Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TWITTER - Mobile

This blog entry will focus on Twitter as a mobile application and how it can help people learn.

As of February 2009, only about 18% of Twitter users accessed via mobile device.  However, in the first half of 2009, access to Twitter's site via mobile increased by a whopping 3500%.  In the future, we may see a majority of people tweeting and reading tweets via mobile devices, esp. if devices like this Twitter Phone start selling.

For collaborating with other students on Twitter, tweets will need to include hashtags, which are specific words or symbols that each person in the group adds to each of his/her tweets (e.g., #thisisahashtag).

Here are some possible educational ideas to use Twitter via mobile devices:
  • Tweet ideas to your group or class during off-school hours from anywhere.
  • During a field trip, have students tweet observations.
  • Group research project - a group of students can separate and visit remote locations (library, museum, other school, etc.) and then tweet back anything of interest to the rest of the group.
  • During an event, students can tweet comments about the event live from the event location.
  • Conduct an educational treasure hunt.  This video below shows an example of Tony Hawk's treasure hunt where he hid 60 skateboards in different locations all throughout the world and then tweeted hints to their locations.  A Twitter treasure hunt can be easily made into an educational activity by creating educational puzzles to serve as clues to each piece of treasure.

Friday, December 4, 2009

TWITTER - Online

Unlike my friend, Kristi, when Twitter came out I was instantly intrigued. But not from an educational standpoint. I will confess, I was one of the first million to follow Ashton Kutcher. I got wrapped up in his competition against Larry King & CNN. And I'll even make another confession...I tweeted while attending a few Foo Fighters concerts. The overall appeal of Twitter lasted about 2 months and then slowly faded away. For me. Much like MySpace, I kept being called back to Facebook. Even with tools such as tweedeck that allowed me to maintain both FB and Twitter (and MySpace, LinkedIn and more), it became information overload and I had to back off.

In revisiting the idea of Twitter in online learning, I have to say that it makes sense to me. Many of the ways that Twitter can be used in the classroom can also be applied to the virtual world. Granted, tweets are limited to 140 characters, but a lot can be said if phrased creatively (and then there is always resorting to text talk which helps narrow down the number of characters).

How exactly can Twitter be used in online education?
  • Communication - much like texting or blogging, Twitter allows the option to send direct tweets, which lets students communicate with other students and the instructor without having to share personal cell phone numbers.

  • Collaboration - small groups can set up group applications by using Tweetworks.

  • Take a Poll - another cool Twitter application that allows for feedback, PollDaddy.

Sure, there is a learning curve - just like any good Web 2.0 tool, an instructor has to be willing to take the time to figure out how to best utilize the features. And much like the Apple iPhone (which I do not have), it seems that new applications are being created every second. Such is the world of Twitter. It's not so much that following tweets will provide one with earth shattering knowledge, but the option to share links to newstories, real life updates, California state budget information as it happens or the latest football score makes Twitter a direct connection to here and now.

If you are an online instructor who is interested in checking out what Twitter has to offer, here are some tools to help get started:

  • Twhirl - similar to Tweetdeck, this helps connect various social networks

  • Quote URL - this site helps to group different Twitter updates from different people into a single page and then provides a permanant URL. This would be something that would show how much each member of a team is actually contributing, which is key with collaboration projects.

  • TwitPic - this site lets users share photos (really a cool tool for those who tweet via mobile, but I'll leave that to Randy)

If you a student searching for words of wisdom, check out Twitter Professors for a list of 18 people to follow for a Real Time Education. While I do not personally follow any of those listed, the gentleman who wrote the online article makes a really good point: "Never before in history has it been easier to glean from the knowledge of others who will give it away to you for free."

What is Twitter about really? Status updates in the simplest of terms. But if used for the power of good, it is about the sharing of information. And with information comes learning. And the desire to share that information with others...and then they tell two friends, and so on and so on...

TechHeds Video Cast on Twitter - silly, but informative

I still have a lot to learn about Twitter, but the fact that we can post a question for all to see (those who follow and those who lurk) opens up the feedback possibilities to a whole new level. I came across a blog from an educator, and thought this is a creative way to track the various ways that Twitter can be used in education - Twitter Bingo. Challenge yourself - print out a copy of the Twitter Bingo card and have a go! And if you still can't quite grasp a visual on how Twitter branches out, check out Flowing Data, 17 Ways to Visualize the Twitter Universe.

Granted, my tweets are not worthy of an audience (yet), but if you are compelled to follow me, here I am .

TWITTER - Classroom

I have to admit I was hesitant to hop on the "Twitter" bandwagon. I figured if obnoxious Hollywoodites were crazy about a micro-blogging tool that it couldn't be that beneficial to education. Right? I was negatively biased from the start, thinking Twitter was just a way for everyone to announce what they had for breakfast or the latest Foo Fighters' concert they attended.

Knowing our collective intelligence was going to touch on the importance of tweeting in learning, I figured I need to start my own Twitter account. I posted a handful of my own Tweets and started following others. To my surprise, I found Twitter a great way to keep abreast of learning technologies. And then I stumbled across this:

The DigMe program at the University of Minnesota embraces the research that shows that "people will need critical media literacy to succeed in 21st-century society" and encourages high school students in underprivileged areas to use digital media (including Web 2.0 tools) combined with critical thinking skills in their classrooms. Many high school students and college-age students are using the digital media anyway. Teachers in this program embrace the tweeting, wiki posting, Facebook status updates and such and use it to reach out to the students, connect with them on a personal level, and deliver course content.

I was wrong. I am starting to dig Twitter and the ways it can be used to enhance education.

Some Twitter Uses in the Classroom

  • Teach while you're away. Gone a lot from your classroom? Be there virtually for a Q&A session with your students. It worked for this instructor.
  • Create a classroom community. This UT Dallas professor requires his students to use Twitter to post messages and questions to the class along with requiring them to follow his Twitter feed. This casual and intellectual virtual connection between learners and educator has helped to create a positive learning community.
  • Streamline class communications. Want to reach your students sooner with class announcements and assignment reminders? Twitter is a great option in lieu of email that saves you time as a teacher. Read more.
  • Stimulate discussions. . . During class. One professor from Pennsylvania State University @ University Park encourages his students to tweet comments, questions, related articles, etc. during his lectures. Chaos? Maybe. But this virtual way of "passing notes" has led to deeper understanding and application of course content.
  • The options can be simple but are plentiful. See 50 other ways to use Twitter as a useful teaching tool.

Twitter has the capability of fueling learning when students are directed to use it in productive and collaborative ways. Check out this article for some more reasons why you should consider using Twitter in YOUR classroom.


What Is Moblogging?
Posting to your blog via mobile device.  Moblogging is hugely popular with teens and young adults, who tend to post photos of celebrities, friends, or themselves.

Educational Use
However, moblogging can also be used for educational purposes.  Some ways that moblogging can be used in a classroom include:
  • Group Projects - groups of students or even entire classes can moblog together on a collaborative assignment.

    Here is a video of a class of Australian high school students moblogging as part of a group assignment:

  • Documenting a process - students can take photos during the creation of a project and document the process by moblogging.
  • Field trip summary - students can moblog while on a field trip
  • Special event reporting - student can attend special events and moblog while they are there
Moblogging Sites
There are several sites that you can use to moblog, including:
  • Most popular blog sites (Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal)
  • Moblog
  • Flickr Mobile
  • Tumblr
  • LocoBlog - location-based mobile blogging site that uses GPS to include location information in your moblog (very cool!)

A mobile wiki allows you to view AND input wiki information via mobile device.  There are a handful of mobile wiki sites now and no doubt many more to come in the future as mobile internet access becomes widespread.  Here is a directory of mobile wikis:

Educational Use
  • Group Projects - group activities can use mobile wikis to store information about projects
  • Individual or collaborative note taking (e.g. using PicoWiki) - wikis are excellent for storing notes, and mobile wikis can be used to store notes from any location.
  • Mobile Wikipedia - students can create new Wikipedia entries as a group even when they are all in remote locations.
  • Mobile audio wikis - speech-based wikis that access information via voice.
    is a good example of a mobile audio wiki that is helping South African students learn.  This is how it works:
    1. A user can search for a term by sending an SMS message to the server.
    2. The server then calls the user.
    3. A speech synthesizer will read the article found in the Wikipedia.
    4. If the term is not found in Wikipedia, then the user can submit his/her contribution by dictating it to the system.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BLOGS / WIKIS - Classroom

To blog (or wiki ) or not to blog (or wiki). That is the question. I am a personal fan of blogging and I have used a both wikis and blogs as a student in classrooms. Besides this blog, I contribute to five other blogs. I find it quite entertaining and fulfilling as I connect with those in cyberspace who share similar interests and passions as I do. I personally think it has helped me to be come a better writer. Based on my personal experience, Web 2.0 tools can be used as effective teaching tools in the classroom. And, let's face it. Chances are your students, even those at the primary level of schooling, are familiar with the concept. In fact, I can guarantee most middle schoolers are using wikis, such as Wikipedia, to gather information for their research papers.

Wikis and blogs are about reading, writing, communicating and collaborating. Blogs and wikis are easy to use and there are multiple free blogging and wiki hosting sites available on the web.Specifically, Educational blogging helps students find a voice, creates enthusiasm for writing, engages students in conversation and learning, and empowers students.

Like any technology, educators need to be careful to use these tools in a way that will benefit their students and enhance their learning - using them for entertainment or just to add some "variety" to your classroom isn't enough. Educators need to make sure they are encouraging a learner-centered classroom with blogs and wikis and not just a technology-centered classroom.

Consider the suggestions in this wiki article and this blog article on how to create a collaborative and interactive classroom using blogs and wikis.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

WIKIS / BLOGS - Online

A Word from Tai ...Strangely enough, when I was younger I was commited to keeping a written journal. I wrote every day about what I was feeling, thinking, seeing. I wrote these journals as if I were writing to an old friend who I was trying to explain my life to. Even thoughout college, I maintained my journal habits using a word processor (to give you an idea of how old I am, does anyone remember Wordstar?). And yet, by the time PC's became all the craze and the Internet began to take over, bringing the world the concept of "blogging", I had absolutely no desire to partake. Do I enjoy reading other people's blogs? Absolutely! Do I think blogging has a place in online education? My goal is to do a little research and see what I find. By the time I'm done, I'll have a better idea of what I think.

Wikis in Online Education Before I delve into the world of blogging, I'd like to first take a look at the use of wiki's in online education. In the world of online education, instructor preparation and structure is everything. I'm not a teacher, and I don't have the experience behind what goes into creating a syllabus (other than what I've learned through the CSUF MSIDT program, which is a lot!), but I've known plenty of instructors who scramble last minute to prepare an upcoming lesson (this is true for both classroom and online). If you are one of those people who has been lead to believe that online education is "easy", boring, or isolating, I'm here to tell you that is completely false. When collaborative learning is applied students become actively involved in their own learning experience. Research shows that students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other modes of instruction.

So what is a wiki? Wiki is a Hawaiian word that means "fast" and has been backronymed "What I know Is". A Wiki is an awesome online tool that allows users to collaborate in an asychronous manner. This video demonstrates how a wiki works:

How can wikis be used in an online course environment?
  • Share ideas
  • Organize thoughts
  • Create a glossary, book, or study tool
  • Provide feedback
  • Allows for student to student communication
  • Allows for instructor to student communication

Strengths and Weaknesses of Wikis

  • (+) easy sharing
  • (+) easy access
  • (+) one working version
  • (+) version history
  • (+) collaboration

  • (-) plagiarism
  • (-) outside editors
  • (-) lack of control
What is a Blog? Blog is a combination of "web" and "log". It is a type of website that is usually maintained by an individual who creates regular entries of commentary, thoughts, and ideas. Blog is both a verb and a noun. There are several types of blogs: personal, business, and media type(video, photo, etc). Various subject matter and genres of blogs exist as well: political, travel, music, fashion, art, and of course education. In some cases, in regards to education, it might be deemed an edublog.

Blogs in Online Education I was attending one of the various committee meetings that exist within the community college, and my ears perked up when discussions started up about hiring a handful of our college students to create a student blog. My first inital thought was why? But after reviewing Colorado Mountain College's Student Blogs, I see what an awesome marketing tool it could be for many educational facilities.

These student bloggers write about their educational experience, what they do when they get stressed, and what they do when they go out to unwind. There is an understanding and an agreement that no blogging of faculty or specific courses are to take place. It's an opportunity to share with current and prospective students what the campus is like and what a great experience it is to be a student at that school.

Final Thoughts on Wikis and Blogs I'm definitely a fan of most Web 2.0 tools. If an instructor can figure out a way to utilize a blog or a wiki in their online course environment that makes the course more appealing and helps a student learn, then more power to them. Wikis make an excellent repository for class documents from both the instructor and student side. Blogs are an excellent way for students to share thoughts and information to be shared solely with the instructor or with the class. In some cases, it is similar to a discussion board, but allows for a deeper personalization. Learning and the sharing of knowledge is not at all like I remember it to be in the 1980s...and that is a good thing. I've learned more in the past 2 years by reading what others have to share on personal and educational wikis and blogs right in the comfort of my own home. The freedom of knowledge can be shared by all...or at least for those willing to open their minds and explore. And share.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Welcome to the first post in the Mobile Learning section of our Ubiquitous Learning 2.0 collaborative blog!

In this and future Mobile Learning posts, I will share some thoughts on specific emerging technologies as they relate to mobile learners.  In particular, I'd like to focus on how mobile learning is different from both classroom and online learning, and how mobile learning has specific advantages over other (non-mobile) types of learning.

For this post, I will be writing about Facebook Mobile and its impact on mobile learning.  But, because this is my first post in this blog, I thought I'd step back a minute to discuss mobile learning in general.

According to Pew Research, as of early 2008, 71% of teens ages 12-17 used a cell phone.  However, despite the ubiquitous use of cell phones by school children, many teachers and school administrators consider mobile devices as more of a distraction than learning tools.  In fact, many schools have banned cell phone and other mobile devices from their classrooms.

Here is a short clip of Dr. Elliot Soloway from the University of Michigan, who is an expert in the field of mobile learning (and a very entertaining speaker!).  Dr. Soloway argues that mobile devices need to be embraced (not banned) in the classroom:

The report Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children's Learning (PDF file) (a great report on mobile learning and highly worth reading when you have the time) mentions many benefits of mobile learning, including:
  • Encourages "anywhere, anytime" learning
  • Promotes collaboration
  • Stimulates learning in real-world contexts
  • Supports individualized learning
  • Bridges formal and informal learning
  • Helps reach underserved children in developing countries, such as countries in Africa where mobile devices are much more popular than computers
Today, mobile learning is similar to online learning because oftentimes students are accessing the same educational content via both media (mobile device and computer).  However, mobile learning is starting to take advantage of some mobile-specific features, including:
  • Texting (anywhere, anytime)
  • Taking photos and videos
  • Playing podcasts and games (anywhere, anytime)
  • Use as student response system (SRS) device
  • Ability to read QR codes (
In the future, there will undoubtedly be other mobile features that further differentiate mobile learning from online (and classroom) learning.  And, as these features come into existence, I will (undoubtedly) blog about them here.

Now, on to our first emerging technology we are discussing on this collaborative blog: Facebook.  Facebook has built its mobile application, Facebook Mobile, to serve the needs of its mobile users.  According to Facebook, over 65 million (of the 300+ million total Facebook population) now use Facebook Mobile, up from 20 million just eight months ago.

So, how can mobile learners take advantage of Facebook Mobile?  Here are some possibilities:

Class assignments
A high school English teacher setup a Facebook page and instructed his students to use their cell phones to send photos or videos pertaining to a lesson to the Facebook page.  The students were able to see any updates to the Facebook page on their cell phones by subscribing to the Facebook page's RSS feed.

Group projects
Students can form Facebook group pages to collaborate on projects.  After a Facebook group is setup, students can join the group and receive status messages, photos, and other content via Facebook Mobile on their cell phones.

Blackboard integration
Students can receive notifications on their Facebook page about updates that occur on their course Blackboard site.  For example, if a student is interested in a specific discussion board topic in Blackboard, he/she can get instant updates about any new posts on his/her cell phone through Facebook Mobile.

Although Facebook has many (addictive) games on its main site, there are no games yet on Facebook Mobile.  However, there is a lot of talk about Facebook soon making mobile games available for its mobile users.  Once this happens, games with educational content will no doubt follow and can make Facebook Mobile a popular educational games provider.

Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) is a blending of the real and virtual worlds into a "mixed reality" environment.  To enter into an AR environment, you can use head-mounted displays (like glasses) or use a video device, such as a cell phone display.  Here is a fascinating AR screen device.  AR is currently being used in education in things like a virtual animated 3-D book.

As far as I know, there are not any AR applications involving Facebook yet (please comment if you know of anything though).  However, I can see one possible AR application is where a user wearing AR glasses being able to see people's Facebook status posts floating above their heads.  An educational application of this would be if, for example, students are  visiting a museum, they would be able to see what everybody else is "thinking" as they are all updating their statuses through Facebook Mobile.

Because both mobile learning and Facebook Mobile are in their infancy, these applications that I've mentioned above probably only scratch the surface of the possibilities of educational opportunities that Facebook (and other social networks) will be able to bring to mobile learners.

It's an exciting time for education because of all the new ways that people are learning.  One of the most exciting of these new ways is through mobile devices.  And, that's why I'm especially happy to be able to blog about mobile learning and hopefully bring to you some interesting things to think about.  Thanks for reading (and commenting below), and please check back for future updates!

Friday, September 18, 2009


It used to be that I would check my email first thing in the morning and multiple times throughout the day. In the last year or so, that obsessive email habit has been replaced by Facebook, and I am fairly certain that I am not the only one. Chances are if you are reading this Blog, you know what Facebook is. And even those who aren’t connected online in some manner have at least heard of it.

We are nearly a decade into the 21st Century, and education is evolving faster than ever before. With all the exciting bells and whistles that go along with technology, colleges and universities are doing all they can to keep up. The explosion of social networking is easily reflected
here. During my spring semester in the MSIDT program at CSU Fullerton, I wrote a short term paper on education in the 21st Century. While sorting through multitudes of various articles, I came across a well written article by Tamara L. Wandel titled Colleges and Universities Want to be Your Friend: Communicating via Online Social Networking. This article addressed the reality of our society, and with that how it effects how we learn best illustrated by this quote, “…technology isn’t part of students’ lives these days. It is their lives.”

The primary purpose of social networking sites is to allow users instantaneous connectedness with likeminded individuals. Sure, it’s a great way to touch base with people you haven’t seen in 20 years, but it is also an easy way to keep in touch with the people who are a part of your here and now, which in the life of a student is 24/7. Online learning can be isolated. Instructors are encouraged to find new ways to help the online student feel less alone; make them feel as connected as if they were in the classroom.

To be perfectly honest, the idea of implementing Facebook into an online course appears daunting, but then I am not a teacher (yet). Thanks to one of my co-bloggers and good friend, Kristi, here is a site that lists 25 Facebook Apps That Are Perfect for Online Education (funny, the actual URL indicates 15 apps, but the title and article list 25…one more indication how quickly these tools and applications snowball). Here’s another one that boasts 101 Facebook Apps for Students.

From where I’m sitting, as someone with nearly a decade of experience working in distance learning and as a student in Instructional Design and Technology, and an avid Facebook user…I completely understand how Facebook has the appeal and ability to infiltrate today’s online experience, and that includes online education. Is this a good thing? I believe it is.
I came across this site 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know, and while it doesn't necessarily address online education and Facebook, I think it is useful information for anyone using Facebook, or any social networking site. Be careful what you post and/or allow others to see. Digital footprints can last a lifetime.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

FACEBOOK - Classroom

Facebook. Everyone is on it. Ok, maybe not everyone, but over 22,000,000 college-aged students are accessing Facebook to meet their friends, post their current status, network with those who share the same interests, play online games with other facebook members, cultivate farmlands in a social utility game, share messages. In fact, students spend so much time on Facebook that one study done in 2008 claims that students who use Facebook have lower GPAs than those they don't. The study claims this is because students spend the time that they should be studying on this social networking tool.

Is there a place for Facebook in the college classroom? I believe there is. Consider this - If students are spending time on this social networking tool anyway, instructors would be wise to use this to their advantage. Instead of letting Facebook become a distraction, college instructors could use this social network as a study tool to reach out to their students and engage them in their courses. Here are a few tools on Facebook that would enhance classroom learning:

1. Groups and Status Updates. The following presentation given at the Center for Teaching and Learning Advancement at Elon University, offers instructors step-by-step instructions on how to create a group for students to join and tips on how to best use basic Facebook tools, such as status updates, events, etc.

2. Coursefeed Application. Facebook has actually created a Facebook learning community called Coursefeed. To access Coursefeed, you need to log into Facebook and start the application. Coursefeed allows instructors to sync their Blackboard courses with Facebook so students do not have to login to a separate Blackboard account, to access any open education courses that are available and allows educators to create their own course space where students can form study groups and the class can upload and share files.

3. Courses Application. This application was created by a former high-school teacher and is meant to act like a course management system similar to Blackboard. Instructors can upload and share files, have class discussions and manage a course calendar. Though many universities have a course management system already in place, this tool would be great for other learning institutions that do not have this tool available. *NOTE: I attempted to try this application out and it is apparently having some bugs in it. I think the idea is great, though, and I hope the creators can figure out the problems soon.

All of these tools that are available to classroom instructors just emphasize the idea technology and social networking tools can be a positive motivation to learning.

My advice to classroom instructors - give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!