try it out. As this is the first presentation I've given using Prezi, it is still in the basic mode. Also, I'm not sure what the difference is between the educational version and the commercial version. So here is my review of Prezi's EDUCATIONAL version (this is free to educators and students...other users will need to pay for it).


What I particularly like about using Prezi in a presentation is that I don't have to present linearly. For example, yesterday, I found that many of the students were much further along in some aspects of presentation skills and needed a lot of help in other aspects. Also, as this was a classroom presentation, certain questions and issues came up "out of sequence." Students would ask questions for which I had planned to cover later in the workshop. However, because of the none linear nature of Prezi, I was able to go to that part of the prepared presentation that addressed the issue or question. This made my presentation much more flexible.

Likewise, Prezi was very easy to use, especially as they had a basic interactive video pop up each time you use Prezi (you can override this) which helped instruct on how to use Prezi. Their supporting videos and resources were really excellent. Some of the most useful features included an automatic YouTube link which makes it easy to embed YouTube clips right into the video...no having to go outside of the presentation like PowerPoint requires.


There are some features that I think Prezi can work on. The first would be the ability to embed any video link as easily as You Tube is. In order to embed other sites, you must first cut and paste the URL address into the Edit mode of Prezi, then leave the site, click on the link, then go back to edit mode and click on the site again. This is very cumbersome. You must also remember what the URL address goes to whereas the YouTube clip comes up on the Prezi presentation.

I also found the show part of the presentation a bit difficult to work with. I feel this would probably be easy to learn, and it would be a good alternative to self directed training as a click will focus on those areas of the presentation that you want someone to see in sequence. However, it is also possible for someone to take control of their own learning and override the "show" function.

Another problem was that the program was very easy to use with a mouse. But the computer I used for the presentation used a finger pad. Now, I'm the first to admit that I don't like finger pads and am not the best in using them. However, it was next to impossible to use Prezi with the finger pad. I ended up borrowing a mouse.

One final minor problem was that whenever I clicked a certain way on the presentation (I'm not sure what that was though), the presentation would rotate. Fortunately, there was a rotate icon which I used to straighten out the format. But this was very irritating.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Global voices

I am always interested in looking at the perspective of those outside of the US. I happened upon a clip of Ethan Zuckerman's presentation at TED, a series of speeches of important ideas. I rarely embed speeches because it slows down my readers downloading time. However, this was a really fascinating speech on the role of social media, breaking down the cultural uses.

In the presentation, he confirms some of the principles I have written about earlier in terms of culture and technology, namely that it is not the tools used, but how they are used. He uses graphics that demonstrate the depth of internet use; not just accessibility, but also HOW technology is being used and for what topics. As he says, "many places can GET media, it is just an enormous amount of work to do so." He advocates rewiring the system we have, going outside of the "flocks" (or what I would call discourse communities) to find new ideas and connections.

Zuckerman is one of the cofounders of Global Voices. This site creates these new pathways by finding media and blogs from around the world, translating them, and making them available for anyone interested in knowing what others in other parts of the world are discussing. Each area has translators and "curators" who who choose articles, blogs, and internet media that represent the issues of a certain region. The translators are listed on the blog, so anyone can see what their background (and bias) might be. This is going to be one of my new favorite sites, I think, as I will be able to get a perspective outside of the US on global issues.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Three models for a new higher ed economic model (part 2)

This has been some time in coming. I wanted to think through some of the options based on my earlier post on this issue.

In reviewing all the factors, I wanted to develop an economic or funding model that could be implemented sooner, rather than later. However, I realized that I have seen at least 3 models in use that have been effective over the last decade. So why reinvent the wheel? Two of the models are based on a large component of instruction being distance learning based, the third is more traditional.

Pure distance learning and assessment based higher education

The first model is based on a local university that was developed out of the New York state civil service training department. Often civil service workers, who did not have higher ed degrees, received training that was equivalent to a university course. Recognizing that those that received this training should be able to receive college credit, a system of testing and granting college credit for the training was established.

Approximately 10 years ago, a Swiss university bought out this service, adding there own model on to the established service. Currently, the university identifies online courses, creates its own courses, and creates a standard curriculum, all of which are based on a examination process. Students actually pay for exams rather than the courses themselves. This means that a student may not take any course, as long as they can demonstrate knowledge through the exams. Students that opt to take instruction through the university will pay for those courses. Students can also submit courses, training, and instruction to receive credit. However, they will need to pass the exam for the criteria laid out for their degree.

This allows a standard learning outcome to be used, with several options by the student (depending on their circumstances including access to courses, resources, location, learning needs) to fulfill the curriculum requirements. This also means that there is a minimal instructional staff, with most of the staff working on assessment and curriculum development. There are some area specialists who help in the curriculum development, but they are only used on an as needed basis. An instructor does not have to be a Ph.d. in the area in which they are teaching, but rather need to be effective instructors. This is because the subject matter is already developed by specialists in the form of assessment tools and curriculum. This also always the university to be more flexible based on the students' learning needs and goals.

One disadvantage to this model is that most of the students are learning in isolation. This also requires a great deal of motivation on the part of the learner to arrange for those courses/learning that will best help them pass the assessments. In addition, a great deal of resources go into the monitoring and revision of curriculum and assessment tools.

Individualized learning plans

Another local university in which I have worked uses an individual learning plan. The first course a student takes is a three credit course in which students sit down with a "mentor" and outline their learning objectives. They then plan how they will achieve these objectives academically. There are usually three options: test out, small group tutorials (face to face at learning centers), or online courses. A fourth option is an independent study, but that is used rarely. Unlike the model above, there are set courses which students must complete. Only a certain percentage of those courses can be assessments (either CLEF or assessment of real life experience).

Unlike a traditional university, there are no "departments". Rather there are designated "Area Specialists" who are in charge of a group of faculty (tenured and part-time). These specialists often are part of programs such as labor relations, healthcare, nursing, teaching, and humanities. In other words, they are more profession oriented and broader than a traditional university department. Because this is a state university, there are general education core courses that students must have to be granted a degree. However, if enough students are interested in a specific area, the mentors can ask the area specialists to develop a tutorial in that topic.

In this model, new specialties can be developed within an "area" that a traditional department might have difficulty with. In addition, students can flow in and out of the university as needed (an open university model). Most of the students work full time. One disadvantage of this model, like the one above, is that there is not a single "campus". Unlike the model above, however, students can develop a sense of "college" at their college centers, having tutorials with other students, and establishing a close relationship with their mentors.

Another disadvantage of this model is that it is very labor intensive. For the model to work, the mentors need to be knowledgeable about course options, adult learning, and have constant contact with their mentees. In fact, one reason I don't teach there anymore is that the pay scale was ridiculously low, with faculty being paid by the size of their student load (i.e. a class of 5 had a pay scale much lower than a class of 25. Someone that taught 5 classes to 5 students would make the same as person who taught 25 students in one class, even thought there was more time commitment for the 5 classes).

Traditional model

The fact is that many who go to school full time do so as much for the social aspects of being part of a campus as for the academics. In order to change the traditional model of education, there would have to be a cultural change, which could be difficult at universities that have been steeped in their culture for many years.

My current university used a very successful model to change this culture and cross disciplines and departments in order to integrate technology into its instruction. Basically, it was structured by creating a pool of funding to hire faculty who were adept in instructional technology. Each department was required to either train a current faculty member, identify a current faculty member with a technology specialty, or hire a new faculty member who had expertise in educational technology. Once this core group of faculty were established, they received tenure within the technology group (not their department, per se). This meant that if there was a need for one of these faculty in a certain department, they might be reassigned to that department or courses within that department. For example, one of the faculty members in the dept of communication also had expertise in information technology. As there were two within the communication department who were part of the technology group, one of them went over to information technology when one of the designated faculty members left the university. This same person also taught some courses in the school of business when the designated technology person in business took his sabbatical.

Imagine, for example, if this same model were used for Communication Skills, Creativity, Critical thinking, scientific inquiry, or writing (often the areas of core courses). This would allow a university to have tenure track faculty who could teach interdisciplinary courses without fear of cannibalizing a department. Smaller departments could go to the "centers" to find faculty that could teach courses in their department. General Education courses could be offered through the "centers" so that there would be a guarantee of having a pool of faculty to draw on for these courses, which may not be money producers, but are vital to the degrees. However, outside of the "centers", faculty expertise (specialties) could be offered within the departments. In addition, new areas of study, which might not fall neatly into a department, could be developed within the centers.

Unfortunately, with a new administration, the traditional culture and departmental structures proved to have to strong an influence and we have now moved back to the traditional departmental structures where departments fight for resources and/or are pitted against each other to keep "tenure track lines" for their department. For any of these models to work, faculty, administrators, students, and stakeholders (including employees and alumni) need to be open to a new way of funding higher education. Using a "business" model will never work as "knowledge" is becoming less and less a commodity that is possessed and more and more a necessity that everyone is working with.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Classifying feedback

My laptop battery is not working, so lately I have been hand writing all of my perceptions as I analyze my data. However, my work yesterday resulted in an insight I wanted to share. This is still a work in progress, so I am open to any research that someone might be able to point my way.

In describing the collaborative process, many of the participants (members of the distributed group) used the word "feedback" often. However, I soon began to see that feedback could be a source of tension, a helpful tool, or something that was ignored. Sometimes it was solicited, other times it was given without any prodding.

Now, most of the previous literature on feedback has divided it into positive or negative, summative or formative, or oral, written, or non-verbal. However, none of these classification systems really fit the types of feedback I am seeing in the collaborative writing process.

Defining feedback

To understand these classifications, it is important that I define the term "feedback". I am using a communicative definition. In the communicative act, there is sender and a receiver. The Sender initiates the communicative act and the receiver decodes the message as they receive it. However, the communicative act does not end there. The receiver gives feedback based on his or her interpretation (decoding) or the message. That feedback could be as simple as silence (or withdrawal from the conversation) or much more complex.

Based on this definition, I see feedback as the communication between the "giver" of feedback and the "receiver" of the feedback. The feedback could be verbal or non-verbal, formally requested or the natural result of the communication process.

Four types of feedback

I have (so far) identified 4 different types of feedback within a distributed workplace group or team. The type of feedback depended on the amount of ownership or the level of agency the feedback giver perceived. It also was effected by whether the feedback was formally solicited (as part of the work process) or was given in response to an informal communication act (written or oral).

1) Creative feedback. This makes the feedback giver a co-creator. In other words, there is a high level of perceived ownership and agency from the feedback giver.

2) Editorial. This is usually the result of a formal feedback mechanism within the work process or a heuristic created at the group, organizational, or professional levels. The feedback giver often has more distance between his or herself and the feedback receiver, and has less ownership of the task/process or product. As a result, feedback might be accepted or not by the feedback receiver without any influence between the feedback giver and feedback receiver.

3) Confirmative. There usually is a power distance between feedback giver and receiver when confirmative feedback is given (for example, a team leader and a team member). The feedback giver, as a result, will have a greater sense of agency, and by giving approval or confirmative feedback, he or she takes partial ownership (whether the feedback receiver wants to give it or not).

4) Political. While the feedback giver might have thought that they had agency, the feedback receiver holds all the cards and could decide to take ownership, give it to the feedback receiver (or force it on to the receiver) or become co-creator. Political feedback is often used to document the communication process, identify responsibility for work, tasks, or products, and to make the work transparent to those outside of the process/task.

These different types of feedback can be used to unify a group and make the work processes more efficient. Using the correct type of feedback can also improve the final product, expedite the group process, and create a sense of trust within a group (especially important with a distributed group). However, in my study, when there was a difference in the perception of the type of feedback being solicited, tension was created between the giver and receiver, which could result in resentment (especially if the giver or receiver did not recognize the difference in the feedback being solicited).

For example, two of the study participants had the following discussion during the group interview:

Ronda: Well, exactly that. And I think it’s that…there’s two things that are sort of complating that…that problem. This notion that have sort of too many cooks looking at your project. And then that there’s no level of authority assigned to, um, whatever you put up there. Like when s….when I put something up for review and people send me editorial comments, I personally, because I’m arrogant and snotty about this stuff [everyone laughs], don’t feel like because he said this or he said that or he said that or he said that, that I have to change it. You know. That’s not their job, in my opinion is not to tell me how to change it. Because this is my expertise. I’m putting it up there for a different kind of review. And…I don’t always feel obligated to take that feedback. But somebody else might put something up and say, “Well, you know, what do you think of this design?” And then there’ll be c…comments from Helen and Robert and Phillip and… Make one change. Then the next person comes and says, “Do this.” Then they’ve changed it back. Or change it this way. And it’s…just turns into this huge morass of inexpert opinion shaping products that shouldn’t be doing that. So there is this level of disrespect for people’s expertise, which you subject yourself to by putting stuff on basecamp. On the other hand.
Phillip: You know, Ronda, it’s interesting that you say that, cause sometimes the process is, eww, should I comment on it or is that going to [anger] her?
[Everyone laughs}
Ronda: Yeah, and I don’t ever feel like that!
Phillip: I don’t know.

And later:

Phillip: When you take my sentences and change them, I go, “Wow, that’s…that’s a better sentence.”
Ronda: And that’s…that’s…that’s my j… That’s not personal. It’s not, you’re not a good writer…
Phillip: Right.
Ronda: It’s not any of that. It’s my skill.

In the first case, Ronda is asking for editorial or confirmative feedback, but she gets angry when she gets creative or political feedback. On the other hand, Phillip is reluctant to give creative or confirmative feedback because he does not feel that it is his place in the group to do so. As a result, he tends not to give feedback very often, referring to others to give feedback even when he has the expertise.

Note: See the post by Karyn Romeis on workplace collaboration. This framework for feedback might explain the problem she describes in her post.