I’m taking my first MOOC — Massive Open Online Course

[I] just signed up for the first MOOC I’ll have been any part of. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Several different educational consortia now offer quite a few such courses. The course I’ll be taking is E-Learning and Digital Cultures, from a team of “tutors” at Edinburgh University in the UK. A course description from the Coursera website:

“This course will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice.”
More info at: https://www.coursera.org/#course/edc

The course starts next week, and runs for five weeks. I just received an email confirmation from the course team today, and they shared that they now have over 260,000 participants enrolled in this one session alone!

One of the hallmarks of MOOCs is that they are nearly all free, as this one is. It is coordinated by a consortium of universities founded by two faculty members from Stanford University, named Coursera, at www.coursera.org.

Here is a short video overview of the course:

(3 minutes)

Using dance in place of PowerPoint to illustrate complex concepts?

I just saw a fascinating presentation about creating more powerful presentations by NOT using PowerPoint. Indeed, the talk illustrates the point by using live dancers on the stage with the presenter to help illustrate the points of the message. The speaker, John Bohannon, is a microbiologist, and has started a contest called “Dance Your PhD,” encouraging science researchers to employ professional dancers when speaking or illustrating their concepts to a live audience. Search for this term on www.youtube.com and see some of the winning entries.

I think you will enjoy and appreciate this TED talk.

Amazing 3D Solid Object Printers

[T]echnology continues to amaze me. Here is a short documentary about how a huge variety of working machines, tools, and other objects can be created and reproduced by a resin-based 3D printing system. Just imagine its applications for creating working models, prototypes, visual aids, and even production items for distribution.

Recently I was able to observe one of these machines in action at one of our local high school technology labs. Instructors were using it to help students create visual models of molecular structures.

Want to buy your own 3D printer and try it out? Here are some commercial sources:

Watch this video to see a printer reproduce a working, usable, resin copy of a large crescent wrench. Wow!


Five Minds for the Future – Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner portraitHaving discovered Howard Gardner’s work (Harvard University) a few years ago, particularly his theory of multiple intelligences, I have been keenly interested in following further developments in the field. I am now reading a more recent book he wrote, Five Minds For The Future.

I recently discovered this interview Dr. Gardner gave for the Australian Institute for Company Directors, where he discusses a bit of the history of the book and what implications it has for educators. I encourage you to listen to it and ponder, as I have.

You may also be interested in Dr. Gardner’s blog at www.howardgardner.com.

Disclaimer: While I believe Dr. Gardner has done some fascinating work that has value in its application, I have also discovered that Dr. Gardner and I diverge significantly in our views of human origins, society and politics. I have discovered elsewhere that Dr. Gardner celebrates Charles Darwin as perhaps the most significant investigator of our time. I, on the other hand, believe that science has failed to support Darwin’s  hypotheses of macro-evolution. Dr. Gardner is also a strong proponent of socialism, stating elsewhere some radical views on income redistribution that I find abhorrent (see his interview with Richard Heffner). Nevertheless, I find his work on the five minds fascinating and compelling, while drawing significantly different conclusions about applications.

[EZWebPlayer VideoID=85a51180-0bd7-4098-941b-3f3a3c32b2c7/]

Hand-drawn illustration of a talk and making it a video

In an earlier post, I shared Mr. Daniel Pink’s talk on his book, Drive. I discovered this additional version of the presentation. I believe it is the same audio track, but an organization named RSA has modified the video to be a very innovative, hand-drawn-on-a-whiteboard illustration of the talk. I find it fascinating for its communicative value. The site where you can see more illustrated talks is www.theRSA.org.

Here is the illustrated talk:

Using free online videos for teaching and learning

Here is a good article about how a number of higher education instructors are using freely available online video to enhance the learning experience for their students:

Instructional Video for the Budget-Constrained Classroom

I have similarly employed online videos that I didn’t produce myself into my own courses. Not mentioned in the article is a special educator’s video site dedicated to teachers, called TeacherTube. Although a lot of it is aimed more at K-12 teachers than higher education, you should check it out as well. Yet another source for inspirational and faith-based videos is GodTube (also known as tangle.com). Another useful site is Vimeo, although you may need to search a little harder to find what you might be interested in.

For example, here is a clever video on Vimeo, created by a high school senior as part of his class assignment, to encourage other students to take Calculus. Enjoy!

Calculus Video from Brian Sewell on Vimeo.

From the student author: “At the end of my senior year in high school, our Calculus class had nothing more to do after we had taken our AP exams, so our teacher tried to fill the time with a small “busy work” project. She wanted us to make something practical to help teach Calculus to other students. Lots of people just made posters with a definition on it, others worked a little harder and made a board game… Justin Hendricks and I made a rap. We recorded it and played it for the class before the thing was due, but we weren’t finished yet. We decided to make a video accompanied by a music video portion to show the class. Since we graduated, our video has been played every semester in everyone’s Calculus classes. Gotta love it.”

DRiVE: What motivates us (and our students)

I have become quite a fan of Daniel Pink. In an earlier entry here, I shared his presentations on his book A Whole New Mind: How Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. In this entry, I want to share a recent TED presentation he made about his newest book, DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Here he shares what science has been telling us for years about intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Management science in business, at least until fairly recently, has focused mostly on reward-punishment extrinsic motivational approaches (bonuses, commissions, contingent salary raises, etc.) to try to coax better performance from workers — and we as teachers, I believe, tend to expect similarly motivated behaviors from our students.

However, Dan points out that decades of research proves that people perform best when they are intrinsically motivated — for the enjoyment and/or fulfillment provided by the activity itself. Three important components of intrinsic motivation are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

I encourage you to watch the following presentation and read the book to learn more about this fascinating topic.

Mental Enhancement Drug Use Increasing on College Campuses

I was somewhat caught off guard with this CBS News 60 Minutes segment from their April 25, 2010 program. It describes how an estimated relatively large proportion of college students are misusing prescription drugs to enhance their mental abilities for exams, term papers, etc. The more common drugs are Adderall and Ritalin, which are commonly prescribed for attention disorders. They estimated that over a third of college students today have used them at least once, and the percentage climbs to over half of all students. This may be something we as professors and administrators need to be more aware of and concerned about.

Watch CBS News Videos Online