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tv   Ethical Perspectives on the News  ABC  November 29, 2015 11:00am-11:30am CST

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online education. we want to know who is benefiting from this education. the history of using technology to improve education is very long. the history of distance learning is very long. but there's been a remarkable set of developments in this decade that i think is changing things in a big way. i have with me, to help us in this discussion, greg cotton. greg is a librarian at cornell college. chris merrill is the director of the international writing program at the university of iowa. tyler carrington teaches german and german studies at cornell college. i'd like to begin by asking you about your own experiences with online education. we have amongst us people who've enrolled in courses as students, people who've authored courses, people who've delivered courses, people who've overseen the development of such programs. maybe we begin with you, tyler, about
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with this. tyler: my experience actually began as a student in an online course. in this case, it was a history course taught completely online. i had a very positive experience with that. this was a history course at the time that i took an adjunct to my undergraduate education on campus. since then, i have found a way to pull in online education, digital tools, apps, online platforms into my german language instruction, i think to great effect. that has been my general experience with it, a ad, overall, a very positive one, although i do see some limitations to it. i'll be looking forwardrdto discussing those. leon: i think you told me that, on your own in your own
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education, you continue to make use of such resources. tyler: i do. the extend to which i find them useful as a professor in the classroom ... and i find it useful for me, when i'm trying to learn other languages or other disciplines i want to bone up on. online education has been super- useful. leon: chris, you might have the most experience, in terms of developing a program. can you tell us about what's happening at the international writers program. chris: with the international writing program, we have long believed that the internet was created precisely for us, because it gives us a chance to be in touch with writers and& readers around the world. we've had, for a very long time, distance learning classes, which began pairing off undergraduates with the university of iowa with undergraduates in jeddah, saudi arabia, to explore
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the one hand, and arabic literature on the other. very fruitful kinds of interchanges. we have built on that a very robust program that now includes moocs, massive open online courses. we just finished how writers write fiction, which had over 12,000 students nrolled. what we do is we take advantage of the fact that iowa city is the only y nesco city of literature in the new world. so many interesting writers come through on a regular basis. we find ways to cajole them into recording craft videos about their work, which form the substance of the classes that we deliver. this is the week that we get all the... i like to call them "love notes" from our student, from all around the
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are thrilled to have a chance to sample a little bit of the magic of the writing, the literary life in iowa city, thanks to the wonders of the internet. leon: greg works in our library in cornell college. also teaches at the university of iowa, and at san jose state university. is that right? gregory: yes. leon: you've told me littlelebit about your experience, and you told me about an experiment you once did. so, i want you to share that with the audience, if you remember what we talkeke about there. gregory: i had been teaching in the graduate library program at iowa for 20 years, probably. san jose state approached me about teaching in their online program, in the same class that i had routitiely taught at iowa. my first instinct was to say "i work at a small liberal arts college, and we are all about ce-to-face. ethically, i don't know if i
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this online thing." then, i had a kind of a come-to-jesus talk with myself, and saidd "paychecks are nice, so why not give it a try." that semester, i was teaching the same course at iowa that they'd asked me to teach at san jose. so, i made everything in the course as equal as i possibly could. i gave exactly the same assignments, i gave exactly the same tests. we did the same tools exactly, accessing the same tools the same way. everything was equal, as far as i could make it. when i went to grade, i would shuffle all the papers together, so i wouldn't know from where those papers came. when i did my final grades at the end of the semester, much ttmy chagrin, the students at san
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better than the students at iowa, leading me to conclude that my physical presence in the classroom wgs a detriment. leon: i don't think that's the case. gregory: but it was very interesting, and it forced me to come face-to-face with this method of delivery. i'm pretty much a fan of it now. leon: i want to say a few words about my own experience, and see if this provokes some comments from the rest of you. my day job teaching computer science. i'm a media personality only at night. as a student of computer science, a teacher of computer science, i have just been taken away by udacity, coursera, edx. i've completed half a dozen cours with coursera. i've done a similar
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has invited me to coach other students through thth internet. so, i don't have experience developing a mooc, but i have some participatory experience that goes beyond being a student. the issue that prompted me to propose this topic was ... i look at this wonderful medium, and i think "here is this opportunity to heep students who are geographicall y isolated, to help students who don't have the financial means to come to a university, to access some really high- quality education." i've seen some terrific offerings. but then, i think about the amount of self- discipline, motivation, resourcefulne that i've needed to complete these courses. i wonder if, instead of compressing the spectrum of educational achievement, we are stretching it, that the people who are already great learners have now got a resourcc that will take them farther ahead.
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does this resonate with anybody? has anybody else thought about these kinds of estions? chris: one thing that comes to minddis that, when the moocs first appeared, there was a great fear that this would mean tte end of the college classroom, that this is the finale to bricks and mortal. but i've found it toobe preciselyy the opposite. we have the chance, through the moocs that we develop, to reach students who will never have the chance to come to iowa, for example, but who are hungry to learn everything they can about writing poetry or writing fiction, abobot reading lii writers, being in a community of kindred spirits. we have the chance to make that happen, and i
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think that's part of our mission as educators. yes, it's stretching g s too thin, in certain ways. but it's also making available, to heretofore unknown audiences, the best of what we have to offer. leon: what was the form of your interaction with your students, greg, in this course with san jose state? you had recorded lectures. what other forms of media did you make use of? gregory: i'm kind of a stick in the mud. i give my students to 40 pages of lecture notes every week. then, we have pretty agile, frequent discussion online, asking questions- leon: through type-written text- gregory: yes. leon: or is this voice communicationn gregory: rrularly, i hold- i'm not ever sure what to call them. office hourss q and a sessions. a
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actually hear my dulcet tones, and respond to questions. leon: that's why you'rr here, greg. gregory: that's right. because of the nature of the course, i can also demonstrate the tools that we're using. a lot of times, people are hung up oojust mechanics. it's not concepts that they're hung up on. so, i can show them it's this is how you do this, it's right there. i would say this has really informed my inttractions wii students live. i know it has. i've totally changed the way i teach a live class with the better, i would say. it was my first introduction to the idea of a flipped classroom, and i am sold on that. when i've done that with live students, we have much more productive scussions when we meet, because i'm following that same model. leon: do you do this through
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digital video conferencing, or- gregory: a course management system, and conferencing software. it's impressive, the ... i also taught an online class a few years, for the university of northern iowa. i think it's zoom that they're using. leon: yes. gregory: wonderful, cheap software. that's very nice. i have to remember to dress appropriately for that, whenent's video, bbt i really like that a lot. chris: as you were saying that, i was thinking that i realize there was a pivotal moment in our development of thee online resouuces. we had broughtta number of writers to fez, morocco for a ymposium, and then we went to casablanca. the e ea was to bring these 5 writers together with 5 writers in sarajevo. we were talking about cities. this was with digital video conferencing, and this was
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lag, right at the very start, maybe a quarter of a second, half a second. in no time, that dissolved, aad we were having this conversation, writer to writer, talking about, on the one hand, the war and the siege of sarajevo, and on the other hand, what the american writers had brought to the symposium. i thought "what luck, to be able to have really smaat people inn cononersation" it feels like we were all in the same room. i think that's the potential of this medium. tyler: chris, in a lot of ways, that's theereat potential for languages, as well, of course, especially world languages. so, we can bring the world into thh student's livinn room, or, in my case, into the classroom, into this 20-
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iowa. we can b bing in speakerer ffm germany and german-speaking europe. we have this whole wealth of cultural material from around the world..o a certain extent, this is the magic of the internet, of the information super- highway, as it particular, in the lananuages, i thhk that's a super thing. it also offers the opportunity, leon, to your point about opening up a whole world of educational opportunities to people who aren't in the classroom. one of the things that i am gradually pulling in ... i am teaching, right now, a german 101 course, and one of the things i'm gradually pulling in, more really than anything else, at the students' request, is duoingo, this app for&android, mac, that, leon, i know you have
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spanish, for my poor spanish abilities. my students, the other day ... i sort of met, the opportunity. i said "what are some other opportunities you'll have to interact with german." i through out duolingo, ad, all of a sudden, the students said an we have a duolingo competition? who can get the most points in duolingo." it was this really wonderful, sort of value-added part of our person-tl- person interaction, which, at least in my view, is the ideal setup, this hybrid online-and-in- person setup.i think that's one of the limitations of a puely-online setup for languages, that i'm not sure one can learn a ... in fact, i was telling my students the other day, trying to encourage them to speak up in class, participate. i said "i don't know that anyone can leaean a language purely in his head, without that person-to-person
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contact, without some sort instructor elicititng a comment from you, correcting something, or just making you feel eager or hopeful for speaking." what's interesting with duolingo, for example, is it has this sort of spoken command, where it will say "read this following thing aloud," and you repeat back, and it picks it up with the microphone, and then it ding if you get it correct. my experience has been, as poorly as i speak spanish, i've always gotten a ding. i think it does bring outstanding resources to people, wherever they are. i think, leon, to your point, it's prooably correct hat, perhaps, these opportunities are so available as we might dream they are. but i think, certainly, in conjunction with a live
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sort of flesh-and- blood interaction with language in any case, there's huge potential. leon: one of the great appeals, to mm, of this new medium is that much of it is competency-based. i'm frustrated, in my college teaching career, that i sometimes hear people talk about rrgor in the classroom, as though a course is rigorous only if you fail 20% of the students. i'm an effective teacher. aren't they aal supposed to pass? in the online courses i've taken, i've been given the opportunity to retry work until i get it right. in the computer science courses, i write a program. i was very much interested ... in one of the first exercises, i included within my i said "is there
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brazil, he says "hi leon, we got you." there was a personal connection, but, more than that, i had the opportunity to improve that program through 3 or 4 iterations, until i met a threshold of success. on the quizzes i take, they shuufle the questions. i get to try ... the quizzes are not for a grade. it's to check my comprehension before i go on to the next s sp. if i miss one, i try again. they make it challenging enough so that i'm not just repeating myself. this is wonderul, to take a coorse in this f fshion. nobody cares whether i take 4 weeks, 6 weeks, or 8 weeks to complete the work. different students will have different interests, aptitudes, opportunities, and will complete it in a different way. do you see thichanging what we do in our regular classrooms?
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is this part of the experience for you? chris: it's interesting you say that, because i'm just thinking, as we were developing the most recent mooc with ... novoed is the platform we use. they steered us toward a really interesting course in design. what i loved about it is that they were eager to sse how people from diierent parts of the world would be able to collaborate and create together, bringing to the table different ideas, different languages, different visions of what the world can be. that's really exciting. in writing, the race is not to the fastest. so, we're not talking about who's going to complete the exercise most quickly, or in the most dynamic fashion. what we're interested in is that the students have a chance, in watching the videos, in taking part in the discussions, and then ininhe work- shopping of their
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little bit better. that's what goes on in the morr creative discipline. the competence that you need in a computer science class is a different order in create writing. we ink of ourselves as a new way to think about this. leon: another question i came into this topic with was what tt different exxerience might be for people in technical and non-technical fields. so, let me just ask quickly. my experience has been with computer science, mathematics. i took a physics course. the closest i got to the humanities was a course in business and entrepreneur ship. a little fuzziness there. do any of you have a mixture of experience like that, that would bridge that gap between the kinds of topics that are graaed or evaluated more objectively,
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and others? how would you classify your experience. gregory: i would say mine's pretty middle-of- the-road. when i teach, i often will tell students that there is possibly more than one right answer, and there's a myriad of wrong answers. so, i can be objecte when i grade things. but the way i structure the course, there's all kinds of opportunity for writing and creative thought. i think it works really well for that. i think the thing i love most about t is i don't have to try to decipher someone's handwriting. all right there in courier new. tyler: in some way, humanities- pure. i don't want to start a tv9 war here, about grammar, topic for the viewers. language, of course ... that's
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things like an app can work, right? there are a whole host of nuances to language. but there are certain ways to conjugate verbs. there are certain articles and genders of nouns that are correct, and that are not correct. even that spoken element i was referring to earlier, where you're speaking into the phone microphone .... perhaps that was intentional. perhaps my poor accent in spanish ... perhaps they've built that into the software, to say accent and inflection is actually not a terribly important part of communicating, wich is the ultate purpose of language. perhaps i'm not giving some of theses online platforms enough credit. language, in some ways, is this interesting mixture of ulture and ... i don't know what else, but culture certainly, which is certainly
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answers. the mechanics of language, which is perhaps is more like a, dare i say it, computer science language- leon: you might be interested to know one of the competitors to duolingo is babel. babel's voice recognitioio system is much fussier. one of the advantages of me studying german with babel and duolingo is duolingo is very generous about my pronunciation. with babel, i've got the ipad in front of me, and i'm screaming at this thing. i've shouted twelve words twelve times over, in a way i never would to y y in a classroom. i'd like to talk a little bit, in the time remaining, about any kind of institutinal resistance we have seem. let me predicate this with a little story ... or preface this with a little story. 40 years as a senior in high school, i took a distance
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was offered through pubbic television from montclair state university, new jersey. i write in through the mail, they send me a book, i tune in at the allotted hours, i mail n my assignments. the picture of online education, then, is someone sitting in a television studio, talking at you for an hour, and an impersonal experience. when i talk to some of my colleagues, i think they're still stuck on that picture. that's a starting point for some resistance. it could never affect us, we could never go in that direction. what kind of resistance have you seen, or arguments against this? does this worry you at all, that there is institutional inertia? grery: i think, in my experience, there probably was initial professional resistance. i remember, 20 years ago, participating in interviews with people who had earned their degree in library science from onlnlne programs. they said they know the
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answers, but they don't understand the questions. very welcoming to this. i thinn the results are out there. i'm amazed. some kind of collaboration group, so you're not working alone. they enthusiastical ly do this, but they're not at a coffee shop. one time, i had a group, one student was in california, one was in eastern canada, and one was in india, and they still were a very active, vital group working together. tyler: inny own case, i would say it's an interesting time to be teaching languages. when online courses, and, to a certa extent, digital technology,
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so advanced that i wouldn't call it resistance from inststtutions, buu.... there's a certain appeal to relying solely on these digital and cyber learning methods. i can gigi an example from a college in the midwest, a small liberal arts college in missouri that recently had the idea of getting rid of the language programs, and replacing them with rosetta stone. rosetta stone, a great program, of course. super effective. in my own opinion, i think that's a dangerous move, because i don't think a software, however advanced it may be, can quite replace that live interaction with learning a language. but, certainly, there is great encouragement to make use of these of these ... not just
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digital, cyber learning, as well. i wholly embrace this. i think that, actually, language programs can only gain from this, so long as the language programs also remain. this kind of hybrid approach, i think, is an outstanding improvement. chris: it enhances the educational experience. leon: we're near the end, but a minute or 2 left. you have traveled widely, and talked to people at other universities. do you see some resistance? chris: certainly, there is some resistance. but i will say that, last spring, i was doing some work for the us embassy in dublin. we went to a literary festival in galway. a poetry mooc was underway, at the time. in this little town by the sea, six
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points, and said "i'm in your 4& class." one of them was a very well known, senior irish poetti thought "what are you doing in this class? you know this stuff." what he was getting from theevideos were newewideas about how he wood do his own work. the university of iowa has taken the position that we don't seem to want to invest a huge amount in moocs. but we want to invest in thooe places where we do things really well. we are the writing university, so it makes sense we'll- ... did they go tt program at iowa? you didn't affiliate with some larger organization , did you?chris: you can go through, and that will take you straight to our distance learning classes and moocs. but also we are affiliated with novoed, which has proved, for us, to be a really terrific platform. leon: we're down to just about
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the end. so, i invitt you to think, if there's a last comment that somebody wants to make here, before we sign off? i'm thinking a big topic we've not covered is redit versus non-credit. for example, i earned a professionn credential through my professional society. it doesn't have any academic credit. chris: that's one of the really interesting places for development as one e f the rerelly interesting places for development, as we try to think through what credit, or credentialing, or badging, or certificates might mean. that's another area to make advances. leon: thank you all. we're at the end of our period. thank you for joining us, and
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