A New LTSC Home
I’d like to introduce our new IEEE LTSC WordPress site. I have consolidated the five or so separate websites that previously existed and and produced a new site with a more user-friendly look and feel. The focus is first as an introduction to prospective new LTSC members and moving our legacy content forward. Much of our operational functionality, like calendar, meeting minutes, and announcements will now be centralized.
What I would like to do now is focus on making the new site more of a communication vehicle for all LTSC Voting/Observers members by utilizing the blogging capability of WordPress.
The interactive conversation at our face-to-face meeting in Alexandria reinforced with me that even with the widespread use of webinars, audio and video conferencing, Skype and Join.Me, these technologies are no substitute for communicating “face to face”. Economically it is not always feasible to attend a “face to face” given our LTSC members are spaced from Australia to Kurdistan and everywhere in between. Having said that, I thought we might add another tool to our communication kit – blog postings on our new site. On that note, here is my first attempt and I hope it may inspire you to add to the conversation by commenting on a post like this one or blogging yourself on the site.
John and Hamadou
One of my takeaways from our LTSC face-to-face session at IDA in August was the importance of informal conversations and in particular, the ones I had with John Rogers and Hamadou on how within their learning domains they might leverage ADB/PEBL. Both are academics first, with a firm pedagogical foundation and a keen interest in exploring and applying learning technologies in their classrooms and labs.
I remember making an offhand comment to John Rogers months ago on a conference call when discussing ADB. John’s school, West Point, had published a new History e-book on the Civil War. On the iPad, the book had a lot of the interactive features we were looking at for an ADB textbook. (Additional information on the West Point Military History series is here http://www.westpointhistoryofwarfare.com/#announcement and also this YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9SUW8AkpPo).
In talking with John at the meeting I mentioned it again and realized that I had assumed that because John taught at West Point he knew about the published e-book. I pulled out my iPhone, pulled up the iBook app and e-book and handed him the phone. The expression on his face changed to a smile as he browsed through it. He paused with an expression like he was thinking how he might use something like this in his civil and mechanical engineering course. We swapped several ideas around and John’s idea was to have his students build a model to determine the HVAC capacity for a new server farm. John was also interested in a formative analysis tracking the students thought process as they developed and built their model. xAPI was talked about as key to the formative assessment strategy.
Hamadou’s comments on our monthly conference calls are less about technology and more about how it might assist the student with their learning process. Hamadou is the chair of IEEE Standards Association Working Group P1876 – Networked Smart Learning Objects for Online Laboratories. They are working on several types of remote lab technologies integrated as activities in a course. Remote labs allow students to virtually manipulate instruments, like telescopes, and then analyze the resulting data. Hamadou is very interested in xAPI as an assessment tool. At our dinner, on Sunday, I got to hear first-hand much more about Hamadou’s P1876 WG. He teaches in Quebec and is originally from Nigeria. I got the sense of Hamadou’s global educational perspective. He and his workgroup want to provide affordable remote engineering laboratory activities to students worldwide – students who otherwise would not have access to this kind of equipment. While at iFest he met with Jason Haag and Andy Johnson to get an update on their xAPI profile work and specifically the newly released SCORM and CMI xAPI Profiles.
As a follow up to our conversations, I emailed both Hamadou and John a monthly newsletter from the International Journal of Online Engineering (iJOE) with two papers that I thought they might find of interest (Design and Development of Distance Laboratory Package for Teaching Basic Electronics via Cloud Computing and Teaching Power Electronics and Digital Electronics using Personal Learning Environments – From Traditional Learning to Remote Experiential Learning). Hamadou replied that from what he heard at the iFest, he thought it would be interesting to make a call for a special issue in iJOE on Mobile Labs based on ADB and xAPI. He was pretty sure that The Editor in Chief Abul Azad and Michael Auer would accept this emerging way of using xAPI for Online Labs. I hope we hear more on this topic from John and Hamadou in the near future.
Robby, Elliot, and Fritz
The other pleasant surprise was to see Robby and meet his son Elliot, who is now the Principal Investigator on the ADL’s Personalized eBooks for Learning (PEBL) project http://www.peblproject.org/. I’ve known Robby for a long time going back to the start of SCORM in the mid-nineties with Phil Dodds, Claude Ostyn, Tyde Richards and Avron. The dinner conversation was vibrant but not nostalgic — it was about the future and the ADL’s Total Learning Architecture (TLA) especially Robby’s and Fritz Ray’s work on the competency management component called CASS (http://www.cassproject.org/), and Elliot’s PEBL books. The ADL’s TLA project also convened a meeting of the first year’s participants at IDA later in the week after our LTSC meeting. If you want to know more about the TLA Jason Haag has collected a set of the TLA proceedings at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rr6lesoI4z3Atq2WnqPcRL-qTC_QGjEB-_CGzbh_m7g/edit#. You will find video briefings on CASS and PEBL by Robby and Elliot as well as a recap of the last years TLA activities and their way forward in the coming year.
I also met for the first time Marsali Hancock who is our LTSC lead for IEEE P7004: Standard for Child and Student Data Governance . I tagged Marsali with the nick name “Bag Lady”. Damon Regan pulled me aside at a break and asked me what I meant when I called her our LTSC Bag Lady. I said it was a play on the slang term ‘Bagman” who was the guy that collects and distribute the money. In the course of the meeting, I learned that Marsali is connected to some very big educational non-profits with her work on 7004. She offered to try to find sponsorship for a LTSC-produced guidebook the full range of e-learning standards (from all the different standards-development organizations, not just the LTSC) and their relevance to learning technology with recommendations about their application. Andy Johnson and John Costa have the lead to write the first draft for Marsali.
Marsali’s work is really about the ethical use of student data — specific constraints on the collection, storage, distribution, and use of student data. Marsali’s concern is about the algorithms used to mine that student data and her point is that they are not neutral. She used the term “filter bubble,” which refers to the results of the algorithms that dictate what we encounter online. Those algorithms create “a unique universe of information for each of us … which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information.” To illustrate her point, she told the story of a conversation where her friend and she googled Egypt. The results were quite different. Marsali’s result came back with the top result on Egyptian art, which was a hobby of hers. Her friends’ search results came back with something completely different reflecting their interest. We conducted an impromptu experiment and all of us also googled Egypt and not surprising the filter bubble was evident in our top results. Try it yourself with a group of friends.
My take away is that in the same way that we consider accessibility in the development of software products we also need to consider the ethics of personal data and its usage while respecting boundaries of privacy, which are ill-defined at this time.
As I reflect back on the dinner and meeting conversations, what was so encouraging was to see and hear the next generation of Phil Dodds and Claude Ostyns. I finally met John Costa, our ADB lead, after years of conversations at online WG meetings every Friday for several years. Jonathan Goldberg, our IEEE “Godfather”, who I hope can help us chart a partnership to develop a standard or specification with the W3C Publishing Group and IEEE on ADB/PEBL. And then there were Andy, Damon, Fritz, and Elliot, the new “young guns”.
It was a great time and I hope we get together again and that you are able to join us.
Secretary, IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee