Final Thoughts

We have reached the end of the ONL course. It was an interesting experience and I am happy to have tried out and have given my contributions.

The online collaborative work was difficult and not always worked. To process of developing an online team takes much longer time than the process of forming teams working with face-to-face meetings. So it was no surprise that collaboration didn’t work out of the box. I work in European project where most of the interaction occurs via be-weekly teleconference. However, every 3-4 months we meet in person so we can accelerate in person the process of team building. Building the ONL course was too short to allow for this process to happen.

The most important finding for me in this class was to understand how difficult to learn online. I have never taken a course like this and this class showed me what are the challenges for students. The main difficulty is that student is let to decided when to do the actual work for the course. Time management has been the number issue for me in this class. I have taught three classes this semester and between research and administration duties has been difficult to find time for the course. I ended it up in doing all the work on Saturday or Sunday or after work.

One of the most positive aspects of this class is the fact that it made me use blogging framework and discover the pleasure of writing or at least investigate more artistic part of my personality. I have done humanistic studies (greek, latin, philosophy) and used to write long essay. However, after carrying out the engineering school I lost contact with this part of myself. To write in the blog was a nice experience and I think that will continue in the future.

I think that google plus worked well as a forum where people posted things and give feedback. However, I found the interface is not very pleasant and somehow simplistic. On the other hand, it is not as invasive as other platforms like facebook. I am still not sure if I will keep using google plus after the class ends.

Twitter was nice. I have followed the American presidential election with it and it was lot of fun. It could be an useful tool for dissemination of conference and events. Tweet chat can work but not in the way that has been proposed in the course. To have bunch of people waiting for people to tweet is frustrating. The best way is to do it when you are on the subway or when you are doing something else.

The adobe connect experience was OK. It easy to set-up and widely used in Sweden and other European Institutions. The main problem I had with it is the interaction of adobe connect with other similar tools, like pexip (the other KTH videoconferencing tool), skype and webex. As soon as I use one this, sometimes the microphone or the audio in adobe connect stops working. So before joining a adobe connect call, I always need to restart my laptop. After all, maybe it is good thing to restart the system.

Overall good course that made me know many new things!

 

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Blended Learning

In the last two weeks, we have been working on designing a course for introducing high students to the world of University. We have tried to experiment the use of digital white board but after some experience we roll back to the presentation in google docs. It was fun to try the digital white board but it would have been difficult to make a presentation out of it. It just looked messy, confusing an without a focus. I doubt that it could have been of real help to new students.

One of the topics we touched is the Blended learning topic. Blended learning is the augmentation of traditional learning approaches with media and internet technologies. Blended learning still requires the presence of both teacher and students and traditional face to face meetings in class. Flipping classroom is still a kind of blended learning but more extreme as lectures are online and instructors are present in class for helping students during their assignment. Blended learning is a more incremental approach and probably the way to go when it comes to the future of technology.

Blended learning is based on an effective use of technologies in class. I am a strong believer in technologies and I think that as a teacher I should open up to all new and experiment. However, as inexperienced person it is easy to overdo when it comes to the use of technology in class. In reality, some of the tools are not really needed but they are just a surplus. At the end what really matters, it is the content. It is important to explain in simple way and appeal different kind of learners. This is somehow more difficult in online learning but several new tools and approaches are becoming more and more available.

Where I can see a future in online learning technologies is the part regarding to automatic assessment of student assignments. I teach computer and many homeworks consist of designing and implementing codes. Instead of having a TA downloading the codes, compiling and running them, it would much better to have a code doing that for you. There are platforms that can be used to check the output of the code, how much time it takes to run and its usage of memory. Webcat is one of the most famous platform. Also stepic is rather popular tool. MIT released its own platform for automatic assessment of assignment. Another possibility is to use student peer-grading. This semester I have used the https://www.peergrade.io platform and I found it extremely well done and useful. It is a tool with no bugs and software-wise much better developed than all the software we are often required to use at the school.

Overall, I believe that technology will be more and more present in class and courses and I can see how this will be done incrementally via blended approach.

References and websites

  1. web-cat tool for automatic grading  http://web-cat.org/
  2. stepic tool for automatic grading https://stepik.org/
  3. http://news.mit.edu/2013/automatically-grading-programming-homework-0603

Collaborative learning

In the last two weeks, we have been working on defining collaborative learning communities and activities. We have been focusing on identifying tools to improve collaboration online, understanding difficulties and obstacles that might preclude an effective collaboration and also understanding the role of the teacher in the online learning collaborative environments.

Overall, after two weeks of work on this topic I feel enriched by the experience. The major benefits of the course are still coming  from practical aspects of the course like being exposed to different techniques and tools. I find quite intriguing the use of virtual white boards [1], that Kaye introduced to us. Also, an ONL group used the videoscribe [2] tool. I like to give lectures on white board as all the lectures I had in my pre-ppt studies have been done at the blackboard and I think that are more effective than dry power-point presentations. I need to try and understand how much time it is going to take me to prepare a presentation on the virtual white board. At the moment, to prepare a whole 10 minutes video lecture including the preparation of the ppt slides requires me between four and five hours of work.

But, let’s go back to the online collaboration topic. This is a topic I am intrigued about. I am a computer scientist and lot of the collaboration occurs  necessarily online with people you never met and you will never meet in your life. People know you for what you do and how you do it, easily understand if you are fast learner or a slow brain who does everything carefully. There is space for any kind of learner and this very reassuring. You can take your own pace. Taking an analogy from a famous software engineering book [3], there are basically two kinds of collaborative communities. The first community is the cathedral community that works on the realization of a master plan, carefully checking code, debug it and test it. Information is released in one big chunk on established dates. Pretty much like building a cathedral. The second collaborative community is called the bazaar community. This community works on a common well-established kernels, continuously and independently extending functionalities and fixing the bugs as soon as they find them. Today the bazaar model is taking over as online collaboration and networking tools are more common. Codes are exposed to thousands of independent developers making the development much faster and the code less buggy.

One of the issues I can see in the online collaborative learning is how to teach and lead in online communities. These communities are strongly decentralized and authorities are sometimes not well-accepted. Somebody established by an Institution as teacher, professor or instructor in virtue of his/her studies and career achievements is often challenged and sometimes erroneously corrected. Once in 2010, Gene Parker, who developed the revolutionary theory of the solar wind, was telling me that he wrote a document on the solar wind on a wiki for the solar physics community and he found out shorthly later that the document was largely rewritten by people of the community. He was quite sad about it. So, collaboration in old way,  is clearly not really feasible online. Online collaboration is fast and sometimes impulsive. In fact, nobody would ever question Gene Parker in person. So the question is how much the teacher and professor needs to change to appeal these “new generation” collaborative communities. I am slowly becoming better in accepting these new way of collaboration. But sometimes, I think that it is not the right way to go into the future.

References

[1] – Realtime board – https://realtimeboard.com
[2] – Video scribe http://www.videoscribe.co/
[3] – The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Essay by Eric S. Raymond

MOOC

This week I have learnt in detail about MOOC. I heard this acronym in the first face-to-face meeting but I didn’t really know what it was about. Then, after the meeting I have asked my colleague and he explained what this MOOC means.

I have realized that my students have been taking MOOC since three years ago. They take courses offered by Coursera. Last night my student sent me an email. He was very happy that he passed the class on computer architecture. It was tough but he made it. I have never taken a MOOC but I should plan to take one. I guess that people need to try everything in their life.  I think that I will face the same problem I am having now in this class. I will ended up in taking classes and courses on Saturday and Sunday night when all the “high-priority” stuff is somehow under-control.

I have checked few lectures from MOOCs. It surprises me that video-lecturers have very different styles. This makes me happy. I thought that there was just a single way to video-lectures with slow pace and clear voice. Instead, I have realized that the most successful video-lectures have all their own style and also their preferred tools.

I think that MOOC is really something beautiful that I would never imagined when I was a kid. It is almost like in a science fiction book. Alien populations will judge our civilization on the quality of our MOOC 🙂

Joke aside, I am wondering what it will be after the MOOC thing. I think that it will be mostly based on augmented reality where reality and computer reconstruction are merged together. Something like Pokemon-go or google glasses. We will experiment things in (virtually) real conditions with superimposed images, sentences, thoughts. I think that it will be great. Maybe, it will be something different. It is late and it is difficult to think about these things.

Nice surprises of this week:

A person from South Africa posted on the google+ website a book by Salman Khan, one of my idols. I downloaded the book. Also, I went to the khan academy website an I found it very different from several years ago when I was using it. Now it is more pro. I like it better before because it was more genuine and naive. Why people need to improve things and make it not so good for some people? Anyway, I have subscribed (it was not necessary to subscribe before) and the big plus is that I receive emails from Salman some time to time. The last email I received was very cool. I printed and read it in my office. It was about why you should not say to a student that he/she is great. Nice reading.

I am learning new tools that I am going to try. I will try TED-Ed to edit my video lectures. An also I am going to experiment pixton to prepare comics for my classes. I need to check how exactly is used in the University but definitely it will be something creative.

One of the things I have learnt is that there are many MOOC platforms. In particular, class central is a big container for MOOC platforms. I will check it together with my students.

Last note: I am learning new things just monitoring google+ ONL emails. To learn something new every day makes me very happy.

PS: I finally realized in the last call that blog post should be at least 500 words to pass the class. I need to fix the first post that was OK – I guess – but not enough material :(.

 

Digital Literacy

In the last two weeks, we discussed about digital literacy that is the set of skills used to interact effectively with a network of devices living in the cloud.

An interesting concept was that one of digital natives and immigrants. Working in computer science, I feel like I am more a digital native. Since I was a kid I have followed the advances computing and network. I have always been amazed by the technology. Sometimes I am dreaming about future technologies.

Prensky makes another distinction about digital residents and visitors. I use one social media that is Instagram (now also google plus for the class) and it is not really for network building or socializing. It is more to keep track of some time in my life, the place I saw and the food I had. I do leave traces of myself  (or at least what I want people see about myself) in Instagram so I can be considered a digital resident also. However, I am not really happy about this. I receive continuously invitations to participate to this and that social network website. There is a flooding of invitations, some I can avoid but other ones I can’t really avoid, like this google plus. I think people are just exaggerating with this social networks.

An important point I want to discuss in this first post is the creative common license that was also one of the topic of the webinar I have attended. A Creative Common (CC) license is a copyright license that allows to share and use a work done by somebody. It is important to have clear ideas about licenses and intellectual properties online. Sometimes, it can happen that for one lecture we use an image prepared by somebody else and the intellectual property and the right to use should be considered. Search engines for music and imagines with CC license are available online. For instance, one can use http://search.creativecommons.org/ to look for images and music. Also Flicker and google in the advanced search tab allow to look for images and music released with CC license.

References

Prensky, Marc (2001). “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”. On the Horizon. 9 (5): 1–6. doi:10.1108/10748120110424816.

http://search.creativecommons.org/

This is a first post when I still didn’t know how I was supposed to write post entries for the blog. I keep it for historical records and because it is what it could be in an hypothetical parallel world.

What is digital literacy? Is it very necessary to your life or does it make you happier? Do we really need a digital literacy to know that whatever we write on these blogs and google plus is used to sell us stuff we don’t need?  Is digital literacy the sad thought that we have no right to private and intimate moments once online ? Is the highest form of digital literacy refusing to use any unprotected network (that basically is almost the totality of the networks) ? Is Snowden right ? Does digital literacy inevitably lead to a technological Luddism?

I hope to live enough to see quantum communication protocols in place. That’s what I said to the taxi driver in Manchester when talking  about the danger of the Internet.