Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Wikipedia, Wikibooks, and all of the other Wiki products available online are the epitomize the collaborative nature of Web 2.0. Together authors draft informative articles, books and definitions available to all who have an internet connection for free. Also, unlike discussion boards or other prominent communication tools on the web, wiki's promote cooperation and consensus. People are encouraged and to discuss and work out differences, eventually reaching a consensus.

There are some skeptics of wikipedia with regard to its accuracy and scholarly integrity. I have personally witnessed this skepticism when completing my undergrad degree a few years ago. When I cited wikipedia as a source of information in one of my papers, the professor cried foul, saying that it wasn't a legitimate source. The fact is that the accuracy of Wikipedia has been studied, and it has been found to be as accurate as other sources. In fact, in the article Studying Cooperation and Conflict between Authors with history flow Visualizations (2004) the authors determined that vulgar material and mass deletions of information are corrected in less than three minutes on average. I would also argue that wiki resources are better than traditional reference materials because they are flexible. If new information comes out, the wiki's are easily corrected, where an outdated encyclopedia lives forever (until someone throws it away).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

YouTube, Videos, and Instruction

"A picture is worth a thousand words". No truer words than than this have ever been spoken with regard to education, specifically with the availability of YouTube and other free video sources on the web. With millions of educational videos available on demand, teachers can easily integrate powerful videos into their instruction to enhance the depth of learning. The vivid depictions in videos offer an experience for the learner that isn't possible through reading or lecture; "a picture is worth a thousand words".

In his article, YouTube Anchors and Enders: The Use of Shared Online Video as a Macrocontext for Learning, Dr. Curt Bonk discusses the effectiveness of videos and a number of potential instructional strategies associated with video clips. These strategies include instructor based uses, as well as student centered activities. Most commonly, videos can be used as an instructional primer, to act as an anchor for instructional material, or as an ender to reinforce what was taught in a lesson. Students can also be assigned to show relevant videos. This serves two-fold, to facilitate discussion as well as empowering students to take charge of their own learning.

Overall, YouTube and other sources of video available on the internet are, and will continue to facilitate student's interest in learning, while enhancing the depth and effectiveness of education.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Open Education Resources

The availability of Open Educational Resources (OER) has exploded recently. MIT has made its entire curriculum available to the public and many other universities have followed suit. David Wiley of Utah State has created an interactive course called "Introduction to Open Education" and made it available to any who want to participate, with students from all across the world signing up. The explosion of OER isn't just a phenomenon in the United States, as many other countries across the globe have also made strides in this endeavor, including China, Japan, Vietnam, as well as countries throughout Europe and Latin America.

A few questions remain in my mind; however, with regard to the use of OER in the classroom setting. First and foremost of which is, are teachers aware of and do they know how to use the vast resources now available? Although I haven't been in a K-12 classroom in many years, I suspect that much of the same sort of teacher centered instruction remains, with little collaboration and use of OER. I think that teachers need to be made more aware of OER resources and their possible uses in the classroom. This may be a tall task considering the slow rate at which educational institutions seem to embrace change. The key may be to include considerable OER training throughout the schooling of new teachers entering the field of education. I also believe that it would be very helpful if OER experts and instructional systems technology staff were hired at each school, or even each school district to train and assist teachers.

I realize that resistant teachers aren't the only roadblock to the use of OER in classrooms. There needs to be better systems of cataloguing and organizing OER so that teachers can easily find material that suits their needs and share material that they've created. In conjunction with this, Open Courseware needs to be made more flexible, that is, designed in modules versus courses, and educators can use various modules to supplement, not replace, their curriculum.

All in all I believe that OER will become more widely used in schools as teachers become more aware and more familiar with its use, and as a result education will imrove.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Free and Open Source Sofware/Courseware

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has transformed the software industry. The collaboration of passionate "hackers" has resulted in the availability of high quality software applications for all. The benefits of FOSS include free or reduced cost, no user restrictions, and a consistency with the academic values of openness and sharing. However, as it relates to free and open source courseware, the greatest benefit is providing a successful model capable of harnessing IT to improve learning.

One of the keys to the success of many FOSS projects is that they are embedded within a community that supports the project, one another, and continually improves the product. Similarly, for free and open source courseware to improve it must be supported by an active community to collaborate, help one another, improve the products, and to spread the word about courseware applications. This community must include teachers, students, administrators and instructional developers. Robert Stevenson, a community manager for curriki.org, believes that for open course communities to thrive they must:

-Achieve active community collaboration and participation.
-Include students in the communities.
-Have the ability to modify and improve resources.
-Incorporate assessment to drive improvement.
-Provide easy ways for communities to make contributions.

When all of these are accomplished, communities supporting open course software will become stronger, and it will transform education, much like FOSS is transforming the software industry.