|Some people are wondering when I will post to TravelinEdMan again. How about tonight? Perhaps.
Why have I not been blogging you ask? Well, after finishing my Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Blackboard back in May (see blog post with archive), I have been working on a book on online motivation and retention using my TEC-VARIETY model which I hope to give away free as a PDF and sell cheaply in Amazon CreateSpace as well as Kindle. One chapter left to write--on goal setting and yielding products. Each chapter takes about a week to write up. Hope to be done after I get back from the 28th Annual Wisconsin Distance Teaching and Learning Conference next week. Will I take a break from writing and hang out in Madison, Wisconsin next week and jog along Lake Monona and Mendota in early August? Yes! But I will try to finish the book before I leave or right after I get back. Then, it will take a few months of editing (and cutting) and copyediting before it I get the book done. I wrote too much....as per usual.
In the meantime, below is my unabridged interview by David Berning from Big Think which took place a few weeks ago and was posted yesterday. Some of you might want to read the article that appeared in Big Think, Extreme Learning, Matrix-Style. It was, in fact, the lead article in a set titled: "Today's big idea: Disrupting Education" (see list of these article).
First, I think I must explain how this interview came about. My
team and I have been tracking Big Think as part of our extreme learning research and
contacted them to help us collect survey data on informal and extreme learning (you can take the survey, in fact). A couple of wonderful people at Big Think replied that they wanted to
talk to me about the research we were doing. Since only part of my reply is in that article in Big Think, I thought I would post the full response here in my TravelinEdMan blog.
is Big Think you ask? Some might check out their Wikipedia page or their YouTube Channel. Bascially, Big Think includes short video interviews, multimedia presentations, panel discusions, and blog posts of hundreds of intellectuals around the planet. If you browse through it, you might find information on topics like stem cell research, happiness,
global warming, technologies or foods of the future, etc. See the About. I heard that some of the founders have experience with producing the Charlie Rose show on PBS. It shows. Suffice to say, this Website is top notch. I remember some of their early interviews when I first explored it around 2007 were with folks like Richard Branson from Virgin
Airlines and Deepak Chopra. People now listed in their expert list include John Seely Brown, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Larry King, Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom (IU Professor, recently deceased), Ken Burns, James Gleick (author of "The Information"), Salman Khan from the Khan Academy, Dana Boyd, Jimmy Carter, Gloria Steinem, and many other artists, novelists, neuroscientists, filmmakers, politicians, and economists. Way cool.
This is the age of the open education world. Websites like Big Think are playing a huge role in that openness. It now focuses on topics like the future where my interview appeared as well as history; life and death; love, sex, and happiness; science and
technology; the environment; beliefs; media and the internet; identity;
politics and policy; etc., among the experts of the world. I definitely plan to use this resource in my emerging learning technologies class as well as my class on learning theories.
For those interested in shared online video sites, see my portal listing of nearly 80 such sites.
Ok, now, on to that full interview with David Berning from Big Think (and remember, you too, can take our informal and extreme learning survey).
interview of Curt Bonk, Instructional Sytems Technology Department, Indiana University, by David Berning, Big Think.
(Please Note: Resulting article in Big Think can be found here: Extreme Learning, Matrix-Style, Posted August 2, 2012.)
David (Big Think) Q#1. What is, in
your opinion, the main purpose of education? Is this purpose being fulfilled
today? How can the integration of technology better serve this purpose?
Curt Responds: Among the chief goals of education is to help the human
species deal with unique problems, issues, or situations as they arise.
Education offers possibilities for reflection on the credibility, appropriateness,
relevance, and reliability of information sources. The education person knows
when she knows, what she knows, and how to obtain information and new skills
and competencies which she presently lacks. And that is where technology often plays
a significant role. Learning technology, when thoughtfully integrated, can
assist in efforts to seek, find, and filter knowledge that is appropriate and
timely. It can share the cognitive load with the learner by offering cognitive
maps of key concepts, interactive timelines and notecards, images and graphs,
assorted referenceware, and sequenced data upon demand. Technology supplements
and augments what the learner already knows.
Today, much of the dialogue about education is about
catching up to those deemed ahead on various standardized test scores.
Unfortunately, most highly used tests measure the basics and not much beyond.
Web-based technologies, however, can give us all the information we need within
milliseconds. When we can have the equivalent of the Library of Alexandria in
our pockets on an inexpensive flash drive, we must begin to question exactly what
should be taught and ultimately what knowledge is. As the forms of such
knowledge-based technology multiply and reduce in price, a new dialogue needs to
open up about the benefits and intensions of education.
The purpose of education has swiftly pivoted from knowing
what something is to knowing how to find out about that thing. The basic tools
of knowledge discovery are now Wikipedia and other wiki-like tools, YouTube, Facebook,
Twitter, TED talks, online news services, digital books, and a vast array of online
learning courses and modules.
David (Big Think) Q#2. Your study
focuses on understanding the motivating force technology can have on the
learning/teaching process and the capabilities it has on sharing knowledge and
information. What exactly do you wish to do with the results of your study?
We hope to create a space for sharing stories of how
technology has impacted one’s life in a significant or life empowering way.
Such cases and stories can be used to inspire others. We want people to imagine
new careers and discover how learning opportunities on the Web can lead them
there. We plan to put these s
tories, with proper permission,
of course, into a book or report that is indexed across ages, cultures, and
learning situations. Whether one is a young person or more experienced adult,
we hope to build an assembly of stories that anyone can use to find role
models, new learning vistas, and innovative ideas about education. We intend to
help open up the educational world to people who have had it closed for far too
long. Open educational resources, opencourseware, open content, open source software,
open access journals, and so on, bring immense possibilities for change. The
world is now open for learning as I discuss in my book, “The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing
I also want to document aspects of human development during
the lifespan that heretofore have been hidden from view. This particular goal
will admittedly take much more time. However, we are living longer and there
are myriad more ways to learn today than just a few years back. It is likely
that there are not only human learning gains from the expansion of learning technology
and open content on the Web but also wholly new forms of human development that
need to be revealed, mapped, and understand.
David (Big Think) Q#3. You distinguish
between two separate types of 'informal teaching/learning methods' in your
study: simple self-study and "extreme" learning. Can you briefly
elaborate on distinction of these terms?
We are attempting to distinguish between everyday
informal activities such as looking up travel or health information in a
Wikipedia page or finding an article in a learning portal on Shakespeare, Hemmingway,
or Jane Austin, from something that is much more novel and unique which we are
calling extreme learning. An example of extreme learning happened to me this
past May when over 4,000 people enrolled in a course I was teaching for
Blackboard using their free course management system in CourseSites. The course,
“Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success,” was focused on
how to teach online and people who completed it got a badge (registration
remains open; in addition, a recap of the course can be found in my blog
You might think that 4,000 is a lot of students. So did
I. However, there is a course on social networking this summer at Stanford with
over 400,000 students. And last fall, a professor at Stanford taught an online
course on artificial intelligence to over 160,000 students. Not too
surprisingly, the success and potential of such massive open online courses or
MOOCs has fostered a number of new ventures including Coursera, Udacity, and
Udemy. Those wishing to stick to branded universities are in luck as MIT and
Harvard recently formed a new partnership to offer such courses through edX.
Other forms of extreme learning include teenagers
navigating the globe as solo sailors and keeping up with their high school
studies using Skype, satellite phones, and other technologies. Another example would
be when researchers in the Amazon provide educational resources and blog posts
for kids in schools to read, analyze, and respond to. Still other forms of
extreme learning are evident when a researcher listens to a podcast of a chemistry
or physics course while involved in a scientific project on polar ice. Perhaps
you have heard about people who bike ride through the Americas and blog about their
adventures. Or maybe you have been one of the millions of people around the
world signing up to take or teach a language in Livemocha, Babbel, or The
Mixxer. These, too, are examples of extreme learning.
David (Big Think) Q#4. Surely, it
could be argued, that the internet exposes its users to a more distracting
environment than what is experienced in a classroom setting. Is this a problem
you have witnessed first-hand with your students? Does this argument at all
hinder the appeal of online learning and its overall efficiency?
Curt Responds: Sure. There are times that I have to ask my students to
turn off their screen or power down their devices. However, one might also
think about how to enlist their services with the technology that they bring
into the classroom. For instance, you might assign someone the role of “Google
Jockey.” The person in that position might find and display Web resources and
tools as you mention them in a lecture or as a small group is presenting their
project or ideas. In effect, instead of banning various technology that
learners bring with them, you are endorsing it. With such a policy, the learning
resources of the course dramatically expand.
Another Internet problem is being distracted by
inappropriate content. There are trillions of pages of content on the Web. If
just one percent could be used in education, there would be more content than
anyone could ever hope to use. What each instructor and every department should
be doing is finding and agreeing upon 20 or 30 of the highest quality Web tools
and resources (e.g., The Encyclopedia of Life, the Khan Academy, The British
Library “Turning the Pages” Website, TED Ed, LinkTV, Big Think, The New York
Public Library, Sophia, MIT OpenCourseWare, Open Educational Resources Commons,
Impossible2Possible, Polar Husky, Earthducation, iCivics, MedTube, Livemocha,
BBC Learning English, etc.). Once selected, they should design innovative and
pedagogically engaging curriculum activities around these resources and
My research team and I have been finding and rating
hundreds informal and extreme learning Websites during the past couple of
years. We are looking at the learning potential, scalability, novelty of the
technology used, content richness, functionality of the technology, uniqueness
of the learning environment, extent of technology integration, and potential
for life changing experiences. If successful, we think we can alter and perhaps
elevate the discussion about online learning quality.
David (Big Think) Q#5. What are
critics' primary concerns about the integration of technology and education? In
your opinion, are these concerns valid?
Curt Responds: There are many issues that have been repeatedly raised
for decades. Among them is the cost. Once you purchase laptops, iPhones, or Smartboards
for a particular learning purpose or need, at some point, they will need to be
upgraded or replaced. This is an expensive undertaking, especially in these
tough monetary times. However, if technology can help to blend the learning
environment, thereby reducing the time for face-to-face instruction, it can offer
significant monetary benefits.
Second, is the concern about technology replacing
teachers or the entire school or university. Some charter and innovative school
programs, for instance, are experimenting with different types of blended
learning. With blended learning, students might learn online as well as in
physical buildings wherein lab assistants handle student questions and concerns
instead of higher priced teachers. Naturally, there are debates about the
quality of such instruction and the role of traditional teachers. Despite the
debates and concerns, I expect that this trend will accelerate in the coming
years. The role of the teacher will dramatically shift as basic skills are
handled with computer technology. Teachers will play a more vital role in higher
order tasks. For instance, such instructors will orchestrate online collaboration
activities with students and classrooms around the world. I predict that
increasingly, teachers will be concierges, tour guides, and expedition leaders
who find content and make it available for learners to explore, instead of
force feeding them with precanned lectures and prepackaged content.
A third concern related to technology in education is the
continued digital divide. Many students lack technology access at home and
hence are often behind their peers in both technology-related confidence and
skills. As a partial solution, stimulus monies in many communities (including
my own) were used to get an iPad or laptop for all children enrolled in lower
SES schools. But such initiatives are only going to have a modest impact
without proper teacher training.
A fourth concern relates to the types of technology tools
that should be integrated. The arguments made between using technology for
basic and higher-order thinking skills began decades ago with Skinner machines,
were extended in the 1980s with the emergence of hypermedia and multimedia, and
persist today with in the world of the Web 2.0 and beyond. Fortunately, the
tools for collaboration, interaction, engagement, and authentic learning have proliferated
in recent years. Still, many educators and politicians view learning technology
strictly from what it can do to help boost standardized test scores.
David (Big Think) Q#6. Where can
readers go to learn more about you and your study?
They can explore our extreme learning research project
Once there, they can read our recent conference papers, explore extreme
learning Web resources, tools, and projects, and scan through the interests and biographies
of those involved in the project, including my own
They can also read some of the life changing stories that have been shared to
Labels: Big Think, e-learning, extreme learning, Informal Learning, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), motivation and retention, research, TEC-VARIETY, the Matrix, Wisconsin Distance Teaching and Learning Conference