NYC tech takes on the classroom | Crain’s New York Business

New boost for interactive content:

Partly spurred by its concentration of intellectual talent, New York is also becoming a hotbed of innovation in educational technology. Venture capital investment in education-related startups in the metro area totaled $95 million in 2011—an 84% spike over the prior year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers/National Venture Capital Association. The number of startups receiving investment money rose to 14, up from eight in 2010.In the long run, newfangled interactive textbooks like the ones Apple and its publishing partners previewed last Thursday are likely to be a minor aspect of education’s digital revolution. But Apple’s entry is certainly helping the revolution along.

All doesn’t seem to be well, however:

In the fourth quarter, VC financing in the New York area plunged 40%, compared with the prior quarter, to $545.1 million.

But experts say the tech-education industry is just getting started. The U.S. business for e-learning products and services in the pre-K to 12-and-higher education markets will grow to $11 billion in 2015, from $7.6 billion in 2011, according to research firm Ambient Insight.

(Via NYC tech takes on the classroom | Crain’s New York Business)

Hat Tip: Samudra Sen

Better Future for a MOOC

Audrey Watters recently wrote an “introductory” post about the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

The acronym MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. The meaning of “massive” is obvious; a MOOC can range from several hundred to several thousand participants. But it isn’t just the size of the classes or even their location — online — that make MOOCs different.

MOOCs redefine academic courses in several ways. They are open, for one, which means that anyone can participate. The content of the course — readings and so on — is freely and openly accessible. The content that participants create is also open. Students blog, for example, and share their learning with one another.

via Are MOOCs the Future of Online Learning? | MindShift.

Having participated in a MOOC, recently – Learning & Knowledge Analytics – LAK11, (which, I admit, I have yet to complete – and that is the beauty of it), I can tell you that the experience is enriching. However, as Audrey Watters rightly says, there needs to be a “strong commitment” to learn.

The one major advantage of a MOOC, to my mind is the accessibility of the course. Learning content that would have been otherwise unavailable to people around the world is now on your screens and at your disposal in a way that you could not have imagined. A very recent example is the MOOC being offered by Stanford University on “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” A free course from Stanford University, yes you read that right. But here’s something that may not completely be wonderful about a MOOC. According to the info pagefor this course:

It is their objective to offer identical homework assignments, quizzes, and exams in both versions of this course. Students taking the online version will therefore be graded according to the same grading criteria as students taking CS221 at Stanford. However, to receive Stanford credit, the course has to be taken through Stanford; and students have to be registered at Stanford University. Online student will only get a certificate in the name of the instructors, but no official Stanford certificate.

That is the logic of free. I have yet to see a MOOC that offers any kind of certification. If you have read Audrey Watters’ article, you will have seen that a MOOC is necessarily an informal learning. So you’d participate in a MOOC more for the love of learning than certification itself.

A few thoughts on the way forward for MOOCs:

  • It would be nice for MOOCs to have industry participation. For all the cries of talent shortage that the industry makes, it is ironic that would not want to participate in such a progressive and contemporary learning initiative.
  • It would be even more worthwhile, if they endorse such courses. It would help provide additional motivation to the participants to take up MOOCs as supplementary qualifications.
  • MOOCs use well-developed technology platforms for delivery; an ePortfolio would be helpful, something that the participants can carry in lieu of of a formal certificate.
  • Since MOOCs usually have thousands of participants (not all of them quite serious learners), a method of filtering folks that you would like to follow and engage with. Also, a method to identify and discover folks who are actively engaged in the course.

These notes, to an extent, invalidate the very idea of informal and open learning. However, I believe the MOOC has the potential to address some of the gaps that education needs to fulfill.

Finally, the one irony of a MOOC, I cannot but help noticing, is the accessibility of a MOOC. By virtue of it being an online course, those who could be best served by the value of a MOOC, are the ones who do not have access to the Internet.

No Next Button – Some Examples | MinuteBio

Having seen my share of eLearning courses, built a few, and reviewed quite a few, this link was interesting to read.

No Next Button – Some Examples | MinuteBio

The Back/Next navigation, which relegates interaction outside the content has been done to death, almost like PowerPoint. The learner is a passive consumer of the content – the said interaction is no interaction, but a chore to push the passive state of content from one screen to another. There is no excitement in the “interaction” and the said “interaction” is in a frame that contains the interaction.

Instructionally, this imposes a way of navigating on the learner, that leaves no scope for discovery or exploration. More often than not, moving media (animations, video clips) embedded in the content is often passed for interactive content. This is, at best, active content.

Not all samples in this link are the best in terms of instructional design, but they definitely make a case for breaking away from frame-based navigational interaction.

Hat Tip: Stephen Downes

Blog Overlap? Perhaps

I started a new blog with great amount of apprehension. Another education blog, so to speak. I already have this blog – which in spite of it’s vague description (more due to its evolution) and all-inclusiveness has tended to be blog related to education, nevertheless.

I have recently started pursuing my MA in Education from IGNOU. Along with the obvious excitement of putting in some structure all that I think I already know (and of course finding out that I don’t really know), I was equally excited about being in the experiment of evaluating the use of online tools in an educational setting — as against observing the practice of the use of these tools as a non-participating entity. I think that makes a difference

I had to start that off with a blog.

Also, though I have great respect for IGNOU, this institute has a long way to go. So, the objectives for this new blog are two-fold: one, to get my learning online and see how it really works, and two, to share my experience of a distance education course and the institution itself.

To my mind these two blogs will have a certain level of overlap, but for now, I am going with this overlap. This one has got more to do with the business of education, as such, while the new one is specific to the course and the institution.

The MA (Education) blog is at http://edmasters.wordpress.com/

Technology & Teachers

“The technology is simple, open source and so available for anyone who wants to make and sell it, which ensures that it is priced low. He says it will not make ‘one laptop per child’ outdated or irrelevant. A child can take it home. This complements it by introducing group learning, he says. Where does that leave the teacher? In the background.”

It’s the “In the background.” that I take exception to. The word background in this context is a bit vague and may mean many things. Especially if you are a teacher. There is enough scepticism from teachers (that it replaces them) about the use of technology in classroom.

Technology in education does not put the teacher in the background – it put’s them in better control to manage a class better.

Via Sreelatha Menon: The teaching table

The Pull of the Push

What was really the lack of creativity, was well converted to an experiment.

For a few days, I did not update my status on Facebook. Part of it was also sheer laziness. I was expecting that a few friends, who seem to be tracking all the status updates, good bad and some downright useless, would take note and prod me into updating. In fact, I did not do anything on Facebook during this period, save a couple of comments on a some other status messages. I had a feed that used to update some photos on Flickr and my posts from my personal blog.

No one asked me about the update for about 20 days.

Made me wonder (I started calling this an experiment after I had cleared my status after five days) if anyone really takes notice of what they want to read. The ubiquitous “River of Streams” from Facebook to Twitter to Friendfeed throws up interesting questions.

Push technology has been the mainstay of how we live our lives today; how we consume information and how it comes to us is changing. I read with great interest, a tweet from PersonaNonData. In the linked article, Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of US technology and culture magazine Wired discusses the Internet’s challenge to the traditional press, new business models on the Web and why he would rather read Twitter than a daily newspaper.

Here’s a small bit from the article:

SPIEGEL: So how do you stay informed?

Anderson: It comes to me in many ways: via Twitter, it shows up in my inbox, it shows up in my RSS feed, through conversations. I don’t go out looking for it.

SPIEGEL: You just don’t care.

Anderson: No, I do care. You know, I pick my sources, and I trust my sources.

I know of quite a few friends in various social networks, who accumulate many a feed in their readers, which interestingly also becomes a bit stressful as time goes by and the unread count increases.

Back to the the “Facebook Experiment”, it seems to me that once you have accumulated a large number of friends on Facebook, the updates become pretty useless. For one, Facebook has evolved into much more than a simple social network. It is an appstore of sorts. (Frankly, sometimes it makes you wish you didn’t have so many friends exploring what colour they are or what villain they were in past life). In reviewing the river of friends’ activities, how does one look for something that they really want to read about? (Tweetdeck did something useful, by allowing you to categorise Twitterers based on your own method.)

The one problem that access to Internet solves is that of breaking the limits of geography. And with this solution, it has brought a problem of its own. Unlimited access to everybody who is wired, into this world. Which means that our social network becomes broader (grows horizontally) by the day. You make friends online and connect to them (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Effectively you have access to a whole host of information that is being sent to you. How you make sense of that information, however, is left entirely to you.

The reason I quote Spiegel and Chris Anderson above, is what I feel I have learnt from this little Facebook experiment of mine. It is not just enough to pick trustworthy news sources. It is important to have a way and means of moving relevant information to the top of the stack.

I had written about RSSing Comment Conversations a while ago. And it seems now, that RSS will have to evolve much more than just riding on the one advantage of pushing and aggregating. Relevance, prioritisation, and contextualisation has to be built into RSS (readers). Else, we are spending a considerable time in deciding what we would like to consume.

Destabilising Establishments

While the news in itself isn’t something that is new or unique, it certainly is one in line for establishing a trend that labels will have to rethink their strategy.

Prince Gives The Finger To The Labels—Again: “[…] So it’s fitting that LotusFlow3r.com, his latest project, aims to offer fans a smorgasbord of digital content with little to no label interference. […] Since die-hard fans will only be able to legitimately access this content through the site, it’s a nod to my colleague Rory’s suggestion that labels (but also artists) set up their own digital-distribution platforms instead of relying on third-parties like iTunes and Amazon.”

(Via paidContent.org.)

Music, somehow has always set an example for other content to follow. Will authors publish themselves? And while the Artist formerly called Prince probably has the wherewithal to set up a platform to distribute music, what of the individual author?