A blog by George Engel


Mod 3 Comments Post

I commented on the following blogs:

Burian Kitchen


Sue Gudjonis


Rise of Collaboration

In this video, Howard Rheingold speaks of changing culture and economies based on the advent of new technologies.  He mentions the shift from nomadic to agrarian cultures, stating how the advent of the alphabet introduced an elite group in society.  Then, with the advent of the printing press, literacy was allowed to spread, opening doors for religious reformation, governmental reformation, and scientific reformation. Now, with communication technologies that can reach anyone in the world instantaneously at any time or place, society is changing again. Rheingold argues that this is bringing about the rise of new forms of collaboration in industry and in life. However, a question must be asked here. Is this new form of collaboration in industry and economics from a sense of altruism or a sense of self-interest? Rheingold makes it clear that much of the collaboration that is apparent in industry occurs out of self-interest. IBM and others are using more and more open source material and allowing others to develop open source material to foster greater economic gains for themselves.

But what of individuals that participate in community actions that have no economic gain, for example, individuals and groups working together to pose solutions to the BP oil spill cleanup in the Gulf? Or individuals working together to form open source software, open source browsers, or open source email clients? These people seem to work not out of self-interest because they have little to gain from their work, other than some personal sense of satisfaction. One could argue that on some levels, much of humanity works in their own self-interest, yet, as Rheingold mentions, there is a trend among web users to foster collaboration for things greater.

A potential exists for technology to play a profound role in the rise of collaboration. Web apps like Skype and Google Voice, allow for free voice or video conferencing around the world. Simulated worlds like Second Life see users meeting and problem solving dailiy. Could computing apps like Google Docs or wikis open the door to sharing data and editing in real time among collaborative groups.

Internet technology is available to any who seek to collaborate for a common goal. Will that goal be altruistic or in self-interest?

Which _ism is it?

Behaviorism, congitivism, or constructivim, which of these schools do you belong too? In spending time with these topics, you may just experience a bit of cognitive confusion about which _ism to follow as an educator. So which _ism is it? Which _ism is the correct theory? Many scholars would tell you that their _ism is the valid theory today. However, Bill Kerr speaks differently of the _isms in his blog post _isms as a filter, not a blinker. Kerr is reflecting on a blog conversation that he had with Downes and Kapp on the validity of the various _isms. Knapp sums up the conversation the best on his blog post Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought:

We need to take pieces from each school of thought and apply it effectively because…Cognitivism doesn’t explain 100% how humans process information and neither does Constructivism or Behaviorism. What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners.

Knapp further argues that each _ism has a place in the developmental stage of a learner – behaviorism for early stages where the cognitive load is light, cognitivism for procedural learning, and constructivism for problem solving.  This is an interesting approach that warrents study and discussion among scholars.  I am a constructivist and enjoy the ideas of situated cognitivism as well. However, when teaching mathematics, I see the need for a behaviorist tact to teach basic skills when they are lacking.  The idea that one theory explains all learning should be challenged and considered as educators map out curriculum.

Comments for mod 1

I have commented on Kiana Thompson’s Blog and on Shane Fairbairn’s Blog.

The Classroom is a Museum and I am its curator

When I began to grasp my own understanding of learning theory and understanding of how that theory applies to my work as a teacher, I had to take a serious look at what type of person I am, a pragmatist, an objectivist, or an interpretist. Driscoll (2009) defines pragmatism as the idea that "reality exist but cannot be known directly." With pragmatism, knowledge is gained through both cognition and experience (Siemens, 2008). Objectivism follows the tenet "that reality is external and objective, and that knowledge is gained through experience" (Siemens, 2008, pg 9.). Interpretism is the belief that "reality is internal, and knowledge is constructed" (Siemens, 2008, pg. 9). At heart, I am an interpretist; though, you might see me as a blend of the pragmatic and interpretist if you were to watch me teach.

Because I see that knowledge should be constructed, you might consider me as someone that follows the constructivist theories of Bruner and others. This is a fairly accurate assessment. However, I am beginning to understand that our youth are, as Marc Prensky and others have stated, growing up as a digital generation, both socially and educationally (Prenksy, 2001). As digital learners, young people are forming connections, not just in the local community, but globally (Palloff and Pratt, 2007). This falls in line with George Siemens theory of connectivism. Connectivism is the idea that learning occurs at its greatest rate through networks and communities. As many would believe the idea that networks are formed purely in an external sense, Siemens states in his blog Elearnspace that these networks are formed "in at least three distinct ways: neural, conceptual, and external/social" (Siemens, 2008a).

Some may question the validity of connectivism as a learning theory. However, it does contain the critical elements of learning theory. Learning occurs through networks and communities, the diversity of these networks and communities are its influencing factors, memory is formed through adaptive patterns in the network, transfer occurs by sharing through the networks, and learning is dynamic, and flows from a diversity of resources (Siemens, 2008). It is important for learners not only to construct knowledge in the digital world but also to be able to transfer that knowledge to new situations and to other networks. This is an example of one way learners can transfer knowledge to others: to teach the topic themselves. This is a video two of my students created for just that purpose:

Figure 1: Calculus Video

Finally, you might be asking, "What does this have to do with museums and curators?" Well, Siemens writes about four metaphors of education. The first is the "educator as master artist" where the teacher is the master who critiques and passes on his knowledge to a new generation of learners. Another metaphor is the "educator as network administrator." In this view, the educator assists learners in forming networks and connections. They also encourage learners to self-direct their own learning in the network. In a sense, the educator is the developer and maintainer of a learning network. A third metaphor, the "educator as concierge," allows the educator to guide, occasionally using lecture or to allow learners to work on their own (Siemens, 2008). The final metaphor is the "educator as curator." "A curator balances the freedom of individual learners with the thoughtful interpretation of the subject being explored" (Siemens, 2007, paragraph 9).

I have long been the concierge, but have recently begun to work as a curator in my classroom. This metaphor makes most sense as I work with my students and shift the focus to what is best for them and not necessarily for me.

I am an educator. I am a learner. Realizing that the same is true for my students was revolutionary to me. They are educators. They are learners. This is why I have shifted to the curator.


Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. (3d Ed.). Pearson Education, Inc., Boston

Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities. (2nd Ed). Jossey-Bass: San Fransisco

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Siemens, G. (2008a). Networked learning. Weblog entry. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2008/12/12/networked-learning/

Siemens, G. (2007). Networks, ecologies, and curatorial teaching. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/blog/2007/08/networks_ecologies_and_curator.html

Siemens, G. (2008, January 27). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Paper presented to ITFORUM. Retrieved from http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper105/Siemens.pdf

Video is Complete!

Well everyone, this is it. I am done. I must admit that I had a lot of fun putting this one together. I have learned a tremendous amount about gaming in education. Let me know what you think.


Static vs. Dynamic Tools in Learning



This is a map of various technologies and whether they are static or dynamic learning technologies.  As I study the map I developed based on Moller’s (2008) ideas of static and dynamic technologies, I wonder where I would find myself.  Well, I must confess that, until this spring, I have been working on the static side of the spectrum with my own learning and in teaching my students as well.  I find myself now in the middle of the spectrum.  Moller (2008) states that blogs and wikis fall more towards the middle of the spectrum.  I have gained a tremendous amount of experience using these tools over the past few months.

However, because of my work and study of distance education, I am excited to begin moving over to the dynamic side of the spectrum.  I am currently doing research on using gaming as a means of learning.  As you can see from the map, gaming is a dynamic tool for learning.  Doing research in other areas and seeing what my colleagues are researching is opening up new ideas about the dynamic side of the spectrum.  I am currently working on implementing cell phones, or hand held computers, as learning tools in my classes. 

Working to construct my own knowledge of the various types of tools that can be used in distance education has forced me to move to the dynamic, to set myself in a position of active learning and to build dynamic knowledge as the name of this blog indicates.

For those who are interested, I found an amazing mind map of online collaborative tools at http://www.mindmeister.com/12213323.  This mind map has a comprehensive list of the latest and most popular online tools that are available today. 

Moller, L. (2008).  Static and Dynamic Technologies.  Laureate Education, Inc.

Video Trailer


Here is a preview of what I am working on with my video. Let me know what you think. There is much more to this video. However, I wanted to get some feed back before submission and test the embedding process.

Content, Collaboration, Communication


Figure 1.  Tools of Distance Education

In the world of distance education and the age of digital literacy, knowledge of the tools and strategies that will assist you in constructing knowledge from content, in collaborating with peers, and in communicating with peers is important. I have put together in this blog is a brief discussion of several tools and links to some sites that contain them. I may update this list in the future as I gather more information about these tools.


Content can be developed in many ways.

TEXT: First on my list is the text circle. It is a resource that can either be in print form or an e-version as many publishers are offering virtual text books.

JOURNALS: Journals are publications for research and scholarly articles. Journals can also be print or virtual.

E-BRARIES: These are virtual libraries, like the one at Walden University, that provide an enormous amount of virtual text resources that are not otherwise available to the off-campus student. With a good set up, you can highlight text, bookmark text for future reference, and even print selections from the text.

GOOGLE SCHOLAR: Even though it is still in its beta form, this is an outstanding resource to research for journals and papers on a particular topic.

TEACHER PRESENCE: This is also critical for the student to have in an online learning environment. E-learners need that subtle guidance that the instructor can offer from time to time while reviewing and constructing knowledge.


The Internet has a wealth of collaborative tools since the advent of Web 2.0.

BLOGS: Blogs are a means of posting ideas for peer review. They can be built as a collaborative tool where individuals post ideas and group members comment and share their ideas as well. Blogs are fruitful tools that have the ability to foster group learning. A couple of popular blog sites that offer free blogs for any user are WordPress and BlogSpot.

WIKIS: Wikis are an excellent collaborative tool that allows all members of a group to post and edit a document. They also allow for peer review in their discussion pages. WikiSpaces is a popular free wiki hosting site.

GOOGLE DOCS: Google docs are a collaborative work group suite that allows multiple individuals to edit and share documents synchronously as well as asynchronously. Groups can quickly piece together work on a single document without having to meet or send the document via email for editing.

NING: Ning is a place where groups can build their own social networking site for sharing of information as well as posting documents and images for peer review.

SOCIAL BOOKMARKING: Social bookmarking sites like Delicious allow for multiple group members to share and post resources with a common thread or tag. These resources can then be used and commented on by all group members as they are working on a collaborative project.


There is a wealth of means for communication in the age of web 2.0.

FORUMS OR DISCUSSIN GROUPS: These are locations where large groups of individuals can post a topic or idea in a thread and have peers and instructors comment on it. This form of communication is asynchronous.

SKYPE: Skype is a communication tool that allows for synchronous conversations through text, voice, and video. It allows multiple individuals to be conversing at once.

EMAIL: Email is a means for asynchronous communication that might not be appropriate for a forum or discussion group. It is an extremely popular form of communication and is one of the older communication tools on this list. Gmail is a popular free email hosting tool.

SECOND LIFE: Second life is an online virtual environment where people can meet and converse using avatars. It does add a unique sense of realty to conversation and discussions among groups.

MOBILE DEVICES: These devices more commonly known as cell phones are actually tiny mobile computers that allow for voice and text chat. They also allow for access to sites like Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Google Docs, and many others, allowing e-learners to keep in contact with their peers and instructor while away from a hardwired computer.

Many of the sites, ideas, and devices mentioned above share characteristics with other categories. For instance, Second Life could also be used by groups for collaborative work. Wikis and blogs could be used for communication purposes. As a combination, however, they allow for a rich online learning experience for e-learners.

The following site http://mashable.com/2007/07/22/online-collaboration is a blog that is listing a wealth of collaborative tools on the web. Many I have not heard of but thought to put it here as a listing for those who are interested in more collaborative software.