Club Admiralty

v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

Academic Rigor Exposed

I was reading Jenny's post the other day on What is Academic Rigor and it got me to question my own conceptions of academic rigor.  I think many academics treat rigor just like supreme court judges treat pornography: They know it when they see it. I too have been guilty of not defining rigor, and just saying "oh that's not rigorous" when I recognize that something isn't rigorous (or at least I mentally categorize it as so). Some of the participants in the synchronous session that I didn't attend had their own conceptions of what rigor is (via Jenny's blog):
  • not for the faint-hearted; takes effort and commitment (Tom Reeves)
  • unchanging, in the sense that ‘rigorous’ means performing the same (type of) study every time, conforming to the same (set of) principles etc. (Stephen Downes)
  • more likely to lead to the truth (but what is truth?) (Stephen Downes)
  • disciplined, measurable, stands up to scrutiny by others (brainysmurf)
  • can replicate the methods (Tom Reeves)

When I speak of academic rigor, I am not talking about research, but rather what happens in the classroom. The question to answer here is: What is an academically rigorous classroom?  
The question has come up many times in the past, in many programs that I have been involved in. Sometimes the question is framed in an oppositional manner with face-to-face being pitted against online. Other times it's comparing two classes in the same program.

In interrogating my own thoughts and feelings about non-rigorous classes, I have come to the conclusion that to me non-rigorous means that students aren't set up for the long term. They are learning a skill, or picking up a piece of knowledge that has an expiration date (whether you know it or not).  A course that is academically rigorous sets students up to be able to interrogate their own assumptions, to continue to interrogate their own assumptions and previous knowledge when they leave the classroom, and to be able to be life long learners after they leave the classroom and they graduate from their program of study.

The same course can be rigorous or non-rigorous.  For example, if I am taking a course in design theory (any design theory), the non-rigorous approach would be to test students with multiple choice tests, and maybe short answers after lots of long lectures.  A potential rigorous approach would be to have students work on papers, position papers, or semester projects where the knowledge that they have gained can be synthesized with other knowledge, and students are expected to demonstrate that they can apply and extend the stuff they learned in class.

Even then, though, some people may read those final papers and say "this isn't rigorous," so I guess we're back to "I know it when I see it..."

Old Office

Nothing really dies on the internet :-)  Sometimes that is a bad thing, sometimes it's a good thing!
A few years back, I had wanted to join a social network (like MySpace and Facebook) but where the language was Greek.  I discovered a few like Zuni (facebook-like in that it was only for college students at the time, it's now defunct), and fatsa (Greek for "face" or rather "mug"). Fatsa never really did it for me because it was a bit like the TV show "Jersey Shore." Despite the fact that I have told this network numerous times to remove my profile, it's still there.  Well, lucky me, because this is one place I had put that photo I had mentioned in my previous post - the old office, affectionately known as the bat cave.

Thinking pose, in half-tone, circa 2003, alpha version

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Educational Research: Rigor AND Relevance?


I was reading a post that I came across on Change MOOC this last week, the title was Can Educational Research be both Rigorous and Relevant? This article was an interesting read for both people who are researchers and people who are practitioners. The main theme of the article is that research articles have been rigorous enough to pass peer-review but they haven't necessarily had an impact; and at the end of the day impact is what matters.

In general, I agree with the overall tones of the article. We do see a lot of research published these days - the article cites something like 1300 (approx.) education related journals in existence, and even if they had just one issue per year (which most don't) that's a lot of reading. The other figure that really stuck with me was that only 40% of those articles tend to get cited in other subsequent publications.

Two things come to mind here. While it is true that not all articles don't get cited, at least not right away, that doesn't mean that they aren't valuable to someone. Looking at my own citation index on Google Scholar I can see a big fat zero in terms of who's cited my articles. At the same time, I know that there are people who have used my articles, but their work doesn't require citation (at least in any way that citation counting services measure). I am also a young scholar, which means that I probably won't have much (if any) citations anytime soon. That doesn't discourage me from research and publishing on my own, and with the MRT.

The other thing that comes to mind is teacher, and professional preparation. It has been my experience that teacher prep, and even professional instructional designer preparation has been mostly a review of selected works that count as canon for that profession. Students aren't always encouraged to think outside the box (at least as far as the literature goes) and aren't encouraged to critique and think about the literature in a critical fashion. Once people graduate that also tends to be the end of their learning from research and access to research in many cases.

If we want research to have impact we ought to encourage our educational professionals to not just attend trainings and workshops for professional development points, but also encourage them to start looking at the research literature on their own and seeing what can apply to their own classrooms and environments. It's only through this that we will get more impact from our research literature. Our current model of waiting for certain gate-keepers (i.e. the people that train educational professionals in workshops and higher education classrooms) isn't working.

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Quick thoughts on IEML week

I don't follow the main presenters much on Change11 any more, partly because of the gaps in the schedule, and partly because some things seem like repetitions of previous topics...and partly because I started a new job and have little time.  I do however follow the daily newsletter and when I see posts from people that I've interacted with in the past, like Jenny, Jupidu, Jaap and Serena I put them on my reading list.  This week Jupidu's and Serena's posts piqued my interest in IEML.

Initially I didn't really want to deal with a semantic meta language for the web.  I've been hearing about the "semantic web" for quite some time now, and (honestly) I am getting a bit fatigued by it. Having read the quick overviews I decided to go in and read the chapters provided by Pierre Levy. I have to say that it is quite interesting.  Semantics isn't really my thing - don't get me wrong, I would like to like semantics (I find the study of semantics fascinating) but I haven't had enough exposure to be fully conversant in it.  The second chapter dealt more with topics that I have worked on before, including information organization, librarianship and knowledge management.  Chapter 3 I will be reading this weekend (and after that maybe read some of this week's Change11 stuff).

There is one problem, I see, with the current state of classifications: they need to be learned and applied. Folksonomies change - I mean look at my change11 posts.  My initial inclination was to use ChangeMOOC as the tag for my posts, until I realized that gRSShopper wasn't picking up ChangeMOOC and I needed to write #Change11 as the tag. For a time frame I used both, and now I just use the one that gRSShopper picks up. Folksonomies adapt, but taxonomies need to be learned and applied and people generally don't often want to do that unless they are professionals in records/information management and it's their job to do so (do I as a blogger want to categorize all my blog posts to a "t"? not really - I do just enough to get by).  Machine translation is still imperfect, so asking machines to auto-classify is not going to yield good results - so where do we go from here?

I don't disagree that a meta-language, some classification universals, can't be beneficial to all of us, but who does it? What's the "benefit"? and how do you prevent junk classifications, #like #the #people #who #hashtag #every #single #word #in #their #twitter #post ? - just some thoughts :-)

The New Office

This past week I've been trying like a mad man to find a photo that I took in 2005, using Photo Booth on MacOS 10.4 when it first came out.  At the time, I was employed by Media Services and worked with a great group of people.  Alas, my office was reminiscent of the Batcave. Despite being on the first floor there were no windows, the fluorescent lighting felt piercing to the eye (so I had some spotlights strategically placed in the office) so my office was a perfect candidate for a painting using chiaroscuro. It was also cold (year round!) a bit damp (not great for the media playback equipment that I had stored there) and the air quality was questionable.  This was the background of that photo.A few months after that photo was taken I switched jobs and went to another building.

This week (six years later) I am back in that old building, in a new job, but this time I am on the sixth floor (all the way up!), with a window that provides natural light, a private office that's not a storage area and temperature that's not in either extreme.  I thought of taking that old photo (done in halftone) and setting the photo frame to be the same as my old office  - amazingly the furnishings in the office are the same as my old office on the first floor so this compare and contrast works well.  Alas, I have yet to find the photo, so I have recreated the shot from memory.  Stay tuned for an "old office" post at some point :)

Yes, I do the thinking pose a lot...


Sensemaking in a MOOC

I had come across Jupidu's post on Sensemaking in a MOOC a while back, but I haven't had much time to respond to it just yet (until now I guess ;-)  ).  I was actually thinking of my participation in MOOCs in general; as well as the two MOOCs I am now participating in - those being Change11 and DS106.  I was actually thinking of points 1, 2, 4 and 5 in specifically and I thought I would do a bit of compare and contrast between the two:

  • Sensemaking works around identity creation – in every environment f2f or virtual I’m building my identity and this “self” is in continuous interaction with the environment and with the other learners as well.
  • Sensemaking works retrospective – I’m making sense out of experiences reflecting about them, as I’m doing it now with this article I want to write. And therefore sensemaking is influenced by my memory of situations.
  • Sensemaking is social – of course it is in the Mooc! I’m a kind of aware of some the learners who participate in the Mooc, who write in their blogs, twitter, discuss, think about the questions of the experts, reflect the online sessions, relate the inputs to their daily work, comment their ideas, …
  • Sensemaking is ongoing - yes, of course, we are in the middle of something, reinventing learning, cooperating … and at the moment we don’t know how this Mooc actually works – and we, all the Mooc participants try to make their individuell “sense” out of the Mooc

Even though DS106 does have a wonderful WordPress based community, I tend to not go on there as much to see what my fellow students are up to.  Part of this is a function of time - I don't have a lot of it, and the daily email recap that I get from Change11 does give me the headlines and I can pursue things in depth from there if I wish (this is in-fact how I found jupidu's post).  This mechanic influences how social I am.  While the DS106 tag does make my post harvestable by the DS106 elves that work in the background, it doesn't necessarily mean that I will be going to the site as often, which means I tend to be less social (than I should).  This means that, for me, DS106, sense-making is less social and more of a solitary activity.  Sure, there is some social element, but not as much as MobiMOOC, Change11, and CCK11 for example.

Sense-making is retrospective indeed, in more ways than one!  For example, looking at DS106 assignments, I find that there are quite a few of them that I've done in the past just by experimenting, but I didn't know that it was digital storytelling at that point.  It's a great opportunity to go back, pull some of those projects (or candid shots) and tell a story around them - a "making of" type of thing and perhaps how I've grown and learned more since then.

I guess, in the end, my sense-making in a MOOC works on a MOOC-by-MOOC basis.  While the underlying mechanisms may be the same, they act differently depending on what sort of situation I am in :-)

INSDSG 697 - Video Introduction

My video introduction to the research methods course (for instructional designers) that I am teaching this semester came in.  Yay!  Even though I think I could have benefited from some make-up, the video came out pretty good.  (if the embedded player isn't working, here is the direct link to the video introduction)


Blackboard SP8 coming soon

While I am not the biggest of Blackboard cheerleaders, using Blackboard Coursesites (with Mobile Learn enabled!) has really had a big influence in changing my perceptions of how good blackboard can be. Our evaluation instance this past summer, due in large part to our migrated courses looking like a truck ran over them, didn't inspire confidence, but my usage of coursesites over the past nine months makes videos like these give me a warm and fuzzy feeling (as both an instructional designer and an instructor).


Elmo's lonely


A couple of years back I was taking a lunch-time walk around the harbor walk which goes by my university campus. In the summer I walk every day (3-5 miles) at lunch time, but when the weather gets colder I tend to cut back. In any case, this was taken in the fall, it was a bit chilly and drizzling (not a big deal) and there he was, Elmo, abandoned (there are condos nearby so some kid probably forgot him).  I also saw this as a perfect opportunity to mess around with a free photo app that I had gotten for my iPhone.    I think the grayness really does bring out how bad the weather was (no one else was around outside) and a generally jovial toy monster is longing for his owner to come back and get him.   


Blackboard Mobile wishlist

This is my first semester teaching (yay!) and since we're eventually migrating to Blackboard Lean 9 on my campus I've decided to be part of a pre-pilot using Coursesites (fantastic and free service, by the way, if you are looking for a free LMS).

One of the perks of coursesites, that briefly was taken away from us last year but is now back, is access to Blackboard Mobile on iOS, Android and Blackberry (hopefully a windows phone version soon?).  In any case, since I don't have a computer at home that I regularly have access to, I tend to use my iPad and Blackboard Mobile to keep on top of things.  While Bb Mobile is a great app, it does have a few shortcomings that I hope Blackboard addresses in the near future.  Some of it is (or should be) easy to implement, while other things might need a little more work on the back end to make feasible.  So here is my laundry list:

What's New and Due
This is a great feature of Bb Learn - it essentially gives you (student and instructors) the ability to see what's new in the course you are taking (or teaching).  Announcements, calendar items, tasks to-do, as well as new discussion board forums, new assignments, and new content are easily available in a new dashboard format.  In Bb Learn however you are just given a "view in browser" link.  Now while the iPad may be OK the iPhone and other narrow screen devices are not.  It should be easy for Blackboard (Bb from here on out) to make this data easily accessible and format it for the appropriate display. It shouldn't be a "view in browser" feature, but rather should be integrated into the app.

Attachments (dropbox integration):
The nice thing (at least on iOS) is that in discussion posts (and I assume blogs and journals) you're able to add attachments to your posts.  The only problem is that the only type of attachment you can have up to now is a photo, which is pretty limiting.  If I had dropbox integration I'd be able to attach documents that I have on my dropbox into my blackboard course so that my students could use them.  Or, if I were a student, I could submit a paper that I have stored on dropbox for a course assignment.

Course wiki, Messages & Live Classroom:
Nice features, but they suffer from the "view in browser" issue that What's New and Due suffers from.  This needs to be addressed.  In addition, Live classroom is based on Blackboard connect (formerly Elluminate) which means that you need Java to run things. There needs to be some sort of iOS client for these types of synchronous conferencing tools.

Assignments, and Grading:
Assignments suffer from the "view in browser" issue that What's New and Due suffers from, obviously there needs to be something native for mobile to access and submit assignments, preferably with some sort of Dropbox integration so that students can submit their assignments via mobile.  There are a number of word processing (and note taking) apps that leverage dropbox on iOS as their storage mechanism, so it would make sense for Bb mobile to be able to pull files from dropbox as valid items for submissions.
Grading is not an available option on mobile.  Canvas (a competitor LMS) has a nice app (SpeedGrader) that allows you to log into your course, see what's submitted, annotate it, comment on it, and grade it, all from the comfort of your iPad.  With apps like GoodReader having shown us that is it possible to annotate, save and re-sync PDFs into your online storage location of choice (and with Canvas' precedent), I don't see why there aren't any instructor friendly options in Bb mobile.  Now granted, it's early in the semester and papers haven't come in yet (give it another month), but it would be nice to know that I don't need to go to a desktop to receive papers, annotate them, and send them back to students with their grades. This stuff should be seamless on a tablet :-)

Discussions, Groups & Assignments (creation):
Not doable on Bb mobile, you do get the "view in browser" option which does work remarkably well, however it would be nice to get some native functionality to create new discussions while on mobile (something that doesn't require opening a browser window), creating a new assignment, and creating groups on the go.  It seems like Bb mobile has been created with course management in mind (at least to some extent) once all the hard work of setting up the course has already been done through a desktop/full browser client.  It would be nice to see some of that functionality trickle down to the tablet (without having to squint at the screen) :-)