Author Archives: Pam Patterson

ELI 2014 - intuition rules

Are there rules to intuition? One rule emerging from the study of the brain is that the mind needs to allow the "brain voices" space in order to synthesize what was learned.  In the 1990's the LMS was (and can still be) very freeing. It allow students and faculty one spot to share and pass along digital information. But now it binds us to a technology that is a bit dated and doesn't adapt quickly or easily to other platforms. This is the shackle of a silo. That's not to say that all new technologies aren't silos. Case in point, designing an IOS app that must use Apple's SDK and app store and the moment it was written, it is becoming obsolete. Sometimes shackles can be freeing and sometimes a shackle is just a shackle.

One thing about conferences, you hear buzz words. We hear the buzz of innovation and transformation. This has been the battle cry since I started this job 13 years ago. We practice the art of combining lightweight tools to get things done.  Is that innovative? Is it trans-formative? Possibly. But it's less dramatic than that, it's willing to look at the same old same old day after day and suddenly see it in a new combination. In order to do that you have to be willing to work shackled then you have to be willing to break free.

noSilosBuzzword 1: 'connected learning environment' - some use use the term 'learning ecosystem'. It's the holy grail at the moment and one that AIT seems intent on exploring with good reason. No more silo's - creating a community of learning tools that are accessible no matter what the platform. LTI's and mobile apps can help us with this dismantling of silo applications which don't speak to one another.

big-data-straight-aheadBuzzword 2: 'BIG data' - Discussion of data storage and preservation is necessary - it's the mechanics of beast - just like I need a cup to hold liquid. But the question in AIT becomes how do we provide access, analysis and the "brain voice" space for students to come to the critical thinking part of learning. We can help students accomplish this by applying "backwards planning" - which in my way of thinking isn't backwards at all. What are the competencies expected? What is the mission and vision of the program/course/discipline? Let's create a concept map - on paper, with a pen OR on a tablet device with a mind map/drawing tool. The mission or the competency is in the middle. OR, rogue thought here, what the student is hoping to gain from the course. Now let that brain voice take over and start using your creativity based on the facts/ideas/tools you know but put them in a new order. Here's a concept map I created at the end of the conference:

A here is a really cool one from this website (which i didn't know existed!) and it's from 2009 - I see a lot of innovative ideas we still wish for today.

How do we tie the connected learner to big data?  What we need are tools for the end user to be able to SEE the data and make their own intuitive best guess about how it all comes together. Do we really want students to use the word research as a way to  merely to spit facts back to the instructor? Or do we want research to mean "this is how I am thinking". I think therefore I research. (see Bret Victor's work here: And if you get a chance to view the taping of Campbell Gardner's 15 min introduction to Bret Victor's work, it will inspire you. (

Bret Victor speaks about the animation of complex concepts (which can be contained in big data) and the use of interactive personal computing. He says that creation is discovery. If we can provide students with a tool to turn in assignments for a static grade but also a tool that provides a window into their thinking, a place where they can make clear how they come to hold the view/argument they are supporting with those assignments, we will enable a generation of students who reduce abstraction and indirection and pursue passion. It is in this arena of visible and immediate reflection that learning happens.

campfiregirlBuzzword 3: Badges - now I must confess I was a scoffer. Badges brought to mind the small stint I did in Campfire Girls (ah, google it, we sold candy not cookies). We earned badges and stuck them on a sash. It was fun, but what I never really considered what was under each badge. I gained either a skill or it was acknowledged that I participated in something. Those badges said to my peers and my leaders that I had worked at something. Suddenly, I'm sold. Let's say a student is in a course and he passes with a C. If the course had 3 competencies to be gained, it's possible that the C student only learned one. What if students earned badges for each competency with the help of blended learning (buzzword alert) tools: modules, lecture, in-class second screen back channels).

Here's a concept map of second screen back channels I created:

We can enriched student learning by introducing badges across the curriculum. This provides students with tools to tie their learning together and help them make connections beyond their chosen disciplines. Those badges can be mined by potential employers who are searching for specific competencies. Badges can also be related to ePortfolio's in a meaningful way - the ePortfolio (buzzword) can show tangible digital evidence of a learned competency. If we provide students with areas for reflection and blocks of obtainable goals, we will increase their potential for learning. Many of these buzzwords are from listening to Kyle Bowen, Director of Informatics at Purdue University and his featured session on "Four Big Ideas for What's Next." I really enjoyed his talk. It pulled some many things in the conference together for me and had a tone of practicality that I appreciated.

The ideal student will become a systems thinker, a communicator, a creative problem solver and culturally responsible. We "backwards" construct from this ideal and identify tools that enable/enhance the learning process to help students obtain these goals. I believe that is the trans-formative power of technology enhanced learning - providing tools and incentive that allows digital learners to free up some brain space for creative problem solving.

The conference generated some ideas for me outlined at the following website - I encourage you to login to that site comment on those ideas and add your own.

ELI 2012 - Living and Learning in Cyberspace Blogging at VA Tech

Panelists: W. Gardner Campbell, Dir., Professional Development and Innovative Initiatives, Shelli Fowler, Exec. Dir. of Graduate Development Programs and New Pedagogies, Jennifer Sparrow, Dir. of Emerging Technologies and New Ventures and Robert Stephens, Assoc. Prof. of History, Principal, Honors Residential College. Other examples of student blogging at VA Tech, - this is not the same as the residential blogging initiative, these blogs are running off Google's The take away here is that blogging is an easily accessible tool for students to create connections between real world experience and their academics.

A  blogging initiative was started to provide students with a platform for making learning connections across disciplines. VA Tech is running WordPress blogs for about 300 students in the Honors residential college. Students are given a blog as incoming freshmen. It's introduced into the residential college because it provides longevity. Students will live and study together (across disciplines) for 4 years. There is a faculty adviser who provides guidance but for the most part there are no specific requirements. No specific requirements proved to be the biggest hurdle for the students who wanted to know what the topic of the posts should be, how much they should blog, how often and what's the grading requirements? The faculty member finally gave into the desperate pleas for structure and said they had to post at least 12 times, and he was reluctant to give that requirement. The 300 students posted between 3000 and 5000 posts. Students had a conceptual problem at first. Blogging was not a word processing, term paper grading arena, but a multimedia platform for ideas, civic discourse and connection with a larger community. This was an arena to aggregate the individual's learning experience.
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ELI 2012 Conference - Featured Speakers

The annual ELI conference in Austin opened with a keynote address by Adrian Sannier from Pearson Publishing. It included this cheery quote from H.G. Wells, "Human history is more and more a desperate race between education and catastrophe."  Wells died in 1946 and as our speaker pointed out, we've been on the verge of a technological revolution for 50 years. So it would seem that while we've been preaching revolution we've been practicing status quo. The art of teaching in the classroom hasn't change for quite some time but there are signs of the disruption of the status quo from the bottom up as we see more and more access to expert information for free. There is a democratization of information that decentralizes and leverages expertise at the scale of the individual rather than in a classroom setting. The revolution is taking place all around us but it still hasn't taken place in the classroom. Faculty use LMS (learning management systems) but mainly for administrative purposes. This talk was a call (once again) for those of us in the technology field to drive innovation. Creative destruction has to happen at every level of the enterprise (ITS re-org anyone?). Are we still stuck because of the resistance to not challenging the status quo? As the discussion becomes more and more about the science of education and less about the art of education, it means that things are about to change. Some suggestions from our speaker include: community based research activity, new models of progress based collaboration and the discovery, and the creation and distribution of digital materials. Pearson Publishing has introduced Open Class ( What is OpenClass? Here's the info from the web page: "OpenClass is a dynamic, scalable, fully cloud-based solution that stimulates social learning and the exchange of content, coursework, and ideas — all from one integrated platform. Of course it has all the LMS functionality needed to manage courses, but that’s just the beginning. OpenClass actually advances education by using social technology to encourage collaboration and communication for students, faculty, institutions, and administrators around the world. OpenClass also features an idea exchange that will make it easy to find and share the latest teaching approaches, educational content, and curriculum."
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Divine Blogging

Professor Giuseppe Mazzotta's course, ITAL310: Dante in Translation. "[attempts] to place Dante's work in the intellectual and social context of the late Middle Ages by relating literature to philosophical, theological, and political concerns." Carol Chiodo, Ph.D. candidate in Italian, led a section for the course. She decided to use a blog to help students develop their scholarly voices.

Rather than have students access the Divine Comedy through the lens of  secondary sources, one assignment urges students "[to] not look any further than what you have in front of you: a careful reading of the Comedy and portions of the texts you have selected should yield some intriguing arguments which you may later want to take up for your papers." Within this structure, the students created a  number of high quality papers. Some of the papers were sent to another organization as candidates for awards.

Chiodo found that 50 minute sections weren't long enough for the discussion.  The posts created a conversation and then set a boundary for the discussion. This helped to level the playing field for students in other disciplines. All came to the text with the same set of tools. The blog became organic to the group, morphing from being an assignment to a pool of resources. Using tagging to feed a tag cloud, the students created access to their own resources.  While Chiodo would have tagged more and even require tags on each post, she was able to use the tag cloud to tailor the secondary materials.

This is not a unique use of blogging software but it highlights the benefits of giving students an arena where discussions of course topics can be explored, outside of the sections.



Elihu Rubin,  Assistant Professor of Architecture and Political Science, and his students have been creating a New Haven building archive. His current course, "Urban Research and Representation" explores the utility of research and representation techniques and presents that work as a multi-media group exhibition in the form of  an interactive web-map of historic New Haven architecture, organizing five years worth of research by both graduate and undergraduate students. Professor Rubin's students have been collecting New Haven building data since 2007.

The current website allows students to capture their drift in a particular neighborhood through images, maps, prose and other ephemera. Students enter data about a building such as original tenant and purpose, architect, year built, and architectural style. This listing of a particular building is added dynamically to a Google map of the area. This ongoing data collection will also include crowd-sourcing, allowing readers in the community to add images, anecdotes and personal histories associated with New Haven architecture. These practices of walking, flânerie, photography, and cinema give students a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city.


Digital Scholarship Sites

While listening to the Digital Campus podcast out of George Mason Univ., a biweekly podcast about how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums, two sites authored by Lisa Spiro, director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University’s Fondren Library caught my attention.

First, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities is a blog about how digital resources and tools are affecting scholarship in the humanities and consider the potential for digital scholarship. She poses questions (taken from her about page):

  • What kind of resources do I find by relying on databases and search tools? What kind of searches work best? What hasn’t yet been digitized or is difficult to find?
  • Does tagging help me to organize and share my research?
  • What new insights come out of using text analysis and text visualization tools? What’s hard about using these tools?
  • How do you make available not only research conclusions, but also the detailed research process that undergirds these conclusions–the successful and unsuccessful searches, the queries run in text analysis software, the insights offered by colleagues and commentators?
  • How will all of this information be preserved for the long-term?
  • What effect will making the research practice transparent have on the way that research is conducted, and what kind of scholarly community will come out of this work?

The second site, also edited by Spiro is DIRT - which is a wiki that collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars. Here's an example of the list....

I want to...

The approach on these two sites is interesting because it approaches the problem from the prospective of "what do i want to do?", or "what outcome or goal am I trying to obtain?"

Another blog mentioned on the podcast was Found History "which explores public and digital history in all its forms. Found History is produced by Tom Scheinfeldt, Managing Director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University." While very thought provoking the Briefly Noted postings have a lot of information to digest, with many many links. I fear sifting through all of them would take the better portion of my day....

Portals as Catalysts for learning

The Map is the Territory: Course "Engagement Streams" as Catalysts for Deep Learning
W. Gardner Campbell, Baylor Univ.
Robert German, Millersville Univ. of Pennsylvania

Portals have become like telephone books, providing information but no engagement which is boring. They provide information aggregation, pushing information to the end user (student) rather then sparking learning. How can these online tools amplify information literacy?

The question asked: What if we could create visualizations of students engagement with their learning while it
was happening so that it would inspire and augment their in-class experience?

The use of blogs gives the students an arena where they discuss and formulate the progress of the learner. Blog posts essentially write the course into being. The cognitive process of learning is viewable - a sort of catalyst feedback loop. It is here that students' engagement becomes visible.

The Mythical Man Month says that software creation is pure "thought stuff", perfectly malleable because it is so intensely cognitive and imaginative. It can not be done without the human brain.
So too is computer aided education - technology tools give us a way to communicate and represent experiences in ways that are hard to represent elsewhere.

How do we harness the catalytic process? How can we produce an organic system of catalytic agents - not randomly but particularly designed. Instructional technology should no longer in the business of automating tasks. Technology can now be used to address the larger goals of helping a student to understand how they learn and how to make meaningful connections. Our success should be measured by the creation of catalytic agents to better enable learning. There should be a transparency to the learning experience.

Such basic technology issues such as authentication are necessary but should not be the focus - the focus should be on the acquisition of tool skills beyond these points. We need to intentionally design the tools used to create the knowledge project.

Take Away Quote: "Users own the technology space. Privacy, confidentiality and security needs to focused on relative risk. There is honor in defeating them rather than surrendering to them."


Imagine what kinds of student engagement you would like to display to the class to show it's work believing that it would catalyze learning. How would you arrange that in a portal space?

*put in link to the images on flickr....when I find them...


Have i3 students create an i3 portal, pulling in all the items that they think would be a "catalyst" to doing their jobs better. Something more dynamic then the sakai site, perhaps pulling in the sakai stuff as well?

Target a class that has students using popular culture references and create a sandbox where they can post video/audio/images that spark discussion.

Have students "take turns" creating a catalytic portal site for their peers in the class each week.

The message once again - the whole is greater then the individual.

Curricular Uses of Visual Materials

A Mixed-Method Institutional Study -
Paula Lackie and Andrea Nixon, Carleton College

Based on the research study that asked the question "Are Carleton Colleges sources of support well suited to the work demanded of the students and faculty as they make curricular use of visual materials?"

The study was conducted with the help of student researchers that were trained by a cultural anthropologist in the library. Emphasis was placed on student class status (freshman to senior) and how students became "aculturated" to scholarship over the years.

Results of the study showed that the majority of work done by students was happening in the residence halls between the hours of 4pm and 4am. The the library and other areas where students study were used less.

Sources of support was sought (in order):

  1. from other students in the class or from professors - freshman were more likely to use peer support, juniors and seniors were more likely to ask the "experts" - professors or staff - then first year students.
  2. there were a number of students who didn't seek support at all
  3. support from TA's and CA's
  4. a very small number of students actually turned to IT staff for assistance.

The study hoped to identify the points at which the curriculum met the support model of the institution. The integrated support model's mission is to provide faculty and students with expert reference so that students and faculty need not know the organizational support structure of the institution.

They began to look at consultation with faculty - where goals regarding course pedagogy were discussed, assignments considered and materials needed - not as project managment outlines (though there is a time and place for this structure) but rather as production meetings. Unlike project management where there is a "product" or outcome and tasks required to obtain those ends, faculty were encourage to voice ideas, discuss assignments and outline teaching and learning objectives of a particular course. The project management part was secondary to those initial meetings.

The use of the visual is well established in curriculum. Students and faculty are asked to find, access, create, interpret and present visual materials for course and research work. Working with visual materials requires support from many different departments across the university. Digitizing materials - whether they be library objects or personal collections - can require a long list of support providers some of which include:

  • content specialists
  • media creation specialists
  • catalogers
  • software/hardware specialists
  • course management specialists
  • system administrators

In order to support students in their visual literacy mastery, these items need to be considered:

  • the times and places where students work
  • recognition of others sources of support (student techs, teaching assistants, peers).
  • providing a model of exceptional work (rubrics or examples of high level scholarship in a discipline)
  • providing support beyond the struggling student to counteract any negative perceptions of support
  • course specific instruction (providing clear concise online documentation)
  • supplemental training for high end tools
  • identification and advertisement of sources of support.

Items that need to be considered in order to support faculty in their use of visual materials:

  • the times and places where faculty work (including their availability for training)
  • production meetings to discuss the academic goals of the course
  • project management outlines for deliverables with clear deadlines with "fail safe" or "exit strategies" if technology fails to meet the needs of the goal
  • providing a team-based support system with an expert reference as point of contact

Take away quote:

"I am amazed by how much my need to help clouded my ability to see what kind of help was needed"

This quote resonated with me, just the day before I had mentioned that at one point in my career as support specialist I felt that my value in the job rested on the amount of tasks I completed for others. I now see my job less as "the person who accomplishes the task" but now "the person who facilitates, enabling others to achieve their goals."

Ideas/Questions generated:

How, when and from whom did you seek support? - this question should be added to the course assessment surveys.

Possibly using i3 funds - identify a student or TA associated with the course or senior in a the discipline who is paid to provide student support for technology used in the course.

Use the i3 graduate student in History and English as first point of contact for student support for technologies used in courses in these disciplines

Partner with residence halls to see what is available for student use in the areas where they live - if indeed this is the place where the majority of the work is taking place.

Mine the i3 program for feedback regarding support models, course technologies used etc - have them work closely with the TLC staff to help support specialists understand their needs. Though our mission is the support of faculty, ultimately this support affects the student body. It is possible that interns could conduct exit interviews with students?

Student interns are para-professionals. In order to keep the work quality/output high, those interns must be excited about and engaged in the process.