EDU 807, Tech Review

Tech Review: “Voxer” – Using Gifs to Build Community

“Rather than see these forms of visual media as leisure-time pleasures, we believe they hold potential to engage students in class and provide another vehicle by which to demonstrate concepts and communicate with each other.” (Reyes, Kaeppl & Bjorngard-Basayne, 2018, para. 1)

In 2018, Faculty Focus published an article titled “Memes and Gifs as Powerful Classroom Tools” where the authors argues that these types of media allowed students to interact with their peers and faculty in a non-threatening (and less awkward) way. Instead of students fumbling for words to express their feelings about specific classroom content they may choose to post a gif or a meme that more succinctly communicates their message (with a dash of humor). This is even more crucial when teaching an online class where engagement and community building are often a struggle. That’s where Voxer comes in!

Voxer is a free mobile application (but can be used on desktops) that allows for team communication in a forma very similar to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The application allows for users to send messages in a variety of formats such as text, text-to-speech, audio clips, videos, photos, and you guessed it  – gifs! While Voxer is primarily marketed to businesses who have project teams, it also works well for small groups and classroom discussions in an online environment. Initial setup is quick and the user-interface is straight-forward and user-friendly that it does not take long to begin using it. Once an individual has downloaded the app and signed-up for an account that are able to search for other users and create chat-groups to begin communicating with one another.

So why should educators care about Voxer and using gifs in their online classroom discussions? In 2015, Rebecca Glazier conducted a study to understand how student rapport can be increased in online classes to increase retention rates. Glazier’s (2016) results strongly suggest that faculty who build rapport with their students have greater success in terms of their students performing well in the online classroom. Glazier comments “students notice a difference when a course is taught with rapport-building measures,” such as implementing a tool like Voxer (Glazier, 2016, pg. 13). By utilizing Voxer, faculty and students are able to engage in a much richer format than just emails and standard discussion boards housed within an LMS. Voxer provides the tools for a more ‘human’ feeling connection that includes real-time responses and expressions of emotions and reactions through the use of emojis, images and gifs. Do you have to utilize the gif and image feature to enjoy and benefit from Voxer? No – but you will be missing out on a really engaging feature that sets the tool a part from traditional LMS discussion boards.

I have experienced Voxer first-hand in my doctoral class and found it to be far more engaging (and dare I say fun!) than other discussion based applications that have been used in my program thus far. While it may cause some initial push-back from students who already use a variety of messaging apps, once they start to use it to discuss course content and engage with their peers – I strongly believe they will forget that they were ever resistant. As an instructor, I believe that I will utilize this in my online classes moving forward, rather than the standard discussion board posting as it seemed to create more meaningful and natural conversation about the topics at hand, rather than students simply mirroring what they read in their articles/textbooks. I can not recommend this tool enough for online discussion with adult learners!

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References

Glazier, R. A. (2016). Building rapport to improve retention and success in online classes. Journal of Political Science Education12(4), 437-456.

Reyes, M., Kaeppel, K., & Bjorngard-Basayne, E. (2018, November 26). Memes and GIFs as Powerful Classroom Tools: Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/memes-and-gifs-as-powerful-classroom-tools/

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

MMORPGS & Higher Education – Could it be a ‘thing’?

Anagnostopoulou, E. (2017). Educational Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games as a future technology enhanced learning for adult mathematics. Numeracy: A Critical Skill in Adult Education, 34.

Summary. This article is a literature review on the possible ability of MMORPGS to increase motivation in adult learners within higher education, more specifically when it comes to mathematics. The MMORPG market has already been fairly popular since their creation in the 1990’s but have been steadily growing in popularity more and more with games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV (Anagnostopoulou, 2017). The author of the article argues, that in addition to being fun, these types of games can also be used in educational settings because “players are constantly and willingly expanding their knowledge and skills in many sectors in order to advance, be competent and therefore contribute to more fun” (Anagnostopoulou, 2017, pg. 37). The author then goes on to describe how different aspects of these types of games can be used in education in areas such as history, languages, geography, fashion, management, team-work, leadership skills, problem solving skills, social skills, and mathematics. The mathematics portion, based on the literature review done by the author, is very prevalent as each character has sets of attributes and stats that effect their abilities to be successful within the game, players must have an understanding of calculations to know hot to improve their stats.

Evaluation. This article was written in such a way that not only would academics be able to glean some useful information, but non-academics as well. It was refreshing to see an academic article related to this style of gaming and not lean so heavily on outdated games such as Second Life, which makes it more credible in the eyes of current gamers. The article was brief and did not go in-depth on any particular concept and calling it a literature review may be too kind of a classification as it was so broad. However, despite being more of a magazine article in terms of tone and style, it does provide an interesting jumping off point for someone who may be interested in this area of research.

Application. While I may not use this particular article directly, it did get me thinking about how games such as an MMORPG could be utilized in higher education to enhance culturally responsive pedagogy. The Native American community prefers to teach through oral communication and storytelling, which are major components of these games. I also, believe this area needs to be researched more, in general, how MMORPGS are related to student motivations to learn as well as build communities in an online environment. Is creating an educational MMORPG just an example of “edu-tainment” or just a current niche, or is it something that will continue to grow in the future and become a very real means of education?

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

Research & Blended Learning

Dziuban, C., Graham, C. R., Moskal, P. D., Norberg, A., & Sicilia, N. (2018). Blended learning: the new normal and emerging technologies. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education15(1), 3.

Summary. The purpose of this study was to better understanding the impact blended learning has on teaching and learning for faculty and students within higher education. The authors take care to point out that currently there is not a lot of consistent study or research in this area as there are multiple definitions of what blended learning is, and more specifically how to measure it’s effectiveness and standardize it in a meaningful way. The authors narrow their scope on blended learning by looking a student perceptions and access and how blended learning is becoming the ‘new normal’ in higher education. The results of their study found “blending maintains or increases access for most student cohorts and produces improved success rates for minority and non-minority students alike (Dziuban, et. al., 2018, pg. 11). Despite these results, the authors still take care to state that there is still no definitive evidence that blended learning is the new normal, or that it will be the most effective teaching and learning modality.

Evaluation. This offers a very basic literature review that does not overwhelm the reader with information that is not of high value as some other articles I have read tend to do. This study is strong in its ability to be concise and focused on the problem at hand. An obvious disadvantage of this study is the pool of participants was limited to only students attending the University of Central Florida. This study would have greatly benefited, and perhaps more meaningful data could have been exposed had the researchers increased their population. The data was collected from end-of-course surveys which I thought was an effective collection instrument given the population and the context of the research.

Application. I may not utilize the content of this article in my future research, but I may use the data collection methods and the study itself as a foundation for how I may conduct my own research. The goal of my research for my doctoral program is going to involve collecting quantitative and qualitative data on student and faculty experiences based on the specific topic I am researching.

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

Exploring Ecology in Educational Technology: The Role of Instructional Desingers

Hokanson, B. (2017). A New Ecology for Education: Refocusing Educational Technology Beyond Content. In New Ecology for Education—Communication X Learning (pp. 1-6). Springer, Singapore.

Summary. Bran Hokanson’s (2017) paper makes the argument that current education and educational research focuses on students retaining content/information, and while this is useful information, researchers should begin to widen their scope and review more cognitive traits. Hokanson likens this new approach to research and learning to instructional design, in that designers focus on “finding” and “redefining” problems: “curiosity applied and formalized” (pg. 2). A designer, similar to students, in solving problems, doesn’t simply need to know content, but needs to also know how to use the content (Hokanson, 2017).  However, Hokanson then points out that even instructional designers have a bit of disconnect from really looking at content in a meaningful way, because they are forced to separate the learning experience from the content but a subject matter expert (Hokanson, 2017). Hokanson proposes that instructional designers should instead begin to focus on developing “instructional methods for persistence and grit, fairness, and curiosity,” rather than just focusing on content retention (Hokanson 2017, pg. 6). In order to ensure continued innovation of education, Hokanson ends by calling out to all instructional designers to develop “an ecology of learning” rather than concepts, practices, and pedagogies that are only focused on content.

Evaluation. This paper is very short, concise, and accessible to any level of academic reader which makes it ideal for an introduction for further research on new ecologies of learning and the role of instructional designers. The paper was published for the HKAECT-AECT Summer International Research Symposium and so it is meant to be reasonably short, but it does read similarly to a literature review with a shorter list of references. With literature reviews there is not any research or raw data included to further show gaps or needs presented by the author, and so the reader has to take the calls-to-action at face value.

Application. This paper is very different from the previous two that I have read and reviewed, in that it does not focus on culture, diversity, or inclusion. However, I believe, as an aspiring instructional designer in a doctoral program, this provides me with the opportunity to brainstorm how instructional designers can utilize the concept of learning ecology and apply it to research on the various cultural contexts that can impact student learning. Learning ecology can be defined as “the set of contexts found in physical or virtual spaces that provide opportunities for learning” (Barron, 2006, 195). What types or sets of contexts do students of color have that are different from their Caucasian peers and how does the effect their educational experience? And in turn, how can instruction designers address these differences in a meaningful way, using educational technology, to innovate and improve the learner’s experience?

Reference
Barron, B. (2006). Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecologies perspectiveHuman Development, 49, 193-224.

EDU 800 Annotated Bib

Online Learning & Diversity

Bozkurt, A., & Aydın, İ. E. (2018). Cultural diversity and its implications in online networked learning spaces. In Supporting multiculturalism in open and distance learning spaces (pp. 56-81). IGI Global.

Summary. The purpose of this article was to explore the way that different cultural dimensions impact the online learning environment. One of the findings related to the heightened prevalence of interactivity among individuals who live in Western-based cultures and who primarily speak English. The author’s of this article argue that diversity in an online environment is both a challenge and an opportunity for learners and educators. Due to the effects of high and low-context cultures in social environments, online learning environments, that contain social aspects, can differ greatly among participants from varying cultures. The authors also examined MOOC’s as they have very diverse populations of students. Bozkhurt and Aydin (2018) concluded that the use of Universal Instructional Design (UID) would be key in ensuring online learning environments are inclusive and respectful towards diverse student populations.

Evaluation. The article itself is clear and direct in that the two main questions posed by the authors is addressed in their research. However, their findings were anything but earth-shattering in that I was able to guess what the results may be before I actually read them. As stated earlier, the authors found that populations who spoke English where participating the most in online social environments, and those who had a Westernized-culture were also more likely to participate. The author’s study provided nice statistics and graphics for the reader, but I would have liked to see more qualitative research being done on why these specific populations were more likely to participate in these online environments.

Application. As I continue to delve deeper into instructional design and technology and how to apply new concepts to creating diverse spaces, I am noticing there is not much research available. This article was published in 2018, and was one of very few matches to various searches I performed on online learning and cultural diversity. This indicates to me that there is a serious gap in this research which makes me more determined to focus my research, within this program, on effective design strategies and technologies that allow for culturally sensitive and empathetic teaching, specifically for the Native American community within central Michigan.

OERs

On the OER Hunt!

This week in the edX course, Introduction to Open Education, there is a strong focus on “creating, finding, and using OERS.” This is a nice change from the general focus of copyright and creative commons. I have decided to look into different OER databases and provide them to you with short summaries. Not only could this help you in your future courses, but, it serves as a nice reminder for myself.

OpenStax

According to the “About Us” page, OpenStax “is a nonprofit based at Rice University, and it’s [their] mission to improve student access to education” (OpenStax, n.d. pp.1). While exploring this site I found that it only covers five different categories of materials: math, science, social sciences, humanities, and AP.  Looking deeper into the resources they are fairly basic in the nature of their content – this content could be used in a entry level course or a general core course at a university. These OERs look and operate just like an eBook from a commercial publisher. While I personally would not use this site as it does not cover the subjects that I teach, I would recommend it to those in the previously states disciplines.

OER Commons

This website is a digital public library and covers a wider range of topics and concentrations than OpenStax. This website also offers instructors the ability to create using their resource builder, lesson builder, and module builder. The types of material available for use are very diverse, anything from case studies to simulations, you could find anything your academic heart desires. Under each OER there is a “conditions of use” which lets the user know how the user can manipulate the artifact – most are remix and share. I personally plan on using this website for my future courses as there are so many artifacts to choose from and all are at no cost to the student!

OER Knowledge Cloud

At first glance this site does not offer much visually which could turn-off some viewers who are already familiar with the previous two resources. The website does have an FAQ which does a decent job of answering the most basic questions regarding OERs and creative commons. When searching their database the list of items that appear are hard to read and uninviting despite how good their content may be. Honestly, this website did not offer much and I would not really recommend it to anyone searching out innovative OERs for their classes.

Keep in mind there is a vast amount of OER databases and I only covered three for the sake of time – plus no one wants to read while I drone on about my opinion on websites all day. Instead I will include a link where you can find a list of high quality OER databases that I hope you will enjoy:

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/infotech/chapter/oer-database-list/

OERs

More Credits – Less Commercial Textbooks

In regards to textbooks, the question has been posed: “Why don’t faculty come together, collaborate, and create their own textbooks and resources for their courses?”

The most common and simple answer is time. Faculty do not perceive having the time to invest in creating and regularly updating course materials. However, a group of faculty may be able to achieve more when collaborating than they think.

Currently, at the University I am employed at, the director of my department has found a way to increase the number of new online courses created through a cohort model. This model allows for multiple faculty members to work together, review work, and give suggestions to one another during the course of the design process. Each faculty member is also given a list of individuals within the university that could assist them in various areas – from media productions to library services.

My question is, can this cohort model be applied to the creation of OERs? While it may not be feasible to do this for every online course, could it be used for the required core courses?

Are we really taking full advantage of the talent and the knowledge of our faculty by using commercial textbooks?

I don’t think that we are.

To me, using commercial textbooks is an indication of the priorities of the faculty in that department. While I do not want to demonize or scrutinize those who use commercial textbooks, I do think it is feasible for faculty to come together to design OERs.

As stated in the week 3 lectures in the edX Introduction to Open Education course, Dr. Wiley discusses the idea of incentives and the alignment of incentives. Faculty currently may not see the benefits of using an OER because they are not being “compensated” for their time. However, if students do not have to pay for course materials, it is more likely that students will take more class, and isn’t that the goal of a University? The university does not get paid for adopting commercial textbooks, the university gets paid for students enrolled in courses.

With all of this in mind, is it really that wild of an concept to have faculty come together and create OERs for their courses?