CoSN 2012 Conference: Day 1

CoSN 2012
Opening Plenary
Doug Thomas, the co-author of a New Culture of Learning, provided his insights into where education needs to head. These days you hear the word “learning” more and more. It’s very deliberate. For years we talked about education referring to what goes on in schools. Today there’s a realization that learning happens any time, anywhere. We need to break down the boundaries and think about a life-long process that is more than just formal education. Doug, like Dewey and others who have spoken to these issues, looked at how learners have passion and “fun” when they’re imbibing information that connects them to something where they have an interest or passion. We need to get back to learning situations where students, teachers, administrators, feel that passion and excitement about something. Doug also addressed some other issues based on his research. The common term today is to create communities of learners. He addressed the difference between a community which has no long-term focus and therefore only has a short life time and a “collective” that continues since it has a purpose. He used visual metaphors to communicate his thoughts. The “petri dish” represented his vision for the classroom environment. It’s important to have boundaries in which students can cultivate their imagination. Key to the process of learning is asking meaningful questions. Learning should be inquiry-based allowing students to connect to the passions by probing and investigating real world problems.
Marc Edwards, the superintendent from Moorsville, responded to Doug’s presentation. Marc shared a real-world view where students can be successful, but we cannot forget about achievement. The school community looks for results. In Moorsville the use of technology with a vision for learning has produced an increased graduation rate and improved test scores. Students are engaged and are demonstrating their success.
I find as I listen to most of the presenters, I’m realizing how much I sound just like Doug Brown or Marc Edwards. I turn around and my colleagues sit in agreement. There’s really no discourse. We’re beginning true believers. It’s wonderful to hear people that you read about and realize how much you agree with their findings and words. However, we really need someone to shake us up and make think about what we haven’t heard.
The Horizon Project
Dr. Larry Johnson shared via a series of visual images and metaphors the key trends, megatrends, that are guiding our future course. According to Larry Johnson the New Media team outlined the following directions we’re heading:
  • The world is becoming increasingly global and collaborative;
  • People expect to work, learn, socialize, and play anytime and anywhere;
  • The Internet is becoming a mobile network;
  • Technology is moving to the “cloud” and we no longer need to worry about access;
  • Openness blended by transparency is now a value, not just a trend.
Larry pointed to a major challenge for all of us – Our strategic thinking is based on a world that no longer exists. He then shared what the “Network” that connects our world is becoming for today’s learners. The network is invisible; it’s everywhere; it’s us.
I always use the Horizon Report as part of my teaching at Carnegie Mellon (CMU). The report highlights six key trends for higher education and for K-12 education. I’m waiting to hear about the K-12 trends. The Higher Education trends align well with my current thinking. In the next year we’re looking at the rise of tablets and mobile learning. Down the road we need to address personalized learning and learning analytics.
Personalized Learning Using Open Content
Richard Baraniuk from Rice University shared his work that is moving towards personalized learning. I’ve used a video showcasing Richard’s work in my CMU classes. I’ve been following his efforts for the past four years. It was quite exciting to hear him in person and to ask questions. Richard used the metaphor (Do you see a theme here?) of the coral reef. We need to have an organic model for learning that allows rich growth and diversity. Richard has developed Connexions, a database of over 20,000 lessons and 1,200 courses. The goal for his project is to personalize the learning experience by providing:
  • Timely feedback;
  • Diverse remedial/ enrichment materials;
  • Automated feedback that does not use the existing rules-based systems that are based on Artificial Intelligence
Behind Connexions are new understandings of learning from the world of cognitive science. Richard tested out his ideas in his engineering course a Rice. He found that the architecture, PLS (Personal Learning System), produced improved achievement for his students. He hopes to push out his project and enter the K-12 world.
I’m going to try to connect with him to see how the Dynamic Resource Portal (DRP), my major effort for 3 Rivers Connect (3rc) can be linked to this project. We are going down parallel paths.
Believe it or not, that was just the morning. I had to rush out of Richard Barnniuk’s session to join a select group of CoSN folks who were invited for a private meeting with Sir Bob Gelfhoff. Bob was delayed. He was at the World Bank where he was receiving a check for $200 million to set up an equity fund for Africa. Sir Bob is a former rocker who has always had a passion for the underserved. He outlined his life and how he found his passion. It’s a great story and someday you’ll turn on your TV to see a made for TV movie about Sir Bob. His passion is something we all need to emulate.
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