This is a posting of an early draft of our online course development process. I am posting it here as an example of sharing documents for the Health Information Management class I am co-teaching this summer. BUT, if you have any questions or comments on our process, I would appreciate any input.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Luddites often fear technology because of the sense that it is something alien to human nature. There is this feeling that if we are using technology that somehow we are moving away from something essentially human. I would argue that our use of technology is part of our humanity and that the Rousseauist ideal of man in harmony with nature is a myth that never was. We invented fire as soon as humanly possible because it was damn cold. How do we communicate this new, vital information with others? We invented languages, drew pictures, and held workshops! Seriously though, our minds are so complex, they take in a huge amount of information at anyone time (consciously and unconsciously) that organizing information is probably the world's third oldest profession. I would like to look at one particularly early ordering of information. My wife, the most rational animal I know, hates hearing me talk about this because the idea sounds like I am saying that the ancient Chinese invented programming and computers. She believes, with little other evidence, that this is some marijuana-induced ramble from the 70s. Even if it were, it would only be additional proof of the archetypal nature of organizing information from chaos. Care for a brownie? Let us continue then.
The I Ching, the book of changes, consists of 64 chapters. The chapters contain cryptic poems describing our possible relationships to nature and one another. Each chapter is titled with two hexagrams made up of trigrams, each trigram is named after an element or a condition of an element (water, air, mountain, etc.). Each trigram is generated by three lines that are either yin or yang, female and male, dark and light, the bianary opposites. One is meant to randomly access the information using a stick gather method or the throwing of three coins to generate the lines. (The lines can be classified as static and moving as well.) The earliest methods of generating the trigrams come from the reading of heated tortoise shells thrown into cold water. The cracks were then interpreted and the appropriate poem or reading recalled or read. (A true master could see the cracks in a rock and refer them back to the I Ching!) So here we have a database of information, a formula or program to access the information (that even starts in a binary code!), and action taken based on the information. The idea was that the user was engaging in a random process (all randomness guided by the tao) and that by freezing that moment in time by the throwing of coins, one could get of sense of where it was going and where it had been.
You do not have to think that this is a computer. But it is a formal system for organizing and retrieving complex sets of information. It is probably 1200 years old and there are earlier examples than this. It shows that this is what the human mind does; this is what it was meant to do. Creating methods of visually communicating information is as natural to us as a walk in the woods.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I was told later that I was completely on the social end of stickam.com and that it really is worth looking at as a teaching tool/meeting room.
It did get me to thinking about Grotowski's idea about the "Theatre of the Poor." That basically theatre can occur where ever two or more are gathered. Things like sets are in the end extraneous. Theatre, according to G, is a series of choices about communication and expression. We engage in theatre in our face-to-face life all the time -- we decide what role we are in and then make choices about how we choose to express ourselves. Those same choices happen online. You can consciously choose a role or persona (and maybe something absurd like alien puppets) and make discoveries or critiques of communication. But in the end the technology is superfluous -- it is the communication. Grotowski was not a huge fan of technology, especially in the theatre, but I saw one of his sets that had two chairs and a single light so even he relied on technology :)
I present myself to my family in one way, my students in another, and old college chums in yet another. I think I have a blog or other web application to support all of those roles. I had one of our students in my summer class first follow me on "geoffcain" at twitter and I warned her that most of those postings were about instructional design, and I don't think I am going to issue that caveat again. I really don't want to discourage people from getting to know me. My intent was not to have her not follow me but to warn her that she might get a bunch of postings on how to adjust settings in photoshop. But then why shouldn't she see that that? It is part of who I am! I have to learn to own that. It is funny how conscious I was about those roles. LiveJournal is great because I can post recipes to my family or talk about golf with others and not have to subject people I work with to those postings -- I can target many audiences with one tool.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Also on the downside are the fees that publishers charge the students for this content. I personally do not like access fees on top of what they are already paying — but if we don’t mind supporting courses with $200 textbooks, why should be be concerned with the fees? Again, I think we should be using open sources texts and course materials. In the best cases, some of the commercial material really supports the teaching and is appeals to a wide variety of learning styles; more often than not, they are test banks and hastily thrown together multimedia or flash objects. In a consumer culture, we tend to think we have bought an end product and say “how do I adapt my course and teaching style to these materials?” In an open source culture, we get the product and say “great, how do we get started in adapting this to our needs?”
Often, publisher materials are no bargain — the instructors (the better ones) still have to wade through the .pdf libraries and test banks to cull and adapt the best materials and to check and see if the material meets the course objectives. I have seen course cartridges loaded into courses only to watch instructors, over the course of a year or two, significantly edit and adapt the material: in other words, the material did not match the goals of the course or the teaching style of the instructor until that instructor put in the work anyway. In the meantime, the course is no bargain for the students either.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Okay, I look at a lot of widgetware every week but I am really excited by this. This is not a new tool exactly -- they have been around for a bit but this is the first (to my knowledge) web 2.0 tool that allows you to share Power Point presentations with embedded sounds and music. I typically use slideshare.com (which now allows you to link a podcast with a presentation), but this seems like an easier solution.