Transparency Leads to a New View of Blended Learning

I recently had a few interesting and reflective Twitter exchanges with Wes Fryer, while he was attending a presentation. His Tweets were basically stating that the media being used to share ideas became a distraction in and of itself. The experience of overhead projector slides with 10 point type left him with the feeling that he was back in one of his 1980’s high-school classes. He reported (tongue-in-cheek) that he was somewhat relieved when the presentation was enhanced by PowerPoint and the use of a videotape. He also observed that he was the only person in the room who was taking notes (and Twittering) on a laptop, while all others were taking notes with paper and pen.

For the sake of fun and a bit of a reality check, I challenged Wes to flash-forward 20 years: 2028, and envision comments he might hear, such as: “Remember when Mr. Fryer actually carried a computer to the class?” This prompted a story by Wes, about his 8 year old son’s reaction to their viewing of some YouTube clips which promoted the Commodore 64 computer. His son could not believe that was ever “cutting edge technology”.

I’ve observed over the years that new technologies and contemporary design are always challenging and sleek in their own time. However, like Wes’s son, in a few years, I can hardly believe the thing I’m reviewing was ever “sleek,” “sexy,” or “cutting edge.”

New technologies usually capture our attention and cause us to focus on the tools. However, there seems to be a natural progression of our focus from tool to function (or promise) to transparency and back to tool again as its ability to meet our ever-growing demands begins to fade. I have long held that for technologies to be used effectively, they must become “transparent.” For a long time, I considered the telephone as an example. For most of us, the telephone became a part of our everyday experience and a means to communicate. As we integrated this into our life, it became transparent. This “transparency" represents the second step in the evolution of the use of a technology. It serves to accomplish a task or solve a problem, and in that capacity, it ceases to be an object of attention, but an extension of our lifestyle. When our needs for tools can no longer be served by our current technologies, we begin to notice them in light of their weaknesses. We seek new or improved tools to meet our new demands. It’s after we finally replace a technology that we look back and see it as clunky and wonder how we ever functioned with these early tools.

This notion of “transparency” is important as we incorporate technologies into teaching and learning; particularly in the online arena. For some time, I’ve heard the term “blended” being used to represent classes which incorporate some online resources. However, I argue that the focus of these “blended classes” is generally on a tool, such as Blackboard or a specific task. I now think that a real “blended” class arrives at that distinction when the mixture of delivery methods and tools becomes “transparent.” At this point, the focus is on learning and communication of ideas.

I suggest that embracing this transparency becomes a Personal Learning Style (PLS) and that learning can and does occur at any time and in any place. It is aided by a multitude of media and tools which can become so blended into our lifestyle that we accept them as part of our life. This notion is reflected by one of Britt Watwood’s students in his blog posting,
Thick and Chunky Instruction, when she equated the “internet” and “oxygen” as co-equals - both necessary for life. What an exciting contrast to the experience in which the media that was being used to share ideas became a distraction.

Agreement Statement Effective 4-01-08

PLEASE READ and VERIFY Aggreement:

Access to the ideas, thoughts, content and random predictions for the use of this and/or any said resources shall be limited to the current modifications of this agreement. This agreement may be updated by the first party without notice in order to operationalize scalable thoughtware. It is your responsibility to check for current updates at the time of use. You or any agent may not reengineer, optimize, globalize or otherwise empower any user to transform this seamless, granular ecosystem. This document replaces any agreements previously signed or checked upon the acceptance of software and services provided via the internet and or digital means. It is unlawful to copy, optimize or reverse-engineer said works for use on computers predating Microsoft XP or Mac OS 10.1. Copyright is protected under current law.

I Agree _____

See addendum:


Happy April Fool's Day!

And, Paused to Reflect

Photo courtesy of Louise Docker,

We have surfed and read
We have bookmarked
And tagged
We’ve emailed, attached and forwarded
We’ve written
And blogged
We’ve Tweeted and Twittered
We’ve subscribed
And podcasted
We’ve Skyped
We’ve networked
And shared
We’ve developed
Personal learning paths
And allowed weeds to grow
Then beat a new path
On which
We’ve marveled
At the strength
Of the network
And of ourselves
As we’ve exposed
Our weaknesses
In order
To grow

Celebration - Camtasia on a Mac -YES!!!!!

This is a continuation of my investigation of the MacBook Pro as a replacement for my dying PC. I am happy to share the results of a very quick test of the capability of the Mac Boot Camp tool to emulate a PC and allow me to successfully record and edit in Camtasia.

In case you are interested in seeing the results, go to

I'm one happy camper!

Can we quickly share our learning journey with others?

Photo courtesy of uBookworm at

How can the past 18 month learning experience which has been shared with my colleagues be “bottled and served” to others in a short period of time?

That is a desirable thing to do. I but in retrospect, I believe all we can do is attempt to inspire others by celebrating our own small successes. These successful learning experiences have not come without some pain, investment in time, failed attempts, continuous revisions in thinking and seeking and looking to the future for yet better ways to learn, share, interact, create, etc. Perhaps when viewing our experience after 18 months, we metaphorically stand in a garden and look at stone a path surrounded by flowers and vegetation. Ironically, we forget that each stone had to be selected, carried, positioned and sometimes repositioned to arrive at the current state of completion. It just might be that the best we can do is share the image of our gardens and provide others with some stones in the form of tools, technologies, learning theory, pedagogy, etc., in order that they can begin to map and create their own path.

Leading questions to my reflection:

What has changed in me in regard to my own learning over the past 18 months?

What has changed in the way my colleagues and I have collectively learned over the same time period?

What has influenced the changes in my thinking during this period?

How can I guide others to such a rewarding experience in a shorter period of time? Is it possible to provide this opportunity for faculty during a one week workshop? Is it realistic to even believe that I could inspire someone to take such a personal learning journey without overwhelming them?

Stepping stones in my garden:

• Exposure to tools and suggested practices and exploratory discovery of possibilities for their use.

• Exposure to learning theory.

• Participation and completion of an online Masters program which provided meaningful interaction and exchanges of ideas in a virtual environment with people whom I’ve never physically met and who through that process have become respected peers and colleagues. This experience has made me realize how “flat” the world has become and how easy it is to work on a global scale.

• Morning coffee meetings in which personally meaningful thoughts, ideas, and experiences were shared, discussed, challenged and refined.

• A transition from physical meetings to contemplation, writing and sharing ideas with online means (which has ironically led back to the former)

• The discovery and adoption of concept mapping which was so personally relevant to clarifying my ideas that I was compelled to write about my experience lead a discussion about concept mapping, create a class in order to give faculty first-hand experience to concept mapping and exposure to some tools which I found relevant.

• Exploring the idea of screencasting and forcing myself to condense information and ideas to very short overviews. Collaboratively developing screencasts through peer review and critique. Creation of an introductory class in the use of Camtasia to create screencasts for class related use.

• Trust – trust has been developed through the experience of sharing ideas and work with peers who have given valuable feedback which has resulted in allowing me to present ideas more clearly.

• Collaboration – prior to the last year, I worked collaboratively with others, but the level of collaboration and the willingness to take risks and accept change in work which I often take personally is much higher now; the combination of new tools and working environments, such as Wikis, Google Documents, Gliffy, etc., have been central to my current level of openness and almost a sense of adventure in seeing what the wisdom of the group can develop. This has given me insight into the power of group work in the class or learning group environment. It speaks to the opportunities afforded by the current W20, read-write web as a learning space.

• Information overload has hit me in various waves, but the discovery of RSS feeds as a means to subscribe to the writings and ideas of others through blogs and podcasts has helped focus my attention to specific people and groups. These have provided links to other resources, including other writings, recordings, people with whom I might want to share information or ask further questions – i.e., network. This is an area which demands more study on my part to reap yet more benefits and further focus on information which is relevant to my learning and work.

• Delicious initially provided a solution to my ever-changing methods for filing and finding resources – it compliments my own multiple tagging system. However, I have made the transition from a personal filing system to a means of benefiting by the research of others, connecting with people who are interested in similar topics and sharing links with specific people.

• I became aware of social bookmarking and the discovery of others through delicious, but I have since discovered many tools which provide a social connection by which I can become aware of people with whom I can share and discuss information on topics of mutual interest.

• Slideshare and Slidecasting were discovered and originally seen as a means for faculty to repurpose PPT presentations for student use after class. But, on further exploration, these have become a means of soliciting comments of others and provide an opportunity for students to create content which is relevant to other learners. These and many other online tools are now seen through the lens of their read-write capabilities and potential benefits.

• YouTube was discovered as a means to share screencasts. It has opened up a world of resources for various learning and teaching opportunities.

• Jott was discovered through Michele Martin’s blog posting in her Bamboo Project. It was one of those discoveries which immediately sparked ideas for quickly sharing information after a class and has led to experiments with updating blogs, sending e-mail, etc. It has enabled me to capture fleeting thoughts and change the way I think and work.

CoveritLive - re-framing my thoughts about back-channel communication

Given my recent post about back-channel communication during presentations, this may seem an odd post. But, since I’m merely weighing the pros and cons of such communication, I’ll focus on a specific tool and an idea I have for its potential use.

Yesterday I participated in the Medical Library Association webcast on Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices. During that meeting, Britt Watwood used CoveritLive to record his notes. Beyond a mere text entry tool, CoveritLive allowed him to provide text notes with minute by minute updates which were forwarded to his blog. Essentially, he was able to microblog and anyone who was logged into his blog could both read his notes and send their thoughts and/or questions to him.

As part of this test, logged into his blog and sent several comments, but this unfortunately did not work as advertised. Since this was our first experiment with the product, we need to test this further to identify the problem.

If we can get ConveritLive to function as intended, I see the potential for student use during a class. One student could act as a moderator who takes notes which would be forwarded to their blog. The URL of moderator’s blog would be shared with other students in advance of class (posted in their Blackboard class or any other online location which would be listed in the course syllabus), so they could monitor the notes and send their own comments or questions. The moderator could then inform the instructor of any questions or need for clarification. This ability to collaboratively document the class and present questions in real-time could prompt relevant in-class discussion and provide later accessibility to notes for review by the students and the instructor.

I would be interested in seeing someone experiment with this and see if it may increase student engagement during and after class. Discussion could continue in a discussion board or other venues.

All in all, I find this an interesting tool which is re-framing my thoughts about back-channel communication.

Do We Need a New Netiquette?

I participated in the ELI Web Seminar on March 3, 2008, Many Students Loosely Joined: Social Software and Distance Education Learners, presented by Terry Anderson. Terry’s presentation was very good and supported many of the notions which Britt Watwood, Jeff Nugent and I discuss as we find our own ways in learning about, living in and introducing others to the Wild West of W2.0 teaching and learning opportunities. I appreciated many of the visuals and particularly liked the Venn diagram which placed learning at the overlapping center of content, tools and agents. His mention of the site perked my interest as it is relates to a concept I’ve been developing for some time around the need for a non-proprietary central organizing agent to keep track of the threads of conversations which are occurring across various services and means of communication. His prediction of a transition from an LMS to a PLE seems to parallel my own thinking and seems to be in the early stages of unfolding.

My posting here is not to critique Terry’s talk, but the activity which surrounded it and its relationship to the activities, such as the Twitter exchanges during Bob Young’s presentation at the closing session of the ELI conference (see Gardner Campbell’s blog). Granted, we were invited to text message during Terry’s session and nothing like the Twitter (activity which was also invited) event mentioned above happened, but the text interchanges triggered some thoughts about contemporary attendance and participation in presentations. Something is shifting. The presenter is no longer the central focus “in the room”. As presenters are framing and delivering an idea, they are triggering not only a response, but a parallel “meeting” in which participants listen to the presenter for key ideas about which they text, chat, twitter, blog, and use every means of communication to share their comments, ask questions of other participants, complain about the presenter, and who knows what else. The action is in the “chat room”, so to speak!

As I listened to Terry and developed my own questions, my focus became divided. Questions and answers were flying in the text box below the presentation window and Terry was dissolving in the background. Were we rude? Do our contemporary actions equate to pockets of students huddling together and chatting in the traditional lecture hall. Have we arrived at a new definition of netiquette? Are we distracting to the presenter? Are we engaged with the presenter? Are we enhancing the learning opportunity? Are we changing the conversation?

I see good things here, but I feel bad at the same time. I’m seizing the opportunity to interact and learn from others, but at the same time, I feel rude to the presenter. Do we need to develop a new netiquette or set of tools to help us get the best from everyone? Should online seminars or F2F presentations be followed with opportunities for a multi-modal “chat”?

What are your thoughts?