Life by Design

Posts Tagged ‘Education


I chose to take a look at and specifically their selection of Italian courses.  At first glance, for an adult learner wanting to learn some interesting new things, the site in general offers a great deal of resources from a recommended book list to ‘smart’ YouTube sites.  As an adult who enjoys learning and keeping up with things, I found plenty to explore and in my free time, which I anticipate having when, I am about 85 I plan to pursue more of it!

Looking into the Italian course selection however, it was disappointing when we look at it through the lens of our distance learning guidelines as offered in our course resource  (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright,  & Zcavek, 2009).

When you click on the site, there’s simply a list of websites to different Italian courses with little explanation of how they differentiate.  There is no instruction about how to navigate the sites or to orient and instruct the new user on what exactly a ‘podcast’ is or how to download from iTunes.    I didn’t see much evidence of the developer asking the question, “What does the learner need?” in order to be successful on the site.  There was no survey offered to assess prior learning of foreign languages or working with technology.   The only option is receiving a ‘podcast’, so for the learners with other learning style and preferences, I think this site will be disappointing and non-engaging. I find myself becoming more and more a strong advocate for the learner as I consider distance education design.

When I went to the site, www., (Radio Lingua Network) I found a blog format that was intermingled with 20 weeks of daily lessons.  With a lack of menus for navigation, I had to wade through over a dozen webpages to get to the beginning of the course.   Once there, it wasn’t entirely clear whether I needed to download the podcast directly from iTunes or the site.  I clicked on a hot download link on the site and found I could get to a ‘preview’ iTunes site where all the lessons were posted.  I listened to the first lesson delivered by an Irishman with a reasonable Italian accent.  The lesson was quick, less than 5 minutes and taught exactly three phrases.  This is fine for the adult learner, who is busy and has the specific aim of learning just enough Italian perhaps to visit Italy one day.  Adult learning theory is utilized in that the course could be customized just to give the learner exactly what they need to satisfy their learning needs.

The site is not intended to be a true distance learning course and therefore, it does not offer a syllabus, collaborative learning opportunities, threaded discussions or learning activities.  If you want to pay about $45 dollars for a premium membership, you can get download a PDF to augment the lessons.   This brings up the debate about Open Source being a non-commercial enterprise. (Fitzgerald, Hissam, & Lakani, 2005, p.332).

There is a new posting on the blog for a Twitter application that can be sent to you to test your daily recall.  This is an interesting idea. There is no rubric, grading standards or expectations for the course.  It’s all up to you.  And that’s what an Open Source education site is for…it is up to you to explore and create your learning on your terms, on your time.


Fitzgerald, B, Hissam, S., Lakhani, K. (2005) Perspectives on free and open source software. MIT Press. (P.332) Extracted from:

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson. (Ch. 5 & 9)


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: