Monday, December 6, 2010

Our cool video!

Final project does not mean the final for learning or the final for fun. Yue and I want to extend our enjoyment in this course, and thus collaborate on creating a video.

We are trying to reflect what web 2.0 and participatory learning mean to us, and express our personal feelings. Learning with technology and in a participatory way brings a lot of convenience, a lot of fun, and a lot of harvest. As we're international students in our first semester, adapting is painful. Culture shocks, language non-proficiency, new technologies and heavy load of work, all these pour to us. The swamp obstructed our steps. I'm so grateful to the support from friends and encouragement from professors, which helps maintain my conviction and confidence.

Anyway, it is painful but rather fruitful and full of joys, to produce this video, and to have actually learned something after such a busy semester. The sense of achievement works a bit for that joy, and every tiny pieces of implication/ enlightenment. As a student majoring in education, all the classes that I have taken are precious treasure for me to learn (Like a large amount of case studies~).

Blogging is really an effective method of reflecting our learning, and a great way to practice English writing for our international students. I don't feel as nervous as writing a formal paper. Instead, I know that some critical friends are going to read my blogs and I expect their comments (Eric Baumer, Mark Sueyoshi, & Bill Tomlinson. Exploring the Role of the Reader in the Activity of Blogging). So I write in a way of narration, like talking with those friends. I also consider my reflection blog as an ideal place to keep notes from articles, lectures and some other resources that I learned.

We mix many technologies for communications in the video, for they do provide us convenience. Whatever synchronous or asynchronous, they bring us together on the Internet, without the limitation of time and space. We use them to collaborate on academic work, and to know each other in daily life as well. Life is not all about study, and peers are not only co-workers. When living and working in an friendly environment, we will hopefully be more productive.

"Gift culture" is a notion that I love greatly. So we talk about OER, in an emotional way. It feels like many people are offering help to each other. Everyone can be accessible to the world talent. But informed by Jason's words, OER is not always perfect. It's like buying things: we have to accept the flaws of free things; but we will get equivalent services when paying for it. Anyway, OER movement is beneficial to many learners and institutions. And I'm one of them~

I tend to use elaborations or metaphors/analogies to help understanding. It's way of grasping distinguishing features of our learning object through comparison and analysis. And can be fun~ Hope those metaphors in our video can work for explanation, and create a little bit fun~

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What's learning like in people's eyes

All the way through learning in R685, I have heard about different scholars talking about their unique understanding of WHAT IS LEARNING LIKE, such as "I participate, therefore I am". It is such an engaging topic for us to think about!
Except explanations from those dominant learning theories, the following are vivid,fresh and meaningful.

As I have written about, John Seely Brown represents the idea of LEARNING BY PLAYING. "We can make learning fundamentally fun."  He suggests an extension as what shows in the picture above. In the homo sapiens' world, tools are instruments in order to get something done; while the homo faber world begins to think of tools as a device to engage productive inquiry. A new notion is homo ludens, man as player. When learning like playing, learners are encouraged of being in freedom to fail, fail and fail again and then get it right, with their passion all the way. It's a play of imagination. They are also encouraged of learning as "riddles", leading to a reframing or re-registering of the world. The epiphany occurring in that process often maintains in the long-term memory.
Learning by playing indicates high motivation, full engagement, great freedom, lasting interest and concentration. I have been playing online games for a period of time. I was always thinking what makes games so attractive that players seldom get bored. There are stimuli from different dimensions: sense of achievements from every incentive, competition with other players, encouragement from peers, enjoyment of game contexts, etc, etc. All that I can come up with seems applicable to our learning as well. But very often it's not the case for us. Why can' t we learn like playing games? As long as touching the deep joy of learning, we cannot stop going on.

Another is Dr. Paul Kim, the researcher of mobile learning. He talks a little bit about his view of learning and teaching in the week 13 video chatting session. I'm not sure whether those pieces of words compose his entire opinion, or whether it is different from "learning by playing". But I think that is his deep-seated belief, which guides his research and his method to help those kids in the developing world. Let me introduce a little separately, as it is from a different but the same wise person. ^^
Call it LEARNING BY EXPLORING for a moment. Paul believes the ability of every child. He believes kids can explore and discover knowledge by themselves or by communication and collaboration among peers, without much help from the teacher. As to teaching, giving everything does not equal to learning everything; telling is not the true teaching. Teaching can somewhat shift to coaching, which provides students with adequate freedom to explore, to try and finally to learn.
We, as promising instructors, talk about individual difference from the very beginning of learning educational theories, but sometimes end up concentrating on our strategies, technologies, system models, etc, while the concept of learners almost throwing away. Maybe the role of teaching is not only coaching, but also tutoring or mentoring. Maybe education is not that powerful. What's truly powerful is men's ability to learn. Maybe teacher is not that important. What facilitates learning is the context and a desire to learn. Teachers facilitate those facilitators.

Ha, my thoughts are rambling...

Relevant Articles: 
John Seely Brown (2010, June). Closing Keynote at the New Media Consortium 2010
      in Anaheim, CA. A Culture of Learning. Gardner Campbell’s reflective blog post:; Video of keynote:


(For week 14.)
I have been holding a bias that the content of podcast is always audios. A correct definition for a podcast can be "a digital media file (or series of files) that is distributed over the Internet." We have podcast, as well as vodcast which adds video to the podcast. 
Audios add a different way to learn or layer of understanding for students. It's like the use of video, in line with the effect of dual coding theory. Cognition involves the activity of two distinct subsystems, verbal system and non-verbal system. Podcast extends learning beyond text to visual or aural memory, thereby fostering students dual coding of information (Paivio, 1986 from Lin, 2010).
Teachers can podcast to record lectures, summarize key points, show additional resources, etc. Students can use it to reflect their learning (as some of classmates have done), do projects, also show additional resources, etc.
In this respect, videos on YouTube can be called podcast. Blogs that contain videos or audios can also be called podcast. Podcast is a kind of broadcast. Then what's its difference from other resource sharing formats such as YouTube uploading and sharing activities in social networks? or is it a different dimension from them? I am slightly confused about this...

Suprisingly, I read from a survey in 2007 that 86.2% of the podcasters are males. Similiar phenomenon to contributions to Wiki. More than 90% pocasters have at least high school education. Similar to uploaders of YouTube. More than 80% are working full or half time and more than 60% are not single. Maybe work and love provide people with more experiences that worth sharing? 
Podcast is not that money-consuming, but there's a conclusion that "North American podcasters tend to spend more money on podcasting than European podcasters". I'm just curious about how to spend money on podcasting...
Podcasters tend to target their audience to a small group and they interact well with their audience, via email or blogpage. Almost every podcast comes with a blogpage, but podcasters distinguish themselves from bloggers (How about classmates who do podcasting?^^). 
People do podcasting mostly to share information or express their opinions.
In my eyes, podcasting is almost the same as blogging. The only difference is their formats of presenting information. One is in video or audio while the other is in texts.

Relevant articles: 
Mocigemba, Dennis, & Riechmann, Gerald (2007, July). International Podcastersurvey: 
       Podcasters - who they are. How and why they do it. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, 
Bonk, C. J. (2008, March). YouTube anchors and enders: The use of shared online 
      video content as a macrocontext for learning. Paper presented at the American
      Educational Research Association (AERA) 2008 Annual Meeting, New York, NY.
Jason Lin. (2010). The Open Source and Open Education Movement. Web 2.0 and 
      Emerging Learning Technologies from Wikibooks

Learning with mobile

(For week 13.)
This week we had a great guest speaker Paul Kim, from Stanford University. He has been doing abundant studies in mobile learning.

Most of his research is conducted in developing countries where children have few accesses to education, even fewer accesses to life of average standard. Paul developed a kind of mobile device with his group and sponsoring companies, and handed out these devices to each child. Kids were allowed to explore them without teacher's guidance, and in all cases they successfully got familiar with the use of devices through discussion and collaboration. Children can play different games in the mobile device, which involves the knowledge of math, language, etc. There are hundreds of levels in these games. Children can advance to next level by some efforts, but there is always another next level waiting to be achieved. Even Paul himself cannot achieve the highest level. It is such a great motivation for children to challenge, so as to keep learning.
These places for experiments are often poor areas. In some of them, electricity is available for only two hours a day. However, mobile devices need to be charged, and children have to connect their devices to a computer for updating of game programs inside. Paul talked to some univesity, residents and so forth in that area, to establish simple charging stations and computer service centers for all the kids. There are even some cute bicycles on which children can ride to charge their devices. The problem of sustainability seems almost solved.

This is really an amazing work that does help provide education to less developed regions, and gets satisfactory results. We may ask why it is mobile learning method that has been chosen, rather than popularizing computers or some other technologies. Paul considered that people in those areas do not have steady access to the Internet, electricity or even schools. Consequently, the benefits of Internet-based programs cannot reach these populations. Mobile technologies, on the other hand, are more economical, portable and flexible than traditional conputers.
I agree on its protability and flexibility, but cannot help doubting whether mobile technology is economical enough. Paul said each of these devices costed $50. Much less than a computer. However, although those children picked as Paul's experimental subjects have got access to mobile learning devices, many other children do not have the chance. If we think of generalizing mobile learning to all the developing world, who will take the charge of providing those devices and services? Obviously Paul cannot afford the large amount. $50 is not very much to US citizens and many other populations, but it can mean a lot to most of people who are still struggling on the poverty line. So, I really want to ask that in what circumstances can this mobile learning method be able to generalize?

Relevant articles:
Elizabeth Buckner & Paul Kim. (May 15, 2010). Storytelling among Israeli and
       Palestinian children in the era of mobile innovation. (to be pulished in) AECT 
       2011 Educational Media and Technology Yearbook. Volume 36.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Learning by playing

(For week 11.)
Some scholars, instructors or educators believe learning to be fun. "Learning by Playing" is such an intriguing and exciting slogan!
John Seely Brown said in a video that we can make learning fundamentally fun. When learning like playing, learners are encouraged of being in freedom to fail, fail and fail again and then get it right, with their passion all the way. They are also encouraged of learning as "riddles", leading to a reframing or re-registering of the world. 
Games provide learners with a new learning context, in which "recreation facilitates re-creation". 

Inspired by this idea, people are now applying serious games and virtual worlds in educational context. These games often use three dimensional spaces, allowing learners to step inside the screen of their imagining. Besides the visualization, serious games and virtual worlds also allow us the potential to: provide support for our learning communities; broaden our networks of learners; provide tools to support creative learning activity and experience design.
The possibilities of the 3D web include the capability to integrate these and other
2D tools and tool kits, to support learner-generated content, to enable sharing of content and to allow us to visualise more clearly different scenarios of practice.
Game-based and virtual world applications has the capacity for integrating with different media and interactive resources, as well as integrating with available social software and collaborative tools. This opens up the option for learner groups studying out of normal hours of learning, or beyond the timeframe of the course, and open up real potential for learning outside the standard institutional framework.
With all these merits, serious games are not necessarily perfect. Work to enforce academic rigour, analysis and synthesis, as well as meta-reflection and higher order cognition, needs to be considered in learning design.

Interestingly, much evidence shows there is no significant difference between serious games and face-to-face or blended learning. Multi-modes of learning often accelerated learning and longer retention of information results. However, some studies indicate that game-based learning can change attitude, and can be engaging and motivating for learners.

Relevant articles:
Bonnie A. Nardi, Stella Ly, & Justin Harris (2007). Learning conversations in World of 
      Warcraft. forthcoming in Proc. HICSS 2007. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from
John Seely Brown (2010, June). Closing Keynote at the New Media Consortium 2010 
      in Anaheim, CA. A Culture of Learning. Gardner Campbell’s reflective blog post:; Video of keynote:
Sara de Freitas (2008). Emerging trends in serious games and virtual worlds. Becta:
      Emerging Technologies for Learning, 3, 57-72. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Online rivals inperson

(For week 10.)
When talking about web technology for learning, we can never forget online courses. I myself am taking an online course this semester, which troubles me a lot, but also teaches me a lot. 

I have read about a study of comparing the online learning engagement between distance learners and on-campus students. Those conclusions are surprisingly applicable to my situation, the same as what I have experienced and observed. Distance learners tend to experience “higher levels of academic challenge and reflective thinking, gain more in terms of practical competence and in personal and social development“, interact more with faculty, and participate more in leaning communities and independent study (Chen, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2008). They reveal weakness in only one area - active and collaborative learning.  
As an on-campus student, I spent long time getting used to online learning, including e-reading, weekly discussion in the OnCourse forum and cooperation with distance students. Because I have to disribute my concentration to different courses, I didn't perform actively enough in group work earlier this semester. With the majority in our group being native speakers, I cannot understand many of their words typed during the group meeting. (We use breeze for meeting, but all of us tend to type...) I apologized a lot for my slow reaction in English. When I saw comments like "Shuya need more participation" in the mid-term peer evaluation, I was really embarrassed and stimulated. From then on, I tried to speak more, take more of the tasks, and reply to group emails as soom as possible. I don't know how much I have improved my performance or whether group members feel better about me. Whatever, I have tried my best...

This article mentions some recommendations for encouraging active and collaborative learning, which is from Dr. Bonk and Zhang. Online instructors can design assignments that feature group discussion, collaborative problem-solving, case studies, group blogging, team reflection papers, and debates. Assigning every student a "critical friend" in the class who provides feedback on course assignments is one way of ensuring that distance learners interact with peers. These are valuable online teaching methods that I need to write down and refer to when necessary.

Relevant articles: 
Chen, P., R. Gonyea, and G. Kuh (2008). Learning at a distance: Engaged or not?.  
      Innovate 4 (3). Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Videos as visualized educational resources

Life on the Internet can be quite colorful and entertaining. Some do blogging, some chat with friends, some have online classes, and some search for information. Someone found that 69% of internet users watched or downloaded video online; 14% had posted videos. Online video is playing an important role, not only in amusement, but also in education. 
Several reasons lead to the prevailing of videos. First, technology has rendered many of the processes of media creation, distribution, and consumption faster and less costly than ever before. Second, public expectations about the availability of media have grown to the point that many people consume and freely exchagne media property - including private, copyrighted property - each day in the course of their personal and professional lives. Third, new companies, enterprises, and initiatives regularly exert game-changing influence in film and elecrtonic media.
The most popular online videos are comedy or humorous videos, with 50% of online adults reporting to have watched. Educational videos has gained its proportion from 22% to 38%, between the year of 2007 and 2009. Older video watchers, in contrast, are more likely than 18-29 year-olds to spend their time watching news video and educational videos. They are just as likely as the youngest adults to upload video. And internet users with at least some college education are more likely to upload video than are those with less education. Someone describes our cultural shift today as one from book literacy to screen fluency where video is the new vernacular - a "world beyond words."
The copy right issue is always important. The majority uploaders are not concerned that someone might copy or use their video without permission (Just 15% are very concerned about potential copy or use of their video). This is in line with the feature of video sharing sites. The most popular sites for video uploading are social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook (52%) and video-sharing sites like YouTube or Google Video (49%).
Video is an important format of education resources. But videos are not systematically integrated to instruction. There is a demand for digital video assets among faculty. However, they lack identifiable, high-quality content libraries and simple, reliable tools for customizing the video to their curricula. Faculty report that they want to have a central role in determining and ideally customizing the content in their libraries. It maybe a feasible way for faculty and librarians to collaborate in the creation of video resources, with the support of advertisers.

Relevant articles:
Kristen Purcell (2010, June 3). The State of Online Video. Pew Internet & American 
      Life Project. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Peter B. Kaughman and Jen Mohan (2009, June). Video Use and Higher Education: 
      Options for the Future. 

Wiki, a place for creation, construction and collaboration

(For week 8.)
Wiki is a useful tool, including Wikipedia, Wikibooks, etc. "A wiki makes it easy to swap ideas and information on projects--whether for a family vacation or a complex business enterprise. A wiki opens the door to experts and shy silent types alike, increasing creativity, expertise, and productivity all around. Wikis end the waste of ricocheting emails and communication breakdowns--wikis literally get everyone "on the same page" (From

The article I learned investigates the relationship between users' behavior in Wikipedia and their cultural backgrounds. Findings suggest that cultural differences do exist in their computer-mediated communication (CMC). 
This article refers to Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory when discussing users' cultural background. The four dimensions are Power Distance, Collectivism versus Individualism, Femininity versus Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance. Power distance means the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
The Collectivism versus Individualism dimension describes the extent to which members of a culture rely on and have allegiance to either their self of the group. The Femininity versus Masculinity dimension deals with gender roles and their importance on individual and cultural levels. And Uncertainty Avoidance describes the extent to which people feel anxious or uneasy in unfamiliar or unpredictable situations.
With this perception, the research finds that:
  • The higher the Power Distance Index (PDI) of a country, the fewer deletions are made in that Wikipedia page (but the more likely there are bo be Spelling correction contributions).
  • The higher the Individualism Index (IDV) of a country, the less likely its people are to add or clarify information, and lower the IDV of a country, the more conributions can be found in the categories Add Information and Clarify Information.
  • The higher the IDV of a country, the more contributions are made by members of the particular Wikipedia page in the corrective categories Fix Link, Grammar,  and Spelling.
  • The higher the Masculinity Index (MAS) of a country, the more contributions in the categories Add Information and Clarify Information are found (In countries with a relatively higher MAS, success and progress are more important than in countries with a lower MAS); but the less likely corrective contributions are within Fix Link, Grammar, and Spelling.
  • The higher the Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) of a country, the larger the number of contributions is in the category Add Information; and the less likely contributions are in the categories Delete Link and Mark-up Language
This research is conducted among Wikipedia websites of France, Germany, Japan and Holland. I cannot help thinking of my country, China. In fact Wiki is not widely accepted in China, the same as facebook, youtube and some other social networks and resource sharing sites. The language maybe one of the reasons; the special consideration from the government is an important factor as far as I understand. We have our own online encyclopedias, and each page is strictly scrutinized. That differs from the freedom of Wiki. It seems a sad situation, for our connection to the world is obstructed to a large extent. 
Anyway, these findings must be applicable to Chinese computer-mediated communication as well.

One of the guest speakers this week introduced her research of using Wiki in early childhood education. This implies the application of Wiki in collaborative learning. It also promotes creation and motivation. In this way, students are constructing their own knowledge. A pretty effective teaching method!

Relevant Articles: 
Pfeil, U., Zaphiris, P., & Ang, C. S. (2006). Cultural differences in collaborative 
      authoring of Wikipedia. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(1), 
      article 5. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from

Friday, December 3, 2010

From brains to the net? Episode Two - Brains

Another article of week 7 that intrigues me a lot is Is Google making us stupid from Nicholas Carr. It arouses our attention to the impact we have got from modern technology, especially the Internet. 

Let's see what Carr holds in his mind:

He starts with the feeling of his brain being tinkered, his neural circuitry being remapped and his memory reprogrammed. 
All these are due to the way in which information is presented in online searching and surfing. Google is a representative. The Google way of information presentation is featured by hyperlinks. Unlike footnotes i academic articles, hyperlinks don't merely point to related works. Consequently, they may lead us to a page that has nothing to do with our original purpose. Online reading also put "efficiency" and "immediacy" above anything else. People browse through titles, contents pages and abstracts, to get information they need. This may lead to the lack of deep reading, and then thinking.

Yes, there are some relationships between reading and thinking. "Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. ... We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains" (Carr, 2008). So it can be predicted that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will differ from those woven its change to our reading habits. The Internet also distracts our attention by its specific way of appearing on the computer screen. All the things are shown in the less than 16 inch area right in front of us. Messages from email, IMs, or social networks can easily attract us from our reading on the computer. Our concentration is diffused.

Here are metaphors of the typewriter and the clock. Someone writes tighter and more telegraphic after using a typewriter. The prose "changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style." While since the advent of clocks, people started to decide their daily activities obeying the exact time. Their brains seem to operate like clockwork. Correspondingly, in such a digital era, we inevitably start to think of our brains as operating like computers.

I seem to be convinced by Carr to some extent. Thinking of the way we think now, I cannot deny that we tend to pursue the amount of information that we know access to, instead of having our specific view or profound understanding of a certain topic. Imagining that we don't have a clock, or don't have a computer, our life and our thoughts will obviously be different. 
However, does distraction and shallowness equal to stupidity? or is it the truth that our brains are entirely shallowed? I don't think so. On the one hand, we have not lost our ability of thinking critically and deeply, even though in many cases we haven't achieved a thorough understanding of something. And this kind of ability has gained great attention in many educational contexts (especially higher education), as a learning objective to be achieved. On the other hand, nowadays, knowledge can in fact be stored in books, webpages, online resources, friend's brain, and all kinds of networks. (Though I doubt the connectivism as a learning theory, it does tell some truth.) It is efficient to know where knowledge can be found instead of what it exactly is. The change in our brains saves storage space, and thus lead to a higher operation speed, which is similar to the positive correlation between operation speed and RAM memory space of the computer.

Relavent articles:
Nicholas Carr (2008, July/August). Is Google Making Us Stupid? Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from