6 things you need to know before starting your online graduate degree

Next month I'm writing my comprehensive exams and wrapping up a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development with a concentration in Education Technology Leadership. I learned a few things along the way about distance learning that will benefit others thinking about online learning. Here are five things to consider:

Textbooks: Buy or Rent?

Digital rentals sound like a great deal. You get use of the most current text, usually for six months, for less than the cost of the print text plus you have access anytime and anywhere you have an internet connection. Reader apps include markup tools and the ability to annotate with margin notes that you can share with others. The ability to search within a chapter or the entire text for keywords is very handy, and bookmarks are synchronized between all your devices.

On the down side, you need an internet connection unless you "check out" sections prior to being off-line. Printing is limited, though generous and your access is limited to the rental period. The latter is a serious consideration when it comes time, a couple of years down the road, and you're wanting to review for your comprehensive exams. While you can still access your margin notes and highlighted items, you no longer have access to the text. There are no short-term rentals to renew, say, for a month or a couple of weeks and there are no discounts for renewals.You have to pay the full cost again. While digital rentals are less than a new book, the savings is not always that great. maybe 25% off a print copy.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Well, digital books are very handy when it comes to searchability, markup and sharing features. If the book were available as a PDF or ePub which you could keep forever for the same as, or a little more than the rental, I'd jump at that for sure.

Course Management Systems: Accessing Past Work

Online learning spaces like Moodle or BlackBoard offer a lot of tools for sharing content and engaging with other students. Discussion boards have a rich store of thoughtful questions, many considered responses, and robust debates about course issues. It is also the repository for lecture materials, links to supporting resources, and the syllabus.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to archive anything and courses are often archived the following term. That means you no longer have any access to those materials. No lectures, no syllabus, nothing. Unless you have made notes while you read, or copied and pasted (and formatted, because that is often a messy affair) you have none of that course material.

Keep a record of your own posts, particularly if they contain important ideas and research. On a couple of occasions I've been able to refer back to previous course contributions and revisit those ideas in the new course.

Citation Manager: You Need One

Best. Thing. Ever. Really. There are many out there, but I use Mendeley. I have a research folder on my computer that the Mendeley program monitors. When a new PDF file appears, it scans for author, date, journal, title, etc. and makes it searchable in my Mendeley database. I can read, markup, annotate, and make notes within the application and it syncs with my mobile so I have everything there too. There is a Word plugin that inserts citations and a bibliography with a couple of clicks. The web interface lets me create research groups and share/receive documents from others.

This tool has saved me countless hours of formatting and I have even received several compliments on my APA compliance from different instructors in different classes. Mendeley even recognizes when and how to change inline citations with multiple authors after the first instance, and when to use elipses for six or more authors... it's amazing.

Really. You need Mendeley.

Online Group Projects: Strategies to Make it Work

You're likely to have some group projects and they are great opportunities to get to know people from around the world, and to explore online conferencing tools. Skype is good for one-to-one meetings, but it's hard to beat Google Hangout for larger groups. Add in the ability to screen-share and synchronously work on documents, and Google offers a rich palette of collaborative tools that are well worth learning.

In your first group hangout, take some time to get to know each other. Talk about work and family, holidays, interests, etc. It's important to make those personal connections and builds a sense of trust and community. Talk in broad terms about the project and determine each other's strengths. Come to some agreement about how to approach the assignment and some vision of the final product.

Set up a Google Doc for sharing initial ideas, research, draft writing, marginal commentary, etc. At the top of the page, copy and paste the assignment description and assessment rubric. Set out one page with a section title for each part of the project. Plunk in information as you find it in the relevant section.

An important piece of this is keeping track of research and references. Set up a shared folder and upload the research you find and use. If everyone is using GoogleDrive, these will sync for all people on the share list. If you set the folder as a Mendeley watch folder, it will also automatically be added to your database! We would cut and paste the citations in APA format at the bottom of the document - it is really helpful if everyone does this in APA format, or whatever is required of you, right from the start. If you use web-based articles, take the time to make the citation as you grab the information. Don't just plunk in the URL, it's a pain to have to re-look up stuff when you're near the end and putting together the bibliography.

In the GoogleDoc, don't worry too much about the formatting. Have someone from the group copy and paste the document into Word. There you can format much more easily and you can take advantage of Mendeley's features to insert all the citations and generate the bibliography. It is also worthwhile to have someone to rework the paper from top to bottom to give it one voice, particularly if the group has each written a section and you're tacking it all together. My preference has been to get everyone to contribute to each section, then have one person wash through it. Then pass it along to a second person to proofread and clean up and finally to the whole group for a last polishing.

Make Connections

Part of the fun of online learning is connecting with classmates. In face-to-face learning, your peers are often from the same city. It is not uncommon in online learning, however, to share the virtual learning space with people from all over the globe. As a Canadian  enrolled in an American university, I've worked with people from all over the USA as well as learners that were living at the time in Israel, Norway, Spain, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. I was also able to continue my studies while in Australia for 12 months. Many of us have connected on LinkedIn to maintain professional contact. Several have connected on Twitter as part of a professional learning network, and a couple have made their way into my Facebook feed as friends.

One of the criticisms leveled against online learning is the lack of face-to-face contact, yet, having experienced a significant degree of both, there is no doubt in my mind that I engaged with more of my peers, and more deeply, than could ever happen in a classroom setting. Imagine being in a classroom where you are discussing a topic with the person beside you. You get the one conversation and may receive a brief summary of the others when groups report to the class.

Now imagine being privy to every one of those conversations, and having the ability to participate in them all too. Now imagine that those conversations aren't limited to a three-hour class on a Tuesday night; these conversations are on 24/7. That's what the online learning space is like. It's intense, it's deep, it's overwhelming at times, but managed right, it's tremendously satisfying.

Grad School Battle StationPrepare your Battle Station: Or "office", whatever you want to call it

Online work tends to be mostly, well, online. Your lectures are online, the syllabus is online, the discussion boards, research library, marking rubrics, group meetings, work documents... it's all on the computer and you're going to want to look at more than one thing at a time. My laptop has both an RGB port and an HDMI port. That lets me add two monitors to my workstation; think of it as having a huge desk with a massive bulletin board. I routinely have my course management system (BlackBoard) showing the assignment criteria, my digital text rental for connecting my writing to the course readings, Mendeley for managing other research and citations, Word or Google Docs (or both) for the writing task at hand, and Chrome for research. I tried using a single screen and task bar to flip from one to the other, but, transition time between tasks, even when pursuing the same goal, requires task-reorientation, and introduces risk of distraction. (See my article on  multitasking.) While there is a lot of visual stimuli going on, task-reorientation is minimized because no previous task has to be hidden and the time to switch tasks is reduced to fractions of a second.

 

Have you completed coursework online? Any tips or strategies to share? Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

PDF24 Creator    Send article as PDF   

Multitasking effects on learner achievement

Multitasking effects on learner achievement, the motivations driving multitasking and strategies for mitigating multitasking’s negative effects

Precis: The best way to multitask is to not to.

Abstract

Multitasking is frequently used as a strategy for accomplishing more with time, however, few people realize gains in productivity when multitasking. This review of current peer-reviewed journals, gathered from the Education Source and ERIC databases, sought to define, and understand the effects and motivations for multitasking, then identify strategies for mitigating multitasking’s negative effects. Motivations to multitask come from the gratification of staying connected, perceived efficiency, and entertainment. However, no studies were found that identified any performance benefits from multitasking beyond practicing habitualized, routine tasks. Some cognitive, behavioral, and pedagogical strategies are identified that mitigate, but do not eliminate, multitasking’s negative impact on learning and performance.

“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”

Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Letter IX, London, April 14, 1747

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3361/3361-h/3361-h.htm

Introduction

Lord Stanhope’s letter illustrates the longstanding concerns about multitasking. Even the earliest education journals studied the issue of distractibility and spreading attention too thinly (Bailey, 1889; Denio, 1897; Henderson, Crews, & Barlow, 1945; Poyntz, 1933). With digital technology, not only has the issue persisted, there are concerns that the impact on learning is even greater than before (Bowman, Levine, Waite, & Gendron, 2010; Fox, Rosen, & Crawford, 2009; Levine, Waite, & Bowman, 2007). Ubiquitous, always-on technology is changing the way humans engage with information and interact with each other. While offering tremendous personal and social enhancements, it also demands an increasingly greater share of our attention.

Historical Context

The term “multitasking” became well-known in the late 1980s describing a process by which computers could process several tasks simultaneously (Scott, 1985). Over the next decade, multitasking was used to describe an individual’s management of more than one task at a time and was seen as a desirable skill at home and at work (Chiavenato, 2001; Frand, 2000; Gray, 2000; “Multi-tasking with your baby,” 2001).

Multitasking refers to the choices people make about when and where they focus attention while attending to more than one task (Kenyon, 2008). The urge to multitask arises when more than one goal must be accomplished at more or less the same time and the individual has to balance pursuit of all goals independently and without cues to change tasks (Burgess, 2000). “Media multitasking” is the term used to describe multitasking that involves at least one form of digital technology (Judd, 2013) or, more commonly two or more forms of technology (Brasel & Gips, 2011; Lin, Lee, & Robertson, 2011; Rideout, 2013).

Cognitively, human multitasking is better understood as task switching, or continuous, often rapid redirections of attention. (Firat, 2013a, 2013b). Multitasking, it seems, has three dimensions: direction, duration, and depth.

Direction

Attention switching between tasks having different, unrelated goals are those that serve either to replace or interrupt study; attention switching among tasks related to achievement of the same goal serve as companions to study and advance the learner toward his goal (Benbunan-Fich, Adler, & Mavlanova, 2011; Levine et al., 2007). Benbunan-Fich (2012) further categorized patterns in changing attention direction as sequential (completing one whole task after another), interleaved (alternating between portion of multiple tasks), and embedded (completing one entire task within the timeframe of another task).

Duration

Time on task is one dimension of multitasking measuring the time between task switching. Salvucci, Taatgen, and Borst (2009) present a continuum of multitasking based on such measures that can span fractions of a second to several minutes. Short time spans between tasks are seen to be more simultaneous or concurrent involving cognitive control of attention while longer time spans are more sequential and operate on a more rational level. Duration of a switch affects the individual’s ability to return to the original task and is also dependent on the complexity of the task.

Depth

Rapid task switching has given rise to the notion of “continuous partial attention” (Stone, 2009) where an individual is aware of several stimuli but deeply engaged with none. Activities with low demand on working memory allow individuals to more rapidly switch and scan for points of interest. Where task complexity is high, though, the time required to make cognitive shift is greater and the new task is more likely to displace the old task from working memory requiring the individual to reorient herself to the original content (Salvucci & Taatgen, 2011, p. 116; Salvucci, 2010).

Significance

Effects of Multitasking

Despite the allure of multitasking’s supposed benefits, there is considerable empirical evidence demonstrating its impact on achievement and performance is largely negative.

Instant messaging while reading increases the time required to complete the reading task accounting for the time off task (Bowman et al., 2010). This is attributed to ineffective attention, the time required for interruption recovery, and time needed for task re-orientation. Bowers (2000) also described how task performance was slowed when concurrently processing more than one message. Introduction of novel stimuli can cause draw attention from the primary task at hand as cognitive capital is invested in making sense of the new information (Cheshire, 2015) such as occurs with push notifications from a digital device.

It was found that during independent study periods, a students’ average attention to tasks was less than 2.5 minutes (Judd, 2013). These findings were mirrored in IT specialists who averaged only 3 minutes between tasks (Salvucci et al., 2009). Shorter time on task and more frequent interruptions introduce a state of cognitive crisis (Firat, 2013a, 2013b; Stone, 2009) and reduce the depth of engagement (Rosen, 2008).

Exposure to new information elicits the slow onset of a cognitive phase of reflection and evaluation. Gilbert (as cited in McLarney-Vesotski, Bernieri, & Rempala, 2011) describes how a learner examines new information against existing schema. Individuals with low multitasking ability, in highly stimulating environments, can have this process interrupted resulting in incorrect or inaccurate judgements about the situation. Studies of an individual’s ability to recover from interruptions reveal that the more challenging the task, the harder it is to transition back to the original task after attention is diverted (Salvucci, 2010; Trafton, Altmann, Brock, & Mintz, 2003).

W. Zhang (2015) measured a negative correlation between laptop multitasking and the learner’s midterm grade. Self-regulation as manifest in the learner’s control over laptop multitasking was also found to affect grades. Several other studies support the conclusion that multitasking during class and self-study are correlated with lower achievement (Burak, 2012; Gaudreau, Miranda, & Gareau, 2014; Jacobsen & Forste, 2011; Ragan, Jennings, Massey, & Doolittle, 2014; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013; W. Zhang, 2015).

Negative impact on grades from multitasking affect not only the multitasker, but other learners in the same space. Close proximity to media distractions can negatively impact learning through distraction and some content is more distracting than others (Lin et al., 2011; Sana et al., 2013). Serious, somber, or banal content is less likely to create distractions than attractive, funny, or engaging content. The negative individual and proximal effects on others are made clearer in light of the user’s activity with on-task usage accounting for less than 40% of undergraduate’s time using a laptop (Ragan et al., 2014). Similarly, Benbunan-Fich and Truman (2009) found only 13% of an employee’s laptop use during meetings reflects “compliant use”. The introduction of what is likely more engaging stimuli than a class lecture or office meeting pulls attention away from the primary goal.

Analysing interviews with undergraduate students, Bardhi, Rohm, and Sultan (2010) categorized both costs and benefits to multitasking as identified by the participants. Those interviewed recognized multitasking’s inefficiencies and potential for distraction. They also describe the chaotic nature of rapid task switching and an obsessive connection with the device which pulls them away from being cognitively and emotionally present in their physical environments.

In addition to impact on learning, multitasking may also negatively influence executive function in adolescents (Baumgartner, Weeda, van der Heijden, & Huizinga, 2014), university students’ high-risk decisions regarding sex and substance abuse (Burak, 2012) and judgement in new social situations (Lieberman & Rosenthal, 2001; McLarney-Vesotski et al., 2011).

Motivators for Multitasking

If the negative effects of multitasking are so clear, it begs the question why people persist. Bardhi, Rohm, and Sultan (2010) go on to describe the perceived rewards of multitasking as expressed by their undergraduate subjects. Study participants valued the content control their and the convenience of access to so many tools from one device. Participants also valued access to pleasurable content while pursuing more banal goals.

E-mail, instant messaging, unrelated web browsing, and gaming are common in-class targets of multitasking amongst undergraduate students (Gaudreau et al., 2014). Social engagement speaks to the individual’s desire to stay connected with others (Firat, 2013a, 2013b) as the former is increasingly omnipresent in the latter. The rewards of human interaction and the desire to be up to date with news leads can lead to a multitasking state of “Continuous Partial Attention” (CPA) motivated by the desire to do more with one’s time as well as the desire not to miss anything (Stone, 2009). In this state, the individual is continually but superficially monitoring several information streams.

Gaming is another common part of multitasking. Frequent feedback, rewards, and a sense of accomplishment are strong motivators that can be achieved quickly and easily. Used as short breaks within more long-term and challenging pursuits a multitasker may mistakenly attribute gratification from gaming to the effectiveness of multitasking in completing the primary task (Wang & Tchernev, 2012).

Ubiquitous computing continually pushes entertainment and social media into our stream of consciousness through alerts of new content. In contrast to sometimes banal learning activities or work obligations, individuals may be enticed away from the primary goal and suffer experience drops in productivity and achievement.

Motivation to multitask is also connected to task appeal. Individuals engaged in mundane but important tasks are easily redirected when an exciting but irrelevant task is introduced either externally in the physical world, or internally through mind-wandering (Srivastava, 2010). If the task is sufficiently engaging, the individual may be unable to resist distraction.

Managing Multitasking

While Strayer and Watson (2012) suggest that those who multitask most are also the least effective at it and Wang and Tchernev (Wang & Tchernev, 2012) call out effective multitasking as a myth, it is, nevertheless, a significant factor in performance and achievement. Technology’s ubiquity, the prevalence of multitasking, and the changing information and communication landscape, make it prudent to seek interventions that regulate and minimise its’ negative effect on learning (Kenyon, 2010; Wallis, 2010).

Regardless of an individual’s multitasking abilities, people may have a natural propensity for either single-tasking or multi-tasking (Y. Zhang, Goonetilleke, Plocher, & Liang, 2005) though less than 3% of the population demonstrate high capacity to multitask without significant loss of performance (Strayer & Watson, 2012). Frequent multitaskers and those who are good at multitasking are not necessarily one and the same. Additionally, people may be oriented to a particular kind of multitasking such as continuous partial attention rather than task switching (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009). Beyond existing inclinations and abilities, research points to behavioural, environmental, and pedagogical strategies for managing multitasking’s negative effects on learning.

Behavioural and Cognitive Strategies. Self-regulation is the effort put into directing one’s own faculties toward achievement of a goal (Grawitch & Barber, 2013). Effective multitaskers exercise self-regulation over their technology use in order to achieve a goal and it is possible for others to learn self-regulation strategies (Gaudreau et al., 2014; Perels, Otto, Landmann, Hertel, & Schmitz, 2007; W. Zhang, 2015). Such self-regulation strategies include: goal setting, planning, self-motivation, attention control, flexible use of learning strategies, self-monitoring, appropriate help-seeking, and self-evaluation (Perels et al., 2007; Zumbrunn, Tadlock, & Roberts, 2009). The extent to which learned self-regulation can specifically mitigate the negative effects of multitasking, though, is still unclear.

The importance of self-regulation is highlighted in Tabachnick, Miller, and Relyea’s findings (2008) that inherently self-motivated individuals with clear goals made decisions about their actions and environment that contributed to their ability to focus. This exercise of metacognition contributes to a greater sense of self-awareness and ability to correct ineffective work strategies (Bonds, Bonds, & Peach, 1992). Extrinsically motivated learners may be enticed to employ self-regulation strategies through the use of external motivators (W. Zhang, 2015). Learning experiences that include self-reflection and metacognitive development expose the learner to strategies for improving self-regulation.

Cognitive processing time is another element of multitasking. Insufficient time between tasks interferes with transference of information to memory; too much time between tasks may tempt learners to seek other stimuli (Y. Zhang et al., 2005). The benefits of multitasking decrease as the rapidity of task switching increases. Where task switching is a matter of choice, an individual aware of the need for transitional processing time may better appreciate the need to reduce task-switching to maintain focus (Salvucci, 2010; Trafton et al., 2003) and the faster one can process information, the better able one is to multitask (Dux et al., 2009).

Lee and Taatgen (2002) explore time factors relating to how people approach tasks. Traditional planning prepares an individual for managing several tasks while reactive planning deals with issues as they arise. While it is not always possible to anticipate issues, it may be possible to improve multitasking by reconceptualising unique processes for several different problems into a unified process that addresses all problems. For educators, deconstructing processes can help students identify actions that may serve more than one purpose and to ignore extraneous information (Lee & Anderson, 2001). In this way, learners will focus better and capitalise on efficiencies when managing more than one task.

Dux (2009) found that repetition and training can also lead to efficiencies in information processing thus decreases the negative effects of multitasking. This effect, it should be noted, was observed with the repetition of simple but novel tasks that, with familiarity, required less and less cognitive processing. Low cognitive load activities therefore are less impacted by multitasking though there are initial performance concerns and the time required to complete the task is likely to increase (Bowman et al., 2010).

Off-task multitasking using technology may also be evidence of a disorganized approach to learning, unclear or ill-defined motivations for pursuing the primary goal, or possibly a low sense of efficacy or engagement with the primary task (Gaudreau et al., 2014). This highlights the value of study skills and learner awareness of organizational strategies to manage their workload.

Environmental Strategies. Simple and seemingly obvious environmental controls that reduce distractions and temptations to multitask are easily achieved but not always practiced such as reducing the amount of technology in a study space (Foehr, 2006) or enabling “do not disturb” features on mobile devices.

Bowers (2000) found that multitasking was enhanced when sensory input channels were designed not only to reduce conflict, but to supplement the task at hand. Reflecting that understanding, Clark and Mayer (2008) offer multimedia design principles that align with our capacity to take in and process information, or working memory. It may be possible to translate these principles to the design and use of physical spaces and learning activities. Doing so will reduce demands on working memory which increases one’s opportunity to take in and process new information. Additionally, working memory can be enhanced by increasing one’s sense of efficacy in a given task (Autin & Croizet, 2012) through computer gaming (Hawes et al., as cited in Morris, Croker, Zimmerman, Gill, & Romig, 2013) and controlled exposure and experiences with simulated multitasking situations (Morrison & Chein, 2011).

Pedagogical Strategies. Anecdotal reports from teachers express concerns about declining student attention spans and greater reliance on digital devices (Fullan & Langworthy, 2014; Purcell et al., 2012). Based on their experiences, many educators identify a poor fit between traditional behaviourist pedagogy and modern children’s learning needs.

21st century pedagogies like social constructivism and connectivism, see knowledge creation as a social activity (Fagan, 2010; Siemens, 2004) and technology as a tool for creating learning communities beyond the school’s walls (Couros, 2009; del Moral, Cernea, & Villalustre, 2013; Kop & Hill, 2008). These learning approaches are well-suited to embrace what Gee (2013) calls humans’ collective “synchronized intelligence” expressed in “affinity groups” that exist easily in online spaces. Engaging with online learning networks gives students the opportunity to use their devices in positive, task-oriented ways that address the need for social connections. This kind of intentional and planned use of technology, W. Zhang (2015) suggests, focuses student engagement and reduces multitasking.

Junco (2012), however, cautions that media rich lessons with frequent on-task changes of focus still introduce the potential for distraction, though narrowly-focused multimedia learning objects in constructivist learning settings do contribute to learner achievement (Mayer, Moreno, Boire, & Vagge, 1999). Similarly, Davis (2014) describes the benefit of “small-chunk learning modules”, a strategy for aligning engagement with attention spans leading to improved learning experiences.

Effective scaffolding keeps the learner in a position of regular challenge and achievement offering the opportunity for frequent and motivating reinforcement. When there is sufficient warning and time between task switching learners are better able to make task transition (Trafton et al., 2003). Extending time on task contributes to greater ability to resist distraction (Randall, Oswald, & Beier, 2014). Such learning experiences will help the learner stay focused and motivated and serve to reducing the appeal of digital distractions, or focus multitasking to completion of the primary goal.

Conclusion

Though multitasking may have some utility with routine tasks and cursory monitoring of many information streams, it is clear that multitasking has a broad range of negative effects with more complex and cognitively challenging tasks. It is likely that both learner-initiated multitasking and imposed multitasking in the form of distraction will always be a concern. Multitaskers believe they are effective and erroneously attributed gratification reinforces their sense of efficacy. While the negative effects of multitasking cannot be completely eliminated, they can be reduced by learning and practicing self-regulation and metacognition. Self-regulation equips learners with behavioral and attitudinal strategies for goal-oriented motivation, organization, and effort. Learner metacognition brings about greater capacity for honest self-reflection and evaluation and promotes continuous refinement of cognitive strategies. For educators, recognizing why students multitask opens the door to show students how to more effectively meet their goals. Understanding the motivations driving multitasking and intervention strategies for managing multitasking will help educators guide learners to more effective and efficient learning.

References

Autin, F., & Croizet, J.-C. (2012). Improving working memory efficiency by reframing metacognitive interpretation of task difficulty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(4), 610–618.

Bailey, W. W. (1889). Distractions. Journal of Education, 29(1), 7.

Bardhi, A., Rohm, A. J., & Sultan, F. (2010). Tuning in and tuning out: Media multitasking among young consumers. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 9(4), 316–332. doi:10.1002/cb.320

Baumgartner, S. E., Weeda, W. D., van der Heijden, L. L., & Huizinga, M. (2014). The relationship between media multitasking and executive function in early adolescents. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 34(8), 1120–1144. doi:10.1177/0272431614523133

Benbunan-Fich, R. (2012). Measurement of multitasking with focus shift analysis. Thirty Third International Conference on Information Systems, 1–14.

Benbunan-Fich, R., Adler, R. F., & Mavlanova, T. (2011). Measuring multitasking behavior with activity-based metrics. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction. doi:10.1145/1970378.1970381

Benbunan-Fich, R., & Truman, G. E. (2009). Multitasking with laptops during meetings. Communications of the ACM, 52(2), 139–141. doi:10.1306/74D71190-2B21-11D7-8648000102C1865D

Bonds, C. W., Bonds, L. G., & Peach, W. (1992). Metacognition: Developing independence in learning. The Clearing House, 66(1), 56–59.

Bowers, C., Price, C., Cannon-Bowers, J., LaBarba, R., Borjesson, W., & Vogel, J. (2000). Decision making in dual-task environments: Analysis of hemispheric competition effects. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 91, 237–245.

Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M., & Gendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers and Education, 54(4), 927–931. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.024

Brasel, S. A., & Gips, J. (2011). Media multitasking behavior: Concurrent television and computer usage. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14(9), 527–534. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0350

Burak, L. (2012). Multitasking in the university classroom. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6(2), 1–13.

Burgess, P. (2000). Real-world multitasking from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.), Control of Cognitive Processes (pp. 465–472). The MIT Press. Retrieved from http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/6407/

Cheshire, W. P. (2015). Multitasking and the neuroethics of distraction. Ethics & Medicine: An International Journal of Bioethics, 31(1), 19–25.

Chiavenato, I. (2001). Advances and challenges in human resource management in the new millennium. Public Personnel Management, 30(1), 17–26.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Couros, A. (2009). Open, connected, social - implications for educational design. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 26(3), 232–239. doi:10.1108/10650740910967393

Davis, J., Balda, M. J., & Rock, D. (2014). Keep an eye on the time. T&D, 51(January), 50–53.

Del Moral, M. E., Cernea, A., & Villalustre, L. (2013). Connectivist learning objects and learning styles. Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning & Learning Objects, 9, 105–124. Retrieved from http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=89372672&site=ehost-live

Denio, F. B. (1897). Memory and its cultivation. Education, 18(4), 217–228.

Dux, P. E., Tombu, M. N., Harrison, S., Rogers, B. P., Tong, F., & Marois, R. (2009). Training improves multitasking performance by increasing the speed of information processing in human prefrontal cortex. Neuron, 63(1), 127–138. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.06.005

Fagan, M. B. (2010). Social construction revisited: Epistemology and scientific practice. Philosophy of Science, 77(1), 92–116. Retrieved from http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=48444269&site=ehost-live

Firat, M. (2013a). Continuous partial attention as a problematic technology use: A case for educators. Journal of Educators Online, 10(2), 1–20.

Firat, M. (2013b). Multitasking or continuous partial attention: A critical bottleneck for digital natives. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(1), 266–272.

Foehr, U. G. (2006). Media multitasking among American youth: Prevalence, predictors, and pairings. Retrieved from http://kff.org/other/media-multitasking-among-american-youth-prevalence-predictors/

Fox, A. B., Rosen, J., & Crawford, M. (2009). Distractions, distractions: Does instant messaging affect college students’ performance on a concurrent reading comprehension task? Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 12(1), 51–53. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0107

Frand, J. L. (2000). The information age mindset: Changes in students and implications for higher education. EDUCAUSE Review, 35(October 2000), 15–24. doi:ht tp: //www.educause.edu/apps /er /erm00/ar t icles005/ erm0051.pdf

Fullan, M., & Langworthy, M. (2014). A rich seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning.

Gaudreau, P., Miranda, D., & Gareau, A. (2014). Canadian university students in wireless classrooms: What do they do on their laptops and does it really matter ? Computers & Education, 70, 245–255. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.08.019

Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning (1st ed.). New York, N.Y.: Palgrave MacMillan.

Grawitch, M. J., & Barber, L. K. (2013). In search of the relationship between polychronicity and multitasking performance: The importance of trait self-control. Journal of Individual Differences, 34(4), 222–229. doi:10.1027/1614-0001/a000118

Gray, C. L. (2000). What does it take to become a CFO? Journal of Accountancy, 190(6), 47–53. doi:10.1002/pfi

Henderson, M. T., Crews, A., & Barlow, J. (1945). A Study of the Effect of Music Distraction on Reading Efficiency. Journal of Applied Psychology, 29(4), 313–317.

Jacobsen, W. C., & Forste, R. (2011). The wired generation: Academic and social outcomes of electronic media use among university students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 14(5), 275–280. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0135

Judd, T. (2013). Making sense of multitasking: Key behaviours. Computers and Education, 63, 358–367. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.12.017

Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers and Education, 59, 505–514. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.12.023

Kenyon, S. (2008). Internet use and time use: The importance of multitasking. Time & Society, 17(2), 283–318. doi:10.1177/0961463X08093426

Kenyon, S. (2010). What do we mean by multitasking? - Exploring the need for methodological clarification in time use research. International Journal of Time Use Research, 7(1), 42–60. Retrieved from http://kar.kent.ac.uk/26028/

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). October – 2008 Connectivism : Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past ? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(3), 1–8.

Lee, F. J., & Anderson, J. R. (2001). Does learning a complex task have to be complex? A study in learning decomposition. Cognitive Psychology, 42(3), 267–316. doi:10.1006/cogp.2000.0747

Lee, F. J., & Taatgen, N. A. (2002). Multitasking as skill acquisition. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Cognitive Modeling, 225–230.

Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M., & Bowman, L. L. (2007). Electronic media use, reading, and academic distractibility in college youth. Cyberpsychology & Behavior: The Impact of the Internet, Multimedia and Virtual Reality on Behavior and Society, 10(4), 560–566. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9990

Lieberman, M. D., & Rosenthal, R. (2001). Why introverts can’t always tell who likes them: Multitasking and nonverbal decoding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(2), 294–310. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.2.294

Lin, L., Lee, J., & Robertson, T. (2011). Reading while watching video: The effect of video content on reading comprehension and media multitasking ability. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 45(2), 183–201. doi:10.2190/EC.45.2.d

Mayer, R. E., Moreno, R., Boire, M., & Vagge, S. (1999). Maximizing constructivist learning from multimedia communications by minimizing cognitive load. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(4), 638–643. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.91.4.638

McLarney-Vesotski, A., Bernieri, F., & Rempala, D. (2011). An experimental examination of the “ good judge.” Journal of Research in Personality, 45(4), 398–400. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.04.005

Morris, B. J., Croker, S., Zimmerman, C., Gill, D., & Romig, C. (2013). Gaming science: The “Gamification” of scientific thinking. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(September), 1–16. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00607

Morrison, A. B., & Chein, J. M. (2011). Does working memory training work? The promise and challenges of enhancing cognition by training working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18(1), 46–60. doi:10.3758/s13423-010-0034-0

Multi-tasking with your baby. (2001, May). Working Mother, 74.

Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(37), 15583–15587. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903620106

Perels, F., Otto, B., Landmann, M., Hertel, S., & Schmitz, B. (2007). Self-regulation from a process perspective. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie, 215(3), 194–204. doi:10.1027/0044-3409.215.3.194

Poyntz, L. (1933). The efficacy of visual and auditory distractions for preschool children. Child Development, 4(5), 55. doi:10.2307/1125838

Purcell, K., Rainie, L., Heaps, A., Buchanan, J., Friedrich, L., Jacklin, A., … Zickuhr, K. (2012). How teens do research in the digital world. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Student-Research

Ragan, E. D., Jennings, S. R., Massey, J. D., & Doolittle, P. E. (2014). Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes. Computers and Education, 78, 78–86. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.002

Randall, J. G., Oswald, F. L., & Beier, M. E. (2014). Mind-wandering, cognition, and performance: A theory-driven meta-analysis of attention regulation. Pssychological Bulletin, 140(6), 1411–1431.

Rideout, V. (2013). Zero to eight: Children’s media use in America 2013. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/zero-to-eight-childrens-media-use-in-america-2013

Rosen, C. (2008). The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis, Spring(20), 105–110. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/scientificamericanmind1204-62

Salvucci, D. D. (2010). On reconstruction of task context after interruption. Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’10, 89. doi:10.1145/1753326.1753341

Salvucci, D. D., & Taatgen, N. A. (2011). The Multitasking Mind. (F. E. Ritter, Ed.)Oxford series on cognitive models and architectures. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press Inc. Retrieved from http://www2.arnes.si/~mmarko7/javno/printaj/23/the-multitasking-mind_31.pdf

Salvucci, D. D., Taatgen, N. A., & Borst, J. (2009). Toward a unified theory of the multitasking continuum: From concurrent performance to task switching, interruption, and resumption. Chi, 1819–1828. doi:10.1145/1518701.1518981

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers and Education, 62, 24–31. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.003

Scott, O. G. (1985). Multitasking operating system for the IBM PC. Computers in Chemical Education Newsletter, 8(1), 5–6.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Srivastava, J. (2010). Media multitasking and role of visual hierarchy and formatting cues in processing of web content. Retrieved from http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=osu1281718384

Stone, L. (2009). Continuous partial attention. Retrieved April 18, 2015, from http://lindastone.net/

Strayer, D. L., & Watson, J. M. (2012). Supertaskers and the multitasking brain. Scientific American Mind, 23(1), 22–29.

Tabachnick, S. E., Miller, R. B., & Relyea, G. E. (2008). The relationships among students’ future-oriented goals and subgoals, perceived task instrumentality, and task-oriented self-regulation strategies in an academic environment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3), 629–642. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.100.3.629

Trafton, J. G., Altmann, E. M., Brock, D. P., & Mintz, F. E. (2003). Preparing to resume an interrupted task: Effects of prospective goal encoding and retrospective rehearsal. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 58(5), 583–603. doi:10.1016/S1071-5819(03)00023-5

Wallis, C. (2010). The impacts of media multitasking on children’s learning & development: Report from a research seminar. New York, N.Y. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0350

Wang, Z., & Tchernev, J. M. (2012). The “Myth” of media multitasking: Reciprocal dynamics of media multitasking, personal needs, and gratifications. Journal of Communication, 62(3), 493–513. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2012.01641.x

Zhang, W. (2015). Learning variables, in-class laptop multitasking and academic performance: A path analysis. Computers & Education, 81, 82–88.

Zhang, Y., Goonetilleke, R. S., Plocher, T., & Liang, S. F. M. (2005). Time-related behaviour in multitasking situations. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 62(4), 425–455. doi:10.1016/j.ijhcs.2005.01.002

Zumbrunn, S., Tadlock, J., & Roberts, E. D. (2009). Encouraging self-regulated learning in the classroom: A review of the literature. Virginia: Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC) (Vol. 36). doi:10.1007/s10643-009-0305-4

PDF Creator    Send article as PDF   

Value of Teacher Volunteerism: some rough numbers

Like the legal and medical profession's requirement to do pro bono work, SHOULD EDUCATORS be required to serve populations that otherwise would not have access to particular areas of learning?  I believe they should.  Access to learning and education benefits society as a whole and an informed populace is necessary to a successful government.  The requirements and how this should be achieved, however, deserves discussion and debate.

This appeared in one of my course discussion boards and got me thinking about  the extent and value of existing teacher volunteerism in the absence of any requirement to do so. In Canada I believe all collective agreements recognize extracurricular work as voluntary.

I'd argue that all extra-curricular activities at schools during lunch breaks and before/after school is pro bono work. My limited research suggests that pro bono obligations in the legal profession are a minimum of 50 hours per year or the equivalent of 3% of annual billing[1].

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation conducted a workload and volunteerism survey[2] finding that 92% of teachers “run and support extracurriculars”. Extrapolating these numbers out to Ontario’s general teaching population of almost 115,000 teachers[3] and 30% volunteering 5 hours per week and 13% at 10 hours per week, that’s well over 12.5 million volunteer hours each year in a 40 week school year and that still only accounts for 43% of teacher volunteers.

That’s a big number.

If we think of an eight hour work day, that’s the equivalent of 1.6 million extra days of labour volunteered into Ontario public schools. That’s the equivalent of an extra 8000 teachers each year. At an average annual salary of $51,000[4], these volunteers are contributing well over $400 million in extra services.

That’s just in Ontario.

With more than 300,000 teachers in Canada[5] we can estimate the value nationwide to be well over one billion dollars.

 

Just for fun, if the same volunteerism patterns are applied to the United States’ 3.7 million teachers[6] , that’s more than $13.2 billion.

I know it's dangerous to extrapolate study findings too far beyond the target population, and I've rounded numbers (down in all cases) while putting this together, but the broad picture painted is clear. Teachers are already very generous with their time and work hard to keep it voluntary providing individuals the freedom to back off or ramp up as life circumstances change.

---------------------

[1] Anand, Raj (2007), “Fostering Pro Bono Service in the Legal Profession: Challenges Facing the Pro Bono Ethic” (Paper presented at the Ninth Colloquium on the Legal Profession: Legal Ethics in Action, Osgoode Hall Law School, 19 October 2007), online: Law Society of Upper Canadahttp://www.lsuc.on.ca/latest-news/a/hottopics/committee-onprofessionalism/papers-from-past-colloquia/

[2] http://www.osstf.on.ca/~/media/Provincial/Documents/Publications/Education%20Forum/fall-2014-vol-40-issue-3/drowning-in-extra-work.ashx

[3] http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/educationFacts.html 

[4] http://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=High_School_Teacher/Salary/004c9fd6/Toronto-ON 

[5] http://www.cmec.ca/299/Education-in-Canada-An-Overview/ 

[6] http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28 

PDF Printer    Send article as PDF   

Some authentic applications of Augmented Reality (AR)

Hsin-Kai Wu (2013) suggests AR should be understood as a concept rather than a specific technology. It is helpful to understand AR as a negotiation between the user and content delivery systems leveraging the power of several technologies to create intuitive and seamless, context-aware interactions between user and content. AR, therefore, is a novel concept for displaying digital information as a meaningful overlay attached to physical objects as viewed through a mobile device (Hsin-Kai Wu, 2013). Where it differs from other online content is spatial positioning of the content and the use of naturally occurring trigger image.

On the surface, it is easy to think of AR as just a fancy QR code – the user scans it and is directed to a web page, application, or a YouTube video. In this regard it is no different than a QR code, or a simple URL. AR is most effectively used when the user accesses relevant information relevant to a particular space or artifact.

A school celebration of the arts day offers a good example. Using an app like Aurasma to create content channels. Each piece on display can serve as a trigger image that, when viewed through a smart device, can overlay content specific to the user’s subscribed channel. It could be a video of the artist explaining the piece, or a clip of the artists’ work in progress, or the teacher pointing out important features. In this way, a single trigger image can simultaneously (though virtually) offer different relevant content to different users .

AR applications would work well with architectural reconstructions. Visitors to the remains of historic spaces could use the SightSpace3D app to walk through virtual recreations of physical structures as though they were in the past and inside the structure. Users could watch a video tour, or manipulate a scale model on a computer but AR connects the users’ movements in physical space to movements in virtual space offering a more immersive experience.

Another effective example of AR is Minecraft Reality. This app uses data (structures and land forms) from the game Minecraft, an immersive 3D virtual space, and displays it in physical space as though attached to the trigger image. Sharing work in 3D spaces is usually done as a projection while the user offers a tour through the space all from one point of view. With Minecraft Reality, several users can view the same structure using the same trigger image through their smart device camera, and tour around and inside the structure by physically moving around the trigger image.

Finally, my favourite example is WordLens which was recently purchased by Google and redistributed as Translate. The user can view a foreign language sign or poster while travelling and, viewing it through their device, have the app replace the foreign text with English text (of whatever the selected language is).

These are what I consider to be authentic uses of AR, or uses that really make use of the technology’s affordances. SightSpace ties physical movement to virtual spaces, Minecraft Reality make 3D spaces explorable outside a computer, and WordLens offers just-in-time translation services by simply pointing the camera at foreign text. Aurasma is a novel way to attach student voice to physical objects, though the novelty effect is short lived and, alone, rarely justifies expensive technology investments  (Juan, 2010). Further, Wrzesien (2010) suggests that some innovations may redirect learner attention from the content to the technology thus detracting from the technology’s effectiveness as a learning support.

 

Hsin-Kai Wu, S. W.-Y.-Y.-C. (2013, March). Current   status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers   & Education, 62, 41-49. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131512002527

Juan, C. L. (2010). Learning Words Using Augmented   Reality. International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies   (ICALT) (pp. 422-426). Sousse: IEEE. Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=5572407&isnumber=5571093

Wrzesien, M. A. (2010). Learning in serious virtual   worlds: Evaluation of learning effectiveness and appeal to students in the   E-Junior project. Computers & Education, 55(1), 178-187. Retrieved from http://augmentyourreality.wikispaces.com/file/view/Wrzesien.pdf

 

Create PDF    Send article as PDF   

"The Anti-Education Era" by James Paul Gee, a SpeedRead

The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning by James Paul Gee

Gee, J. P. (2013). The Anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Collaborative Book Review by
Yukiko Bonnefoy, Møre og Romsdal, Norway
Miles MacFarlane, Winnipeg, Canada
LaKisha Scott, Atlanta, USA
Jenna Wallace, San Antonio, USA

With more than 20 books, almost 200 journal articles, and more than 300 conference lectures to his credit, James Paul Gee is an innovative thinker and prolific author at the intersection of linguistics, communication, cognition, identity, and technology, in both real and virtual spaces. Gee is most recently known for his application of gaming theory to learning situations. Gee is a member of the National Academy of Education and is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University.

His most recent works include Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning, and Literacy (2013), Collected Essays on Learning and Assessment in the Digital World (2014), and Unified Discourse Analysis: Language, Reality, Virtual Worlds, and Video Games (2015).

This review focuses on his 2013 book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning.

Audience

Dealing with broad societal issues but focusing on the educational context, the author seems to target educators, but the subject matter could have a wider appeal. The content addresses issues far beyond the classroom showing how individuals and the broader social context affect how we think and perceive the world. More than a book of educational reform, Gee addresses the deep philosophical and psychological factors that cause us to be stupid. Anyone with an interest in how society functions and what can be done to improve the human condition will enjoy this book.

Thesis

People are ill-equipped to cope with today’s fast-paced hyper-connected world and much of what we do stand in opposition to what we want. It is this, Gee suggests, that makes us stupid. Recognizing what makes us stupid is the first step toward being smart.

In our reading, Gee’s provocative and confrontational style pushes an unflattering mirror in front of the reader highlighting everything that is wrong with individuals and civilization. He then describes possible applications of technology that could direct the collective wisdom of humanity toward positive change.

Book Summary

Essential Ideas

In the first half of the book, Gee describes at length how people’s thought processes and behaviors result in stupidity. Gee suggests that the human brain was not designed and has not yet evolved to cope with the complexity of human relationships, society, and types of problems we now face. He suggests that we can use digital media to compensate for where we struggle and augment where we have it right. Digital media offers the means and context for coalescing human wisdom and experience into something not only manageable, but effective in helping us achieve our collective goals.

He outlines fifteen different ways in which human thought is misguided or deceived. These errors limit our ability to live in harmony with people and ideas and prevent us from approaching the world intelligently. Given the depth and pace of change, Gee says, we are, as a species, at greater risk of social, economic, and climatic catastrophe. He frames and details each of the fifteen challenges and, in the end, offers an approach to learning that leverages the collective wisdom of our species. In this way, we can overcome these challenges moving us farther from being “stupid” and closer to being smart.

The amount of ink devoted to what makes us stupid and the provocative language about human intelligence, creates in the reader a sense of discomfort and defensiveness. Gee describes numerous examples of how what we are doing is not getting us what we want. By holding up to humanity a mirror that exposes every flaw and blemish; he forces the reader to examine one’s worldview through a different lens. He offers much that is wrong, and only hints at possible solutions. For receptive readers, this will churn the ground on which belief systems are built offering an opportunity to rethink, debate, and collaborate on new foundations for a better world.

Major Points

Gee suggests that our current education system needs to engage learners in more social, authentic, and meaningful learning experiences that promote reflective thinking through collaborative mentorship. Rather than trying to get our brains to work more like computers he wants us to develop the unique creative and meaning-making capacities, and let computers manage our information storage and processing needs. We tend to think of human intelligence as a measure of an individual’s cognitive abilities. Gee urges us to think beyond that to humans augmented with technology connecting with other augmented humans. In this way, we can manage very complex scenarios more effectively.

Humans are good at identifying patterns but sometimes generalize too quickly, not appreciating the broader context of that experience. Such a narrow or limited focus is a barrier to understanding. Beyond limiting our experience, Gee says who we relate to (solidarity) and who we aspire to (status) similarly limit our thoughts and behaviors and our social position further affects our ability to participate in society. In the search for solidarity and comfort stories, we can often be led to believe things that are factually wrong. This mentality can lead to “us versus them” dichotomies, marrying individuals into groups that reflect one’s own existing beliefs and perceptions. Such groups can have a negative impact when they isolate the individual from other perspectives and other opinions. Similarly, learners in highly customized, personally adapted settings are sheltered from authentic challenges and do not develop the ability to problem solve or deal with the non-customized world. Likewise, institutions can also experience limited or narrowed focus when formalized processes lock participants into thinking and behaviors that prevent the institution from evolving as needed.

In the last portion of the book, Gee points to some scenarios or structures to address the sources of human stupidity. He describes the importance of both virtual and real spaces where people from a variety of backgrounds converge, by choice, in fluid and flexible groups to explore a common issue. These so-called affinity spaces promote a synchronization of intelligence that leverages the wisdom of the group and the affordances of digital technology, to make and communicate meaning. He offers Talk, Text, and Knowledge mentoring (TTK) with digital technologies as the foundational skills upon which a smarter civilization can be built.

Analysis and Evaluation

Strengths and Weaknesses

Gee’s book evokes a visceral response from the reader as he holds the unflattering mirror to humanity in an uncomfortable confrontation with our very belief systems and worldviews. Front loaded with blunt rhetoric about humanity’s stupidity, readers seeking solutions rather than colorful commentary on how awful the world is may be turned off and abandon the book. However, we found the longer we stood in front of the mirror, the more we saw the truth of his provocative assertions.

Two-thirds of the book clearly defined and gave examples of humanity’s stupidity while the final third, rather than offering solutions, gave only suggestions of a solution. This mentality is frustrating as a reader because the book title promises that we can “Create Smarter Students through Digital Learning” yet it is consistent with his thesis. Gee says that we must create purposeful communities where everyone has a voice and put our collective minds and technologies to finding solutions - solutions will not come from one single author.

Implications for Education

Understanding the many ways people get things wrong, and the ways in which we avoid the ruth, educators can better recognize the origins of misunderstandings in students and correct them. They may also use this understanding to craft learning experiences that address these human inclinations to help learners make meaning from determined truths.

Learning experiences, Gee suggests, should make use of digital technology to create both real and virtual points of contact where individuals can gather to learn, share, debate, teach, explore, take, and contribute ideas on a particular topic. Education can be restructured to make use of affinity spaces and leverage the synchronized intelligence of a vast and diverse learning community to create even better learning experiences than exist now.

Educators should identify those strategies and pedagogies that promote empirical thinking and leverage the power of communications technology to build productive and positive affinity spaces for learners. In this context, we can even rethink the definition of learner from one who simply receives or creates knowledge to a term that embodies the notion that they are contributors and active participants.

Relevant Quote

Gee (2013) stated:

To be smarter today we need Minds, not just minds. We need synchronized intelligence we need to be able to dance the dance of collective intelligence with others and our best digital tools. Talk, text and knowledge (TTK) mentoring and digital tools can be deployed in ways that reverse our brain bugs and social bugs to make us smarter. (p.208)

This quote communicates the essence of Gee’s path away from the stupidity toward smartness. The terms he uses in this quote are elaborated on at length in the book, and his full meaning is hard to comprehend out of context. Essentially, we need to confront our flawed and narrow thinking (brain bugs and social bugs) and use the unique capabilities of our brains (Minds) and technology (digital tools) together with diverse others (collective intelligence) in a coordinated (synchronized intelligence) and collaborative (mentoring) effort to make meaning based on empirical evidence.

Book Club Questions

Gee suggests that the pursuit of empirical reasoning is critical to creating a better world. He also suggests that religion, as a complex set of mental comfort stories can get in the way of our capacity to reason. He does propose that science and religion can co-exist as complementary frameworks for understanding the world. Do you agree? Can science and religion support each other in the pursuit of truth?
Gee identifies Affinity Spaces as important elements of a thriving civilization. Understanding Gee’s vision of affinity spaces, discuss examples of affinity spaces in which you already participate. To what extent do your affinity spaces reflect the criteria outlined in Chapter 20?
Gee describes video games as potential virtual spaces for learning and describes how affinity spaces can exist in the context of a game. There is a lot of criticism about the effect of video games on today’s youth. Is Gee on to something, or is this simply a bad idea? Is there unlocked potential in virtual gaming spaces, or do the dangers outweigh the potential benefits?
Humans often seek meaning over truth. Sometimes we find meaning that is void of truth or truths that do not yet have meaning for us. Gee urges us to recognize and false meaning, and find motivation for embracing truths for which we do not yet have meaning or use. Discuss examples of meaning without truth and truth without meaning. Explore the challenges of dealing with each scenario.
Gee suggests humans have to acknowledge our penchant for mental comfort stories. Nietzche famously said, "God is dead" but went on to say how we will always invent something new to take God's place. Can humans live without mental comfort stories?
How fitting is the title The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning for the book? What alternate title would you give it?

Conclusion

Recommendations

Individuals with an interest in sweeping social change will appreciate Gee’s observations and recommendations for changing the way we think to achieve a better world. Senior education leaders will find the messages a challenge to traditional learning approaches and may find Gee’s ideas useful as a framework to guide reform efforts. Educators, in general, may find the points related to society’s “stupidity” somewhat confrontational spurring reflection on their practice and experiences.

While the book proposed ways in which technology could improve education, we wouldn’t recommend it as a “how-to” book for those searching for practical strategies to implement digital technology in education settings. Rather, it serves as a conversation starter for those interested in improving education in the 21st century.

Additional Resources

James Paul Gee. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.jamespaulgee.com/

DMLResearchHub. (2011, April 4). Games and education scholar James Paul Gee on video games, learning, and literacy. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from

Elbouza, M. (2014, May). The Anti-education era – Response to Gee. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from http://melscollectibles.com/?p=258

Ellis, K. (Director), & Borovoy, A. E., & Rosenfeld, L. (Producers). (2008, April 12). Big thinkers: James Paul Gee on grading with games [Video file].
Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/james-gee-games-learning-video

Güss, C. D., & Tuason, M. T. (1942). Fire and ice: Cultural influences on complex problem solving. In COGSCI 2009: The Annual meeting of
The Cognitive Society (Vol. 1947).

Lewis, M. (2013, July 10). Reflection on the anti-education era by James Paul Gee. Retrieved February 15, 2015, from
https://marcielewis.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/reflection-on-the-anti-education-era-by-james-paul-gee/

Lilly, T. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. IJEP-International Journal of Educational Psychology,
2(3), 353-355.

Shapiro, J. (2014, July 3). Games can advance education: A conversation with James Paul Gee. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from
http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/games-can-advance-education-a-conversation-with-james-paul-gee/

PDF Converter    Send article as PDF   

Mental and physical fatigue and multitasking

Then and Now

source: Reddit

 

I've been sitting at the computer for several hours now. For a while I worked on my research paper. When I need to reduce the cognitive load I popped on to Facebook for a bit. Then, I caught up on the latest posts for my course and spent some time reading a couple of articles. After that I replied to some emails and logged in to my account to pay an e-bill.

So, I did some research and writing, I socialized, I played a game, read some news, wrote some correspondence, paid some bills.

Every time I switched my focus, I did so because I was ready for a change bit not quite ready to go back to the cognitively demanding activity. Even after all that time doing something other than my paper, I'm still not ready - still not feeling like I'm ready to give it my best. Of course, when I really think about it, I've not been active. While my brain is switching activities, my body is still in the same position.

Lately I've been doing my coursework while walking on the treadmill and found that my powers of concentration are much stronger. Not only that, I can sustain effort on one activity far longer than I could if I was sitting at the desk task switching.

My research paper, ironically, is on multitasking and I will be posting more on that research later. As I posted elsewhere, distractability has long been an issue of concern for educators. Then, in the 1960s a new term emerged describing a computer's ability to perform more than one task seemingly simultaneously. By the 1980s, lots of people knew about a computer's ability to multitask and the notion sounded good enough for people to try. At this time, use of the word distractability decreased, and multitasking increased. (Check it out using the very cool Google NGram Viewer).

Now, I'm not saying there is a direct correlation, but it wouldn't surprise me. Cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable and us humans work hard to avoid it. Given our penchant for describing things in the best light possible, and rationalizing poor decisions or unfortunate situations I think we have simply re-branded distraction as purposeful and productive multitasking. Sitting at the computer is more appealing to me than reading on the treadmill because the potential for getting more things done at once is alluring.

It is clear though... crystal clear... that multitasking doesn't do anyone any good. The problem is we think we are the exceptions to the rule, we are the ones for whom the research does not apply. Well, the hard truth is that there are no exceptions. We all suck at trying to do a bunch of things at the same time.

So, does knowing this help me better manage my workload?

I wrote this during a break from writing report cards in a browser window with more than a dozen tabs open.

Self-control is another big part of the multitasking picture, but that's for another day. I need to get back to my report cards. Maybe on your break you could share strategies you use to manage multitasking in the comments below!

www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Apps for whatever you are teaching and learning

Occasionally people ask about “must-have” apps for their devices. My preference is to focus on apps that ease the burden of communication, collaboration, and playing with ideas. These iOS applications are agnostic of content area and well worth the minimal costs. I suspect many are also available for other platforms, but I'll leave that to you.

Explain Everything ($3.49) gives the user a Khan-Academy-Like work space with the ability to record and share their voice and what’s on the screen. It’s like putting an interactive whiteboard in everyone’s hands.

GoodReader ($5.97) is my favourite reader app. It handles a lot of different file types, connects with several cloud storage services, and lets you create and share annotations with a pretty robust tool set. You can store files locally for off-line access.

Voice Dream ($11.99) speaks the contents of text files. Like GoodReader, it handles a lot of different file types and plays nicely with many cloud storage services.It remembers where you left off, has adjustable pitch and speed controls,handles challenging document including headers and multiple column formats. Tables, though, are a little wild to listen to. Other voices are available as In-app purchases for $3.49 each.

Dragon Dictation (Free) is a great way to get ideas from kid’s heads onto the (virtual) page. Voice recognition is much more accurate now than it was in the past and this app is very handy. The active listening time is limited so longer passages or thoughts might take a few starts/stops, but I’ve found it to be very accurate and easy to work with.

Coach’s Eye ($5.79) lets the user annotate video files with lines and shapes. There are a couple of in-app purchases that also let you place multiple timers and a protractor to measure angles. With slow-motion, shuttling, and live narration, it’s a great tool for science… and sport too. It’s a little pricey, but makes replays, slow motion, and onscreen annotations extremely easy.

Google Translate, formerly Word Lens (Free) provides through-the-lens instant translation of text to the selected language. Still a little choppy, and not great for small text, but a very cool app for language learning. Each language pack used to come as in-app purchases but since the app was purchased by Google, all the language packs are now free.

PDF24 Creator    Send article as PDF   

MOOCs and Motivation

Image source: http://is.theorizeit.org/wiki/Kellers_Motivational_Model

Click to enlarge.  Image source: http://is.theorizeit.org/wiki/Kellers_Motivational_Model

Addressing learner motivation in self-directed open learning environments

Reading about motivation and volition in instructional design, I contextualized the ideas within self-directed open learning models, like MOOCs, which reflect social constructivism. Here, participants join large groups working toward a common goal, but pursuing their goals in smaller self-selected learning communities.

For most participants, MOOCs are voluntary and pursued independently. Often loosely structured, these courses allow individuals meet their own learning goals in contexts that are interesting to them while connecting with others of similar mind. This embodies Keller’s (Simsek, 2014) first two principles of motivation: attention and relevance .

MOOCs can draw thousands of participants suggesting that many people are highly motivated to learn. However, with completion rates averaging only 13% (Jordan, n.d.) there seems to be a lack of volition to see the program through to the end.

Learning systems such as this, Bouchard (2009) suggests, create a pedagogical void; the learner herself is both learner and educator. Pedagogical tasks such as sequencing, pacing, formulating objectives, finding resources, following up, and evaluating may or may not be part of the learners’ skill set. In their absence, learners may feel overwhelmed, experience failure, and lose the will to continue (Knox, 2014). These three outcomes reflect the absence of Keller’s (Simsek, 2014) last three principles of motivation: confidence, satisfaction, and volition.

Clarà & Barberà (2014) suggest that MOOCs represent a way of being, rather than a way of learning. That technology-enabled ubiquitous connection and constant engagement reflect the practice behind an attitude of life-long learning rather than the rigor required for formal education. In this respect, MOOC participants neither fail nor succeed, they just make more or less progress to achieving a learning goal.

Instructional planning for MOOCs and social constructivism with autonomous learners has to address the pedagogical void. While learners are highly motivated to begin with, and can act on their own curiosity, instructional designers have to consider developing the metacognitive processes that increase confidence, lead to success, and sustain learner volition.

Additionally, the connectivist learning approach, an offshoot of social constructivism, approaches learning differently through a process of aggregation, remixing and reflecting, re-purposing, and sharing (Kop & Fournier, 2011), very different from experiences these learners may have had in the past. Orienting learners to the big pedagogical picture may also contribute to success.

Sources

Bouchard, P. (2009). Pedagogy without a teacher: What are the limits? International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, 6(2), 13–22.

Clarà, M., & Barberà, E. (2014). Three problems with the connectivist conception of learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(3), 197–206. doi:10.1111/jcal.12040

Jordan, K. (n.d.). MOOC Completion Rates: The Data. Retrieved from http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html

Knox, J. (2014). Digital culture clash: “Massive” education in the e-learning and digital cultures MOOC. Distance Education, 35(2), 164–177. Retrieved from http://proxygw.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=96964878&site=ehost-live

Kop, R., & Fournier, H. (2011). New dimensions to self-directed learning in an open networked learning environment. International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, 7(2), 1–20. Retrieved from http://sdlglobal.com/IJSDL/IJSDL7.2-2010.pdf#page=6

Simsek, A. (2014). Interview with John M . Keller on Motivational Design of Instruction, 5(1), 90–95.

PDF Creator    Send article as PDF   

Securing your network in Web2.0 environments

Off-line WiFi router allows students to connect with their personal devices.

Enterprise network security strategies in Web2.0 context.

Network Security

I found an excellent article that addresses some of the issues surrounding network security in the age of social media and collaborative online spaces. Almeida (2012) describes how Web 2.0’s characteristics create great opportunities, but also some vulnerabilities, specifically how some protocols are harder to detect and how some content can be delivered in different ways. Sites with dynamic content creation (non-static) may be safe one time, but not another.

Consequences and Strategies

He goes on to outline possible legal and financial impacts from such content highlighting the need to create an effective security strategy. The strategy, he suggests, should be based in policy but supported with technology. Policies created after broad consultation should reflect enterprise philosophies but address particulars in enough detail so as to be actionable.

Approach

Almeida identifies eight approaches that together allow access to social media and minimises exposure to malicious content:

A. Application control list: examines network activity for signs of traffic from disallowed destinations.

B. Application traffic shaping: limits available bandwidth for particular applications

C. Monitoring and review: analysis of network traffic logs can reveal usage patterns

D. Browser settings: should be set to maximize security (https)

E. Anti-malware software: deep scans for both inbound and outbound traffic

F. Authentication: password management, two-step verification, token-based or biometric passwords

G. Avoid clickjacking: logging out of applications and minimising cookie longevity

H. Data loss protection: software solution that monitors data use and patterns to reveal suspicious actions

Education

What I appreciate about Alemeida’s approach is that it recognizes the value of social media and it’s potential for positive contributions to an enterprise seeking to make it a safe experience. One thing that is explicitly missing from his list but is implied elsewhere in the article is the importance of education and training. Controlling the technology puts interventions in place, but controlling for the human element offers preventative protection.

Source

Almeida, F. (2012). Web 2.0 Technologies and Social Networking Security Fears in Enterprises. International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications, 3(2), 152–156. Retrieved from http://search.arxiv.org:8081/paper.jsp?r=1204.1824&qid=1415955980764mix_nCnN_-677970468&qs=%22social+media%22+security

PDF Printer    Send article as PDF   

Oh DEAR, Drop everything and read? Really?

Some 15 years ago, Drop Everything and Read was where some song or sound played at random points throughout the day. Everyone was to stop what they were doing immediately and start reading the book they were to carry around with them during the DEAR week. Then the announcement would come on some time later and we were to resume regular activities.

I hated it.

Most teachers hated it.

It was intrusive, it interrupted those kids who were in flow, and created two new points of transition in the day. Besides that, it just isn’t the way we read.

Following up on a post to the English Teachers' Association NSW Facebook page, I decided to have a quick peek to see what I could find.

(Wu, Wu, & Lu, 2014) Suggests that careful planning and some kind of structured approach to teaching reading is important. DEAR is included as one such strategy.

Another literature review reveals that a regular scheduled program of reading for pleasure in school has a positive impact of a child’s love of reading, and the value they place on reading (Pegg & Bartelheim, 2011). DEAR is mentioned as one such initiative.

 

Lee-Daniels (2000) report describes experiences with a year two class engaged in DEAR. She found that excitement for the program wore off and needed regular invigoration. She describes an incentive strategy to build intrinsic motivation as well as some other strategies for keeping DEAR fresh.

Olivar, Manalo, & Palma’s (2014) report seems to approach DEAR as a context for content engagement rather than reading for pleasure. They also address the issue of intrinsic motivation but describe their interventions in terms of assignments and projects as motivators to engage in DEAR.

Pruzinsky (2014) suggests that, while DEAR may seem to divert time from heavy content courses, the time spent reading strongly benefitted students. He describes the larger program by which he engaged students and made DEAR part of the program rather than a diversion from it. This article has many ideas for implementing an effective DEAR program.

Cummings (Cumming, 1997) describes the positive effects of a DEAR program in a remote Canadian community with a largely oral tradition. The author used participant generated content and variations on reading locations and times in an attempt to establish a culture of joy in reading.

None of that research had measurable data to support claims, but the bottom line seems to be that DEAR is effective if it is responsive to the audience, is tweaked along the way to keep it interesting, and is part of a regular program. Certainly not the kind of DEAR I experienced early in my career.

 

Sources cited:

Cumming, P. (1997). Drop everything and read all over: Literacy and loving it. Horn Book Magazine, 73(6), 51–53.

Lee-Daniels, S. L., & Murray, B. A. (2000). DEAR me: What does it take to get children reading? Reading Teacher, 54(2), 154–159.

Olivar, L. L., Manalo, J. A., & Palma, A. M. (2014). Awareness of maritime students in Lyceum International Maritime Academy on the Drop Everything and Read ( DEAR ) Program. Academic Research International, 5(3), 206–213.

Pegg, L. A., & Bartelheim, F. J. (2011). Effects of Daily Read-Alouds on Students ’ Sustained Silent Reading, 14(2).

Pruzinsky, T. (2014). Read Books. Every Day. Mostly for Pleasure. English Journal, 103(4), 25–30.

Wu, R., Wu, R., & Lu, J. (2014). A Practice of Reading Assessment in a Primary Classroom. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(1), 1–7. doi:10.4304/tpls.4.1.1-7

 

Create PDF    Send article as PDF   
%d bloggers like this: