Friday, December 17, 2010

CEDO555 - Portfolio - Week Two

This past week has been an incredibly hard one for me involving a lot of soul-searching about my professional goals.  Our main assignments this past week have been to create Vision/Mission statements and come-up with ideas for a culminating experience project.  Looking back at my first blog post, my heart still tells me that I need to make a difference with my life and education.  The economic and digital divides have never been more apparent than today.  The enlightened goals of virtual charter schools to serve inner-city and rural youth are lofty but in practice they seem to just enhance those who are better off in our society.

My first vision and mission statements had a split focus between corporate learning and public education.  I spent 4 days crafting statements that would catch both worlds, yet, I felt empty.  What is in my heart?  What is my passion?  What is it that I really want to do?  I decided that I need to put forth effort and challenge myself to help improve the lot of others.

Vision - Equitable education for all students that fosters  21st century skills through authentic experiences utilizing eLearning and blended delivery formats.

Mission:  Overcome the educational and digital divides by using elearning and Internet technologies while employing teaching best practices to create equitable education for all students. 
  • Design courses which engage students to bring their unique life experiences to bear on authentic problems.
  • Create collaborative training solutions that are authentic and relevant to students.
  • Utilize online, face-to-face and blended course delivery formats to maximize and achieve the best possible learning outcomes.
  • Employ existing or emerging Internet technologies which promote learning outcomes  and deepen understanding for participants.
  • Incite students' love for lifelong learning by encouraging and rewarding divergent thinking. 

    The culminating experience project proposal that I put forth needs to be something that stretches and challenges me in new ways while utilizing new skills from the MEIT program.  Over the past year I have helped bring technology and digital resources to the UW Hoofer Sailing Club.  I piloted a wiki several courses ago and it helped prototype what an actual Club resource could look like.  Since then, the University of Wisconsin enabled wiki-like functionality but it has yet to be implemented.  Could be a good culminating project for Brian!  Then again, aren't I really just helping the economically-advantaged and privileged?  But what about helping those who really need a hand?

    I came across a non-profit organization called Operation Fresh Start which helps school drop-outs and early offenders get their GED while they build houses in the Madison area.  I contacted them and asked if they might like to discuss how to help their participants practice and acquire 21st century technology and Internet skills.  I offered my services and I hope that I can do something with this organization and help young people improve themselves while getting their diplomas.  My heart and head is excited at the prospect of doing some good and making a real difference.

      Friday, December 10, 2010

      CEDO 555 - Portfolio - Week One

      Well readers, hard to believe but Brian is now running downhill towards the finish of his Master's of Education in Instructional Technology at Cardinal Stritch University.  The time has come for me to put together a Digital Portfolio describing my courses, evidence of work and how it relates to teaching standards.  The last bit caused a lot of consternation on my part as I am not a public school teacher.  I thought about creating a Career Portfolio for potential employers and job reviews but I do want to document how my coursework and activities mesh with teaching standards.  At a later date I may want to pursue a teaching license and the MEIT Portfolio will help me prove that I have met some of the requirements.

      I took a look at over 15 portfolio sites this week including those suggested by my study team.  It was really hard to find one single portfolio that did it all for me.  Some were quite technical and hard to read while  others were cluttered with widgets and background templates that detracted from the author's message.  I think back to Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds and the ones that were most appealing had a simple yet clear design to them.  Solid backgrounds, easy navigation and a minimalist approach where less was more.

      There were 2 sites that really stood-out for me in my quest for the ideal.  Although both do not meet all of my requirements I feel that they have qualities worthy of emulation.  Bruce Richards is an Instructional Designer. Bruce’s site is free of clutter and when one selects a heading from the navigation pane it gently scrolls to the appropriate section. If you browse through Bruce Richards site one gets a sense of what he’s about, educational experience and approach to his work.  
      Dr. Roland Bolender's  site contains so much information but it is cleanly laid-out in a way that it is not overwhelming.  From the Mission Statement and Role as a Teacher one can easily navigate to the resume, awards, curriculum and other headers.  Dr. Bolender’s site contains a full list of curriculum, online classes taught and evaluations. Overall, I like the design and how Dr. Bolender substantiatesof his work with specific detail that demonstrate a prolific career as an educator.

      I have a better idea now of the design and layout I will use for my MEIT Portfolio.  The CEDO555 course requires us to use Google Sites from our student Wolfmail account.  I browsed various templates and selected a format.  Now, all I need to do is figure-out what my content will be and how to organize it using Google Sites.  Ah, yet another Web 2.0 application to master.  The MEIT program has had me use so many that it's a good thing I'll be listing them in a portfolio so I don't forget!. 

      Thursday, December 2, 2010

      CEDO 550 - Week 6

      The final week of comes to a close on CEDO 550 aka Online Facilitation: Taming the World of Online Learning.  The course has been challenging in so many ways but mainly that it has helped me wrap my head around specific strategies and best practices for online learning.  The course has provided insights into how Virtual Charter schools are changing the educational landscape in Wisconsin.  No longer the wave of the future, the online learning Tsunami has already washed over the state and all of the stakeholders in education have to adapt - sink or swim.

      Although my teaching up until this time has been mainly with adult learners, my trainees are gaining 21st century skills by utilizing the office automation and collaborative technologies  all around them.  My role as a company trainer shifts to being one of a learning facilitator.  I still create courses but my instructional design plans for employee-to-employee interaction.  Company wiki, discussion boards open to the client community and rapid prototyping of products and services using brain storming sessions.  The 21st century skills our schools foster in young students are just what the business world uses today.   Funny, but calling myself a 'Trainer' sounds so regimented.  I have become an eLearning and Collaborative Technology Professional.  

      I understand the Virtual Schools Legislation in Wisconsin and am concerned/excited about the impact it will have on local control of curriculum.  Virtual schools are licensing online curriculum from third parties.  Although textbooks have come to be dominated by other states, it is likely that as online learning matures that 1 or 2 big players will emerge dominating online curriculum. Economics dictate that as the industry matures, it will become less competitive and products will be less innovative and responsive to customer needs. 

      The Madison Metropolitan School District's  involvement in online learning includes the Madison Virtual Campus (MVC)  and participation in the Wisconsin eSchool Network.   MMSD offers  11 categories with 115 courses for students which can be found in the online MVC Student Online Course Listing.  Breaking it down further one can see the distribution of courses by category.

      I spoke with 2 Madison MSD teachers and they were amazed at the number of online offerings for students.  I looked at the MMSD Technology Plan and they intend to expand online learning opportunities for both students and teachers.

      During the module I was excited to learn about the current offerings of online learning in my school district.  The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) offers 3 different portals for special content in addition to participation in the Wisconsin e-School Network.   If you were to ask most parents with children or teachers in Madison about these offerings they would not have a clue.  That being said, my examination this week of the MMSD's current and future use of online learning has been most enlightening.  I have a better sense of what is happening in my own backyard and it will be fascinating to see how online learning progresses in the coming years.

      Friday, November 26, 2010

      CEDO 550 Week 5

      This week in As the CEDO 550 Turns has been a busy one.  The course is one semester's worth of work packed into 6 weeks.  Now I understand what is truly meant by an accelerated Master's Program.   I have been examining online tools and spent some time looking at a poplar LMS called Moodle.  Moodle is short for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment and it is designed to support a social constructivist framework for education.  Moodle appears to be appropriate for most online learning strategies but it lacks a synchronous classroom component.  Not a problem, I could always link-in Elluminate or another platform to fill the need. 

      My experience with online communities includes the launch of Lithium at Pharmacy OneSource, wikis, and social media sites like Facebook and Linked-In.  All online communities require active participation if members are to find it interesting or valuable.  In our MEIT program we use discussion boards to post topics and review ensuing posts from cohorts.   My personal learning is enriched with the immediate feedback and the diversity of opinion that results from these asynchronous posts.  Linked-in allows me to network with professional groups, read about new jobs and participate in discussions.  The latter provide insights into what is currently happening in the job market and focuses my efforts in my career field. 

      I believe the biggest benefit of collaborative groups is that it creates an opportunity where the depth and breadth of individual experience is brought to bear on a common problem.    In the MEIT program I often meet with cohorts on a collaborative project.   In our team  we define the project scope and move forward eliciting comments and discussion from everyone.  I never cease to be amazed at the different views and insights individuals share or add to a discussion.   Sure, I have 'my take' on things - but is that the right one?  I feel reassured that my group finds a consensus and we are able to explore the project and together create a viable product we can all feel good about. 

      I believe the greatest challenge for collaborative groups in business is that it requires a corporate culture that supports group vs. individual competition.   Teams take on greater responsibility and authority for solving problems while creating improved products and services.   Traditional management roles have to change so that managers and supervisors become team facilitators.   I recently worked within the Agile model of software development and it was a breath of fresh air.  The multidisciplinary teams consisting of software developers, quality assurance and technical liaisons helped the company roll-out better product in a shorter amount of time than traditional approaches.  But, it took a brand new Chief Technology Officer driving the culture shift from the top-down to foster the collaborative vs. cooperative environment. 

      My thoughts regarding the social development and socialization issues are unsettled at this time.   Online schools rely on student-centric curriculum involving heavy interaction between teachers, peers and parents.  Online schools further learning outcomes and foster 21st century skills through planned collaborative activities.  Social interactions are planned and are the basis for much student learning.  In the online world, students can open-up to their peers without regard to race, creed, color or economic status.  However, the study we looked at showed the importance of extracurricular activities on online students.   

      Online learning does refine remote social skills but it still takes physical interactions to create a well-rounded, socially adept and effective individual.   Do 2 or more kids meet on a playground or basketball court and text each other and reflect on the comments?  Well, it may look that way these days but it is important that social skills furthered in the online environment support face-to-face interactions that people will have with future employers and colleagues.

      Friday, November 19, 2010

      CEDO 550 - Week Four

      Week 4 of CEDO 550 kicked-off this past Monday with my leading a 15 minute synchronous Web discussion using my synchronous discussion plan.  I felt good about the execution but I wish that I had had better control and fluency with Elluminate.   I had several takeaways from this session and I would suggest the following to anyone planning a synchronous session:

      1) Practice delivery in advance. 
      2) Master use of the intended tools to be utilized
      3) And just like  with Radio broadcasts, smile while talking and avoid using those 'ers',' ums' and 'ahs'.  

      In reflecting on my teaching experiences to date, I would say that the proportion of teacher centered lessons dominate my student-centered lessons.   That being said, I've always pushed for student-centered activities where they practice with software or discuss issues in small groups.  In the latter, I have acted as the facilitator seeding questions and transitioned from the central authority to being a co-learner.  This past week I took an existing teacher-centered course and created a student-centered course which can be taught online.  In the student-centered course the participants are active in their learning and meet with others to deepen meaning and understanding.

      I was able to identify more than one authentic assessment to measure mastery of a single concept lesson when I established the standards for my lesson.   One needs to ask, "What should students know and be able to do?"  I came-up with 3 standards for my Advanced Tech sailing course and found that I could have 3 separate assessments for each.
       The rubric I created for my lesson clearly defined expectations and scoring for the lesson so that my students could best understand their level of proficiency in 3 main concept areas of heavy-weather sailing.  Sailing in heavy or high winds is an extreme activity and sailors need to act immediately and with actions that are appropriate.  Any single slip-up or misunderstanding will have dire consequences for the safety of the boats and crew.  Students share the task work, reflect and state in their own words what they need to do before leaving land and while on the water.

      While working on this module I had success/difficulty while doing something new involving the assessment of student participation in the collaborative tasks.   As a teacher, how do I know if one student has done all of the group work or others have contributed as best they can?  In the rubric I state that students will collaborate and take turns using TypeWithMe to describe their responses.  TypeWithMe is a document sharing tool where multiple people can type together at once.  The application software is free but it color highlights individual user contribution and identifies users in a color key.  Using this feature of TypeWithMe, I will ask students to complete collaborative responses, e-mail the link to me and after I review responses, I can gauge level of student participation.

      Friday, November 12, 2010

      CEDO 550 - Week Three

      If you think online teaching is easier than face-to-face, then you got another thing coming!  This week I planned an asynchronous and synchronous discussions using a topic of my choice.  I get to put both into practice with a threaded discussion and leading a live session on Monday.  I have been putting a lot of effort and preparation time in for both.  Between now and then my course instructor asked me to reflect on a few topics.

      #1 What is the greatest challenge that I have encountered as an online teacher/facilitator and how did I manage it? 


      Back in 1996 I began teaching DataBeam's customers how to use synchronous Internet collaboration tools such as Farsite, neT.120 Conference and Learning Servers.  Customers were early adopters yet they still felt compelled to have me travel to their facilities to conduct face-to-face training.  Hey, it was nice of them to foot the bill and I traveled the world on their dime, but how could I help them become true believers in the online experience?  Well, I had to recreate their traditional experience and facilitate a transition to the online world.

      I would setup my equipment in the customer's state of the art training facility.  Overhead projector, sound system, personal computers on every desk connected to the 'net.  I would ask the class 'Can everyone see on their PC screen see what I have on the overhead?'  Wait for heads to nod in agreement and then turn-off the PA to the room.  'Can everyone hear me through your PC?'.  Wait for heads to bob up and down again.  I would then smile, turn-off the overhead projector and say 'I guess we really don't need this then, do we?'   Oh, how the jaws did drop towards the keyboards! 

      Towards the end of the training session people would come-up to me and say, 'You really could have done this training remotely, couldn't you?   I would sheepishly reply, 'Yes, but I did get to fly here from Wisconsin in the middle of winter and meet all of you in person'.  Truth be told, I really do enjoy traveling to new places and meeting new people.  However, as DataBeam's Software Evangelist/Trainer I needed my customers to have a transformational experience.  Sure, I used a little PT Barnum showmanship but I got them to a place where they realized  it was no longer necessary to teach within the confines of a centralized physical building.

      #2 What are some things that I feel are important to consider about synchronous and asynchronous facilitation as I prepare to facilitate my threaded (async) and web conference discussions?

      Without a doubt I want to help foster discussions which facilitate higher thinking processes.  I must withdraw from being a 'sage on the stage' and facilitate dialogue while planning group interactions.  This entails asking probing questions from the sidelines while using an appropriate neutral voice.  I want to help shape and steer the experience without taking the helm from the participants.   It is easy to intellectualize a plan but it is another to put it into practice with my words and actions.   I have been role-playing situations that may arise so that I am prepared in my role as a facilitator.

      #3 Why did I choose 'The future of virtual schools in Wisconsin' as my topic?

      Change is all around us.  Myself and program cohorts are enrolled in the Cardinal Stritch University MEIT program because we are responding to the economic and technological transformation in education.  I selected a Wisconsin Capital Times article titled 'Virtual Schools growing throughout state'  for the threaded discussion and a quote from it for the Web conference.  Specifically, not only are virtual schools viable but they are pulling local school district funding with the students they attract.   The topic is timely, relevant and authentic for my program cohorts.  Via threaded discussion and Web conference I am hitting home the fact that the future has arrived and cohorts need to assess their roles as edu-technology leader in their local school districts.

      #4 One thing I thought about when developing rubrics for the threaded discussion and Web Conference

      The asynchronous rubric seemed straightforward but the synchronous proved trickier.  The asynchronous rubric was summative while the latter examined group interplay and social skills.  I found it harder to find the appropriate quantifiable terminology for the synchronous rubric as I tried to avoid subjective assessment. Upon further review, I need to spend more time examining rubrics for synchronous activities.

      Thank you for reading my weekly blog post.  I'm sure I'll have lots of Eureka moments as I see how my asynchronous and synchronous discussions pan-out in the real world this coming week.

      Friday, November 5, 2010

      CEDO 550 - Week Two

      The second week of CEDO 550 has us exploring the use of synchronous and asynchronous tools for use in online learning.  Synchronous activities are those that are happening real-time with little to no delay or time lag.  Elluminate and Skype are both fine examples of synchronous tools which could help me in my online teaching.  As a corporate trainer I was often called upon to lead Webinars for our employees and customers.  I could use Elluminate for the virtual meeting place and its built-in audio and video bridge would permit a large number of users to be in constant communication.  Elluminate has a superb shared whiteboard, chat and support for break-out sessions.  On that last point, I could make the Webinar more meaningful by placing participants in break-out groups so that they might benefit from peer-to-peer discussion.

      Although I would use Elluminate for Webinars and a virtual classroom, Skype is yet another synchronous tool which can fill a niche.  I can see using Skype for one-on-one check-ins with students.  In an online world I want to ensure that students are doing well and a good way to do this is by having office hours.  Skype acts as the virtual office where I meet and discuss progress and offer encouragement to students.  Skype is free so any student with a decent computer can reach me.

      Asynchronous tools are ubiquitous these days.  The MS-Office Suite, Adobe and Google Docs permit multiple users to collaborate on a document or presentation.  Google Spreadsheet is free and students could collaborate on science projects requiring data collection.  How about Blogger?  I am using Blogger right now for my weekly post.  Just like in my MEIT program I could ask students to blog on certain topics and require that they respond to 2 other students.  

      Some examples of tools and activities I could use for students are:

      1) Wiki.   Almost all companies have an internal wiki or some variation. Students in corporate training courses can post reflections prompted by the instructor. 
      2) MS-Word.  Students or colleagues could collaborate on questions posed to them as a group using document sharing tools found within MS-Word. I can also use MS-Word for homework assignments and ask student to return completed work in this format.
      3) Prezi.  A new tool we used in the MEIT Digital Storytelling course, students could use Prezi to storyboard their approach to a presentation or problem. 
      4) Google Docs.  Students can use Google Presentations much like they might use MS-PowerPoint.  The big difference is that Google's offering is free and has different sharing rights for greater collaborative opportunities.

      A big part of online learning is setting the right tone from the onset.  The initial contact via e-mail or phone should be clear, concise and positive.  This past week I drew upon my experience teaching an online course for a pharmacy software program.  The main audience had been internal employees and I used a blend of asynchronous and synchronous activities for the course.  I crafted an initial contact e-mail that I might have used with students.  So what's the big deal?  Can't one just be like Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet with just  the facts?

      Online learning has technical hurdles that need to be cleared but one needs to explain what the course is about, expectations and do so in a warm and inviting manner.  You don't want to be so sugary as to seem insincere.  It is best to demonstrate genuine concern for students and present a positive atmosphere.  This will diminish apprehension and open-up avenues of communication early on. 

      Friday, October 29, 2010

      CEDO550 - Week One - Teachers without Borders vs. Edu-dystopia

      Greetings goblins and ghouls!  Welcome to the Halloween edition of Brian's weekly blog.  This week kicks-off the beginning of CEDO550 which is also known as Online Facilitation: Taming the World of Online Learning.  The new course is where we start pulling it all together from previous work in the program.  This week we've examined online learning not only from a teaching perspective but also through the eyes of students and parents.  Many people see online learning as the panacea for all that ails current educational systems.  There are benefits and disadvantages to online learning and the course is helping us identify where those may lie.

      Since this is the Halloween edition, I feel the need to be scary.  Have you ever seen Fahrenheit 451 or read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World?  Both portray dystopian worlds where benevolent technologies lead to oppression of human free will.  But what does that have to do with online learning?  Well, online learning can do many wonderful things by making courses available at flexible times across geographic boundaries.  Learning Management Systems can reduce administrative overhead by automatically grading student performance and soon these systems will be able to parse student essays.  Teachers will have more time to focus on their students and learning will become exciting and invigorating for all involved.  So where's the monster?

      Economics and recent history tells us that increasing capital can reduce the quantity of labor.   Instead of having a 100,000 teachers we could save costs by recording all instructor-led classes and reducing the variety and quantity of educational modules.  Industrialization brought us investment in heavy machinery and processes ensuring products were to specifications.  What if we were to unite the mindset of  No Child Left Behind with automated education of all students in the United States?  Wouldn't society benefit from all students working on the same online studies and taking the same tests?  Everything would be so uniform and neat.  Employers would always know what they were getting. Are you scared, yet?

      Actually, I think online learning is a huge positive and can lead to equitable education within the United States and abroad.  The knowledge that is being circulated around The Internet is amazing and grows every single hour.  What a wonderful and incredible world it will be as we conquer the digital divide and education flows freely.  Think 'Teachers without Borders'.  And no, I am not referring to a book store chain.

      And since I want to end on a more upbeat note, let us look at the good works of George Lucas and Edutopia.  Although Lucas' first film, THX 1138 was about a dystopian future in which all aspects of society are controlled, the Edutopia site is filled with positive examples of collaborative learning which emphasizes  critical thinking skills for students.  Perhaps George Lucas' THX 1138 provided him with an insight into a possible future and he felt the need to counteract it with Edutopia.   I hope I didn't scare you too much.  Happy Halloween!

      Friday, October 22, 2010

      CEDO 540 - Week Six Statistics and Beyond

      Our final week of CEDO 540 draws to a close.  When we started the autumn leaves were beginning to turn and now just a few cling to the trees.  I have been investigating Web-sites that provide statistical information - some supplied by our instructor  - and a few we had to find on our own.  Have any of you explored the National Archives site? It's really quite fascinating how much information is on this site.  Links to genealogy, military records and even archival photographs.   The site is hierarchically organized so one needs to reflect on each search before hopping down the rabbit trail.

      The National Health Safety Network (NHSN) is a site I worked with in the past. NHSN collates data from participating hospitals and agencies but the data is kept with 'the family' of participants.  I used this site before when I worked with Infection Preventionists on Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) and the H1N1 pandemic.  I did a little light research on MRSA but most of the data is in summary format.  If I were still doing work in epidemiological surveillance I would use this site every day to report local information and learn about what was happening in my region.

      One of the more interesting and highly interactive sites I examined is the Wisconsin Information Network for Successful Schools. The Site contains a rich amount of performance data across Wisconsin school districts.  The site is very easy to use and almost immediately I found myself running performance reports on the Madison-Metropolitan school districts.  I could examine student performance by area of study, ACT, attendance, etc.  The ensuing reports allowed me to change parameters without having to initiate a brand new search.  I was able to change one radio button to apply Madison’s performance against the Top Ten Enrollment districts in the state.   The ability to print the report and graphics separately was a nice touch.  Although I could not find an option to download the data to Excel or CSV formats, one can readily copy and paste the array of data for further analysis.   If any parent has questions about school district performance I will direct them to WINNS.

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      CEDO 540 - Week Five - Search Strings and the Cyber Superorganism

       As you may recall from last week, we took a look at Bill Tancer and his high level predictions when he analyzed aggregated search string data.  In the fifth week of CEDO 540 it is now our turn to mine Internet data and makes heads or tails of it.  Specifically, we are using Google Trends for our database and it is up to us to determine an approach to a topic or problem, gather the data and analyze it.  Sounds pretty easy, ay?  Well, let's just say I have a new found appreciation for Bill Tancer's line of work.

      A more useful site for gleaning Web data is Google's beta version of  Insights for Search.   Insights for Search which can be broken-out by country, states/provinces and metropolitan areas.  Bill Tancer has been able to predict the winners of Dancing with the Stars by examining how often a contestant's name has been searched for on The Internet.  In Wisconsin we have a heated Senate race between incumbent Russ Feingold and newcomer Ron Johnson.  I did a search within Wisconsin on both candidates and Johnson is definitely on the rise.  Wait, that didn't sound right.  Just so there are no misunderstandings about that statement let me rephrase by saying  'Ron Johnson has had more searches in the past few weeks than Russ Feingold.'  

      But does the greater number of Ron Johnson searches over Russ Feingold mean that he will triumph in November?  I looked at the numbers this past Tuesday and now on Friday it appears that Russ Feingold is trending downward on the number of searches.  Below is the data showing Johnson in red and Feingold in blue. I was able to generate this graph and copy the embed code into my blog. Feel free to hover over each of the data points and see the changes.

      So, does the sheer volume of searches for a candidate predict the ultimate victor? Bill Tancer believed this to be true until the Stacy Keibler scenario (see post from last week) took hold. Are some of these searches unrelated to the campaign?  Am I analyzing the right search strings and discounting the ones that don't matter?  Perhaps people doing their own research on the candidates and what does this tell us about their feelings towards either one?  The Internet is a cyber superorganism that is evolving every second - changing from moment to moment - and this alters the language people use for interaction.  In this case, search strings are the interactive language and, like Early Modern English, they will continue to morph into new forms - only much faster.

      Scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey

      Friday, October 8, 2010

      CEDO 540 - Week Four -

      This past week our class delved into the world of market research and Internet data.  Particular emphasis has been on Bill Tancer who is the GM with HitWise.  It is one thing to know what sites people currently visit but Tancer takes it to the next level by gleaning data on what people are seeking on The Internet.  Bill's company pays ISPs to aggregate data on what sites Internet users visit and, of greater interest, what search strings they are using.

      Hitwise's bread and butter is providing data on Internet traffic combined with reporting.  Customers can purchase any number of reports showing upstream/downstream traffic from their Web-sites compared to those of their competitors.  Hitwise helps subscribers better understand the demographics and lifestyles of Internet users.

      Bill Tancer is now investigating ways to relate Internet users' search strings as a predictor of their future behavior.  One of Bill's celebrated examples is when he attempted to predict the winner for a Dancing with the Stars competition based upon the raw number of searches for each contestant.  It almost worked the first time, but what he had not factored was that one of the contestants was 'searched' for in a context unrelated to the competition.  The contestant, Stacy Keibler, was a  wrestler and men were searching for her pictures so they could admire her beauty - or something like that. 

      The Stacy Keibler scenario reminds us that the science or methodology for mining the intent of search strings is in its infancy.  It still comes down to humans analyzing the data and questioning metrics used to reach conclusions.  Being human, we have a natural bias.  In his article, 'Lipstick and the Narrative Fallacy', Bill Tancer refers to the inclination to only see the data that supports a hypothesis and ignore the data that might disprove it.

      Tancer cites the widely held view that purchases of cosmetics increase during tough economic times.  In 2008 he analyzed the number of searches for 'lipstick' and found that they indeed had jumped during the corresponding economic downturn.  But, upon further review, it was the complete search term 'Lipstick on a Pit Bull' that drove the number up for 'lipstick'. The data could have supported the cosmetic/economy theory, but by looking at the complete picture it was just Sarah Palin with a great quote!

      Friday, October 1, 2010

      CEDO 540 - Week Three (Meaningful surveys)

      The 3rd week of CEDO 540 has us in working in teams creating a survey.  My study group met this week and we put together a survey to assess teachers attitudes towards technology in the classroom.  Once we determined that we would use SurveyGizmo we set about formulating the types of questions to ask that will yield relevant data for our analysis.  The group decided it needs to know if the respondents had any experience with the types of learning technology.

      Our list included individual and collaborative software/hardware used in our MEIT program and asked teachers to share their experience and attitudes towards each of the technologies.  Our group made sure to list specific examples of technologies that encompassed spreadsheet, slideware, videoconferencing, virtual classroom, concept mapping software and others.

      A big pitfall to avoid is survey response bias.  It is only natural that a survey author possesses an innate bias or attitude about the subject matter.  One needs to keep that in mind and strive for simple language that does not lead the respondents.  A great example of survey response bias could be found in years' past on Comedy Central's 'The Colbert Report'.  Stephen Colbert would ask guests, especially if they were liberal democrats,"Is George Bush a great president or the greatest president ever?"  It was funny how guests would fumble and sometimes plead for a third or not applicable option.

      The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
      Great President...or Greatest President?
      Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

      On Stephen Colbert's show the bias was obvious, overt and overwhelmingly funny.  It is hard to miss.  Still, one needs to avoid having a subtle bias that even the author(s) of a survey may not be aware that they are exhibiting.  It might even be worth having 2 authors with opposing views craft the wording of a survey together.  Once the data has been collected comes the time for the data analysis and interpretation.  Stay tuned for my Week 4 post when my study group reveals our findings from the survey.   Below is a teaser from our survey using Likert 5-level item questions.

      Sample Questions from our Study Group Survey