Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cognitive Load and Multitasking

In the article by Mayer and Moreno (2003), they stress two things: 1) that multimedia instruction should be designed to minimize cognitive load; and 2) that it is important to understand how people learn. Even though it is presented in a different style (journalism rather than scholarly writing), the piece by Seligman (2006) examines similar issues. Seligman integrates the experiences of a number of parents, their children, and scholars into her discussion. What stands out is that the children alternate between tasks (multitask), which increases their cognitive load. Even though some of the children Seligman interviews recognize that they are able to complete tasks more quickly when they don't multitask, they claim that they get "bored."

Researchers, like David Meyer at the University of Michigan, have studied the multitasking phenomenon. As a result of his work, Meyer found that individuals who attempt to complete multiple tasks at the same time show "costs in performance." He states that in his studies these multitaskers took more time to complete tasks and made more mistakes in doing so. Also in this article, there are those who compare "zoning out" on a computer to drug use, and refer to today's technology savvy children not as the Net Generation (or other such variations) but rather as "guinea pigs." So, while multimedia instructors are attempting to create designs that minimize cognitive overload, many students are thwarting these efforts by purposely placing themselves in cognitively taxing environments. Are these young people doing this as a way to seek out cognitive challenges (e.g., Steinkuehler, 2005 and her discussion about cognition in MMOGs), or are parents right to be concerned about their children's "excessive" use of computers and technology?

Going back to the Mayer and Moreno piece for a moment, the model they present in Figure 1 (p. 44) reminds me of Broadbent's information processing diagram that is presented on page 92 of Howard Gardner's book, The Mind's New Science. Is there a connection between the two? Just curious.

Planning for the Neomillennials

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1),

Because I am in the group that is "channeling" Chris Dede during the panel discussion on Monday (10/1), I decided that this piece might provide additional insight into his thoughts on neomillennials and their learning styles. Much of the article is similar to the piece we read for last week that appears in the volume by Oblinger and Oblinger (Educating the net generation). The most noticeable difference, though, is that Dede spends less time outlining the various types of immersion in this week's article, which struck me because I enjoyed Dede's discussion about Salzman's FORs. That having been said, though, there are a couple of interesting statements that Dede integrates into the mix.

On page 7, he states, "Further, in the long run the mission and structure of higher education might alter due to the effect of these new interactive media." For the past year and a half (approximately), I've been working with a group that's been investigating the experiences students have in IT-related disciplines, including LIS and IST. This past spring, I interviewed 60 students at five different academic institutions in the U.S., and one thing was mentioned repeatedly: academia is broken! Undergrad and grad students alike said that the focus in academia is on research at the expense of teaching and students. So, while Dede's technologically deterministic statement may be correct - that new media may ultimately alter the structure of higher education - he might also want to take into consideration that there may be other contextual factors (e.g., people, work practice, environment) that go beyond the technology that may also spark changes in academia.

For example, in the piece by Oblinger (2003) on understanding new students, she suggests that these individuals are not passive consumers; rather, this group of new students use their "purchasing power" (p. 42) to evaluate programs and institutions. Oblinger also points out that these individuals have "developed new attitudes and aptitudes as a result of their environment" (p. 44). Therefore, customer service expectations combined with the "information age mindset" may be powerful enough to change not only what we typically envision when we hear the words "higher education" but also the environment itself.

On a side note: Oblinger mentions "generalist faculty" (p. 42) who respond to students' questions when the course instructor is not available. I had to read this section several times to get my head wrapped around this type liaison between faculty and students. It would be fascinating to read about the experiences of these generalist faculty to better understand how this process works and to hear their opinions about the role they play in student learning.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cutting and Pasting

Speaking of cutting and pasting, Google unveiled a new feature - individuals can now cut-and paste from its collection of online books.

More about this feature is available in the September 20, 2007 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education and Google.

Information Navigation 101

Foster, Andrea (2007, March 9). New programs teach undergraduates how to use the Internet and the online card catalog in search of the best sources. Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved June 21, 2007, from

As a librarian who at one time taught numerous information literacy courses, particularly to individuals who were in the 18-22 age range, I could relate to many of the points raised in this article. In the mid- to late 1990s, I worked in an academic library where the computer terminals were moving from being word processors to information resources. The internet was new to everyone, and the librarians were desperately trying to keep one step ahead of the students. Many professors (and some of the librarians) were not so enamored with these new resources, and concerns about plagiarism, quality of information, etc. was a major concern. How quickly they forgot about their students who photocopied articles and literally cut-and-pasted materials into their papers.

The article mentions that one librarian asks professors to attend the information sessions. I couldn't agree more with this statement. Even when the professors do attend the session, though, there are misunderstandings and confusion. For example, I worked with a marketing professor to teach her class how to access full-text articles via the library's databases (e.g., EBSCO). Even though she had participated in several of my sessions, she would often tell her students that the articles were available through Yahoo! (Her students were frustrated that they could never find the materials they needed for class through this search engine.) There were also those instructors who would bring their class to a session about online resources, only to tell the students they could not use online journals - they had to use the print. Not only were the students drowning in information, but they were drowning in misinformation, as well.

It's been a few years since I've taught an information literacy course; while I'm certain that things have changed, there are probably still those who maintain a skeptical view of online information resources.

Work-life Balance

A blurb in today's Chronicle of Higher Education references a list created by Computerworld on ways to balance IT work and real life. While the full list that appears in Computerworld includes 10 tips, the Chronicle piece only lists these top five.

1. Establish and enforce your own priorities. Sometimes that may mean saying no to overtime and promotions.

2. Communicate. Once you set priorities, let your co-workers know about them. Set boundaries so your boss knows when he or she is crossing them.

3. Build a business case for your better life. If you want to telecommute or have flexible hours, show how you can achieve superior job results in that situation.

4. Take advantage of employee programs. If your college offers job-sharing or on-site child care, find out about those options and use them.

5. Seek out a mentor. Find someone in your field who seems to balance work and life nicely. Ask his or her advice about how you can do the same. Maybe even copy what your mentor does.

Easier said than done...

E-Portfolio Questions

David Emmett, (2003, November). E-Portfolios at QUT: Providing the potential for competitive advantage and a motivating learner-centred environment. Proceedings of the OLT 2003 Excellence: Making the Connections Conference, Australia.

Paul Treuer & Jill Jenson. (2003, June).
Electronic Portfolios Need Standards to Thrive, Educause Quarterly, Volume 26, Number 2.

While I thought the two articles about e-portfolios made some good points to support the adoption of e-portfolios, they raised a lot of questions for me.

Starting with the piece by Emmett, he states that "interaction will best occur when the learning tasks are designed on constructivist principles." However, in his article about the neomillennials, Dede (2005) indicates that situated learning is the future, particularly in virtual educational environments. So, who is right? Is a constructivist approach more conducive to learning or is the situated learning model? Or, does it matter?

Emmett goes on to say that "the main issue is that relatively few teachers have ever been asked to reflect." How are students supposed to learn how to be reflective thinkers if their teachers do not know how to be reflective? Is this just expected to be an innate quality, and thus, it isn't necessary to teach someone how to do it?

Moving to the article by Treuer and Jenson, they provide several different definitions of e-portfolios, which serves to frame their argument that standards are needed in this area. While I agree that the ability to easily store and retrieve your educational information is appealing, the outline for standardization that Treuer and Jenson present seems too simplistic. What about students who transfer after one semester at an institution? Will they access the information through that institution, or will they have to move it do another institution or employer? Will all institutions (including those in non-U.S. locations) and employers have to use the same e-portfolio system, and how will the selection of that system be made? If the information has to be moved, how will privacy issues be handled? Institutions are having enough problems these days with the release of private information into unintended spaces. The e-portfolio concept sounds like a even larger and more daunting task that merely keeping student and faculty records secure and private.

Pew and the Content Creators

Lenhart, Amanda, & Madden, Mary (2005). Teens content creators and consumers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Report. Retrieved on November 19, 2006, from:

This is yet another report by the folks at Pew that includes a plethora of facts. However, this time, the facts are related to online teens, the media materials they use, and the content they create on the internet. According to the authors, Content Creators are defined as "online teens who have created or worked on a blog or webpage, shared original creative content, or remixed content they found online into a new creation" (p. 1). Dede (2005) calls this process of remixing content "Napsterism." The authors (Tapscott and Williams) of the book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, also refer to these content creators, and view them as prosumer "N-geners"(p. 52). While Tapscott and Williams cite the number of teens who can be classified in this category, they also recognize that the content creators are not "content to be passive consumers"; instead, these individuals "increasingly satisfy their desire for choice, convenience, customization, and control by designing, producing, and distributing products themselves" (p. 52). Tapscott and Williams conclude that in order to benefit from the content creators, businesses will have to be reconfigured.

Another "fact" that stood out in the Pew report was related to the percentage of youth who download music and videos. According to the Pew report, "teen boys of all ages are more likely than teen girls to report music downloading" (p. 11). The latest ECAR study (2007) of undergraduates reached similar conclusion.
What's interesting is that the research presented in a book by Miller and Slater (2001) titled, The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach mentions that teens in Trinidad avidly download music from the internet - it's not just a U.S. phenomena.

The section of the Pew report that outlined the results about legal and illegal music downloads was also of interest. In the report, the authors state that "75% agree with the statement that, 'Music downloading and file-sharing is so easy to do, it's unrealistic to expect people not to do it" (p. 13). This point was reiterated by Tapscott and Williams who talked to teens who were "high on music, low on cash, and convinced that 'information wants to be free'" (p. 57).

Dede and FOR

Dede, Christopher (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles: Implications for investments in technology and faculty. In D. G. Oblinger & J. L. Oblinger (Eds.), Educating the net generation. Retrieved November 20, 2006, from:

The one section of Dede's article that really resonated for me was his discussion about Salzman's frames of reference (FOR) as a way to induce immersion in virtual environments. This piece also tied in nicely to a topic that came up in another class about cyberculture studies and the blending of the virtual and the real (Is the virtual world separate from the real world? Can we understand the virtual if we don't take the real into account?). Dede outlines two different FORs - egocentric and exocentric - and refers to Salzman's dollhouse metaphor to clarify the difference between the two. According to Salzman (as quoted by Dede), the egocentric FOR "provides a view of the object, space, or phenomena from within" - like being inside the dollhouse. In contrast, the exocentric FOR "provides a view of an object, space, or phenomena from the outside" - looking at the dollhouse but only imagining what it is like to be inside.

While this section of Dede's article did not clarify the notion of blending the real and the virtual (and in my other class, it looks like we may be trying to get our heads wrapped around that issue for the rest of the semester), it did provide another lens for considering immersion and the learning experience.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wikis and Podcasts and Blogs! Oh My!

McGee, P., & Diaz, V. (2007, ). Wikis and podcasts and blogs! Oh my! What is a faculty member supposed to do? Educause Review, 29-40. Retrieved September 12, 2007 from

The latest issue of Educause Review includes an article that ties in nicely to the readings for this week. Like the article about the 24-hour professor, the individuals profiled in this Educause piece lament about the struggles they face in keeping up with technology and with the 24/7 model. Here's a sample of a couple of sections that stand out and provide interesting food for thought...

1) "It is important to remember that emerging technologies can be used to produce some of the same benefits that would result from a stronger focus on learner-centered, pedagogically driven instruction: improved information literacy skills: increased participation in the learning process or contributive learning and more collaborative and practiced learning" (p. 38).

2) "A study published by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) in 2000 showed that students who are innovators or early adopters of technology prefer moderate amounts of technology in their instruction and that younger students prefer event less technology than do their older peers" (p. 40).

Wingard: Web-enhanced courses

Robin G. Wingard (2004). Classroom teaching changes in Web-enhanced courses: A multi-Institutional Study. Educause Quarterly, 27(1).

I jotted down a few notes as I was reading this article.

1) Wingard found that the longer faculty taught, the more likely they were to be experienced Web users. She suggests that it is their experience with traditional instruction methods that enables them to be creative in their teaching. She fails to mention the structure of academia (i.e., tenure track) that may divert the attention of younger faculty members and force them to concentrate on endeavors that will count toward tenure. Perhaps the older, more experienced faculty, are well-beyond that point and have the ability to focus on other things, like using the web to enhance their course.

2) The faculty interview and survey responses produced different results. For example, the authors note that "on the survey, faculty reported less change in the classroom than they reported subsequently during the interviews" (p. 29). The authors suggest that the faculty had time to reflect on their survey responses and adjusted their interview responses accordingly. However, it may be that the faculty were telling the interviewer what they thought the interviewer wanted to hear. It is possible that the survey results were closer to the truth because the faculty didn't have to complete it in the presence of one of the researchers.

3) On page 34, Wingard emphasizes that the information presented in this article is based on faculty perceptions. She later mentions that it would be interesting to explore student perceptions of web enhancement efforts. Are there studies that compare faculty and student perceptions? I'm working in a research group on a project that is examining gender equity and IT education. One of the PIs has focused on mentoring and found that faculty indicate that they are mentoring students, but the students report that they are not being mentored. The ending section of the Wingard article reminded me of the mentoring study.

Online Instructor Roles, Training, Incentives, and Supports

A few points of interest from this week's articles:

Wilson (2003; On page 60, he states that "female faculty members are more likely to use university resource centers than male faculty members." Wilson links this finding to the fact that men don't ask for directions, but is the explanation that simple?

Two of the articles mention the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education - Shea (2003): "A Follow-up Investigation of 'Teaching Presence' in the SUNY Learning Network" (]) and Wingard (2004): "Classroom Teaching Changes in Web-enhanced Courses: A Multi-Institutional Study" (

Shae's piece on the SUNY Learning Network indicates that students rated their classmates almost as high as the instructors on effectiveness of discourse facilitation; however, the correlation between the rating of classmates' discourse and their satisfaction and their reported learning were not as high (p. 74). The authors later reiterate this point, and suggest that students have high expectations for their instructors and tend to be more "strict" in their ratings than with their peers (p. 76). Another explanation is that their are more classmates than instructors in the classroom. I'm still thinking about this finding and its corresponding explanations...

In the article, "Motivation and Incentives for Distance Faculty" (2003;, Parker states, "the study found that community college faculty tend to see distance delivery of education as a part of their job." Was this study a mix of community colleges and 4-year institutions? If there was a mix, it would have been interesting to see how the findings from Parker's lit review differed among the different types of institutions. Also, what has made community college faculty take on this view of distance delivery of education? How was that line of thought integrated into the culture? Or is it that individuals who teach at community colleges are focused on teaching, rather than research, which makes them more willing to try different course delivery methods?

The 24-Hour Professor

Chronicle of Higher Education (2002). The 24 hour professor:

As someone who hopes to one day teach (and who is intrigued with the concept of teaching online courses), I read this article about Lee Grenci with mixed emotions. At times I found Grenci's experience exhilarating, particularly the interaction with the students. However, there were also times when I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. This overwhelming feeling rushed over me the strongest when I read the sections that discussed the policies outlined by certain institutions (e.g., respond to students' email within 48 hours). When the drive moves from one where you yourself feel "obsessed" to watch over your students to one where the institution is holding your feet to the fire, that's when I become a little worried. In the past, course instructors have never been available 24/7 so why should moving to an online environment change that? Like Las Vegas, some institutions are attempting to become 24-hour "cities" that have a never close policy.
Is being "always on," "always available," "always open" necessarily a good thing?

Another issue of concern is the one of students seeming "bolder" in online courses about approaching the professor. This is a point that was raised in another article for this week - "What Do Online MBA Professors Have to Say about Online Teaching (2007; In that article, a couple of faculty members stated that there was a "small percentage of students whose attitudes and behaviors were negative when compared to students in face-to-face classes." But, are the students really bolder or are the lack of cues contributing to this sense of boldness? Alternatively, are the students who enroll in an online course more motivated and perhaps more aggressive, which in turn makes them more likely to approach the professor when they "feel like they've been trounced"?

Blogging and Group Discussion

In Monday's class, my group discussed the Pew article on blogging by Lenhart et al. ( One fact our group found of interest was that while blogging is equally split between men and women, their reasons for blogging differed. For example, Lenhart and her colleagues found that men are more likely than women (67% to 52%) to say that they blog to entertain people. In contrast, women who blog and younger bloggers (age 18-29) are more likely than other groups to say that keeping in touch is a major reason for blogging (p. 8).

Today, I was reading an article in First Monday titled, "Mining the Blogosphere: Age, Gender, and the Varieties of Self-expression (2007; In this piece, the authors outline their findings from a study on language use and blogging. They found a pairing that was similar to the one presented by Lenhart and her group. In "Mining the Blogosphere," the authors note the following:

"Factors and parts–of–speech that are used significantly more by younger (older) bloggers are also used significantly more by female (male) bloggers. Thus, Articles, Prepositions, Religion, Politics, Business, and Internet are used more by male bloggers as well as older bloggers, while PersonalPronouns, Conjunctions, AuxiliaryVerbs, Conversation, AtHome, Fun, Romance, and Swearing are used more by female bloggers as well as younger bloggers. "

It's interesting that not only do women and young people share similar reasons for blogging, but that the language styles of their posts are similar as well.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Blogging and RSS

Richardson, W. (2004). Blogging and RSS: The "what's it?" and "how to" of powerful new web tools for educators. InfoToday, 11(1). Retrieved September 3, 2007, from
Blogging is changing the way educators and students use the Web. Those in education have been slower to adopt this new technology for reasons, such as privacy and access concerns. This is changing, and many are beginning to use blogs in a number of innovative ways. Educators also note that one of the best features of blogs, besides their ease-of-use, is the fact that many blogging software tools are free.

One of the many uses of blogs in an educational setting can be for the implementation of collaborative projects. The author describes his own blogging experiences that occurred in a high school literature class he taught. The book selected for this project was The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and a blog was set up to extend the discussion beyond the classroom. Much to the students' surprise, the author of the book even joined in on the conversation. This is similar to the surprise experienced by the students who received comments from outside readers to their review of a circus (see Stephen Downes 2004 piece on educational blogging- Other examples, such as Pam Pritchard's use of audioblogs to help her students improve their reading and pronunciation skills, are also examined.

If I had to pick one sentence from this article that summarizes blogging it would be the following: "In other words, a Weblog is a dynamic, flexible tool that's easy to use whether you're creating with it or simply viewing the results."

Educational Blogging

Downes, S. (2004, September/October). Educational blogging. Educause. Retrieved September 3, 2007, from
The article opens with a brief scenario outlining the activities of fifth and sixth grade students at Institut St. Joseph in Quebec City to illustrate a new trend in education: the use of blogs in and out of the classroom. At the time this article was published, there were no exact data outlining the number of blogs being used in schools; however, several individuals and groups, like Will Richardson and the Educational Bloggers Network, were touting the benefits of this online tool.

Blogs have been shown to have many diverse uses and purposes outside the classroom. For example, some individuals use blogs for personal and social uses, while others use blogs in more of a journalistic capacity. One thing that makes the use of blogs so attractive is their ease-of-use. The article describes the technology and software that contribute to this feature. Negative features of blogs and blogging, such as the potential conflict between the blogger and the administration, the possibility that not all students will be motivated to use the tool, and the lack of commitment to continue the blog once the course has ended are mentioned. When comparing the positives to the negatives, blogging appears to be a tool that has the potential to provide students with a richer educational experience and promote life-long learning.

Comments and Questions:

Downes states, "Blogging is something defined by format and process, not by content. A blog, therefore, is and has always been more than the online equivalent of a personal journal" (p. 18). However, the Pew Internet & American Life Project report, Bloggers ( indicates that the "blogosphere is dominated by those who use their blogs as personal journals" (p. ii). Are students, at least the ones Downes encountered different from those who participated in the Pew interviews? Is Downes merely purporting his hopes for the blogosphere - that it will become more than a collection of personal musings?

Also on . 18 of the Downes piece, he notes that Halavais - a professor added blogs to his media law class - questions whether he would continue the blog activity due to the increase in workload. If adding a blogging activity means more work for the instructor, will they integrate blogging into their classroom simply because students are enthusiastic about it?

Downes states, "Imagine the young students' surprise when, some time after posting a review of a circus on their blog, someone from the circus read the review and wrote back!" To me, this statement suggests that the students in this class did not fully realize the public nature of the blog.

On page 24, Downes indicates that using blogging software is not the same as blogging. I would agree. As is the case with gaming in education, just because student use the technology doesn't mean they have appropriated it.