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…

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!

Technology Use Planning Overview

Five-year technology use plans aren’t very useful. Because technology changes so much, making specific plans about equipment isn’t as effective as making a more general plan about the tasks that you want the technology to accomplish. This graphic leans in that direction, allowing the planners to adjust to the changing landscape of technology while still allowing an organization to create a budget for the tools it’ll need.

This week in EDTECH 501, we covered technology use planning. After reading the background material about the subject, I was struck by how useful a technology plan would be not only in an academic setting, but in a business environment as well. The reading also gave me something to think about in terms of how to realistically plan for long-term technology use and how it can affect the people expected to use it. Additionally, I came to understand that a technology use plan will highlight was problems technology can realistically solve in a work environment and what ones it can’t. Finally, I learned why it’s so important to educate people about technology in education and the business environment.

How Do I Define Technology Use Planning?

To start with, it might be useful to say how I define technology use planning. To me, it’s the convergence of where technology meets the people who will be using it. A good technology use plan investigates the organization in question, determining how people are using technology at the moment, where the organization would like to go with technology, and the steps it can take to get to that step. A technology use plan also avoids just “throwing technology” at a problem without thinking critically about how the people using it will be affected by it.

A use plan that doesn’t factor in the human element is asking for an organization to have an abundance of technology that people within the organization can’t or don’t know how to use. Such a plan would be developed in a vacuum without regard for the skills of the people who will be using the new gadgets and software, what they’re comfortable using now, and how the technology will be used to enhance instead of replace what they’re currently doing.

Although the materials we were required to read applied to the use of technology in education, I’ve seen the “throw the technology at it” attitude in a number of business environments, and the result is usually pretty much the same. In my case, I noticed this attitude when digital tools for design like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and PageMaker (the precursor to InDesign) came out. At this time, I was working for a newspaper doing ad design and page layout. Many of my design clients felt that since the equipment was so inexpensive, that automatically made them designers. They couldn’t figure out why the ads they created didn’t look as good as the ones we created in-house.

In hindsight, a little education about the role technology would play in designing their ad for the publication might have helped. At the time if I could have better explained to people that the digital tools were really just like a digital version of a pencil or paint brush, there might have been a different outcome with some of the clients. I would have been able to talk with them about concentrating on the message they hoped to send with their ad and explained how the technology could be used to serve that message. I would have also been better able to talk with them about the potential shortcomings that occur when people assume that modern technology will solve all their their problems.

In this case, the digital tools only helped us to work faster than we had been able to in the past. It didn’t negate the need for excellent design skills, although many of my clients (co-workers) assumed that one automatically followed the other. From what I understand, this type of thinking also prevails in designing technology plans for use in schools and museums; people get so caught up in the gadgetry that they forget to ask what purpose it is supposed to serve. They also forget to ask (or don’t know to ask) what tools can technology replace. A technology plan helps to explain that.

National Educational Technology Plan 2010 as a Resource for Planning

This National Educational Technology Plan 2010 talks about these beliefs about technology at length. One of the issues mentioned in the report is that many educators still approach education from an old model, meaning that they “know” they need a certain number of textbooks, kids need to be in their seats a certain number of hours a day, and many don’t have any idea how to integrate technology into their lesson plans. They are often not aware that technology can replace some of the tools they’re using in their classrooms (like some textbooks) or make a process more streamlined and efficient like teaching digital tools in conjunction with other subjects.

The reading highlighted this at length; how technology is taught is often divorced from how it will be used. There are separate classes that instruct people about to use computers. Because these classes are separate from subjects like history, math, art, writing, or languages, the students taking these classes don’t immediately understand how they can use technology to enhance these experiences. Nor do they realize that there are ways to incorporate a little technology into each class so that after several years (if it takes that long), students have a whole basket of digital tools they can and will use automatically.

I kept this principle in mind as I was developing the curriculum for German 203, which is an intermediate German conversation class. The core of the class dealt with teaching students German using short German films. So in planning for how I would use technology for the class and by extension how I could teach my students to use technology within the context of German, I gave them two major assignments during the semester. They were to create two short films based upon literary topics we covered in class and based upon filmmaking techniques we discussed throughout the course of the semester.

I allowed them to use their smart phones to take the video, but they weren’t limited to that. Because we went over the language of film (types of shots, genres, production techniques, etc.) they were better prepared to make their films when the time came. They were also able to communicate their difficulties in making them with me. The whole class was taught in German, including the vocabulary related to filmmaking techniques. In this way, I was able to teach across the curriculum in a manner that acknowledge the subject of the class (German), but that also gave them some additional communication skills that will be useful later on.

Technology Plans and the Questions They Encourage

This type of technology and subject integration was a key component in the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 reportFor me, the report provided me with a wellspring of ideas that really stretched my thinking about technology usage far beyond where it is now and gave me ideas for how I could technology planning for my work as a writer and designer. For example, in the Learning: Engage and Empower section of the reading, I found this short blurb about a community project:

In 1995, when the Internet was just arriving in schools, students at Winona Middle School in Winona, Minn., began to use it to support and showcase a class project about local history and the changing demographics of their town. Students gathered information about their community by visiting local museums, searching texts, and interviewing local residents. They built a website to share their findings with one another and with their community. The website began to take on a life of its own, attracting the interest of community leaders, professional historians, and individuals living halfway around the world who found they were distant relatives of the town’s earliest immigrants. Students expanded the website to include the contributions of the wider community and built a searchable database of genealogical information and other artifacts.

Today, Winona’s Cultural History website continues to be a valuable resource for the school and its community, and students continue to interact with others in or outside their local area to evolve an ongoing knowledge base. One of the secrets of this project’s success is that it leverages very simple technology so that it can be sustained with minimal funding and maintenance.

This story in particular really piqued my interest, because one of my current writing clients has been involved with the Bosque Redondo Memorial in Fort Sumner. The memorial tells the story of the Native Americans in New Mexico, who were forced to give up their lands to white settlers and who were placed in internment camps at Fort Sumner. According to one person I’ve spoken to, the problem facing the construction of the monument is one of budget.

However, after looking at technology use planning and the leveraging of resources already in a community, I’m wondering how much of an inroad a person with a background in planning could make. I’m not convinced that all of the museum’s problems can only be solved with more money. In this case, it would be wonderful to incorporate a unit about the monument into the curriculum of the local schools from the history departments to the computer science departments to come up with much of what the monument needs in order to be completed. So the reading definitely had an important and lasting effect on the way that I look at my work and how technology use planning could be of use.

No Such Thing as a Five Year Technology Plan

One other important point that this lesson brought home for me was how to realistically plan for technology usage. In one of our readings Developing Effective Technology Plans by John See, he recommends that no one make a long-term technology plan, meaning that technology changes so much that it isn’t realistic to make a five year plan for example. Instead a year by year plan might be more realistic and would prevent organizations from spending money on technology that is obsolete by the time it’s installed.

I agree with this assessment. It’s a constant struggle for me to keep up with the newest innovations in technology. One of the ways that I cope with this is I try to look at the function of what I want the technology to do. So going back to my design example, when I first started doing page layouts for magazines and newspapers, the industry standard program (one of them anyway) was Adobe PageMaker. It’s obsolete now and has been replaced by InDesign. If I were making a technology use plan for a newspaper office 10 to 15 years ago, I might have included that program.

However, today I would not put that specific program into my technology plan. Instead, I would ask myself, “What function do I want this technology to perform?” This question allows me to get my technology needs met without committing to a program that will be obsolete in five years. I think any kind of technology use plan needs to really address of the role the technology will play.

Additionally, See also suggests that technology planners take a good look at who will be using the technology and to confer with them when they are coming up with a technology use plan. Doing this avoids redundancy. For example, I once had a boss who got a software disc from Kinkos, one of the vendors we were using at the time for some of our minor printing jobs. The purpose of the disc was to convert files to PDF. He would get irritated with me, because I refused to use the disc. It’s not that I thought it was a bad idea. It’s just that I already software—and better software at that—that would perform this function that I used regularly (and that he knew I used regularly). I didn’t need to learn an extra program or have it taking up space on my computer. It wasn’t necessary since I already had tools that did what I needed to do. A real understanding of technology use and leveraging resources would have helped him understand the uses of the technology we had in the office and on a personal level would have saved us from some of the friction that arose between us when we had conversations about technology that we needed for the office.

Outcomes of Past Experience with Technology Use Planning and Its Role in the Future

Throughout this post, I have given many examples of how I would or have incorporated technology use planning into my work as well as into educational environments such as my German class or in a museum setting. As many of my examples have pointed out, technology use plans save money; help a work or educational environment run more smoothly; alleviate technology redundancy; educate people about the role that technology will play in a particular organization; and equip people to use the technology that they have or point out weak points that need to be addressed. Taking these steps ensures that the people in a school or business will have a better grasp on the tools of technology, allowing the people in the organization to plan their work more realistically and efficiently.

This assignment aligns with the AECT Standard:

3.4 Policies and Regulations

Policies and regulations are the rules and actions of society (or its surrogates) that affect the diffusion and use of Instructional Technology.