Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Educause Learning Initiative Conference Day 3

On Monday, I walked into the very first talk to find a ballroom full of round tables encircled by chairs rather than the typical lecture format of chairs linearly set up throughout the room. I could have my laptop open, typing notes (making these posts easier to write) during sessions set up like this, but the real purpose of this format was, as we [the conference attendees] were told, was to promote dialog and continue discussing the ideas presented during the talk even after the official talk ended. “New Learning” forms were also scattered throughout tables for participants to write down new insights they may have had during the seminar. I’m really curious to find out what people said on these cards. As convener for two sessions at ELI, I encouraged people to fill these out. Convening (I didn’t fully know what it entailed until I arrived at ELI) gave me the opportunity to get to know some speakers and their areas of research/interest a little better, dig a little deeper into topics that interested me, and play a role besides Newbie Student at the conference.

The ELI 2007 conference has come to an end, but I’m being sent back to Fairfax armed with tons of information and new insights in learning and technology. Time and time again, social networking sites (particularly Facebook) were addressed and scrutinized as to how (and if) these in any way could be used in an educational setting. More statistics: 55% of online teens have created a personal profile online, but they’re not leaving everything open to the world: 66% limit access to their profiles, according to Tracy Mitrano of Cornell University (you can read her entire study here), and 48% visit social networking sites daily/more often. If (she seemed excited about this possibility) schools could adopt a model similar to Facebook, she believed it truly could be used to enhance students’ learning. It’s obviously popular with the kids. What do you think?

So to tie these postings together with my experience at ELI 2007, I’m using a method of evaluation (reflection) which was the focus of a session (Dialogical Reflection in the Digital Age) which I convened today. No, I’m not being “graded” on this post, but it really is helping to synthesize everything I just learned over the past 3 days with my previous knowledge of instructional technology concepts. Erick Marmolejo and Jim Phillips’ research revealed reflection as a catalyst to learning, but presented the many challenges with reflection. Their findings echoed a lot of the techniques I’m encountering in my graduate program. I’m required to create, maintain, and evaluate my own e-portfolio as well as evaluate the portfolios of my peers twice per semester based on a rubric given by my professor. In another class, the students are divided up into groups and, using BlackBoard, my group provides feedback to a partner group after they make a presentation (and vice versa). I’m also required to keep this blog of reflections on my Immersion experience. I think it’s very valuable and I’m looking forward to reflecting more this semester and reading the entire thing, say, a year later. The session turned into a discussion for the last 20 minutes or so, and it was interesting to hear how students, both graduate and undergraduate enrolled in different academic programs, were evaluated at other universities (and their attitudes toward evaluation). Jim emphasized the rubric idea, as well as calibration of your observers -- ensuring your students can accurately evaluate statements. For example, this would include giving the students poor work and ensuring their comments line up with this, as well as ensuring the evaluators are abiding by the given rubric. Hm. I like that idea. But what about graduate students -- is this necessary for them, or should educators assume that by graduate school we're capable of making an accurate evaluation?

Lastly, I’m going to post the titles of books that I wrote down during the conference -- books that will go on my “To Read” list (despite the fact that I probably won’t get a chance to look at them until after graduation!):

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (National Research Council (U. S.) Committee on Learning Research and Educational Practice, National Research Council (Corporate Author), John Bransford (Editor), Ann L. Brown (Editor), Rodney R. Cocking (Editor)

The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market (Frank Levy, Richard Murmane)

Reflection in the Writing Classroom (Kathleen Yancey)

Thanks for reading!


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