Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NCEE/NAEE/GATE Annual Conference

The 2007 Annual Conference of the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE), National Association of Economic Educators (NAEE) and the Global Association of Teachers of Economics (GATE) is on October 3-6, 2007 in the Rocky Mountains. The 2007 Annual Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Denver Hotel, Colorado. This year's conference will be hosted by the NCEE's affiliated Colorado Council on Economic Education.

The preliminary Conference Program with session descriptions for the 2007 Annual Conference is now available online at www.ncee.net/conference/agenda/. Check it out for some cool sounding sessions.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Tablet PC Education Blog: Evaluating Tablet PCs in Schools

The Tablet PC Education Blog: Evaluating Tablet PCs in Schools

I first met Chris Clark with Barry Keating from Notre Dame at Purdue's ITL conference and learned and salivated over their Notre Dame Tablet PC Initiative. I was impressed then as now. A Good read. Very dated, but still relevant as cited recently over at the tablet PC education blog.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Psychology of Learning Environments

Third post today from reading back issues of Educause Review and this article "The Psychology of Learning Environments" (Ken Graetz, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 6 (November/December 2006): 60–75) is another good read. From his vantage point at Winona State (a Tablet PC school) he discusses the bug-a-boo of students having laptops and doing other things while lectures take place. But his point is rather than this being a major distraction, the curriculum is moving from lecture delivery to collaboration. Bill Becker and Mike Watts have long assailed the chalk and talk delivery and Graetz points out the the presence of computers in the hands of students leads one to collaboration and discussion and in turn this does or should lead to changes in classroom design. At the ASSA meetings in January 2007, Marcelo Cericli Arias (Stanford) spoke compellingly about smart classroom design and how the learning space assisted students in economics to fo "From Zero to Agent-Based Modeling in Ten Weeks," a task unheard of in a non-collaborative environment.

In my posts on 1:1 Computing in Econometrics I discovered that by using DyKnow Vision and Monitor, the projector went off the second day and was rarely used there after since the delivery was to everyone's screen. (Just like my favorite phrase in "24" when Jack or someone says just send it to my screen.) My guess, before reviewing the data is the successful problem based learning experience is in part due to the synergies created by the use of the Tablet PC and DyKnow Vision.

The classrooms need to accomodate collaboration and Gratez goes through the requirements including wall and furniture arrangement as well as class size. He discusses the use of DyKnow, clickers, Synchroneyes, virtual campuses such as Second Life and more.

I found the list of usability criteria he quotes quite interesting and aplicable to a variety of learning spaces and devices. Indeed this also applies to my Tablet PC experiment as well.

  • "Learnability refers to the speed and ease with which a novice user can achieve proficiency with the system.

  • Efficiency refers to the degree to which the system supports the performance of an experienced user in the shortest amount of time and with the fewest steps.

  • Memorability refers to the degree to which a user, particularly an intermittent or casual user, can remember how to accomplish a task using the system, the steps of which were learned previously.

  • Errors refer to the number of mistakes and missteps made by users.

  • Satisfaction refers to the users' overall emotional experience when using the system. (this list is from Jakob Neilson, Usability Engineering (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman, 1993)."

"Careful, objective usability analyses of common digital environments should be conducted and problems should be addressed using similar decision-making processes and with the same sense of urgency that campuses apply when addressing poor conditions in brick-and-mortar classrooms."

Constructivist Learning Theory and Web 2.0

Ever wonder what Web 2.0 is or even what is Web 1.0? In this article by Malcom Brown (Dartmouth) called Mashing up the Once and Future CMS. (EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 2 (March/April 2007): 8–9)

Brown presents a table comparing the Web 1.0 to the Web 2.0 and then offers this insightful comment following the table:

"If one studies this table long enough, a gestalt emerges: the Web 1.0 looks uncannily like the teaching paradigm, whereas the Web 2.0 resembles the learning paradigm."

If Web 2.0 seems to match up with the constructivist learning theory then it would help to have the CMS we choose to integrate and add on the Web 2.0 aspects while leaving the older teaching paradigm intact.

Confessions of a Podcast Junkie

Got to love this title: Confessions of a Podcast Junkie which is the title of an article in Educause Review, May/June 2007, (42)3 by Carie Windham. I have posted five or six times before this on podcasting and our ITL Research committee has been studying podcasting in Intro to Psych this last academic year and my university just joined iTunesU. This article is just in time for this excitement and offers balance from a student's perspective. Carrie stumbles on free/cheap podcasts, gets hooked, then progressed to making podcasts, then to surveying students and Professors across the country who are using them. This is a great read and important if you are into podcasts and perhaps more importantly if you aren't.

Best section: "If I were in charge: Tips for Faculty." You need to read the article for the whole flavor, but the headings are such common sense:

  • Don't assume

  • Keep is simple

  • Quality counts

  • Make it relevant

  • Don't limit the imagination

  • Encourage exploration

A good read ... now go and podcast :)

Monday, May 14, 2007

eBooks --where are you?

This still intrigues me as a Tablet PC user.

Why wouldn't more people want all their books on their hard drive and be able to read and refer at will?

My previous and only prior post talked of one scheme. Now The Wired Campus of the chronicle.com reports comments by Bill Gates on the subject. "A Bright Future for E-Books?" reports that Gates believes all reading will go completely online. I tend to agree.

For my Tablet PC to completely be useful it is the screen and the weight that is all important. I need to be able to view in any light, at any angle and have a weight not heavier or more bulky than the book itself. The Sony device is GREAT, but it needs a pen and the ability to be my computer or to sync seamlessly with my computer.

From Sonys page: What is E Ink® Technology?The Sony® Reader’s display uses E Ink® - a significant improvement over CRT and LCD technology. Instead of rows of glowing cells, E Ink® microcapsules actually appear as either black or white depending on a positive or negative charge determined by the content. The result is a reading experience that’s similar to paper - high contrast, high resolution, viewable in direct sunlight and at a nearly 180-degree angle, and requiring no power to maintain the image. In other words, it's a screen that, like you, is well read.

Second Life emerging as home to more and more Universities.

Thanks for Bill Goffe for this link to the chronicle and a story on San Jose State Library and its link to the Second Life world. This includes a great video worth watching. Especially impressive how this video and narration presents the hierarchical organization of a web page and shows it crashing down and being replaced with areas and buildings in 3-D. They will begin using the Second Life space starting Summer 2007 to support its distance learning. The island is titled "SJSU SLIS" and you can see more at http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/sl.

Just today Case Western is the subject of using second life in The Wired Campus section of the chronicle.

SJSU's video is also on YouTube and is embedded here. You might want to review the other related videos listed on the YouTube page.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Teaching Economics Graphics

WIPTE 2007 is almost here! In a previous post I referenced the excellent proceedings of much of the research from the WIPTE 2006 conference. This year I will be attending and offering a poster on my 1:1 computing experiment in econometrics.

On the program is a presentation (their second at WIPTE) on how pen computing and DyKnow Vision can lead to better results in teaching economic graphics. Mary Dixon, Kerry Pannell and Michele Villinski will present "Can Pen-Based Computing Enhance Graph Construction and Comprehensive in the Introductory Economics Classroom?" Mary shared a early copy with me and the answer is yes. "The group using pen-and-tablet note-taking technology earned better grades and made fewer graphing errors on the quiz. Despite the relatively small sample size, this study provides preliminary evidence that DyKnow Vision along with Tablet PC technology improves student outcomes in economics, particularly in graph construction and interpretation."

Elluminate + Tablet PC = Virtual Office Hours

I like using Adobe Connect for virtual office hours, but I came across this blog posting at Elluminate.edublogs.org featuring how Dr. Ricky J Cox at Murray State used both a Tablet and Elluminate to teach / tutor chemistry. The video on the link is very instructive, at least to me who has used Adobe Connect. One thing is clear, in economics (as in chemistry) there are plenty of questions that can not be answered without resorting to the pen and drawing the graphs and equations of the answer. I was intirgued with the Illuminate product as explained by Dr. Cox and think it is a great tool for distance lerning.

In a separate post here are some examples of how Elluminate is used for virtual classrooms.

Product website elluminate.com.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics -- in their own words

Eight graduate students in econometrics relate their experiences by answering a question on the last day in class after using their Gateway M285 Tablet PCs and DyKnow Vision for the past five weeks. This is the second of two classes so our students had Tablet PCs for only the 5 last (and most intense) weeks of a total of 30 weeks. So the question posed in DyKnow was ...

Describe how the use of the Tablet PC has assisted your learning of econometrics.

I received many different statements in four broad categories: (1) about the lecture, (2) about reviewing notes, (3) about mobile computing, and (4) a couple of general comments. I have quoted them closely, but changed the writing to be of one style to help you read through this list.

About Lecture

  • I don't need to write too much during the class so that I can concentrate more on listening
  • It is much easier to make notes, but the pen is really hard to use (and that is the only negative comment)
  • The tablet PC assisted me in studying econometrics a lot. Especially in class, it helps me concentrate more. It helps me pay attention in class better.
  • The Tablet PC has made learning more interactive especially during lecture.

Reviewing Notes

  • The Tablet PC is very useful in that I could use DyKnow to reproduce notes and did learn better from seeing my hand written notes with the lecture notes.
  • Having all the notes accessible on DyKnow Vision was the most useful aspect. I made many references to DyKnow notes.
  • Note taking is enhanced through the ability to correct and move data easily.

Mobile Computing

  • Having an electronic copy of all my notes as well as a portable computer increased my efficiency, desire to work, and number of locations where I am both physically and technologically capable of working and studying. This is especially true for SAS (our statistical software).
  • Mobile technology is a great advantage in and out of the classroom.
  • Having SAS on this computer saved much time avoiding trips back and forth to school.
  • Having the screen directly in front of me made the material much more accessible.
  • I can work at anytime. The Tablet PC reminds me to put more effort on econometrics because whenever I turn it on my assignments were shown instantly reminding me how much I had to finish.

General Comments

  • I can communicate with the teacher more effectively.
  • The statistics (from the polls) in class let me know what others in class are thinking about the specific questions.
  • The Tablet PC is very interactive and I fell in love with it.

There you have it .. in their own words.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

1:1 Computing and Econometrics -- last day

My intent to blog throughout this experience got way laid with the end of the semester pressures from school and elsewhere. The experiment is essentially over and the 8 students in my graduate econometrics course have now completed their last class using DyKnow Vision on their Gateway M285 Tablet PCs. Recall from previous posts that in about the 10th week of classes we assigned to each graduate student exclusive use of a Tablet PC. Overall I think this was a very successful experience and experiment and hope to reproduce it again.

At the heart of this experiment was two parallel experiences. The first was the introduction of problem based learning in a big way (second year for PBL). The second was the use of Tablet PCs and DyKnow Vision (first year for that). Both succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and in future entries I will begin to detail how it exceeded my expectations.

Let me go on record as having always opposed laptops in the classroom (including when I was CIO of this university). I thought curriculum had to be bent badly to allow their use and find it ridiculous to see students shove their laptop aside just to take notes on paper. I teach quantitatively demanding courses and other than the running of statistical programs and writing papers (both better accomplished outside of class rather than within) the laptop is useless. I am a huge fan of instructor used computers in the classroom and I have used a laptop everyday in every course since 1995 or so. I did so to display my lecture notes and presentations to the students, adding a digital tablet and later the SMART Sympodia, and later yet again I used the Tablet PC so I could digitally whiteboard. But I found no need for students to have laptops in class. I teach econometrics in a computer classroom and when needed had students on the desktops in the room for purposes of some joint learning. Using SMART Synchroneyes I could take control and display student screens as we jointly worked on programming problems.

In this 1:1 computing and econometrics experience, the success comes from the combination of the Tablet PC and DyKnow Vision. Students have the lecture notes or presentations displayed on their Tablet PCs and they can annotate them and take private notes by typing or with digital ink.

I will have much more to say on this, but for now let me call your attention to the graph at the top of this message. It is the last in-class anonymous poll that I asked my students. This poll followed a discussion of the usefulness of the Tablet PCs to each of the students, and their written responses to an open ended question. With little attempt to define carefully the responses A to E (with A the highest), the students were asked how the Tablet PC assisted them in learning econometrics, that is, how important was it to them to have a Tablet PC to learn economics. An answer of C or the middle response represents a student that reports a take it or leave it response, an answer that says regardless of how much I like the Tablet PC, I could have learned as well without it. Answers A and B report more learning of econometrics with a Tablet PC (and DyKnow) and no one chose the worsening of learning answers of D and E. While hardly scientific, the honest answers of the students show a very positive experience.

More later.