January 22, 2017

List of web 2.0 tools for instruction

Lloyd, M. (2010) 18 Web 2.0 tools for instruction Campus Technology, April 28

This very useful article asks two experts, Sarah Robbins (aka Intellagirl), of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington, and Mark Frydenberg of Bentley University, to pick their favourite web 2.0 tools for instruction. Here’s their choices (read the article to find out why, and how they’ve used them):



If anyone out there has experience in using any of these tools for teaching, and is willing to share their experience, I’d be very grateful

The Horizon 2010 report on emerging technologies for education

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium

The New Media Consortium’s annual report on emerging technologies is out. It follows previous formats in identifying six technologies over three time periods. This year the authors picked the following:

One year or less

  • mobile computing
  • open content

Two to three years

  • electronic books
  • simple augmented reality

Four to five years

  • gesture-based computing
  • visual data analysis

Perhaps more importantly, they identified four key trends that will drive technology adoption over  the five years:

  • redefinition of educators’ roles in sense-making, coaching and credentialling
  • people expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to
  • the technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized
  • the work of students is increasingly seen as collaborative by nature, and there is more cross-campus collaboration between departments.

Lastly, they identified four critical challenges:

  • the role of the academy — and the way we prepare students for their future lives — is changing
  • new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching continue to emerge but appropriate metrics for evaluating them increasingly and far too often lag behind
  • digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession
  • institutions increasingly focus more narrowly on key goals, as a result of shrinking budgets in the present economic climate

The first critical challenge is for me the most important. Quoting a 2007 report of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the New Media Horizon report states:

It is incumbent upon the academy to adapt teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today’s learners; to emphasize critical inquiry and mental flexibility, and provide students with necessary tools for those tasks; to connect learners to broad social issues through civic engagement; and to encourage them to apply their learning to solve large-scale complex problems.

If you have to give priority to your reading, this opublication should be top of your list.

The state of e-learning 2009

It’s that time of year again. Here’s a personal look back at e-learning in 2009 (I will do another blog on priorities for Canadian e-learning in 2010, and a third blog on international trends to watch in 2010).

What I did

This year I worked in Alberta, Cuba, Mexico, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, and taught online briefly (but twice) for the University of Maryland/Oldenburg University’s joint Masters in Distance Education. I also visited UBC several times to see what they were doing, which included attending the excellent Canadian e-learning conference in June.

Meeting with the Distance Education people, University of Havana

Meeting with the Distance Education people, University of Havana

My major work was for the Government of Alberta, helping them develop strategic directions for the use of information and communications technologies for the whole post-secondary system. This will eventually see the light of day next year.

I’m currently writing a book (with Albert Sangra) on the governance and management of information and communications technologies in post-secondary educational institutions, to be published at the end of 2010 by Jossey-Bass/John Wiley. I also have another book in the pipeline, a (third) complete re-write of Technology, e-Learning and Distance Education, due in 2011.


In my blog, the State of e-Learning, 2008, I argued that although e-learning continues to grow and expand, there was a lack of innovation and change, with efforts concentrated on using technology to re-inforce the classroom teaching model, while I on the other hand believe that e-learning should be used to re-design teaching and learning for the digital age.

I have very mixed feelings about e-learning in 2009.

Good developments in 2009

The technology gets better

First, the developments in technology are very exciting. In particular, the developments in mobile technology are moving forward in ways that are really valuable for education: greater bandwidth, greater functionality, improved user interfaces, many more apps, greater access, lower costs (especially for Canada in 2010). Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are beginning to penetrate even formal education, if only in limited ways. The uptake of e-portfolios is increasing. The first steps in open source administrative systems, with the launch of the Kuali Project, offers potentially huge savings for universities and colleges. Cloud computing also offers potentially large savings and greater flexibility for educational applications. Technology continues its rapid development, ever more interesting and exciting, with huge potential for education.

E-learning outside ‘the system’

Outside of the formal education system, great things are happening in e-learning. Communities of practice, sharing of experiences, and self-learning are growing rapidly. For instance, Supercool School, which uses Facebook to link those who want to learn with those who want to teach, is taking off in a big way, with contracts with some of the larger IT corporations, such as Google, for in-house training. Open publishing now enables many people who want to share ideas in a limited market that traditional publishers wouldn’t touch can now get their ideas out. More importantly for the formal educational system, open publishing is dramatically cutting the costs of textbooks for students. For the general public, and especially for small Internet-based companies, ranging from advice on beauty spas to advising parents on how deal with their children’s difficulties at school to independent advice on banking services, e-learning is taking off around the world.

Disappointments in 2009

Then we look at the public sector, and in particular the big research universities, and what do we see? Clickers, lecture capture, multiple screens in the classroom, learning management systems with Powerpoint slides and pdf files loaded, and a total lack of recognition that the current formal higher education system is failing, and a total lack of vision of what is needed for the future, and the role that information and communications technologies can play in formal learning.

As always, I will bracket my comments by noting that many individual lecturers and instructors are doing great work, being innovative and doing great things. Also, there are a lot of colleges and universities with excellent support units and staff, who are doing great work in helping instructors and faculty do the best they can with new technologies. Fully online learning, i.e. online distance learning, continues to grow at a rapid pace – but not as fast as market demand, and often institutions or instructors moving into fully online courses are often not applying best practices so the quality is not always as high as it should be.

Open educational resources

First, some specifics. My biggest disappointment this year (apart from the disastrous Canadian Council of Learning report on e-learning, which in any case is an irrelevance) has been with open educational resources. Yes, we have seen more initiatives, not just in North America but also in Europe and Africa. But what are we getting? Digitally recorded 50 minute classroom lectures and digital textbooks. What we are not getting are materials designed from scratch for multiple use, with learning objectives, contextual materials (such as links to other open source materials and possible assessment questions), student activities, and guides for instructors. There is one exception to this statement and that is Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative, which I welcome, but which I fear is too much in the other direction of whole packaged courses.

And there is still so little of it. What I would like to see are many thousands of short modules with contextual materials that allow instructors to mix and mash – yes, remashing for education. So when a new course is being planned, thought needs to be given at the design stage not only to the ‘in-course’ design of materials for students enrolled in the course, but to how the materials could best be used as open source materials. We also need some educational design models for using open source materials that would help both in their development and their application.

Mobile learning

Now mobile learning. Although the technology is rapidly developing, and some of the existing apps could be (and are being) adapted for educational purposes (such as RSS feeds), we need specifically educational apps for mobile learning that make it easy to organise and create learning materials, and integrate them with materials located elsewhere, without having to come out of the mobile environment. However, this is just a matter of time. What we then will need will be again appropriate design models for mobile learning that make full use of mobility, audio-visual collection and analysis of data, and geo-spatial location.

Virtual worlds

Educational applications of virtual worlds also seem to have been on hold this year. The reality is that creating educational virtual worlds is expensive. Again, it is also necessary to develop appropriate design models as well as creating the virtual environment, so that the skills and competencies afforded by virtual worlds are achieved. I wouldn’t write them off, but I had hoped for more developments in 2009.

Institutional vision and the management of e-learning

This is the area of greatest disappointment for me in 2009. Where are the exciting new developments in hybrid learning in universities? What institutions are making the break with traditional classroom and laboratory-based teaching and looking to develop a digital learning environment where face-to-face teaching has a specific but limited role? How are institutions responding to the fact that they have more students now who are over 24, in reality working at least part-time, with families, and many returning for a second or third degree, than they have young, full-time students? I look at UBC’s latest strategic plan (Place and Promise) and there is nothing in it that refers to the the needs of learners in a post-industrial society, the changing profiles of our students, or the role of technology (even though UBC has probably more innovative e-learning projects than most institutions in North America).

The problem is that there cannot be real change in our post-secondary institutions without strong leadership and vision, but it seems that for the leadership of most North American post-secondary education systems, technology is so 1990s – been there, done that. The funding crisis doesn’t help, at least in the short term (more on that in my future trends blog).

However, our public post-secondary institutions are far too complacent about the current classroom-based teaching model, which is not serving our students well, in terms of giving them personal interaction with highly qualified and expert teachers and developing the skills and competencies needed in the 21st century. Too many institutions pay lip service to the use of technology for teaching, (‘a cutting edge university in the use of technology for teaching’ referring to the introduction of clickers, for instance), seeing it as a marketing tool or a way of winning government funding, rather than addressing the needs of learners in fundamentally different ways. There are no real incentives for change, especially with respect to the essential need for instructors to be properly trained to teach, which would include pedagogy as well as training in the use of technologies.


So in summary, the technology continues to develop and improve, e-learning is developing incredibly well outside the public system, there are many individuals and units working very hard within formal education to make e-learning succeed, but there are still deep systemic issues in the public post-secondary system that are severely limiting the application and usefulness of e-learning.

Your comments

However, I am now on the outside of the system looking in, which of course is both a strength and a weakness. What is the reaction of those of you inside the system to my review of 2009? What excited or disappointed you? Have you got examples that contradict my very subjective conclusions?

Examples of technology-based learner-centered teaching

Villano, M. (2009) Expanding the cannon Campus Technology, October 1

An article on three projects where undergraduate students at ‘Duke University (NC), Coastal Carolina University (SC), Arkansas State University, and Harvard University (MA)– incorporate interactive technologies to enable undergrads to research local and far-off worlds and create meaningful, original content that furthers the study of their discipline for other students and researchers alike. The content that springs from this research takes the form of high-tech simulations, interactive lesson plans, and history-rich websites for the public.’


Although these are very interesting learner-centered projects, they seem very complex, use advanced technologies that will normally be out of the reach of many students, and appear time consuming for the instructors. It should be possible to design simpler, more reproducible learner centered teaching projects that make use of more readily available technology, such as mobile phones and cameras, combined with e-portfolio or content management software (such as WordPress), that allow students to collect and analyse digitally original material for projects.

I’d be interested if any of you have done anything like this – a collection of examples would be really useful.

Province, industry, and university partner for mobile learning research

Alberta Government (2009) ‘New research program takes classroom anywhere, anytime’, News Release, Feb 20

‘The research conducted by Dr. Kinshuk, the newly appointed iCORE/Xerox/Markin Industry Research Chair at Athabasca University, will take mobile technology like commonly available cell phones and use it to free students to work at their own pace and from the location of their choice…..Dr. Kinshuk’s research is supported by the Government of Alberta through iCORE (Alberta’s Informatics Circle of Research Excellence), Athabasca University, Xerox Canada, and a private donation made by Allan Markin. iCORE is providing $760,000 over five years, Athabasca University is contributing $1.6 million, Xerox Canada is contributing $310,000, and Allan Markin is contributing $450,000.’