Swimming in an Ocean of Media

A new report confirms that Americans “swim in an ocean of media” The study of media use in the sociological Mecca of Muncie Indiana found that more than two-thirds of people’s waking moments involved some sort of media usage. A third of the day is spent exposed multiple types of media at the same time, which the study calls Concurent Media Exposure, though I’d suspect most of us know it as “multitasking.

The results of this study were widely reported in a USA TODAY report.


The USA TODAY report was based on an article originally published in the Christian Science Monitor.


The Christian Science Monitor report was triggered by a report issued by the Ball State Center for Media Design. The study, which is available for sale on the center’s website, used 150 trained observers to gather data using naturalistic methods. USA Today describes the study methodology:

Researchers watched the behavior of 394 ordinary Midwesterners for more than 5,000 hours, following them 12 hours a day and recording their use of media every 15 seconds on a hand-held device.

Key findings:

The newspaper reports of the study called into question some of the key assumptions of much of the writing of Net Gen, Generation M, and Digital Natives that only the young engage in “Concurrent Media Exposure.”

One theory the study lays to rest, Mr. Bloxham says, is that this media multitasking, which the researchers call Concurrent Media Exposure, “is the province of only the young or the tech savvy.” All age groups multitask, he says, though the pairings may differ. Those over 50, for example, were more likely to combine TV viewing with newspaper reading. Younger people might listen to music while sending instant messages.

Television remains a key part of the media mix.

Watching television remains by far the most popular media-related activity. More than 90% of those studied viewed TV, for an average of about four hours per day. About three-quarters used a computer, for a little more than two hours per day.

Thanks to: The Kept-Up Academic Librarian for a lead on some valuable additional information from Campus Technology magazine.

“Second Wave” Blogging

Link to: bgblogging

Barbara Ganley posted an interesting reflection on her experience with her personal blog, her writing workshop blog, and a cooperative blog by upper class students from Middlebury, Haverford and Dickinson called Blogging the World. In her posts she suggests that those of us who are using blogs in our coursework are actively preparing students for “second-wave” blogging that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom.

[these experiences have me] convinced that sustained blogging over the years, not just in the classroom, but after and outside the classroom experience, as a way to reflect on and discuss the connections between the lessons learned inside the class and the world outside our walls, is perhaps the most promising way to use blogging and other social software in a liberal arts institution.

At the heart of her post is that idea that students who are left to their own devices won’t necessarily learn the art of using these tools to “dig deep into ideas and grow communities of discourse, of knowledge and of action.” They’ll learn to keep a Live Journal diary without any help from us, but they need a more supportive learning community to practice and learn to ask more thoughtful questions, explore ideas more critically and work collaboratively at a deeper level. That support and mentoring comes from faculty members who understand the importance of those activities and who have incorporated them into our own lives and work.

The lessons from within the our classes provide the basis for “second-wave blogging” where students take their skills outside the classroom to better understand and participate in the changes in communications, technology and community that are reshaping big chunks of our world.

Continue reading ““Second Wave” Blogging”

Web 2.0 Music Theory Course

Link to: MUT 112 – Music Theory I @ Oakland University

This site has pulled together a variety of interactive tools to support a music theory course, including a series of podcasts organized as MUT 112 Radio with a nice flash interface. Listening assignments are set up as blog entries that allow students to comment and get responses from the faculty member. There’s also a class wiki to address broad questions from the perspective of looking at “music theory as exactly that – a theory, or more accurately a collection of theories on how music works and is structured.”

This will be an interesting course to watch. The blog is already getting some substantive comments, and the wiki isn’t particularly welll developed since it’s so early in the class. Between the wiki, the listening assignments and the actual compositions the students are doing, looks like a very demanding course, but one with real potential to use read/write tools to engage students.

Thinking about Visual images in a Writing Course

Link to: bgblogging: Thinking about images in a Writing Course

Barbara Ganley, Lecturer in the Writing Program and English, and the Director of The Project for Integrated Expressionat Middlebury College, is one of the most experienced faculty members of the blogosphere, having used blogs as a writing tool since 2001. In this post, she explores some thoughts about requiring students to use images as tools within her writing course.

Reflecting on her own experience, she notes how having her digital camera with her changes the way she relates to her environment.

With the camera I am more alert to the individual details of the scene–and it is more a scene–than when I’m just walking. I am more attentive to everything going on in the visual plane rather than to the full experience.

In an earlier post, she reflects on how different her own perceptions of photographs are from that of her own children. For most of recent history, pictures were expensive and cumbersome to acquire. After the initial viewing were relegated to shoeboxes to be pulled out only at funerals or other special family occasions.

To my children, images are a part of the natural flow of communication. As are sound files. And text. It’s all part of the conversation. But a separate part of the conversation–a quick, visceral part often.

This shift was powerfully chronicled in Susan Sontag’s New York Times Magazine article on the power of the photographs of Abu Ghraib in which she noted that “a shift in the use made of pictures–less objects to be saved than messages to be disseminated, circulated.”

The integration of images and text hasn’t found its way to most academic writing–even that on the web. Professor Ganley’s current writing course looks like it will move another step toward that integration by using photographs to explore how understanding the place you find students find themselves enhances the ability to understand themselves.

What do we mean when we talk about where we’re from, about the important places in our lives and their impact on who we are? What are the stories embedded in those places? During the opening two weeks of the semester, we will be looking carefully at how a range of writers have understood the significance of place in the development of a person’s sense of self: Harriet Doerr, John Elder, Seamus Heaney, Annie Dillard. As we consider these works, we’ll explore our own places and how they figure in memory, in our awareness of the world, in our definition of self.

I’m heading over to the library to pick up Ron Burnett’s book How Images Think that’s mentioned in the post.

Brain Plasticity: Is the Internet Really Changing Us?

Any attempt to make broad statements about the technical abilities of our students is met with a variety of responses. Some folks are quick to embrace the heuristic value of terms like the Net Generation or Digital Natives. Others are equally as quick to attack such broad generalizations as counter productive, claiming that such stereotypes hide differences among students that are more important educationally than broad differences between different “generations”. Others accept the premise that many students’ capacities to use different types of “sensory input” have changed, but reject the corollary that schools and universities need to adapt to those changes.

As Sheryl points out in her post, it’s not just kids who are being changed, it’s all of us who are being constantly exposed to ever increasing amounts and types of media. I’m not sure if this is mainstream science or not, but increasingly I’m seeing references to processes by which human brains can actually reorganize to make better use of the rich information sources available to them through the process of “brain plasticity”.

A field of neuroscience, brain plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to adapt and change physically and functionally throughout life.

This research holds that our brains are being “massively remodeled” by our exposure to the internet, reading, cable and satellite television with hundreds of channels and hundreds of hours of ads, by video games, by modern electronics, by ubiquitous access music, by cell phones, digital photography and by the other gadgets that make up the “tools” of modern life.

Some researchers claim that understanding the concept of brain plasticity and adapting learning experiences can result in dramatic increases in learning. Mike Merzenich, a PhD in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins, claims to be utilizing these methods in older adults:

We have been training 70- to 90-plus-year-olds to be more accurate aural-language receivers and language users. After 40 hours or so of training, the average trainee’s cognitive abilities are rejuvenated by about 10 years, i.e., their performance on a cognitive assessment battery is like those of an average person who is 10 years younger.

Here are a couple of interesting, though non-scholarly, articles on the relationship between technology, learning and intelligence.

Are we getting smarter or dumber? | Newsmakers | CNET News.com

[print version] Intelligence in the Internet age | CNET News.com

The Kaiser Family Foundation did a detailed report that outlines the extent of media exposure by children 8-18 years old.

A Principal Who Blogs (Fearlessly)

Link to: MabryOnline.org

This is an beautifully designed site from a school in Marietta, Georgia that celebrates “Making Learning Irresistable for Over 25 Years.” The site features blogs by most of the teachers and key administrators, including some links to actual lesson plans. The teachers’ blogs all have RSS feeds and incorporate many of the features we talked about in our You be the Dean exercise.

The principal’s blog includes a review and recommendation for Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat, along with a link to a podcast of an interview with the author. The book has been made required reading for all subject area coordinators at the school and will eventually be circulated throughout the entire staff. Moreover, he’s recommending that all parents read the book before attending the open house parent’s night’s and even threatens to require the 8th graders to read it. (This book has been mentioned in the keynote at every professional meeting I’ve been to in the last six months. If you haven’t read the book and don’t have time to, at least checkout the podcast or this video at MIT.)

This is a pretty fearless recommendation, since the book offers significant challenges to the status quo, particularly to the educational system. If many of the parents actually take the recommendation and read the book, it could make for some mighty interesting discussions on parents night!

Thanks to David Warlick for the link: 2 Cents Worth » Blog Archive » A Glimmer from Cobb County.

Speaking with Understanding About Net Gen Learners

Link to: CogDogBlog » Blog Archive » NetGen Learners: Where’s The Action? Check the Assumptions at the (Classroom) Door?

I’ve just gotten back from the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) fall forum at Estrella Mountain Community College, part of the CogDog’s own Maricopa system. The forum convener was Diana G. Oblinger, one of the editors of the e-book Educating the Net Generation and the vice president of the ELI. As you can imagine, there were a significant number of references to the book throughout the meeting, and it was very useful to have a comprehensive reference work available (on-line and for free) with the ideas of a dozen or so thoughtful people on the topic.

As CogDog notes, we’re all surrounded by anecdotal evidence that this generation is different.

A colleague recently shared her story of her youngest daughter going off to her first year at a university. Mom helped her move, and then, waiting for some information, waited patiently while no phone calls came to describe how things where going. Mom simmers a few days saying, “I will give her time.” Finally, the older daughter, who is graduated now, calls her younger sister and asks, “Why you have not called Mom? She’s going nuts.” The response? “I wrote everything on my blog! If she just read that, she would know how I am doing? Why do I have to call all these different people to tell my stories, when they could just read my blog!!!!”

(Unrelated note: Our CIO just found out that his daughter keeps an online journal. He’s more of a believer in Web 2.0 than he was a few weeks ago.)

I agree with the major points of this post that we need to be more critical about our professional gatherings and responses to some of the points in Educating the Net Generation. It is indeed a “Good Thing” that we are seriously questioning our assumptions about learning as “presenting the material”. (I also agree that we have to be careful about the ” subtle danger of assuming every room full of students from the defined age group are all game playing, multi-tasking, IM-ing, MTV mindset sterotypes.”)

However, I think we also have to be a little careful to be sure that we don’t under-estimate the value of carefully thought out presentations at professional meetings and gatherings. Gardner Campbell has written about the value of the “explaining voice” in conveying the meaning of poetry:

There’s something about the explaining voice, the voice that performs understanding, that doesn’t just convey information or narrate hermeneutics, but shapes out of a shared atmosphere an intimate drama of cognitive action in time….When we hear someone read with understanding, we participate in that understanding, almost as if the voice is enacting our own comprehension. We hear the shape of the emerging meaning, and intuit the mind that experiences that meaning even as it expresses it, and it’s all ours.

I think we need presentations that mirror the kind of thoughtful understanding that comes when a faculty member who really understands a poem reads it in person. That experience goes well beyond the power of a podcast even from an expert like Gardner. Well designed presentations from professionals who have personal experience struggling helping students actually learn with technology will bring our professional conference the kind of authenticity they need. I’d like to see more presentations with that kind of voice before deciding that most “content” could be served up as well on line.

(I do admit that I’ve heard more than my share of presentations this summer than seemed like the presenter had just read the World is Flat while on the plane. Those would have been far better by just playing one of the on-line sources of the author explaining his own work.)

Fair Use Harvard Business School Style

I’ve just received the following in an email message from Harvard Business School Publishing. If this represents the mainstream view of publishers, and I suspect it does, most of the works currently posted on many of our Blackboard courses would be considered to be infringing, even if they would be permitted by our current policy

We do not permit the posting of our cases, articles, or chapters on “e-reserve”
course pages for student access, nor in “electronic coursepacks” that link to
our digitized content, nor on course management systems such as WebCT or
Blackboard, unless doing so via our Course Planning system. Such unauthorized
postings are equivalent to distributing our copyrighted content to students, and
doing so without our permission infringes that copyright. This is so even if the
content is being used for the first time and is password-protected, accessible
only to students in the course, and taken down at the end of the course. Please
do not post or display HBSP content in this way. Using our Course Planning tool
is every bit as easy and functional.

I wonder if this kind of notice is going to become a trend and what will happen if faculty ignore it.

The Internet’s Impact on U.S. College Faculty

Professors online

First Monday has published the results of a survey of 2,316 US college faculty to determine the impact of specific internet technologies on teaching and research, their interactions with students and about their perceptions of students’ internet use. One particularly important research question focused on the degree to which the internet enhances or detracts from the quality of classroom discussion. The conclusions of the authors were that “There is general optimism, though little evidence, about the Internet’s impacts on their professional lives.” (Note: First Monday was launched as an openly accessible, peer–reviewed journal solely devoted to the Internet. )

Summary of some findings.

* 98% of faculty use the internet to communicate with students.
* 55% use course web sites.
* 37% used chat rooms (I found that pretty high).
* 73% said that their communications with students had increased since they started using email.
* 33% communicate with their classes electronically several times a week.
* Both faculty and students use the internet primarily for class adminstration–announcements, checking grades or assignments, or reporting absences.
* However, 76% believed that the internet it has “enabled the expression of ideas that their students may not have expressed in class due to peer pressure, fear of embarrassment, or simply a lack of class time to allow for all students’ ideas to be expressed.”
* One third believed that use of the internet had improved their students writing; only 6% believed that it had hurt it.
* “Nearly half (42 percent) of college faculty felt their students’ work had worsened in quality and another 24 percent were undecided. Just 22 percent felt the Internet had improved students’ work.” (Hardly sounds like an optimistic conclusion to me!)

The article concludes with three implications for the future.

Continue reading “The Internet’s Impact on U.S. College Faculty”

Learning, Technology and Communities of Practice

Learning, Technology and Community: A Journey of the Self

Stephen Downes has posted summary notes and the PowerPoint slides from a talk by Etienne Wenger at the ALT-C elearning conference in Manchester. Wenger’s ideas on communities of practice were shaped by intensive conversations and interactions with John Seeley Brown, one of the authors of The Social Life of Information. The role of educational technology in the formation of communities of practice is an important concept for our course. Some key ideas from the talk:

A community of practice is a group of practitioners who:

  • share similar challenges
  • interact regularly
  • learn from and with each other
  • improve their ability to address their challenges

Practitioners need a community to:

  • To help each solve problems,
  • To hear each other’s stories.
  • To keep up with change,
  • To avoid local blindness,
  • To reflect on their practice and improve it,
  • To push the boundaries of their field,
  • To think of new ways to leverage their knowledge.

A community of practice is a putting of language on what everybody knows.

This notion of community of practice is a very natural thing, it’s a putting of language on what everybody knows. Practitioners need a community to hear each other’s stories, to keep up with change, to avoid local blindness, to reflect on practice and improve it, to push the boundaries of their field, or to think of new ways to leverage what they know. (From S. Downes notes on E. Wenger’s talk, Learning, Technology and Community: A Journey of the Self.)