Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Collaboration and Interaction Online

At the very core of success and innovation in teaching and learning are the principles of interaction and collaboration. I have constructed this blog to link to resources that will address and give examples of various aspects of these two important principles.

Each of the posting titles is linked to relevant resources for the topic. In the right column you will see an aggregation of current postings on three of the blogs I publish daily. Each of those blogs is intended to promote engagement in new and innovative practices, concepts, and research in online learning and the associated educational technologies.

Comments are enabled so that we can continue the dialog ~ the collaboration and interaction ~ in the future!

Active Learning Online

Active Learning is all about engaging students in higher-order learning activities. Study after study has shown that when we actively engage the students in the process, they learn and retain more. The linked blog covers a wide variety resources and approaches including:
  • The Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Social Constructivism in Online Learning
  • Connectivism - a new learning theory for the digital age
  • Social Software
  • Mode Neutral pedagogy
  • Learning Management Systems and Web 2.0
  • Power Point as an Active Learning Tool!
  • The Revised Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Web 2.0
  • Assessing active learning
  • Some strategies for implementing active learning

Best Practices in Digital Design

As we design our classes, we need to approach the process from the student's point of view, given the knowledge and information we have gleaned in the topical area over the years. We are charged with finding ways to enable the student to construct their own knowledge from the information we provide. And we are best served if we can find ways to engage the students and make the materials relevant to their interests and futures.

The site linked to the header of this post leads us to a wide variety of approaches in designing our classes.

Strategies and Activities

There are an unlimited number of ways in which we can implement the principles we have examined regarding active learning. The site linked to this posting is one with many examples of strategies and even more of activities that might be pursued or adapted to engage students in active learning.

The Exponential Rate of Technology Change

Moore's Law is famous because it has held relatively true over nearly 50 years - that the number of transistors that can put put on an integrated circuit increases at a logarithmic rate (doubling about every two years). This has had an incredible impact on the speed, capacity, and price of computer-based technologies. One of the leaders in advancing technology over the decades has been Ray Kurzweil. Linked to the title is a TED association that applies these principles to the future.


The Flip Video camera is one of those technologies that has the potential to alter the way we do many things in education. Imagine a tiny video camera with image quality superior to most all cell phones, but of a size that fits in your pocket. Imagine that it has all of the software built into it to edit video and upload to the Internet. And imagine that it has its own little flip-out USB connector so that it can work with any PC. Imagine that it costs ~$125.

Imagine how instructors might use this (i.e. guest speakers recorded at conferences or elsewhere). Imagine how students might use this (i.e. to capture their own video and produce video reports to illustrate their class projects).

Here's a video my good friend and colleague Burks Oakley and I recorded last year.


What about collaboration? Imagine that all of us in higher education were willing to share some of our learning objects with others. Wouldn't it be great to have access to some of the lectures, simlulations, and other objects that our good colleagues developed elsewhere in the world? And wouldn't it be even better to be able to share some of the instruments we create for our own classes with others and to know that they were being used at other universities (what a nice tidbit of validation to put into a tenure/promotion file!)?

MIT OpenCourseWare

How about taking the idea of Merlot a step further and putting all of one's course materials online. It could become a kind of open source of learning materials for all kinds of classes. You could share lectures, assignments, reading materials, and more; everything but the academic credit itself. MIT initiated this kind of project some years ago. It has picked up some followers at other institutions. There are useful materials to be found in some of these classes!

Online Lectures Listings

Open Culture is a blog format listing of hundreds of lecture series from a variety of colleges and universities. It is organized by subject matter. Many are in iTunes; others are in YouTube or simply in MP3 format.


As long as we talking about sharing materials from universities; how about think tanks? TED is sort of that; Technology, Entertainment, Design - the theme of this organization that brings some of the best and most inspiring people together to share ideas. TED describes itself:

We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

So they have made videos of many of the presentations at their conferences available online - and, they are adding to the collection every week.

Wikipedia - the validated version

One great way to engage in professional collaboration is to join a project that is tackling a task that is so large that it seems impossible. The task is to evaluate and asses - editing where necessary or appropriate - the millions of articles in Wikipedia. Citizendium is attempting to develop a validated version of the largest publication online. Led by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sangar, you are invited to share your expertise in this massive project. The world will thank you!

Collaborative Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations

A great office suite that is - for the most part - both upload and download compatible with Microsoft Office is provided (free) by Google. These applications enable online synchronous and asynchronous collaborations in preparing materials.

In education, these tools provide a great way to track group projects, to follow the writing of theses and dissertations, and to collaborate with colleagues at other institutions.


RSS is relatively little understood, but hugely important as a mode of online dissemination and syndication. It is the foundation of disseminating podcasts, blogs, wikis, and many other Web 2.0 objects. The potential exists for RSS to revolutionize education by creating courses in which students continue to learn and interact long after the end of the semester.

The header of this posting links to another presentation blog with more information about RSS.

Virtual Eve - future teacher

Virtual Eve is an avatar that is linked to a web cam mounted on the screen that the student is facing. Software interprets the facial expressions of the students and prompts the avatar to react appropriately to these affective, non-verbal cues.

The header of this posting is linked to a YouTube video of Eve in action. If you click on the "more information" words to the right of the YT video, you will get a more full expanation of the project - describing what may become an online teacher of the future.

Alternative Search Engines

Nearly all searches (more than 80%) are conducted through Google and Yahoo! But, there are a number of alternative search engines that are emerging with features that are more interactive and engaging than the leading two. Some of the technologies and approaches in these search tools may bring about changes in the way that even the leaders in this field approach searching.

This is especially important because one of the most common activities online is searching the Web. By making this an interactive and collaborative experience, we will begin to influence other processes online to become more active and collaborative.