EDTECH 597: Mobile Learning in the Larger Picture

This week’s mobile app for EDTECH 597 was in some ways for me the most practically related to the school experience since it was the Presidents Quiz. The purpose of the app is pretty straight forward. Create an app that allows you to make a quiz. It could be used for studying in any circumstance, I suppose, although in the example in the book, used U.S. presidents, the quiz can be adapted to any subject. In my case, I made a quiz about German Romanticism since I studied German at the undergraduate level, so that’s a subject I know a little more about.

Three of the screen shots for the German Romantic Period quiz app.

Mobile Apps for the Romantic Period

I picked the Romantic Period, because it was the one in which Goethe lived. He had a huge influence not only during that era, but in German history in general. In fact, there is a Goethe Institute today, and when I lived in Berlin we took a train tour across Germany to visit some media outlets like radio stations and PR departments. Because its purpose was in part cultural, the Goethe Institute paid for our week-long trip.

I also selected that era, because I like the literature and the art that arose from that period of time. It was an age in which the cultural artifacts were infused with a kind of magic or mysticism, which is a component of Romanticism in general and something that appeals to my personal sensibilities as a writer.

No Infrastructure, No Apps

All of that said, I was reminded again that the purpose of technology for this degree is to use it to better educate people. This was brought sharply into focus for me, because in my other class EDTECH 501, we’re doing our digital divide project. For our assignment, we are to make suggestions about how a state can implement technology into the learning experience. I had pulled an article from CNN, which I spoke about in an earlier blog post for this class. It dealt with cell phones in Africa and how they are changing the intellectual landscape with education being one of the things phones will change. In Africa, people often use them in place of computers, because they’re cheaper and more mobile. And because there is enough equipment to get cell coverage so that people can access the internet.

This proved to be a key component of the assignment. How do we reach students and school districts whose infrastructure really isn’t completely up to par or non-existent. Having a cell phone won’t matter if there’s no tower to get a signal. It is a more complicated issue than I originally looked at when I started this class. It still does fall under my original question of “What is the most logical end to this technology?” It doesn’t matter how good a mobile app is. If people can’t download it, because they don’t have the infrastructure then all the good that went into its development is going to be lost to a segment of the population.

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Horizon Report Tech Trend

A screenshot from the hotel portion of the “Who is Oscar Lake” game by Topics Entertainment.

This week’s assignment in EDTECH 501 was the Tech Trends assignment. Dr. Kemp introduced it to our class in part by asking us to read the NMC Horizon Report. Fortunately, it was something that I’d already had a chance to look at, because it was also required reading in my mobile app development class (EDTECH 597) several weeks ago. Because of my earlier exposure to the report, my thinking had already been directed somewhat toward how to use some of these emerging technologies in my lesson plans in the classroom. Two in particular—mobile apps and video games—were already on my mind, because I’m in the mobile app development class, and there’s a particular video game I’ve wanted to use for a long time in a German class. It’s called “Who is Oscar Lake?” by Topics Entertainment and it’s a game that I have used to learn German and to teach my private tutoring students some German. It’s the focus of my lesson plan for the tech trends assignment as are mobile apps.

Language-Acquisition in the College Classroom

In language learning classes demand that foreign-language students develop competencies in all four language areas—speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension. A good lesson in a foreign language  exposes students to all aspects of foreign-language competencies each time they come to a language class. These are part of the standards set forth in foreign-language education. With that in mind, I wrote a language plan for a college-level German class that lasts 50 minutes since that’s what I’ve taught. These are at the 200-level, and the lesson plan would work for a German conversation and composition class.

The other guiding principle of my selection was that I wanted to introduce vocabulary to students that is immediately useful if they travel to and in a German-speaking country. When I was an undergraduate German student, I did not fully appreciate this aspect of the Oscar Lake game until I lived in Germany and traveled around. Then I was very glad I had been taught vocabulary related to activities like buying train tickets, checking into hotels, going to restaurants, etc. The lessons the game taught me were used over and over again during my travels, so I knew that the game worked. They also helped a student of mine pass a difficult exam that she needed to complete successfully so that she could work in Germany, so I knew it would be a good option.

Additionally, certain aspects of language learning are harder to facilitate in the classroom. Listening to the language spoken by native speakers and within the context that it is to be used can be challenging. Although most college-level language classes are taught in the target language, they are often taught by non-native speakers. Both the German mobile app and the game allow the student to hear German spoken by a native speaker in addition to providing for the other aspects of language learning.

Finally, despite trying to incorporate new technology as much as I possibly could, I have opted to use “old” technology when it comes to the German/ English dictionaries. I made this decision, because individual words have nuances that online dictionaries don’t cover in depth–at least the ones that exist now like Beolingus or Leo German Dictionary. Often to understand the real meaning of the word, you have to read through several entries in the dictionary and see how the dictionary uses them in context before you know which word to use. While I’m confident that this will eventually change, the electronic dictionaries are not where they need to be yet to give students full comprehension of a word’s subtly, so I’m asking students to have a traditional dictionary.

My assignment is below.

AECT Standards

I was able to touch on quite a few of the AECT standards. Here are the technologies involved in the lesson plan with the corresponding AECT Standard/s below each example:

Systems design was one of the main focuses of the assignment and fits the the following standard.

  • 1.1 Instructional Systems Design: Instructional Systems Design (ISD) is an organized procedure that includes the steps of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating instruction.

“Who is Oscar Lake” is a computer-based video game and the following standard.

  • 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies: Computer-based technologies are ways to produce or deliver materials using microprocessor-based resources.

The use of the smart phones plus the audio elements and video game fit the following standards.

  • 2.4 Integrated Technologies: Integrated technologies are ways to produce and deliver materials which encompass several forms of media under the control of a computer.
  • 3.1 Media Utilization: Media utilization is the systematic use of resources for learning.

The creation of the assignment and the suggestions for its use touch on the following standards.

  • 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations: Diffusion of innovations is the process of communicating through planned strategies for the purpose of gaining adoption.
  • 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization: Implementation is using instructional materials or strategies in real (not simulated) settings. Institutionalization is the continuing, routine use of the instructional innovation in the structure and culture of an organization.

This list does not include the foreign language education standards. However, they are included in the lesson plan.

EDTECH 597 Week 5: Thoughts About Digital Comics, Harry Potter, and DC Comics’ New 52 Line

The German version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This past week, some work that I did for my other graduate course (EDTECH 501) got me to thinking about what kind of an effect that mobile apps will have on the comics industry. I was writing about DC Comics’ reboot of some of their most popular characters/ lines like Batman and the Flash (called the New 52). What’s interesting about this reboot is that not only do the characters get a make over, but the way in which the comics themselves are delivered got an overhaul. When the issues come out each week, they hit the newsstands and the cyberstands on the same day, so people who prefer reading their comics/ graphic novels on their phone or tablet can download the app for that week’s issue, which people can access by the DC Comics app.

How Far Can This Technology Take Me?

As I mentioned in my post last week, one of the questions I’m trying to ask myself as I consider the role that mobile apps will play is “How far can this possibly go?” or “What can of revolutionary effect is this going to have and can I see and foresee how far this can go?” I thought about this as I pondered the DC Comics reboot, and I was reminded of some research I did for my senior seminar class in German in my undergraduate days. I did research about the role of translation in publishing and specifically I looked at how and why Harry Potter was such a phenomenon—at least that formed the foundation for my research.

What I discovered is that several factors contributed to the explosion of the novels. Besides having the ability now to translate the books in over 67 language (and maybe counting), the other big—no huge—factor was the technology itself. The books could not have reached the dizzying heights of popularity that they did without the technology to produce them in such mass quantities.

Anticipating Change in the Publishing Industry

So, in this light, I began to wonder how mobile app development will not only continue to revolutionize popular brands like DC, but also what kind of effects will they have in general. According to Mashable, already  publishing industry experts are predicting that interactive book apps and storytelling will actually boost the publishing industry—and not kill it off as some have predicted. The reasoning is that as people become more accustomed to interactive books, they’ll actually want to buy them, leaving me to ask which series will be the next big thing. It might be one of DC’s superheroes, but it may well be something that we never saw coming—like Harry Potter.

As always, I’m posting a picture of my app for this week’s class in EDTECH 597, my version of Mole Mash.

Mole Mash…This week’s assignment. It’s not quite DC yet, but I gotta start somewhere…

RSS Feeds Assignment: How Using These Tools Can Enhance Educational Research and Put you in Touch with Digital Innovations in Comics

The Google Reader allows you to keep track of RSS feeds of interest to you, whether they concern themselves with digital education or digital comics.

I became acquainted with RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds because of my work with online publishing outlets. At that time, it was suggested to me as a writer for these sites to use them to develop an online readership base. The editors of the sites not only actively encouraged to find places that we could place our columns’ RSS feeders, but also to use social media to gain subscribers and people who would promote the feed. However, because of this assignment I am looking at the RSS feed from the other side of the table so to speak.

Classroom Uses for the RSS Feed

Using RSS feeds in the classroom and for education in general presents several advantages. The first advantage is that it has the ability to bring information to directly to you, specific to your research preferences and/ or your work/ teaching interests. You don’t have to perform a Google or Bing search each time you want to find articles of interest. Rather, you just find a few RSS feeds that are relevant to your interest and save them in your RSS reader folder.

The second factor related to using RSS as a tool in education is that subscribing to RSS feeds can help save you a tremendous amount of time and allow you to filter the results by your specific criteria—for example, for an education RSS, you may want to choose only scholarly sources. This helps you automatically weed out research sources that wouldn’t be appropriate for a college level assignment such as user-generated content sites such as Wikipedia.

Additionally, this type of search tool puts you in touch with resources on the web that you might never see otherwise because of search engine filtering. What I mean by this is that when most people search Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., they will usually only look at the results for about the first five pages before they give up on a search term, according to Infinity Technologies. In context this means that if you’re the teacher or the student looking for good resources for your classroom, for a report or for work, you may miss some of the best information resources simply because the website or blog owner doesn’t understand about keyword optimization, which will put their pages beyond the first five. Subscribing to an RSS feed will help you see more of these pages that don’t make it to the first five pages of Google, because you’re searching by different criteria.

Long-Term Research Ideas

The other advantage that I can see to the RSS feed as it specifically relates to using it in education is that it allows you to follow a subject of interest over a long period of time. For example, one of the areas of research that I hope to delve into more deeply is using graphic novels–both the hard-bound and online kind–in the classroom and in education, and to add even more specifics to the search, I may want to follow what people are saying about something like the New 52 at DC Comics. This is not only a reboot of the most of the major characters like Batman and the Flash and their storylines, but also a change in the comics’ distribution. With the release of the New 52, digital versions of the comics will “hit the stands” on the same day as the hard-back versions. I could create a research project about this where I examine how technology has affected the distribution of comics.

To this end, I could start following some RSS feeds that give me ideas for research projects that I could do related to this theme. The RSS feeds would put the information about the reboot right at my finger tips everyday in a place that I could bookmark on my desktop and come back to each day. Additionally, I may find out through the course of my research that digital tools like iPads, Android phones, or tablet readers like Kindle are going to play a big part in the distribution of comics in general, so for a more well-rounded report, I would subscribe to a few RSS feeds that deal with digital tools in publishing or comics, mobile apps for comics and graphic novels, or other general topics that would help support my research.

Aligning with the AECT Standards

An assignment like this would adhere to several of the AECT standards. The use of the RSS feeder fall under the 4.4 AECT standard of information management. It allows for the planning, monitoring, and controlling the storage, transfer, or processing of information in order to provide resources for learning. The RSS feeder allows you to manage the information by organizing it logically into folders. It also helps you share the information, because you can share the link to your Google Reader page as we are doing for the RSS for education assignment and with the Teaching Resources Bundle that we’ve created.

Here is the link to my Teaching Resources Bundle. (Click on the red hyperlink that says “Teaching Resources Bundle” to be taken there.)

Finally, by adding graphic novels and phones/ tablets to this example, this type of assignment could also fall under AECT standard 2.1 which is defined as print technologies that provide “ways to produce or deliver materials, such as books and static visual materials, primarily through mechanical or photographic printing processes.”

Learning Log Assignment

Writing a learning log for Ed Tech 501 is a foundational skill that I will take away from the introductory class. It conforms to  several of the AECT Standards, according to the AECT website: “Standard 2: Development, with the sub-standard 2.0.7 “Contribute to a professional portfolio by developing and selecting a variety of productions for inclusion in the portfolio” as well as Standard 4.4: Information Management.”

Actually, developing my portfolio was one of the key attractions for me in getting this degree. I wanted to get back into the world of design since I had done design in the early days of my journalism career. However, most Master level design programs require you to have a portfolio to even enter the program, which I did not have. So this was a way for me to develop a professional design portfolio that I might eventually show to my design/ media/ art clients.

As for information management, the EDTECH 501 learning log allows me to keep all of my work in one place as well as allowing me to comment on what I’ve learned so that over a long period of time, I can put it into context. I spoke to Dr. Hsu about starting some independent research on graphic novels in the classroom–both traditional book as well as the online kind, so the learning log will be a place for me to put this information as well so that I might use it for a larger project later on or just help me to develop ideas for my own novels.

Here’s the rubric for the assignment.

  1. Introduction Video posted to blog or artifacts page and includes embedded YouTube video. (20 points)
  2. Category widget appears with AECT Standards assigned to Introduction Video post. (10 points)
  3. Home page includes a brief bio and image. (10 points)
  4. AECT Standards Table page includes AECT Standards Table. (10 points)
  5. EDTECH Courses page includes link to EDTECH 501 Course Syllabus (PDF) file. (10 points)
  6. Tag Cloud widget included, with tag “501” visible assigned to Introduction Video post. (10 points)
  7. At least one other widget included, such as “Blogroll” widget with appopriate edtech links. (10 points)
  8. Learning Log menu structure and design is clear and intuitive to navigate. (20 points)

This along with my EDTECH 501 Introduction Video have proven to be some of the key skills I’ve added to my portfolio in the first few weeks of school, so I feel like I’m on my way!