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Posts Tagged ‘online

We need to question the belief that once you put something online, it is there forever and for all to see. This is not true all the time.

You can blog or tweet or upload a video on YouTube. But no one might view it, much less respond to it.

You might maintain public wishlists, video playlists, or audio shares that no one sees, watches, or listens to.

Dropbox recently changed its public folder policy. HTML pages will no longer be sharable so you cannot run a low-traffic website out of Dropbox.

As of October 3, 2016, you can no longer use shared links to render HTML content in a web browser. If you created a website that directly displays HTML content from your Dropbox, it will no longer render in the browser.

Just because something is online does not immediately make it visible, sharable, or valuable.

But post a naughty photo or say something stupid, and potential employers and the authorities might shut doors on you.

So it is not enough to say “be careful online” or “do not put things online”. These generic rules, even if illustrated with cases, are not meaningful. Only what connects with each owner and creator of the content as well as their intended and unintended audiences are meaningful.

I tweeted this yesterday.

It is sad because two parties resort to cheating.

The teachers are cheating themselves if they think that quizzes will ensure learning or student effort. In doing so, they also cheat students of better online learning experiences.

The students are cheating because they have not taken ownership of material they have been told to learn. They would rather take shortcuts because the work seems meaningless.

It is funny because of the punitive workarounds both sides use.

Teachers try to reduce or prevent cheating by implementing technical workarounds with the help of IT or backend folk.

The students get creative with different methods like multiple instances of open browsers or working in small groups.

Perhaps these moves are not funny. They are laughable because they are all trying to beat a legacy system designed to sieve and sort for the industrial and paper age. That is how things get sad again.

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7 by andymag, on Flickr
7” (CC BY 2.0) by  andymag 

This Learning Solutions article tried to separate folly from fact about online instructional videos. In doing so, it might have offered a Viddler-sponsored bias and a few myths of its own.

I offer a simple blow-by-blow following each of the article’s main chunks.
Myth #1: Everything worth learning can (and should) be reduced to bite-sized, two-minute videos.

Reflection 1: Some things should not or cannot be on videos; optimal video duration.

Some things that cannot be on videos might include sensitive issues (what these are depends on context), sensitive people (e.g., those that need protection), and intrinsic knowledge of staff. Such issues are a matter of policy, mindset, timing, and much more. A push for videos is not going to budge these issues.

While the article made a good point that short videos are not effective in themselves, it ignores research from providers like edX that have suggested the optimal length of videos for motivated learners.
Myth #2: Video should be free; YouTube is all I need.

Reflection 2: YouTube could be all you need especially if are smart about it.

You would expect Viddler to declare “YouTube was designed as a social medium and a publishing and advertising platform, with a focus on generating ad revenue for Google. That’s not a bad thing, but using it for training is problematic.”

People conveniently forget that the ads and monetisation came later. The fact now is ads and your usage data are the price to pay for “free”. Once you get over that and realise that the learner who has grown up with YouTube takes no issue with that, you focus on more important things.

Might privacy be one such issue? From the article: “With effort, you can make your videos private, but the default state is public. Anyone can see and download your training videos—even your competitors.”

The article conveniently left out one important word: With LITTLE effort, you can make your videos private. It is a setting you see when you upload or record a video on YouTube.

As for “anyone can see and download your training videos”, see my reply to #5.
Myth #3: Video is expensive; our company is too small to use video for training.

Reflection 3: Video is expensive. And it is not.

Video for any organisation, big or small, is relatively easy and low cost today especially if you already have cameras, lights, microphones, computers, and a dedicated team. Simply go back in time by five-year bounds and compare the costs of manpower, equipment, and professional development.

The real cost is time and effort. If an organisation decides to jump on the online video or MOOC wagon, there will be a sudden need for many videos. This then leads to a sudden need for equipment, professional development, and/or new hires.

This problem is repeated time and again because very few organisations share their practices. If they do, other organisations do not take the advice until the issue becomes real.

Side note: What organisations typically do to deal with the huge demand for new instructional videos is to use templates, e.g., talking head formats. These are simple, self-recorded, and require minimal post-processing. These are also the most boring and ineffective because they layer old pedagogy over new technology.
Myth #4: Video files are too big for company intranets.

Reflection 4: Yes, that is why there is YouTube.

Enough said.
Myth #5: Online video is not secure.

Reflection 5: Anything online is not secure. If you think about it, anything offline is not that secure either.

If you are stupid enough to share a trade secret on YouTube or any open sharing platform, then you deserve what is coming to you.

Learn how to secure your videos if that is important to you. That said, if security is your primary concern, why are you thinking about videos? Go back to your cave instead.
Myth #6: People don’t pay attention to training videos.

Reflection 6: People do not pay attention to what is not meaningful or interesting.

The article hits the mark on a painfully true issue. The tips they offer focus on interactivity and they are all good.

I can only recommend two more: Make videos meaningful and provide them just-in-time.
Myth #7: Online video is not as effective as face-to-face training.

Reflection 7: My immediate response was: This old argument?

My delayed response was: This old argument?

The medium of teaching and learning is not the issue. The context is.

A key question to answer is: What circumstances or affordances favour one medium or the other or both? The point is to provide a meaningful and powerful learning experience, not reinforce an outdated mindset or blindly follow policy.

Closing thoughts
You can rely on technology to instruct the same way or to educate differently. The best integrations online video challenge the status quo. Instead on focusing on the instructor and delivery, there should be a focus on the learner and interaction. Doing the former might be more efficient; doing the latter is more effective.

Today I draw three lessons from a photo sharing incident that bugged me.

I might have been a photographer in another life. Photography was a passion of mine as a teenager and I would save my allowance to buy rolls of film and to get them developed. I was even saving up to build my own darkroom to develop negatives.

But that was long ago and a technology far, far away. The point is I was an amateur photographer. I even managed to sell a few photos when I was studying overseas.

Now taking photos is an itch I scratch every time I travel.

Late last year I visited Georgetown, Penang, which is a city in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. I took lots of photos, and as I had just started using Instagram, shared a few on that platform.

One photo that took a while for me to set up was this one.

So imagine my dismay when I spotted this in a feed that was not mine.

You can tell that it had been enhanced a little, probably with an Instagram edit. However, the positioning of the items, the stain near the teapot, and the imperfections on the tray show that the original photo was mine.

I wrote to them to say that the photo looked familiar. This was their reply and my response.

What are some lessons from this incident?

I am all for open educational resources and I champion Creative Commons (CC) licensing. However, my photo was not shared under CC in Instagram. The hotel that used my photo did not 1) ask for permission, 2) receive my permission, and 3) acknowledge me. Kids need to be taught how to navigate traditional copyright and CC waters if they are not to make the same mistakes.

Another lesson is the importance of putting your ideas online. While this gives others the opportunity to borrow or steal, the pros of increased reach and feedback far outweigh the cons. Putting them online with date and time-stamping also allows you to say who was first.

Yet another lesson is monitoring your portfolio of work. In this case, I had simply followed that hotel on Instagram. The same principle and strategy applies in professional work. If you are part of a community of workers or interest partners, you know who is who and who is doing what. You cannot say you are part of a community and not know what is going on. You should know or someone will let you know.

The trigger for this reflection was a newspaper article that reported Singapore employers’ reactions to embed learners in workplaces for authentic experiences.

One employer, citing support from government subsidies, said this: “The subsidies can also go towards helping us to create self-learning tools such as online learning programmes”.

If you have a decent idea on how “online learning programmes” are practised in industry and even in higher education, you know that they are far from desirable or ideal.

I know because a significant amount of my work life revolved around online and e-learning. Heck, I was in charge of a centre for e-learning not too long ago.

I have seen more bad practices than good ones. When designing or assigning online learning, the worst ones were and still are:

  • Starting with a perspective that there is no difference between online teaching and online learning
  • Attempts to simply but unsuccessfully replicate face-to-face presence
  • Not blending and dedicating face time with co-learners and/or more knowledgeable others
  • Using online learning as a blunt tool to solve all ills
  • Not questioning the one-size-fits-all approach
  • Assuming a fire-and-forget mentality
  • Not connecting the online with the offline or larger purpose

The mistakes are repeated because people do not learn from them. Sometimes they do not learn from them because they do not think that they have made mistakes.

I have listed a few from a host of many mistakes. These are the sort of mistakes that are not worth making because they keep administrators and instructors thinking they have done their jobs while leaving learners frustrated.

272/365: Student by Rrrodrigo, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  Rrrodrigo 

Recently I read an article on The Atlantic, The End of Paper-and-Pencil Exams?

The headline asked a speculative question, but did not deliver a clear answer. It hinted at mammoth change, but revealed that dinosaurs still rule.

Here is the short version.

This is what 13,000 4th grade students in the USA had to do in an online test that was part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They had to respond to test prompts to:

  • Persuade: Write a letter to your principal, giving reasons and examples why a particular school mascot should be chosen.
  • Explain: Write in a way that will help the reader understand what lunchtime is like during the school day.
  • Convey: While you were asleep, you were somehow transported to a sidewalk underneath the Eiffel Tower. Write what happens when you wake up there.

This pilot online assessment was scored by human beings. The results were that 40% of students struggled to respond to question prompts as they were rated a 2 (marginal) or 1 (little or no skill) on a 6 point scale.

This was one critique of the online test:

One downside to the NCES pilot study: It doesn’t compare student answers with similar questions answered in a traditional written exam setting.

I disagree that this is necessary. Why should the benchmark be the paper test? Why is a comparison even necessary?

While the intention is to compare the questions, what a paper vs computer-based test might do is actually compare media. After all, the questions are essentially the same, or by some measure very similar.

Cornelia Orr, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, stated at a webinar on the results that:

When students are interested in what they’re writing about, they’re better able to sustain their level of effort, and they perform better.

So the quality and type of questions are the greater issues. The medium and strategy of choice (going online and using what is afforded there) also influence the design of questions.

Look at it another way: Imagine that the task was to create a YouTube video that could persuade, explain, or convey. It would not make sense to ask students to write about the video. They would have to design and create it.

If the argument is that the YouTube video’s technical, literacy, and thinking skills are not in the curriculum, I would ask why that curriculum has excluded these relevant and important skills.

The news article mentioned some desired outcomes:

The central goal of the Common Core is deeper knowledge, where students are able to draw conclusions and craft analysis, rather than simply memorize rote fact.

An online test should not be a copy of the paper version. It should have unGoogleable questions so that students can still Google, but they must be tested on their ability to “draw conclusions and craft analysis, rather than simply memorize rote fact”.

An online test should be about collaborating in real-time, responding to real-world issues, and creating what is real to the learners now and in their future.

An online test should not be mired in the past. It might save on paper-related costs and perhaps make some grading more efficient. But that focuses on what administrators and teachers want. It fails to provide what learners need.

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If you already know about Heartbleed and have taken what action you can (like installing this extension in Chrome), then you might click here to skip the first 1.5min of this video.

The content of the video on privacy choice is not as long as it appears. For almost half of it, the host, Mike Rugnetta, responds to comments to a previous video. He also probably asks more questions than he provides answers about privacy.

Large corporations and a segment of the public might make the point that we choose to have our data online. Some of the data is what we want to share (public photos and videos) and some of it is private (email and bank account information). If the latter data is compromised, the corporations can say we chose to be part of their system.

However, I think the host tries to make the point that we have little choice. Essentially we are choosing to be part of a modern society or not. Each will come with its demands, compromises, and unintended consequences.

I think that what is private is subjective. It varies with changing expectations and the affordances of technologies. Personal photographs were private to physical albums. Then they could be shared via carousel slide shows. Then they were sharable with the whole world with Flickr and Instagram.

There still are things like bank account information that we would like to keep private. But I do not know of any modern bank that is not online. There are even banks that are only online. Nothing is absolutely private online even though banks will do their level best against hackers doing their level best.

We take calculated risks, we compromise, and we put our trust in many things we do not fully understand (e.g., powered flight, filtered water, online privacy). We evolve with our technology. In terms of privacy, what was sacred yesterday might be less so tomorrow.

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