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Social media and intercultural education

Ruth Marie Sylte tweeted:

I just got an email from an intl ed colleague that made my day! I have inspired someone in the field to explore social media/networking. 🙂 [elaborated here]

This got me thinking. In international and intercultural education programs, most practitioners are entirely missing opportunities with social media –the blending of technology, social interaction, and the co-construction of new knowledge (crowdsourcing). Blending innovative technologies with these programs seems to be the exception and not the norm. Popular social media technologies today are largely centered around the “Web 2.0” universe: Blogs (i.e., Education Futures), microblogs (i.e., Twitter and Jaiku), social networks (i.e., MySpace and Facebook), instant messaging with audio/video conferencing (i.e., Skype), virtual reality (i.e., Second Life), and a growing list of other innovations.

What social media means for…

  • Students: The ability to interact across cultures, virtually and directly, means that students may not need the massive study abroad infrastructure built up by universities, non-profits and for-profit organizations to guide them in their intercultural experiences. They can do it themselves, perhaps glean more meaningful experiences, and do it cheaper! Maya Frost is writing a book on this, and argues that students who want “an outrageously relevant global education” don’t even need universities.
  • Study abroad programs: Start innovating now or risk obsolescence. The market for study abroad is already competitive. Study abroad programs need to consider how they might integrate social media and crowdsourcing into their business models. Since most college-aged students are social media natives, these programs will have a lot of work to do to interface meaningfully with students.
  • Study abroad advisors: How much formal advising is done via Twitter or Facebook? Not much. The reality is that students can advise each other through social media. Study abroad advisors either get up to speed with social media or start looking for new careers. Social media provides new pathways to international and intercultural education, and, if you’re not on that path, you will be left behind.
  • Intercultural researchers: This is exciting stuff! We can create new forms of study abroad (i.e., “virtual study abroad” through co-seminars), create and/or analyze new culture creation through new social technologies, and radically transform our approaches to international and intercultural education.

What’s next?

Social media will not be the last innovations to pressure the transformation of international and intercultural education programs. To survive, these programs need to incorporate a new culture that allows continuous transformation toward opening themselves –and embracing– new, transformative technologies.  Culture change is difficult thing to do.  At least interculturalists are experts at it!

Open source conference: From information to innovative knowledge

On April 16, I will join Dr. CristĂłbal Cobo and colleagues at UNAM in Mexico City for an “Open source conference: From information to innovative knowledge.” I will frame my talk around my Education 1.0 – 3.0 taxonomy, and discuss how co-seminars/open seminars help to create relevant educational experiences for modern learners.

Since I will deliver my talk by video conference from the University of Minnesota, faculty, students, and readers of Education Futures are invited to join me in Education Sciences Building room 325. (The conference will start at 5pm sharp, so please plan to arrive early.)

Conferencia Open Source

m-learning in Open Seminar 2.0

[Cross-posted from e-rgonomic]

Special thanks to John on showing how a paper cup is a technology (see post). Here is a small demonstration of the Open Seminar 2.0 conference and the emergence of M-Learning (mobile learning) era. This is a success story for the intelligent use of domestic mobile ICT and education. [Idea: Edwards BermĂşdez]

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[Marduk in his impressive connections tower in the middle of an English-Spanish conference: USA, Ecuador and Mexico]

Paper cup tech

At last Thursday’s UMN-FLACSO co-seminar, several Latin American students posed questions regarding inequities in education that might emerge due to limited access to cutting-edge technologies:

  1. How do you deal with (social) exclusion, when you talk about partnering with technology?
  2. How do you counterweight lack of creativity among slow adopters of technology?

Slow adopters or those with limited access to technologies have no option but to use existing technologies in new and creative ways. The creative use of technologies in new contexts –even if the technologies are obsolete—can help create new social situations and opportunities. An example of a creative use of old technologies occurred during our conversation on this topic last week when the computer that interfaced with the Polycom VoiceStation 500 that was supposed to provide for an outstanding conferencing experience in the co-seminar refused to boot. We instead had to rely on a single computer and a small webcam with an even smaller microphone to facilitate our conference. The technology that held it all in place: a paper cup.

In this experience, our Latin American partners had vastly superior conferencing technologies available to them for the co-seminar. With a small webcam and a paper cup, we were able to approximately level the playing field.

OK – perhaps this isn’t the best example, but you get my point, right?

Open Space Technology

Directed by a Twitter update, I landed on the PF HYPER blog… which directed me to a Wikipedia article on Open Space Technology:

In Open Space, a facilitator explains the process and then participants are invited to co-create the agenda and host their own discussion groups. Discussions are held in designated areas or separate rooms known as ‘breakout spaces’ and participants are free to move amongst the discussion groups. Each group records the conversations in a form which can be used to distribute or broadcast the proceedings of the meeting (in hard copy, blog, podcast, video, etc). Online networking can occur both before and following the actual face-to-face meetings so discussions can continue seamlessly. In a multi-day Open Space, participants have the opportunity to announce new discussion topics / late-breaking sessions each new morning. At the end of the day (or 2 days or 2.5 days) the full group reconvenes for comments and reflection. This helps participants to re-engage in the full group over the duration of the meeting.

Holy cow! That sounds a lot like open seminars/co-seminars — but with a problem-solving or conference-type focus. Open seminars and Open Space might have a lot to learn from each other!

A co-seminar in action

Following-up from yesterday’s post on the characteristics of co-seminars, here’s a taste of what they look like.

This joint co-seminar, organized between the University of Minnesota, FLACSO-MĂ©xico, FLACSO-Chile and the Universidad TĂ©cnica Particular de Loja is an “open seminar” – that is, with permission from the students and collaborating institutions, all course content and most of the interactions are available online through the course content management system and blogs for each of the participating institutions (see the class blogs for UMN, FLACSO-Mex, FLACSO-Chile, and UTPL).

The four institutions connected each work through a different syllabus, but we meet virtually to discuss intersecting points of interest related to various knowledge formats, knowledge management, etc. In this co-seminar, we chose to post mini-lectures online, which are available in both English and Spanish (see Spanish and English examples of this week’s video). Students then bring their questions to a bi-weekly video conference (and Skypecast) for discussion. To compensate for instances where technology breaks down, podcasts of recorded discussions are made available for download, and instructor responses students’ questions are made available as YouTube or Google Video:

So, what makes co-seminar experiences different from other online or in-person learning options? I’ll post more reflections as the seminar continues, but several key areas have already emerged:

  1. Student work (posted on the blogs) is phenomenally improved over what typically is produced in courses. What has been posted so far in the past two weeks has been refreshing in terms of thoughtfulness and academic scope – is this because they know other people are viewing and reviewing their writing as professional work?
  2. Without a shared, core “empirical reality” of what knowledge is among the cultures represented, participants at each institution are beginning to learn to embrace and attend to the chaos and ambiguities that emerge in such a course.
  3. The amount of coordination among international partners required by instructors is tremendous –but, it’s all worthwhile as we are all learning new things and making new contacts.

More on co-seminars coming up over the next few months…

Just what are co-seminars?

A while back, I promised to share more on what co-seminars look like and how they operate. I promise to show a little bit tomorrow, with sample videos and a link to a co-seminar in progress. But, before I get to that, let me supply some background.

Co-seminars exhibit the following main characteristics:

  • international;
  • multilingual;
  • embraces the use of Web 2.0 technologies (i.e., blogs, wikis, SlideShare, YouTube) to share ideas and promote learning;
  • designed to enhance learning methodologies based on the principles of collective intelligence
  • problem solving in complex environments;;
  • purposive and intelligent use of information technology; and,
  • use freely-available or open source technologies to limit expenses.

The co-seminar model was designed by collaborating faculty at FLACSO-MĂ©xico (mainly CristĂłbal Cobo) and the Leapfrog Institutes at University of Minnesota (Arthur Harkins and John Moravec). In a pilot of the co-seminar model in summer of 2008, we built a course that integrated internally-focused content on innovation, knowledge management, and a forward-looking analysis of education in the 21st and 22nd centuries. The project included training instructors from multiple countries, and the participation of specialists from around the world (through virtual and in-person participation).

The co-seminar experience involves a new academic approach –particularly in regard to innovative teaching—that moves away from “download”/banking pedagogies toward “upload and download”/co-constructivist pedagogies that thrive in interdisciplinary environments. This means that both students and their instructors both learn and create new, meaningful knowledge.

A taste of a co-seminar in progress is coming tomorrow…

Open seminar 2.0 kick off

Version 2.0 of the open seminar/co-seminar “From information to innovative knowledge: Tools and skills for adaptive leadership” kicked off this evening with its first meetings. The second version of this training program continues the main characteristics of co-seminars: international, bilingual, and supported with Web 2.0 technologies. The course is designed to enhance learning, utilizing methodologies based on the principles of collective intelligence, troubleshooting in complex environments, and the intelligent and purposive use of information technology.

More at the Open Seminar 2.0 website (View English translation)…

Open seminar 2.0 countdown continues…

conference-small.jpg

Caption: Working late into this evening, the instructional team in Minnesota, Mexico, Ecuador and Chile (that’s a span of nearly 9,000 km among the conferencing sites!) tests various video and audio conferencing connections.