Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Former CIA Consultant Provides Global Insights- Opportunities to Engage Learning

The tools of technology, communications, and our modern methods of data collection and analytical analysis today can provide us with a very insightful picture of our current and future worlds.  The way we live, consume our news and information, and how we interact with the world provides us clues into where we might be headed as a country.

Recently I was provided the opportunity to interview, Herbert E. Meyer, who served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence, and vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He is credited as being the first senior official to accurately predict the fall of the Soviet Union, a forecast for which he later was awarded the U.S. National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, which is the Intelligence Community’s highest honor.

Meyer spoke at an event sponsored by the Wisconsin Chapter of TEC21, which is made of executive members representing area companies employing 10,000 workers
and generate revenues in excess of $1 billion. The global organization TEC, is a professional
development group of CEO’s, presidents, and business owners that meet in a confidential environment to “help each other succeed.”  Meyer, who speaks worldwide to business executives on global intelligence, provided a personal interview of key issues he feels the world needs to pay attention to. These key observations are not only helpful in our daily lives, but are also important concepts to discuss in our college curriculum.

Meyer’s assertions and observations provide a good framework for
faculty and students to “dive deeper” into worldwide trends barely noticed in the short term. In essence, Meyer provides a framework and opportunity to make learning both relevant and engaging for both faculty and students.

Birth Rates.

Of the many topics Meyer focuses on, perhaps the most provocative is his analysis of world birth rates. He says to sustain a country’s population; a birth rate of 2.1% is required. This means two children, one each to take care of mom and dad, and the .1 child to keep the county’s population stable. Easy to understand, but becoming more difficult to achieve in developed countries.

In nearly 20 European countries, the birth rate is actually less than 1.3%. Meyer stresses, “This is suicidal and in 30 years, there will be 70 million to 80 million fewer Europeans alive than there are today,” says Meyer. Meyer points out his figures are quite real and be can be looked up on the World Health Organization web site.

Meyer points out that Japan also has a 1.3% birthrate. “As a result, Japan will lose up to 60 million people over the next 30 years. Because Japan has a very different society than Europe, they refuse to import workers. Japan has already closed 2,000 schools, and is closing them down at the rate of 300 per year. Japan is also aging very rapidly. By 2020, 1 out of 5 Japanese will be at least 70 years old. Nobody has any idea about how to run an economy with those demographics.” Meyer said that for the first time in Japan’s history, more diapers are being produced for the elderly than for babies. Understanding birthrates, according to Meyer is critical to forecasting the effect on business, and on future generations.

The News.

Meyer stresses that, “News tells you what’s going wrong, but it doesn’t tell you what’s going right. If an airplane lands on time it is not a news bulletin.” Meyer points out, that the story we are not hearing is that the “world is emerging from poverty at a rate never before seen in world history.”


With our interest in news, comes our focus on pessimism in the world. Meyer says, “If you are being told everything is going wrong it’s hard not to be pessimistic. There are things that are going right.” Meyer cautions that if you are hearing so much pessimism, “You are getting a completely skewed view of the world.”


Most importantly, Meyer says that our “Journalism has to change. Journalism is the radar. If the radar
gives you bad information, then pilots make bad decisions. The radar is not tuned properly.” Meyer continued by noting that the while the mystery of flight 370 is a big story, the larger story we are missing is the democratic vote in Afghanistan. Meyer said, “Afghanistan had the most extraordinary vote better than anyone could have ever thought. That’s a gigantic story and our troops made that possible. No one is making that linkage, not even the President. He should have been on national TV....saying ladies and gentleman did you see that election in Afghanistan? That would not have happened without the armed forces of the United States, and people would feel better about it.”
Meyer stresses, “If you are the radar screen you have to tell them when there is a mountain in front of you, but if there are clear skies you have to tell them that too. The radar is only built to look at trouble. And that’s the glitch. You don’t get a balanced picture.”


Meyer tells us “the world is becoming modern. If you don’t have a framework then all you see is little events here and there that don’t make any sense. During the cold war decades we saw the world through a prism- this titanic struggle between the Soviet Union and the free world. When the cold war ended, nobody knew what the world was going to look like. George H. W. Bush tried to explain what the new world order was, but could not explain what it meant. It wasn’t clear.” Meyer says that, “Now it’s clear- the world is becoming modern, and it’s the best use of American power and ingenuity to make it go.” Meyer added, “As the world becomes modern, this is less of a reason to go to war.”

Message to the Young.

To conclude the interview, I asked Meyer how he would address today’s youth with so many daunting
challenges ahead of them. Without hesitation, and a smile on his face Meyer said, “The job of your generation is to take the world out of poverty without trashing the planet. I can‘t imagine a more interesting and complicate chore for a generation- lucky you!” He said he had very high hopes for the youth of the world.

For Meyer, he said he enjoys telling his story. He added, “It seems to resonate with people. People come up to me, and say, “I haven’t heard that before.” I am painting the picture they aren't getting.” Meyer concluded the interview by emphasizing the goal is to get his predictions of global intelligence on the public’s radar. He concluded saying, “You don’t have the radar with the green lines sweeping around. And that’s the missing piece. That’s what I am trying to fill in.”  Understanding technology, communications, and analytical data collection and analysis are important concepts to help educators make learning both relevant and engaging. Understanding and discussing what Meyer has uncovered can help motivate faculty and students to dig deeper into topics and issues that will have a dramatic and profound impact on our daily lives, today and in the distance future.

Monday, December 02, 2013

TEDx Talk on Digital Storytelling Inspires Millennials and Beyond

The effective use of social media today is by many accounts still a “trending topic.”  The population of digital natives, or more commonly referred to as Millennials, the population generally born between 1980 and 2000, typically is the group we most focus on. Certainly people of all ages use social media, but perhaps not as much as the 18-24 year old section of the world.

With such an immense amount of media messages being focused on this group, or content being created by this same group, the question becomes, “What is the most effective way of getting compelling and engaging content to be read or acknowledged by our targeted population, namely Millennials.”

One proven technique is to find relevant, authentic, and emotional digital stories which connect with the audience.  With so many competing messages being disseminated, perhaps the best strategy to engage Millennials audiences and beyond is to find, create, and disseminate stories that people can connect with. And by strategically disseminating these stories through social media outlets, we can disseminate them even further, making our original message more sustainable.

This topic was part of a recent TEDx Talk held at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  The talk was entitled, “Digital Storytelling- Changing People, Perceptions, and Lives.”  A series of TEDx talks were held at this event with the general theme of “Turning Points.” You can view Jim's presentation here:

Jim Jorstad, a CNN iReport 2013 Spirit Award winner took the audience through an eighteen minute journey of how digital storytelling can help audiences emotionally connect with a personal message and experience. As Jim points out, “We need to ‘dive deep’ into getting the story which resides in each of us. While we all have technology at our finger tips, many of us have become disconnected with one another, merely because we have access to technology.”

Jorstad uses CNN iReporting to bring engaging and emotional stories to the world to help us learn about people’s lives, their perceptions, and how we can change.

His citizen journalism has inspired students, teachers, and social movements.  As he points out, “When I started reporting my goal was 10,000 views. Now, by creating more engaging content and using social media outlets, I have nearly 1 million views.  And when you look at the data, a million people very large audience you can connect with.” What is your story?

Friday, October 04, 2013

MOOCs- More Than Massive Courses: They Are Massive Projects

As the acronym for MOOCs moves through the daily news cycle and travels through the Twittersphere, questions continue to surface asking, “What makes for a successful MOOC?”  While academic and corporate institutions search for the best formula for “MOOC success,” perhaps it would be instructive to consider the formula used by a successful math program developed at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  It is an on-line developmental math program for high school students was created and carefully tested, and eventually expanded to a worldwide, multi-aged student MOOC.  I interviewed Dr. Bob Hoar who conceived of the concept, and who assembled a collaborative team to develop the MOOC program.  This is how they did it.

Dr. Hoar, or as he is sometimes referred to, “Dr. MOOC” is a math professor and now Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.  When he talks about MOOCs he is quick to say, “A MOOC or a Massive Open On-Line Course is more than just a Massive Course, it’s really a Massive Project.”

From the very start, the key for the program’s success was to test and pilot the concept before taking it to “prime time.”  As Bob states, “We were able to pilot our MOOC with students that were intending to attend our university. We were able to study these students before they took the course through university application and placement test information. After they took the course we used an independent post-test and followed their progress into the freshman year. The data indicated that over 97% of the students improved their math scores.  We made a few modifications based on our findings from the pilot and opened the course to the world.”

Once the program’s success was proven, the University of Wisconsin System invested into the concept to see how the MOOC can become scalable to other institutions. At about the same time the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was offering grants related to our research.  Bob and his team applied for a grant, and also added a video component to showcase the success of the project. As Bob will tell you, “the video really made the difference.”

As Bob reflected on the grant he commented, “Some would say the announcement of the Bill and Melinda Gates award was the defining moment, but I think the key moment came before the award. A MOOC is a very different course and our system was not setup to handle this sort of thing. The timeline on the grant submission was short, and to get the proposal submitted, we needed to get agreement between faculty, support staff, administration, and lawyers (both internal and external to the institution). Everyone did their job and asked many questions. For me, the defining moment was when this diverse group came together and agreed that UW System was ready to offer a MOOC and that ours would be the pioneer into this new frontier.

Once a MOOC has been developed, you need to have your next steps already in place. In some regard,
developing a MOOC is like playing a good chess match. You need to think of multiple moves in advance.  For Dr. Hoar’s MOOC a great deal of data was created. He said, “The data helps us to quickly make changes to the course, and we will continue to make data driven improvements. In addition, the data likely contains information that we have not yet discovered. The field of user analytics supports more sophisticated data analysis.”

Because of the success of this MOOC, the team received another grant, this time from the MOOC Research Institute to gain new insights into “who” is learning in the course and “what” elements of the course are having the greatest impact. MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a set of investments intended to explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways.  The results from this research will help in the development and and study of other potential MOOCs.

Bob added, “We are also working with other institutions (colleges, universities and high schools) to develop partnerships. One of the time-consuming, but important elements of the course is the online office hours and tutoring. Students in the course can get one-on-one (or small group) help as they advance through the course.  This group of students would have access to tutors from their own campus which helped to build a cohort-type community.”  The added benefit was that students could ask more than just math related questions.

So what is the best advice in developing a MOOC?  Bob says, “Put together a team that you like working with. Include IT support, platform support, content experts, and someone to help with marketing. Our MOOC has two internal tracks, one is synchronous and one is asynchronous. A given MOOC could be one or the other, or both and each approach has its design challenges. The content is very important, but once you have that, the user experience is key to supporting the learning. To ensure sustainability, you will need to show impact. Be sure to gather the data necessary to speak to impact. Numbers are not enough."

As far as what the current MOOC trends are in the world, Bob says MOOCs are still a fairly new concept. “Comparisons to traditional courses are attempted, but the fundamental difference between the two calls for new metrics. In the next few years, MOOCs will be categorized based upon their goals and format. This has already begun, and the number of categories will likely grow. The characteristics that distinguish one MOOC-type from another may imply some measurable difference, and how well a MOOC performs on these measures will allow for comparisons of MOOCs within the same category."

MOOCs will continue to be a closely watched phenomenon over the several years, with many institutions looking to see if they can create courses and programs that are scalable, sustainable, and hopefully profitable.”  The other key is to promote and marketing what you are accomplishing with your MOOC.

 Dr. Hoar was part of a special on-line webstream hosted by Sonic Foundry that included over 1200 on-line viewers, covering every state in the U.S. and 60 countries worldwide. Marketing the MOOC concept is an important element for success. In addition, for Dr. MOOC picking a relevant topic and a group you want to work with to create a MOOC is important.  In the end he reminds us, “MOOCs are not just massive courses, they are massive projects.”

Monday, September 09, 2013

Five Technology Trends That Will Transform Teaching & Learning

At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse an annual technology event called, "TECH in 20" is held which gives faculty and staff "quick hits" on a wide variety of relevant topics. These sessions are limited to 20 minutes to basically whet the audiences' appetites on technology topics that help faculty and staff in their classrooms, offices, and in their lives.

One session, "Five Technology Trends That Will Transform Teaching and Learning" highlighted a number of innovative technologies that have moved from the lab to the mainstream.  These trends include: Multiple and Flexible Displays, 4-K Resolution, 3-D Printing, Flipping the Classroom, and Mobile Learning and Living.

Multiple and Flexible Displays

As the display panel industry continues to innovate, we are seeing a steady stream of thinner, larger, and high resolution flat panel displays hit the market.  In the academic world, these new products are beginning to replace the traditional smartboard products with higher resolutions and wider surface areas.  The new generation of panels allow for multiple user interactions and more sophisticated applications.
In addition these panels can be connected to form entire walls of displays, large tabletops, and even floors.  As prices continue to evolve, these new panels could replace analog white boards in a variety of room types. The ability of multiple users to interact on the display can provide a much more collaborative and interactive experience.

In addition to multiple displays is the introduction of flexible displays. This development opens up entirely new opportunities to include image display in a wide variety of environments in our work and lives. Untethered by the traditional limitations of a hard device, flexible displays could be treated literally like paper. These same devices could even be seen as wearable jewelry or clothing. As millions of people worldwide carry their iPhones, it is intriguing that Apple has recently announced a number of patents for a potential flexible iPhone.  The trend for flexible displays and appliances will likely accelerate as innovations are introduced and consumers adopt them in their work and play.

Corning created several insightful videos entitled, "A Day Made of Glass." The most recent version 2 speculates on how displays will change our lives through a number of innovative uses. This YouTube video has been viewed by nearly 4 million people.  The program not only illustrates what is currently available in market place, but creatively and accurately speculates how displays will likely be utilized in academics, corporate, medical, and in our social lives.

4-K Resolution

With the advent of HD TV, the world was introduced to an entirely new world of sharper images with unprecedented resolution.  Today, there is migration toward even higher resolution which is referred to UltraHD which boasts twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of 1080p, and 4 times the overall pixels. our current HD standard.  At a resolution of 4096x2160, UltraHD is impressive even when viewing video projection on a 25 foot screen. At INFOComm 2013, spectacular images could be seen both on projection and flat panel displays.

The quality of these images have applications in the consumer market, but also in medicine, corporate, and eventually academics.

3-D Printing

The world of 3-D printing has ushered a new era of taking complex 3-dimensional concepts, and making them "come to life" so that we can interact with them.  In this world of printing, if you can conceive of a shape, you can create it.  From artwork, shoes, musical instruments, and robotic devices, we now have the capability to create items without the need of traditional molding processes. Today, 3-D technology is allowing companies to create replacement jawbones, or even a transparent 3-D model of a human body.

The process of 3-D printing is made possible through an "additive process" whereby successive layers of different types of material is laid down.  As the Wall Street Journal notes, "A 3-D printer bears little resemblance to a document printer in an office. It has two major parts: a "build box" that contains a smooth, thin bed of finely ground material such as pulverized stainless steel or powdered plastic; and a printing head. Depending on the type of printer, the head contains either a heat source, such as a laser or an electron beam, that melts the powdered material or jets that spray binder over the powder in a precise pattern. The binder functions as a glue for the material as an object is built."  To see an example of the power of 3-D printing, here is a video from Shapeways:

Flipping the Classroom

Much has been written about flipping the classroom, but for many, the exact definition can appear elusive. Generally a flipped classroom occurs when the learning takes more of an on-line component with students being able to learn on-line augmented with videos, homework, assignments, and assessments. In doing this, it provides the student with more instructor time, provides more of a self-paced learning environment, promotes more engagement, and assessments are more enhanced.  There are times where the instructor teaches, and others when students join in to teach as well. Each of these components deal with pedagogical issues.  However, flipping the classroom is also tied to the actual design of the face-to-fact environment.

A Flipped Classroom can become much a more engaging environment, when the design of the room promotes active learning. Carefully designing the learning environment to promote an active learning space accentuates the notion of flipping the experience.  MIT, the University of North Carolina, and Penn State are just some the many examples of creating active learning spaces which do not define the front of the classroom as one area.   Multiple projection and displays, distributed and clustered AC power, and innovative furniture all work in unison to create an truly Flipped Classroom experience.

Mobile Learning and Living

As mobile devices get smaller and become more powerful, and display technology advances it becomes increasingly easy to see a blurring of lines between what is work and what is part of our daily lives. Technology miniaturization and revolutionary industrial processes and led to an rise of electronic devices that can allow us to check our e-mail, surf the net, but also track our personal status. A new generation of "wrist band" computers are entering the marketplace. Two prominent manufacturers are FitBit and Jawbone's UP.
These devices can track our activity levels, our sleep patterns, moods, and allow us to add nutritional intake and other data to monitor ourselves. As one company states, "Know Yourself and Live Better."
A video on the design and manufacturing of the UP product provides insights into the notion of a mobile learning and learning device and whole technology has evolved to allow us to know more about each of us.


Each of these 5 Technology Trends are interrelated, and taken as a whole will likely enhance and transform how we learn, work, and live.  Certainly these trends will be modified, tweaked or changed completely.  Still it is important to understand the potential each of these elements have, and to carefully research and pilot each concept to carefully plot our course in academics and in corporate. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Changing the Culture of Your IT Organization [podcast]

At the EDUCAUSE 2013 Midwest Regional Conference, as a follow up to our session on "Changing the Culture of Your IT Organization," we sat down with Gerry Bayne from EDUCAUSE to record a 10 minute podcast. The podcast highlights how an IT organization can go through an external, becoming more strategic, and enhance the IT alignment, both internally and externally. The key to success is a clear plan, effective communications, and an open process that engages IT staff and stakeholders. Listen how an IT culture can change and empower people in the process.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flipping the Classroom with Social Media

Educators continue to look for ways to "flip the classroom" through effective learning space design and adhering to the principles of Universal Design. The concept of Universal Design focuses on seven principles in designing spaces: Equitable Use, Flexibility in Use, Simple and Intuitive Use, Perceptible Information, Tolerance for Error, Low Physical Effort, Size and Space for Approach and Use. While each of these elements are closely related to learning space creation, they also have a relationship with the curriculum and how it's taught.

The key for higher education, is to research how new technology tools, and strategies can be incorporated into the learning space to make teaching and learning more authentic and relevant to the student.  One of these tools for educators is the academic use of social media by students. This can open dynamic "windows of opportunity" by flipping the classroom through effective use of social media- in this case, through citizen journalism.

Through a series of class lectures in political science, English, and Communication Studies  at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, students are exposed to the concept of creating digital stories through citizen journalism with CNN iReporting. The class quickly learns about the potential of a wider audience to view their work.

In a variety of classes, a diverse array of human interest and relevant political events are shared with the students.  These "digital stories" are used  to illustrate how authentic and relevant events and personal stories can connect emotionally with the audience.  In addition, social media tools such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype are discussed, and examples are used to show how they can quickly disseminate content and stories worldwide, almost instantaneously.  As it was pointed out in the lecture, "social media is history in real time."

During the class lecture, a series of CNN iReport stories are highlighted to explain how the story concept was initially developed, written, and disseminated with the help of social media tools. The key to understanding social media is to realize how it can: motivate and engage; accelerate dissemination; distribute fact or fiction; affect attribution of the author; reinforce, influence, or change opinion; and make learning more authentic.

Students are encouraged to consider becoming iReporters to further enhance their writing and photojournalistic skills. Even faculty members can participate in this process.  Currently there are over 1 million iReporters worldwide.  As an iReporter, you become part of the iReport community, learning techniques and strategies from a worldwide cohort. The experience of being a citizen journalist can extend to almost any discipline.  Once an article on CNN iReports is verified for its accuracy with appropriate clearances, it is becomes officially "vetted."
Once this occurs, other news aggregators may take the story and disseminate it to even larger audiences.  Originally my goal was to reach 10,000 views by the on-line audience.  Today, that total is approaching nearly 1 million views, and that total continues to grow every day. By providing students the opportunity to document original personal stories or a relevant news event, it helps create a diverse portfolio of the author's work, and offers opens the opportunity for worldwide commenting and discussion. Providing these opportunities to students helps to empower them to become more engaged in the learning process.  By encouraging students to immersed themselves in relevant topics helps to "flip the classroom" into a much more dynamic and engaging environment environment. [in class photos taken by Nicole Noe and Rileigh Van Driessche]

Jim Jorstad- CNN 2013 iReport Spirit Award Winner

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mediasiting Your MOOC-Transforming Online Learning Modules into a Massive Open Online Course

On April 16, 2013 Dr. Bob Hoar, Math Professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Jim Jorstad, Director of ITS/Academic Technologies, presented a live webinar at the corporate headquarters of Sonic Foundry in Madison, WI.  Sean Brown, Vice President of Education at Sonic Foundry moderated the event, with over 1200 on-line viewers from across the globe participating and posing questions. It was the one of the largest on-line web streaming international audiences Sonic Foundry has ever sponsored.

Jim described the essence of a MOOC as a type of on-line course which is offered to a large population through the web. The goals of a MOOC can be best explained by three main core concepts including how scalable, sustainable, and if the course can someday be profitable.
Academic institutions and corporate partners are wrestling with each of these goals as they consider the potential of MOOCs.  In addition it is important to consider the "MOOCability" of the the course- in other words can a course be transformed into a MOOC or not?  Some academic disciplines naturally lend themselves to being converted into a MOOC, such as math course.  However certain science lab courses may not translate well into a MOOC.

There are seven core strategies for a successful MOOC which include:

1) develop a worldwide strategic strategy
2) engage faculty into MOOC pilots
3) explain the MOOC concept to faculty, staff, and students
4) use web streaming to explain and promote the MOOC concept
5) consider live and on-demand learning opportunities
6) track project analytics
7) review and refine your plan.

In this Math MOOC project, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant in concert with UW-La Crosse and UW System, "helped to open our eyes" to a worldwide audience for our math MOOC. UW-La Crosse utilized Mediasite streaming technology to promote, explain, and disseminate the MOOC concept on-campus, throughout the U.S. and across the globe.  Web streaming was also utilized to hold live class office hours so that students could interact with the faculty, as well as with other students.  Polling options within Mediasite provided additional interactive feedback. Comments and questions were collected via an e-mail address dedicated to the course web stream.
Using this technology helps to make the remote student feel more a part of the learning environment by engaging them into the teaching and learning experience. If the student cannot participate live in the event, they can watch the program on-demand anytime, anywhere, where there is a computer and Internet access.  Having this feature available helps the students connect with a particularly wide MOOC audience for this project. The age groups for this MOOC extends to an eleven year old student, entire high school classes, to a 83 year-old grandmother.

Dr. Hoar explained the importance of a well-defined team which included Maggie McHugh who is the lead instructor, Jenn Kosiak, a math education expert, Jim Sobota, a professor emeritus who helped to inspect the modules, and Cari Mathwig-Ramseier who served as the intelligent agent to integrate the MOOC into a LMS, which is Desire2Learn.

Dr. Hoar pointed out that the success of the first MOOC was the previous work completed in the FastTrack on-line math program. In this project, 38 high school students enrolled in a summer camp that included on-line math modules. In the end 37 out of 38 improved their math scores which allowed them to avoid having to take a remedial math class as Freshmen.  This saved the students from having to pay for credits to take a remedial math course, and also saved them time for not having to take the course.  It also better prepared them for future science classes as they went through college.

According to Dr. Hoar, the MOOC web site at one point  reached nearly 200,000 hits in one day, and the average grades for students in each module improved dramatically from the original pre-test.  Jorstad commented that through social media, information about the MOOC project was disseminated worldwide through a number of social media channels such as Twitter, blogs, and web streaming. Analytic data was tracked in tandem with the data gained through the MOOC course itself.

Dr. Hoar added that for a successful MOOC you "need to assemble the right team, provide support so that the faculty, staff, and students can develop the materials, and pick a course topic that is important."  If you are follow each of the recommendations highlighted, you are well on your way for a very successful MOOC. More math MOOCs are planned for UW-La Crosse with the support of UW System.