New Art Resource: Artsy


Da Vinci – Skull (Photo: Wikipedia)

Okay, “new” to me but this is really worth passing on to others. What is Artsy?

“Artsy features the world’s leading galleries, museum collections, foundations, artist estates, art fairs, and benefit auctions, all in one place. Our growing database of 350,000 images of art, architecture, and design by 50,000 artists spans historical, modern, and contemporary works, and includes the largest online database of contemporary art. Artsy is used by art lovers, museum-goers, patrons, collectors, students, and educators to discover, learn about, and collect art.”

I am very interested in websites like this as possible replacements for commercial textbooks or at least a replacement for expensive online ancillary materials from commercial publishers. Come to this site to explore old favorites and to find artists that you possibly won’t find anywhere else outside of a museum or gallery.

“Artsy is a place to explore current and past exhibitions at museums and galleries, biennials, and cultural events, and to preview international art fairs before their doors open to the public. Artsy hosts select benefit auctions to support important nonprofit organizations, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Watermill Center, Public Art Fund, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, and Independent Curators International.”

English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. R...

Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Red chalk. 33 × 21 cm. Turin, Royal Library ( 15571). NOTE This image is in red chalk. Do not revert to the black and white image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oliver from Artsy sent me a note about the Leonardo Da Vinci page which is a great example of what they are doing there. The page is well designed. These images are openly licensed and the page is just gorgeous. As you scroll down, there are links to related articles and other resources; there are links to shows and other relevant artists. In other words, this is a very useful site to art aficionados, instructors, students or just anyone interested in learning more about art.  And then as a designer, the construction of the site as well as the subject matter warrant a close review.

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Edu Tech Time Machine

2016-01-15_1011This should be filed under “the-more-things-change-the-more-they-remain-the-same” if I had such a file. I was waiting in the library for a faculty member to return from a meeting the other day and I took off the shelf the Jan. 1960 copy of “Instructor” magazine. Thumbing through it at random to enjoy some vintage ads. I came across the article “How Effective Is Teaching with Television?” and I was struck with how familiar the arguments were for and against this new application of technology:

“Education technology has created quite a stir among educators in the last few years. Some see television as a means with which to solve their most serious problems:

  • Television will help solve the teacher shortage!
  • Television will cut construction costs through better utilization of school plants!
  • Television will enable us to to teach larger groups, more effectively. by using master teachers!
  • Using master teachers, television will improve teaching and learning!

Not all reactions, however, are as optimistic and many educators seem seriously alarmed:

  • How can we diagnose individual needs and provide challenging experiences to meet these needs when hundreds are crowded into a telecast room?
  • How can we continue to encourage critical evaluation on the part of pupils in a stimulating environment?
  • How can we provide a variety of learning experiences: group discussion, group planning, problem solving, and construction?
  • How can we organize subject matter and learning activities meaningfully to help children discover relationships among many subject areas?

It is evident from such statements that we must give serious consideration to educational television before our attitudes toward this unique new medium of communication become so discolored by emotional bias as to render it ineffective for years to come.” 

This evaluation could be right out of the pages of any “analysis” of MOOCs or virtually any discussion of education technology past and present. I have even seen discussions like this from the early 19th cent. around the slate chalk board.



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Open Education is More Than Just Free Books

I miss Jim Groom at OpenEd15 – I miss his viewpoint and energy. He knows I am a big fan (something that blows around a lot of hot air :-). Jim Groom tweeted today:

“The unfortunate equation of open education w/ free text books has made the movement seem more and more myopic and less and less compelling.”

I couldn’t disagree with this more. Yes, we are still defining “open” and a lot of work needs to be done with “open pedagogy” and the means to achieve that. But open textbooks are more than just “free textbooks,” they are a completely different way of engaging in education. “Free” is only one dimension. The others are “share,” “remix,” “reuse.” If it was only about free, I wouldn’t be here. Over and over again, I have seen at conferences like Open Ed 2015, how content can shape teaching, how the openness of the materials enable changes in how people teach and learn. They are interrelated.

I don’t think open textbooks are a one-to-one equation with open education here or anywhere. They are part of that picture, but there are victories here. There are success stories. There was nothing easy about how this came about. Huge shifts in belief systems had to happen before the gains that were made took place. And there is still a lot to be done! I have been at colleges where faculty fought this tooth and nail. I have seen the corporations co-opt “open textbooks” in order to turn a buck (e.g. Flatworld Knowledge).

Open textbooks include projects like Scott Payton and Laura Hahn’s Survey of Communication Study. A Wikipedia book where the capstone students in COMM 490 update the textbook for the in-coming Freshman. The kind of learning that takes place in this project is incredibly interesting, engaging and useful for the students. Teaching with open content changes the way people teach.

As you know, commercial textbooks sell course packages and a lot of ancillary stuff (test banks, etc.) that supposedly make teaching easier. In my experience as both a teacher and an instructional designer, it is all junk. It does not speak to the individual students in your particular population with their particular issues (e.g. how well is algebra taught in your local high school?). Open textbooks are like the employees deciding to run the factory themselves. The factory – the building and the machinery – are not the work itself, but how we choose to engage with the tools, changes how we work.

Related articles

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Open Pedagogy at Tacoma Community College

Kitakyushu University, Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu University, Kitakyushu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using Open Pedagogy to Reduce Social Learning Barriers for Students in the Global Discovery Program

Christie Fierro
Open Education Coordinator and Instructional Designer
Tacoma Community College


For the last 5 years, student groups have been coming over from the University of Kitakyushu (UKK) to spend 6 months studying at Tacoma Community College (TCC). They study at TCC for 2 quarters, earning 30 credits which transfer directly to the UKK. The partnership has been a success for both colleges. International students pay significantly more in tuition. International student families frequently feel sticker shock due to the cost of traditional textbook prices in the United States. The Communication Department transitioned to OER to support student success, then dove into Open Pedagogy to support social learning. The courses are half filled with visiting students from the Global Discovery Program and half filled with mostly native English speaking students. A service learning project that involved students in the design of the project and the selection of the reading materials led to surprisingly advanced levels of social interaction and learning. Participants will hear from faculty and students.

Getting rid of the “disposable assignments.” Talking to students about copyright helps them understand and respect copyright. She invites students to share their work using a Creative Commons license.

Taught a course with students from Japan. Challenges of working with students from other cultures. Using “open pedagogy” – group assignments and projects

Take the Other to Lunch” Tedtalk
The Danger of a Single Story” Tedtalk

Students interviewing one another “ask a student” and “ask a teacher” – they used a site called to support one another. They built and used the work that went before.

Added “open pedagogy” projects – examples. Groups projects are “open pedagogy” because the work lives outside of and beyond the classroom. They are also involved in community projects. Students create a rubric for the assignments.

They used music and images from Creative Commons.

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Social Media Assessment at #opened15

A social network diagram

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am fascinated by this topic because this is exactly what I hear from faculty that I work with – they do not have time to read and assess everything that students would produce in blogs, facebook, and twitter. Again, this is mostly a posting of links and random notes for later use. Your experience may vary: contents sold by weight and may settle during shipping.

Connected Learning: Exploring the What, Why, & How of Social Learning Analytics, or Annotation-Centric Assessment of Blogging in Higher Education
Laura Gogia – Academic Learning Transformation Lab
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA


Coming up with alternative assessment measurement for students who are blogging and using other networked tools.

Connected Learning is an emerging pedagogical framework that promotes student engagement, empowerment, and deeper learning through networked participation in open, digital environments. In higher education settings, Connected Learning practitioners tend to engage students in blogging and microblogging activities to stimulate learning through connectivity, defined as the act of linking people, information, and resources across space, time, and semiotic domains. However, one of the barriers to the advancement of Connected Learning in higher education settings is a lack of student assessment practices and protocols that align with or are relevant to the Connected Learning pedagogical approach. Traditional assessments tend to consist of written tests or examinations meant to measure course content acquisition and recall. The emphasis on a static and standardized body of information is problematic Connected Learning environments, where learning processes, networking literacies, and individualized learning outcomes are privileged over course content. Meaningful, pedagogically aligned, and logistically feasible assessments are needed to support and document Connected Learning.

As a uniquely digital form of student assessment, social learning analytics offer compelling opportunities for the documentation of Connected Learning. They capitalize on the digital traces left by social media-based learning activities to tell a story of digital interaction, participation, and knowledge construction. Social network analytics use centrality metrics to provide a real-time overview and visualization of student navigation within a social learning network. Discourse analytics that focus on the use of annotation systems (e.g. tagging, hyperlinking, mentioning) may reveal the specifics of how students navigate groups and content within the context of blogging and microblogging activities. Both types of analytics might be harnessed to provide ethical, integrated, sustainable, and scalable assessments of Connected Learning goals and objectives.

This presentation reports on a study that explores the capacity for social network and discourse analytics to address the challenge of documenting student participation in open Connected Learning spaces. In the study, these methods are used to assess student connectivity in blogging and microblogging activities executed as part of university-based Connected Learning courses. Social network and discourse analytics are evaluated for their ability to support real-time, self-, and peer-assessment while providing actionable data for faculty and students, alike. As part of an initial validation process, results of the social network and discourse analyses are compared to a student perception survey and content analysis of the same data.

Why do instructors use blogs? The published voice leads students to think more deeply about their responses. Blogs are used as formative assessment throughout the semester.

Under the direction of Gardner Campbell – – the VCU personal websites.

A “personal city campus.”

A certain type of course experience is emerging in this space – a course website, students are doing a lot of blogging that is aggregated in the course website. Public discourse, such as comments on blogs and twitter are a part of this experience.

Hoping to promote connectivity.

How do we assess connectivity
Documenting connectivity
Advancing the learning
Meeting 21st Cent goals for assessment.

Social Learning Analytics – a subset of learning meant to capture inherently social open and connective aspects of learning.

Are there ways to take advantage of the uniquely digital aspects of blogging.


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OERs and Accessibility

It was a great morning at Open Ed 2015. I spent the morning in sessions with Amanda Coolidge, Sue Doner, Sam Johnson, Tara Robertson, Skip Stahl, Jutta Treviranus because I am particularly interested in the connections between OERs and instructional design. I would like to see our use of OER become a natural part of the course design process just as accessibility is now. The following notes are a pastiche of links, cut and pasted description from the program and random notes, mostly for myself and the IDs back at HSU.

This special session took an in-depth look at the accessibility efforts of BCcampus, CAST, and the FLOE Project as they relate to open educational resources.

1. User Testing Open Textbooks with Students with Print DisabilitiesBC Open Textbook Projects – 40 free and open textbooks for highest enrolled and then 20 for skills and tech training

The project: don’t reinvent – they went out and adopted proven open textbooks. They did faculty reviews. Disability resource centers often start the semester without the needed text because they are not accessible. They created 135 open textbooks, 294 adoptions, saving over a million dollars for students. BC Campus Open Ed

Tara Roberts did user testing.

Accessibility Toolkit
Instructional Designers can use this who “may not know what they don’t know.”

Delivered in Pressbooks.

Emphasis on UDL and integration of students personas “a web for everyone.”

What’s next? Incorporating it into the dev process, french translation, second round of testing with trades students with disabilities.

BCcampus will briefly describe the process of user testing open textbooks with post-secondary students who have print disabilities. The focus will be on the lessons learned in this process and how this data fed into the creation of a toolkit on accessibility for open textbook authors. Presenters will share failures and reflect on how to improve this process in the future. The presentation will showcase the BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit and share best practices with the audience on how to make all open educational resources accessible, therefore making the materials truly open to all.

2. CAST projects
Skip Stahl and Sam Catherine Johnston
Started as an assistive learning project around Universal Design for Learning.
Created “Book Builder” in 2006 with support and prompts built in – available at

Three learning networks: recognition, strategic, and affective – the what how and why of learning. Evidence, Interoperability and accessibility are the most important issues in OER today.

Quality, not quantity are the keys to adoption today.

Inclusion, mixed use. These problems require distributed intelligence. A framework for extending the capabilities of the individual mind.

CAST’s Book Builder
STEM Bridge program: Case method in college OERs – math, communication and problem-solving skills through case method. Multiple means of engagement.

Interoperability is one of the most important issues in k-12 – we need to know how students are accessing and using OER. This should happen in the same way that we are with the LMS analytics.

Project Open ( is an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help TAACCCT grantees meet OER, accessibility, and quality requirements for grant deliverables in the U.S. Department of Labor’s two billion dollar Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College & Career Training (TAACCCT) program. We will describe the process of working with community and technical colleges to develop Open Educational Resources that follow universal design for learning (UDL) guidelines and web accessibility standards. We will focus on what we have learned about how to support UDL implementation and web accessibility best practices from our engagement with colleges through the largest OER initiative to date (the Department of Labor’s TAACCCT program). We will showcase a set of web resources we have developed to help postsecondary stakeholders integrate Universal Design for Learning into the development of course materials, teaching methods and assessments and discuss how OER creators can move from addressing web accessibility to designing for all students through UDL.

The Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Center ( has a mandate to provide technical assistance resources designed to increase the availability and use of curriculum resources and delivery systems designed accessible from the outset, including elementary, secondary, postsecondary and workforce-related OER. We will review best practices in OER creation with an emphasis on EPUB3; the emerging importance of equipping OERs with the capacity for data interoperability related to student usage, and we will emphasize the important role of accessibility as foundational component in the creation of UDL-aligned OER.

3. FLOE project

The FLOE Project ( leverages the diverse pool of Open Education Resources (OER) and the opportunity to create variants to optimize learning for the full diversity of learners. FLOE supports learners in discovering and refining their understanding of how they learn best, specifying this, and then the FLOE services can be used to match those needs for a given learning goal.

Inclusive Design Research Centre 23 years of designing for inclusion. Design that considers the full range of human diversity. Disability is the mismatch between the needs of the individual and the service environment offered.

Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design
Participatory – “nothing about us without us” – co-design accessible design and tools
Systemic – cognizant of context and larger impact

Collaborative and connected
Economic and Digital Exclusion – lack of accessibility leads to lack of access to jobs
Compared to the virtuous cycle of Digital Inclusion

Learner Dashboard for Lifelong Learning
Floe project ecosystem
learning analytics where you are self represented.
They have hack-a-thons on accessibility.

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Education and Automation

Robotutor of the Future!

Robotutor of the Future!

There are a lot of things that technology can do in education. A lot of automation in education is very useful: handling student records and passwords, single sign-on, that sort of thing. Then there are things that should not be automated. Just because something can be automated doesn’t mean it should be. I don’t think we understand, yet, enough about learning to say that learning can be automated. And yet that claim comes up all the time. I was listening to NPR on the commute today and heard Eric Westervelt talking about “Knewton” – an “adaptive learning” program. There is a lot of hype around adaptive learning right now, and that is a problem itself. The sales brochures are interesting Rorschach tests that reveal how the technocratic business folk see education.

Michael Feldstein really hit the nail on the head today when he wrote:

But much of what Jose says, at least to the media, is the opposite. No responsible educator or parent should adopt a product—even if it is free—from a company whose CEO describes it as a “robot tutor in the sky that can semi-read your mind” and give you content “proven most effective for people like you every single time.” I’m sorry, but this sort of quasi-mystical garbage debases the very notion of education and harms Knewton’s brand in the process.

Autograding papers and tests reinforces the idea that the goal of education is a grade: teaching is giving a grade and learning is getting a grade. Learning becomes a transaction. As an instructional designer, I try to move faculty away from this equation. The confusion comes in when the faculty confuse assessment alone with teaching. When I talk about online classes, the first concern is “how do we secure the test?” instead of  how do I teach online?” We could be doing so much more in out classrooms besides testing. And autograding papers removes a very important part of the process of writing out of writing: the fact that we do not write to produce papers but we engage in a process that evolves our thinking, that expresses our ideas.

I started my work day with a text from Dr. Crawford who, in a moment of nostalgia I am assuming, sent me a picture of the cover of “Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace” by Palloff and Pratt which was from the 90s but is completely relevant for today. EdX and the xMOOCs are in the business of transferring information and creating test-takers. It is easier to do that than to facilitate online community and authentic learning.

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Online Learning: To Do is To Be

Frank Sinatra

Chairman of the Board

There is an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that declares “In Online Courses, Students Learn More by Doing Than by Watching.” Never mind how incredibly obvious this is – but the article completely ignores any distinction between online classes and MOOCs, not to mention cMOOCs and xMOOCs. And guess what? There supposedly is something called “Traditional MOOCs” which from the description, they mean the passive learning mass firehoses from MIT and Stanford. Those MOOCs are not traditional unless it is the tradition of technocrats mistakingly thinking that providing opportunities to watch videos is the same thing as education. cMOOCs provide for student-student interaction. xMOOCs tend to be recorded videos and tests – the latest version of the correspondence course.

The article’s big claim that “just watching videos — without also engaging interactively — is an ineffective way to learn” is true in all modes of education delivery, not just online. I wish the Comical of Higher Ed was just as vigilant in posting articles about the dangers of passive classroom lectures. It is as if the last 35 years of research into active learning had never taken place.

It is amazing that some of the same educators that insist on using the lecture method to teach will attack the xMOOCs as passive learning. Lectures can be interactive and engaging, but not “traditional lectures.” The lecture method is basically a modern anachronism that has no real place in learning. It was meant as a way for the lecturer that is the “reader” to read from an original source so the students could take notes. We have invented moveable type, we do not need to do that any more. When I was teaching writing, I converted all of my classes into workshops.

So to recap: xMOOCs say to be is to do, online classes say to do is to be, and Sinatra says do be do be doo…

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George Siemens and the Evolution of Ed Tech

English: Homo habilis KNMR 1813 discovered at ...

English: Homo habilis KNMR 1813 discovered at Koobi Fora (replica) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Siemens wrote a very thoughtful post on his current thinking about education technology called “Adios Ed Tech. Hola something else.”  Siemens has been very important in shaping my own thought on education technology and online learning. His work has not just shaped my thinking but how I work. The 2008 MOOC “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” was a seminal turning point in the field of education. I think my career has paralleled his in many ways: I too have been involved in education technology since the late 90s. I worked on online writing labs, MOOs, MUDs, early online tutor training sites, etc. on up to my work today. All the while I think I would also share his motivation when he writes:

Most of my career has involved using technology to help people get better access to learning resources and materials, to better connect with each other, to better access formal education, and to improve their teaching practices and pedagogies.

That is why I do what I do – to provide increased access for others to education. It is a simple mission. I think that is the most important thing that I can do – it is why I am also involved in open eduction, open education resources, and open textbooks.

George’s “Adios” seems to come from a pessimism about the current state of education technology which he feels “is not becoming more human; it is making the human a technology. Instead of improving teaching and learning, today’s technology re-writes teaching and learning to function according to a very narrow spectrum of single, de-contextualized skills.” I don’t see this happening in technology – I see this in the implementation of technology. He gives examples of bad implementations when he writes about Udacity:

So much of learning involves decision making, developing meta-cognitive skills, exploring, finding passion, taking peripheral paths. Automation treats the person as an object to which things are done. There is no reason to think, no reason to go through the valuable confusion process of learning, no need to be a human. Simply consume. Simply consume. Click and be knowledgeable.

I appreciate his frustration with this kind of “education” – Udacity and xMOOCs have set online education back 20 years. It is difficult to watch all of this money and effort go into projects that we who have been involved in ed tech for so long know will fail. I think the claims and hype are the disturbing part. We need to evolve past that hype and the promise of education automation and industrialization which has been the bane of education for the last 150 years.

Technology can do a lot of things. Some of those things are nonsensical or harmful. Some of those things are very useful. Technology can improve education and make it more human only to the extent that it facilitates our humanity. If technology is being used to create community, enable communication and engagement with one another, then it helps education. These are the kinds of connections that I found meaningful about Connectivism. And interestingly enough, communication and engagement are not on George’s framework list:

  • Does the technology foster creativity and personal expression?
  • Does the technology develop the learner and contribute to her formation as a person?
  • Is the technology fun and engaging?
  • Does the technology have the human teacher and/or peer learners at the centre?
  • Does the technology consider the whole learner?

That list of his five elements are important but the list seems to be missing the student-student engagement, the community, where real learning takes place. From what I know of his previous work, I know that he does not intentionally leave this out, but it is interesting that the main reasons that the xMOOCs failed were from a lack of that level of engagement and student support. And all of that failure was completely predictable by anyone who had even a casual eye on the research that has been going on for the last 20 years around online education and what makes it successful. My frustration as a teacher and practitioner is that I have participated in successful courses and programs, developed successful programs and courses, and there is little interest in that work because what it takes is old-fashioned hard work, talking to people, and creating community. It is terribly old-fashioned. I first came across the ideas around online learning as community if the work of Palloff and Pratt, Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace from 1999. The act of building those kinds of connections as education was reinforced by the work of George Siemens and Stephen Downes around Connectivism, which ironically, the one Article of Faith I had the hardest time getting around is “knowledge may reside in non-human appliances.”

We have been tool users for at least 2 million years when Homo Habilis started using simple flints. Using tools is part of the fabric of who we are. Learning to use them thoughtfully, purposefully, and with considered intention is what will take us to the next level. I look forward to following George’s evolution because I think it will, as always, invigorate and inform the discussions about what we are doing.

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Frontier of Physics: Interactive Map | Quanta Magazine

This interactive map is an extremely useful overview of what is happening in physics right now. This is where I am hoping concept maps can eventually go: it is dynamic and effortless. It allows the user to stay on the surface for the big picture or to drill down deep.

Explore the deepest mysteries at the frontier of fundamental physics, and the most promising ideas put forth to solve them.

This is a fascinating resource. One of the many things that this does right is graphically represent the connections between the theories:

The map provides concise descriptions of highly complex theories; learn more by exploring the links to dozens of articles and videos, and vote for the ideas you find most elegant or promising. Finally, the map is extensive, but hardly exhaustive; proposed additions are welcome below.

Source: Frontier of Physics: Interactive Map | Quanta Magazine

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