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Chris Clark of the Kaneb Center inspired us to make our presentations more user-centered in his Presentation Zen workshop.  Then a group of us  played the Diffusion Simulation Game during the May Institute.  This blog post on Domesticating IT actually appeared years before our workshops but it manages to marry both concepts and expand them.  I especially like the before/after slides.


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Hesburgh Libraries employees and guests collaborate in playing the Diffusion Simulation Game


Every spring since 2005, Hesburgh Libraries conducts its May Institute, an “… intensive opportunity for all library employees to meet and work together in collaborative and enjoyable ways, across the traditional boundaries and hierarchies.”  Hesburgh Libraries is currently undergoing radical reorganization so this year’s theme was focused on the guiding precept of “Excellence in Service” and on issues related to managing change.

The term “change agent” is used frequently in reorganization parlance but its characteristics are rarely defined.  In order to demonstrate the relationship between directed, intentional communication and effective change management, a colleague and I led a workshop that incorporated Indiana University’s Diffusion Simulation Game.  The game is based on principles from Diffusion of Innovations (Rogers, 1995) and a guest version is open to all.  We had limited time and we knew that it would be impossible to complete the game within the allotted hour.  Nevertheless, we set up 4 teams, each with a laptop, and said we would determine a winner by the greatest number of adopters at the end of the session.  Team members had to collaborate to choose the best course of action for advancing an innovation.  The teams were diverse groups of librarians, staff, and a few visitors.  We had a brief introduction and a handout but it was clear from the start that everybody wanted to begin playing the game as quickly as possible.  All of the groups were very engaged with the objectives of the game and with their teammates.  It was gratifying to see the intense discussions that led to decisions as well as healthy combinations of competition, teamwork, deference, and leadership.  One group’s laptop did not work so we sent them to the classroom workstation.  My colleague and I just wandered around, making a few suggestions, answering questions, and encouraging risk-taking.  Most seemed disappointed when our time was up.

We had positive feedback from several participants stating that they learned a lot about being a change agent and they also had a lot of fun with their new teammates.  We followed up by email after the class with the url of the game and we also set up a Titanpad site for additional discussion of strategy, comments, etc.  Some participants had already played the game several more times within the course of the day and posted notes and questions.  Ultimately, it provided a great picture of what empowered, self-directed, collaborative learning looks like.

Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.

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Blogs are getting a lot of press these days, especially as a learning tool in higher ed.  That is, in fact, the motivating factor behind this blog.  It seems that blogs are a logical and convenient format for the development of meta-cognitive skills and for reflection on learning.  Connectivism as a concept would appear to require self-direction which is aided by technology.  In that sense, learning blogs are the perfect manifestation of connectivism. Unfortunately, it can be quite challenging to construct learning blog assignments so that they will have the most productive results.  Privacy issues, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation differences, language difficulties, etc. can lead to only the most superficial posts.

A recent article offers a unique analysis, including very interesting case studies, of learning blogs kept by computer science students.  Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1628-1644. (http://link.library.nd.edu/gsjsp for ND users).  Students are engaged in design projects and are recording their design progress and struggles, among other things, in the blogs.  I find the article offers not only relevant information from the case studies (frustrations with Second Life resonated with me) but also suggests a detailed framework for mining the educational affordances of blogs.  I highly recommend this for anyone who is considering the use of blogs in a university class.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/5064908/in/photostream/ by kk+


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Connectivism is another educational topic that gets a lot of press but not so much deep discussion. It is best for me to leave description of the concept to the go-to guy, Stephen Downes.

It is possible that I suffer from complete failure to understand the concept but it does seem to me that there is a relationship between Downes’ description, “This implies a pedagogy that … seeks to describe the practices that lead to such networks, both in the individual and in society (which I have characterized as modeling and demonstration (on the part of a teacher) and practice and reflection (on the part of a learner)” and Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction, Numbers 3,4,5: 3. Learning is promoted when new knowledge
is demonstrated to the learner., 4. Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner., 5. Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.

Any thoughts on this?

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I only know enough about Learning Analytics to be dangerous. I was fortunate enough to be in a class where George Siemens was a guest speaker (from his kitchen table in Canada). And I know that he envisions something much different than tracking the number of posts in the LMS discussion board. As we move toward more self-directed learning, it may be possible to use analytics to create a customized learning program for the needs of an individual.

I don’t want to mislead anyone so I will link to the experts: http://www.learninganalytics.net/
This is becoming a very hot topic but it takes some time to really wrap your head around it. I especially appreciate the ELI paper, Analytics in Higher Education: Establishing a Common Language (linked from the site) for help in clarifying concepts and terms.

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Twiddla is an online collaboration tool, similar to TitanPad.  But it has lots of extra features!  You can upload images and docs, draw and even have an audio chat.  I just tried it out and it is very easy to use.  (Check it out at http://www.twiddla.com/818236)

I think this tool has all kinds of potential for library instruction applications.  And it is great fun!  I want to mess around with it some more to find out all that it can do.

Small Demons

Small Demons lets the user search books by “People, Place, Things”.  Seems like this might actually have some use for Reference Desk staffers.  It is still in Beta and has somewhat limited scope.  But I could also see some purpose to asking literature students to add to the database.  It seems to be somewhat limited to contemporary works at this time.  I did a search for “Pip” and got a few novels and several references to Gladys Knight and the Pips but no Dickens.  Give it a try and comment if you think of any other applicable uses.

This is good but could use a bit more joy in the narration:

This is my lifelong personal favorite.  How many of the First Principles of Instruction do they use?