By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education
The Technology, Colleges and Community Worldwide Online Conference is an annual professional development event organized by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The online conference invites faculty, staff, administrators and students worldwide to share their expertise and engage in discussions about innovative practices in the use of educational technology.
I was invited to attend and review this year’s event on behalf of ETC Journal. TCC 2012 took place from April 17-19. Over 500 participants gathered online for three days of online presentations and discussions. The conference schedule featured 2 keynotes, 50 general presentations, 40 student presentation and 7 peer-reviewed contributions in two parallel tracks.
Though many sessions were outside my time zone, I enjoyed several inspiring talks and was particularly impressed by the conference organization’s innovative technology use. “We are pilot testing ‘badgification’ in this year’s conference,” explained conference organizer Bert Kimura.
The conference used the social learning tool BadgeStack as an organizational infrastructure to allow participants to register, provide access to the presentations and recognize attendees’ participation and activities. The social learning environment is compatible with the Mozilla Open Badge Standard. The beta release of the Open Badge Backpack was recently launched on April 10, 2012 and TCC online encouraged participants to add their badges. Naturally, I had to try this out – and I hope to find this backpack more useful than the usual conference bag!
Fig. Screenshot Open Badge Backpack, recently released by Mozilla Foundation
For those interested in further information on the BadgeStack learning environment, I recommend the free pre-conference webinar “Badge-Based Learning and 21st Century Skills” by Jonathan Finkelstein.
The following TCC Tour D’Horizon is a personal, eclectic summary of talks I attended, either live or as recordings. For anyone interested in a first hand experience of the flavor of the conference and the type of contributions typical for TCC, the complete session recordings of TCC 2011 and the conference proceedings are open access.
SMILE from Stanford
On Tuesday, keynote-speaker Paul Kim from Stanford University started his talk with a bold confession: “I don’t really like the way students are learning in classrooms.” He then presented project SMILE, a mobile inquiry-based learning environment. Kim gave a walkthrough of different OER sites such as iTunesU, Khan Academy, MITx, Udacity and Minerva University to emphasize the growing role of open online learning material. At the same time, he stressed the fact that mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are more and more perceived as useful learning devices rather than distractions in classrooms. Kim then posed the question: “Does learning require teaching?” He explained: “If we have questions, we want to find answers.” He advocated student-centered learning instead of teacher-driven questions. “Teachers come up with questions, while students do rote memorization and simple recalls,” Kim criticized.
The SMILE project has set out to change these roles and procedures by introducing inquiry-based learning techniques in pilot project classrooms around the world – while assessing student learning. Some lessons learned are that students are not used to coming up with their own questions. Hence, the typical questions that students develop for themselves are simple recall challenges. Also, the teachers struggle with the concept and often encourage practice test questions instead of open inquiry questions. In his outlook, Paul Kim raised awareness for mobile augmented technologies, which he predicted will have a huge impact on education.
Digital Literacy and Assessment
One feature of this year’s conference was regional speakers, who presented at 2 p.m. in their local time zones. Wednesday featured a talk by Simon Walker, head of the Educational Development Unit at the University of Greenwich (UK). In his presentation, “Becoming Digitally Literate,” Walker said there is a considerable conflict between traditional academic literacies and the fast-paced world of digital devices. Students struggle to use digital technologies in fruitful ways to enhance their learning. Another focus of Walker’s talk was student experience of assessment. He presented a Google spreadsheet document designed to allow for an easy overview of the different assessment types and student workloads throughout a program. Access to the tool can be requested through the website mapmyprogramme.com.
Another presentation I attended on Wednesday focused on my current favorite pet topic “Open Educational Resources.” Jason Caudill’s talk was entitled “OpenCourseWare and Open Educational Resources: Forward to Credentialed Learning Outcomes?” Jason explained his position: “If you cannot connect what you are learning and the work that you are doing to employment or advancement or anything like that, it’s hard for people to justify the time. We see more and more emphasis on lifelong learning and more and more non-traditional students in our classrooms. OCW can be a great opportunity for them, if they can use it.” In his talk, Jason discussed current implementation badges and other systems of recognizing informal learning, e.g., MITx, an initiative to be fully launched in fall 2012, which will offer professional development credits.
A great feature of TCC was the student presentations that generally displayed a high level of technical skill and knowledge. Each master’s degree candidate from the University of Hawai‘i Educational Technology Program (ETEC) presented his or her graduation project. Additionally, there were sessions by students from other universities, including Kansai University in Japan.
My favorite student talk was delivered by Marisa Yamada, an ETEC graduate student, who presented the instructional design of a five-week online course on augmented reality. Her presentation made use of Aurasma, an augmented reality browser. The free Aurasma app currently works on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
Fig. Marisa Yamada’s interactive presentation on AR in Education
The TCC general sessions typically comprised talks that were less tailored to the traditional academic conference format but, rather, open and sometimes playful explorations of a topic or theme. A great example for this was the talk by Cynthia Calogne, professor of Emerging Media at Colorado Technical University, on “Privacy is a Myth.” Together with a group of eight students who joined her for the talk, she presented various artifacts designed by the students in Second Life as part of the “Museum of Web Privacy.” At the end of the presentation, TCC participants were invited on a digital treasure hunt in Second Life on Thursday, the last day of the conference.
Fig. The Museum of Web Privacy, a student project in Second Life
Mobile Learning Technologies
My participation on Thursday was limited by several meetings on my agenda at UNC School of Government. However, I managed to attend a great presentation by Veronica Diaz, associate director of the Educause Learning Initiative. She addressed the question of how to measure the impact of mobile learning. Veronica provided a very useful collection of mobile learning resources on Google Docs.
Fig. Educause presentation on how to measure mobile learning experiences.
Aloha and Mahalo
Given the small number of peer-reviewed contributions and the large portion of student presentations, TCC certainly is not your regular conference experience.
The best way to judge a conference is by listening to recurring participants: “This year is my fourth or fifth time at TCC. It is one of my favorite conferences because it brings together such a diverse group of people and a very international audience” (Jason Caudill).
I want to thank Bert Kimura for the invitation to attend this event and to experiment with “badgification,” a topic that will certainly be interesting for informal learning and personal learning environments in the future. Similar game-like approaches towards recognizing and rewarding activities and contributions are implemented in many online communities, for instance, the peer-to-peer learning site openstudy. How this affects user behavior is an open research question for educational technology.
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