Life by Design

Archive for the ‘social networking learning’ Category

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 2.23.19 PM In this day and age, ‘innovation’ is certainly the buzz word especially  with new modes of educational delivery given the discovery that in a myriad of ways that traditional models are not serving the student and preparing them for their role in the 21st Century global marketplace. While we need to embrace traditional learning theories, we need to build new houses on these trusted foundations. Houses that are engaging, collaborative, social, and challenging students to use knowledge to solve real world problems. Many instructors of varied content areas are looking for new ways to develop and deliver courses. We are no exception here at the Center for Applied Second Language Studies at the University of Oregon. We specialize in developing new and better ways to teach foreign languages.

In this article I want to share three current challenges as we move forward with developing online modules in Chinese and soon, Swahili.

  1. The team is challenged to grow and it is human nature to take a step forward into the unknown and then shrink back to the familiar
  2. Blending two theoretical models – Instructional Design and Foreign Language Acquisition Learning Theory
  3. Preparing students in advance to become independent learners as opposed to the historical model where the teacher is the only resource for learning

Our Chinese content team consists mostly of native Chinese speakers, all of whom are well-educated and trained by the best standards. Now, that we are in the stream of innovation, it is a challenge to have this team try out completely new models of educational delivery with some of the most creative Web 2.0 tools available. In the face of change, it is human nature to intellectually want to change and grow, but on other levels we often retreat to what’s familiar. We want to create something ‘insanely great’ to quote Steve Jobs, yet how far can we push the envelope? How can we stay grounded in fundamentals, yet take the roof off of brick and mortar instruction so that students and instructors can breathe?

The second challenge is to mesh two theoretical models, one of Instructional Design and the other of Foreign Language Acquisition . We think we have discovered some points where these two models touch, but again are breaking very new ground.  Our desire is to deliver something completely new and different. Can we take the best of both models and find a way to fit one with the other for a dynamic delivery?

Lastly, it is no secret that students of today for the most part have been taught by traditional means and rely on the teacher to not only be the sole deliverer of content, but to also be the subject matter expert. If nudged in a new direction to see themselves as responsible for not only the quantity of their learning, but the quality of their experience, can and will they do it? Self-discipline and self-motivation are traits that some naturally are born with and others acquire meeting the vicissitudes of life. We plan to meet our student cohort early in the development of our project and discuss this topic among others. It is my hope to prepare them mentally and emotionally to take an evolutionary leap forward in becoming in charge of the quality of their own learning experience. I do not think this is too much to ask. In my own academic life, the points of greatest satisfaction.



Animation in the classroom is becoming an increasingly popular trend in education with the advent of new software development that makes the process very easy for the educator and student alike.  Large software companies, like GoAnimate, through its educational division have provided 2.500 schools with its animation tools since December of 2010.  Xtranormal, claims that its registered users have jumped from 800,000 to 2.4 million in the last six months across disciplines and industries.  The average movie from this developer costs about $1 to make.

In addition to Twitter, blogs and YouTube videos, do-it yourself animation has emerged as the latest form of self-expression and can assist in conveying complex topics in the classroom.

Do Animations Assist Learning?

Educational research evidence about the effectiveness of classroom animation is mixed.  Different investigations have compared static and animated displays across a number of different content areas.  Generally speaking, it has been found that using animations in the classroom are not intrinsically more effective than static graphics.  What is relevant here, are the particular characteristics of individual animations and how they are used in a specific learning lesson.  For some students, the display of animation of a complex topic may be overwhelming exceeding the limit of one’s learning capacity.  Pausing the video and adding a written or f2f explanation can circumvent this issue.  Having the learner in control of how quickly they view a video can also help the learner gain maximum advantage of this technique.

For example, in the articleBiology in Film:  Using Animations to Study Cell Structure”, we have an excellent example of a website that provides an overview of a Cell Structure Lesson, complete with lesson plan, needed materials, a warm up exercise (showing the animated video “The Inner Life of the Cell”), and questions for discussion and reading comprehension.   It is clear that the use of the animated video, brings the subject to life for the student and fully engages the learner.

Would you like to try animation?

Sites such as, and let users build their own cartoons. The steps on all three sites are fairly similar:

•                Pick a character. GoAnimate lets users customize their characters with features like a potbelly, cat-eye glasses, a bouffant hairdo or gorilla hands.

•                Pick a background. Animasher’s options include a lecture hall, a swimming pool and an exploding atom bomb.

•                Add dialogue. On Xtranormal, users type in their own dialogue and select from a range of available voices. Animasher offers sound effects like fireworks and screams.

•                Direct. On Xtranormal, users can add pauses, motions and camera angles. GoAnimate’s editing features include cuts and zooms


Challenge yourself to add some animated features to your learning plans and post to this blog with your results.  Your discoveries and experience are important to our learning community.


Cutraro, J. and Ojalvo, H. (2010)  Biology in Film:  Using Animation to Study Cell Structure. The New York Times.  The Learning Network.  November 17, 2010, 3:06PM.  Extracted from: (February 14, 2011, 1:04PM)

“Educational Animation” (2010)  Wikipedia.  Extracted from:  (Feb. 14, 2011. 1:07 PM).

Gamerman, E. (2011)  Animation Nation.  Wall Street Journal. February 11, 2011.  Extracted from:

(February 14, 2011, 12:57PM).


One of the most challenging aspects of any project, including those of Instructional Design is that of estimating costs and allocating resources.  It is not a popular topic often fraught with politics, market pressures and personnel issues.

I am interested in creating online courses, so I searched for cost estimation tools that might be useful in creating an online course.  The Center for Learning Technologies at Old Dominion University has created the Asychronous Pricing Model (APM) which is an interactive costing model that provides the answer to the question:  How much will it cost to put my course online?  What I like about this model is that it allows the designer to input raw and loaded labor figures, separate pages for every type of multimedia and major production processes used to create online courses, and finally, summary pages for the total hours and final costs associated with the project.  The model allows for quality control costs to be built into each development section.  It is an interactive spreadsheet, which includes categories for the producer, designer, and technician.  This University developed this model to help them be more accurate in assessing costs.  It is a step-by-step guide to enable instructors to quickly build cost estimates.  They can enter raw numbers in categories and subcategories, based on preferences, needs and requirements.  I like this model because it is simple to use, straightforward and user-friendly for the instructor.  Because of this, it might help to reduce the reluctance to move toward more online models for instruction.

The link for this model is found at:

Another challenging part of planning a project is estimating the time it will take to use specific resources.  There is a difference between the time used on a task and the duration of that task.  I located a website sponsored by TT Systems  (a project management consulting firm) that provides Project Management training for the software, “Microsoft Project.”  Their website offers a variety of topics regarding project management.  I especially liked the article “Using Work (effort) to Calculate Duration”.

The authors state, “Many project managers have been taught to estimate the effort that a task requires instead of estimating the duration as is promoted by the views in Microsoft Project. As you recall work (which is the name used for effort in Project), along with duration and units are the components of the work equation that Project applies to resource assignments:

Duration * Units = Work

If the manager has estimated work and has decided not only which resources to assign but also how many units of each will be assigned, then Project can calculate the duration using this version of the formula:

Duration = Work / Units

The authors, assuming that one is using “Microsoft Project” offer the following tips for using the software:  “Traditional project management training often teaches managers to estimate effort (work) for tasks and to decide what resources will be assigned. The presumption is that the software will calculate the duration and distribute the work in proportion to the assigned units. You can do that in Project, but you need to use this method:

  1. Enter the work at the task level (using the Work field in a task table).
  2. Make sure that the task is Effort Driven (it’s the default anyway) and that it is not Fixed Duration.
  3. Assign just one of the resources, being sure to enter the units. Project will assign all the work to that resource and calculate a new duration.
  4. Add the other resources, being sure to enter their units also. Project will invoke the Effort Driven calculations and distribute work in proportion to the assigned units.
  5. If you later want to change the units for one of the resources, delete the resource and than add it back with the new units.

I like this system because it makes clear the definition of duration.  The system seems to simplify the calculations one might manually do to make these numerical estimates of time worked and the actual duration of time that has elapsed on the project.

The link for this specific article can be found at:


Gordon, S., Wu, H., M’hammed Abdous, (2009)”Using a Web-based System to Estimate the Cost of Online Course Production”, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XII, Number III, Fall 2009.  University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center.  Extracted from:

T2TT Systems: “Project Management”.  Extracted from:

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a “tour” of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the artwork on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art.

Given this example, the best CMS choices are the new Web 2.0 Social software for learning.  Models such as Edu 2.0 or EctoLearning. are learner driven, allow for media viewing, communication and collaboration.  Also, both of these systems have email capabilities allowing for communication (threaded discussion) not only between students, but with the instructor and in this scenario, museum curators.  Both models also support project based learning, which will allow small groups of students to work together on a project, collaborate and actually present their group findings digitally. These systems combine the function of discussion technologies, podcasting and media sharing as is presented in our course resources (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010).

The specific components of a course management system that are available in both examples and speak directly to this scenario are: Content presentation, course communication, and group project space and partner applications. (Simonson et al, 2009, pp. 239-242).

According the Pew Internet & American Life project  (Lenhardt & Madden, 2007. Extracted from, a great majority of today’s learners are actively developing new methods of communication and on their own acquiring competencies in content creation, sharing, and distribution. These learners are often actively involved in what has been called participatory cultures.

EctoLearning “ is a social, collaborative, online learning environment that directly addresses the needs of the modern learning environment by making the new communication skills and competencies for content creation and sharing central to the classroom experience.  This system enables students to create, collaborate and learn.” (Extracted from

An interesting application featuring EctoLearning comes from an educator, Alana, who is studying the use of EctoLearning to control cyber bullying in their school system.  Alana states:  “Educational networking sites like these provide a safe environment controlled by the school district that enables students, parents and educators to actively participate in the use of 21st-century social networking technology.”

Edu2.0 is again a good example of a social software based learning network that puts all learning tools in one place…wikis, blogs, email, embedded media and the like so that the student can have ease of access, communication and collaboration.  A case study demonstrating the efficacy of Edu 2.0 highlights the use at Central Cambria High School.  In interview with Aaron Minor (2010), a business teacher and member of the technology team, it was discovered that:

“Central Cambria is using almost every aspect of edu2.0.

  • Teachers are accountable to place their lesson plans on edu2.0.
  • Many of our teachers utilize the different assessments that are available.
  • Content and resources for lessons are uploaded to edu2.0.
  • Soon we are going to begin utilizing the parental support on edu2.0.
  • All of our special education teachers are co-teachers of the regular education classes. Adding the special education teachers as co-teachers has improved communication between the regular education teachers and the special education teachers.
  • Our use of online education will only increase over time. Our district has consistently been adding more laptops to our school over the past three years and is committed to adding more in the future. Currently, Central Cambria is located in a county that provides a broadband wireless signal that blankets the entire county. Central Cambria is committed to advance with the evolutional changes of online education.”

From a report in 2007, the National School Boards Association is encouraging schools to take another look at the use of social networks in the classroom.  In the report, it is stated: Social networking may be advantageous to students — and there could already be a double standard at work. 37% of districts say at least 90% of their staff are participating in online communities of their own — related to education — and 59% of districts said that at least half were participating. “These findings indicate that educators find value in social networking,” the study notes, “and suggest that many already are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use social networking for educational purposes with their students.”  And “In fact, 76% of parents expect social networking will improve their children’s reading and writing skills, or help them express themselves more clearly, according to the study, and parents and communities “expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology.” “

There are a number of new learning technologies that fall into this category.   The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies has created a Tools Directory of Instructional Tools that allows you to compare the vast array of CMS and LMS for specific needs.  It is clear that with these systems, distance education is a viable and sustainable form of educational delivery.


Alana (2010) Enhanced Learning in Professional Contexts.  Extracted from :

Cassel, D., (2007) School boards:  net dangers over-rated; bring social networks to school. Tech.Blorge Technology News.  Extracted from:

EctoLearning website:

edu2.0 website:

Minor, A. (2010) Central Cambria High School Case Study.   Extracted from:

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albirght, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009).  Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (4th ed). Boston, MA:  Pearson. pp. 236-242.

Multimedia Presentation:  “The Technology of Distance Education” (2010) Laureate Education, Inc. Video Production. Extracted from:  (Click on Week 3 Resources).

Tools Directory. Centre for Learning and Performance Technology. Extracted from: