Google Course Builder

About a week ago Edudemic posted about Google Course Builder. Article says it is a “Free Tool To Let You Run Your Own Online Courses”.

In the Google video Peter Norvig sends course designers and teachers the following message: “If you have some topic that you would like to teach, some technical expertise (on the level of a webmaster), then Course Builder is for you”.

My question is, how many teachers, IT teachers are not included, have the described skills? They also mention HTML, Javascript and Python? Sounds like the teacher would need an instructional designer with some good programming skills too. Did I misunderstood something or does this sound a bit difficult?

I’m all thumbs up for open source technology that challenges the so called costly (and often ghastly) ‘solutions’, but the GCB as a concept makes me wonder what is really behind this? And one of my favorite questions: What’s Google actually up to this time? Trying to fight Moodle dominance? Trying to get the global education to the Google ecosystem? It remains to be seen.

As a note oppose to this idea, nowadays, one does not actually have to have too much programming skills to create effective online courses. We have a vast knowledge network called the In-ter-net with multiple social media platforms, open source platforms, wikis, databank solutions, OERs… you name it.

It means only imagination is the limit for an innovative course design. Imagination and some understanding about why people should learn for the 21st century knowledge society in certain ways. Often in these discussions, the skills and knowledge are highlighted, but at the same time the affective and conative domain gets no attention. We need them too in order to tie education and learning to the larger global narrative.

Thanks @macurcher for sharing the post!

Google+ – A Big Buzz About Nothing?

I don’t usually write those kinds of “social media posts” where I ponder what some services might or might not do for us, but now that I’ve been using Google+ in a couple of authentic e-learning cases, I have to reflect it a little bit.

Everyone is currently discussing and writing about what happens between Google+ and Facebook, often going to the level of which one is better, who will dominate and yadda yadda yadda. This isn’t one of those posts.

When I started to experiment with Google+, still that time in its beta, I also thought a bit “So are they trying to swallow the market share from Facebook, or what is this?”

Now I don’t actually care too much about that. Through the eyes of authentic e-learning theory supported by open social media technologies, Google is really building something potentially remarkable with affordance we are just beginning to undersand, and also, at least I, is beginning to adore. And for me, that is way more interesting than just mere commercial dominance for the digital consumer souls. Here’s why.

I’ve been experimenting with Google+ & other Google Apps in my Master of Instructional Design & Technology studies and in an online collaborative teacher training programme. These both programmes have their backgrounds in authentic e-learning and social learning theories, and are using open social media services instead of just services clearly defined as VLEs (Virtual learning environments) e.g. Moodle or Blackboard Learning System. Although these are also in use, still have their place and are not totally forgotten.

I’m not sure if I can be explicit enough to describe what potential, or like I already stated affordance, lies in Google+ and using it in the authentic learning context, but there indeed is a huge one. But we also need to better understand and internalize the pedagogy needed for these service to live up to their potential.

As without people and the right kind of learning process to guide their way, these tools achieve nothing or at least much less. Using some of the older models of teaching, where teacher is the center of excellence, cripples the use of these tools and using them becomes just something cosmetic, not something revolutionizing.

Here’s some of the affordances of Google+, Google Apps & their integration that I feel are really worth mentioning after using them in learning.

You have the so called social layer, people interacting more informally, in this case supported by Google+. I feel many people don’t truly understand how important the informal interaction layer actually is. It helps the people to become a group, or a team. This is crucial in social learning process to start to happen.

Creating Circles of specific people, like your learning group or class, helps you easily post topics that may interest just them, or ask for help from those in your team. In a way these are very simple things, but psychologically, very important. It shifts the learning and the responsibility more to the learners, perfects their collaboration and stimulates their creativity when they are working together.

Hangout with extras, more advanced version of Hangout feature in Google+ which is still a bit under construction, is finally something you can use for collaborative video conferencing, to share your screen & write documents together in or from Google Docs (you can even start new ones straight from the Hangout). So everything’s in the same place. The usability of Hangout is simple enough and overall works quite well. If this feature evolves further, it could be a good alternative to challenge Adobe Connect and others.

These are just a couple of interesting features I feel are worth mentioning in this time when Google+ has been publicly open only a short period of time. Of course there are still gaps with Google’s attempt to integrate, well, just about everything. For example Blogger is a bit stiff and I’ve had to deal with many frustrated people trying to get its registration process to work seamlessly. But clearly, they are building an interesting ecosystem of services which can definitely be used together with suitable learning process.

And this what is happening is very important: When we have something where we have the social layer to easily interact and communicate with other people, the ease to create, collaborate and share, streamlined usability and learner centered approach from the get-go (as these are our own profiles through which we do things), we are a huge step forwards of a true 21st century learning environment, to use globally.

The learning environment isn’t just some class or the organizational VLE anymore, but everywhere you can find something to learn. The mental learning environment isn’t “on” only when you sleep in the class or interact with a learning management system. It’s where you create it.

Social Media Mycelium

2588776595_75ffded624
Image by scloopy (License)

While the huge Social Media monster keeps getting bigger and bigger with new services and applications, smaller symbiotic concepts related to services like Twitter keep popping up like mushrooms in the rain. What will become of these and will they make profitable business or stay as a hobby for people who like to create these things but can’t do it in their current work?

I became to think of this when I encountered a service twtbizcard, in where you can generate your own Twitter business card and send it to your followers. Sounds stupid? Well if you think of it, doesn’t it also sound a bit stupid to cut down trees, make paper out of them, design a business card on it, print 500 pieces of them and when suddenly your phone number changes and you’ve only shared about 50 of them, you have to get new ones? Isn’t this stupid? Is this ‘sustainable’.

I’m not saying that everything in the Web will or should replace those in the real world. I’m more suggesting that these are substantial things to consider as ‘the future way’, not something childish or irrelevant.

This is all very interesting. Just a while ago Inside Facebook wrote about how Facebook is expanding its Gift Shop. A thing like Facebook gift may sound again a bit stupid. “Who even buys those silly things?” you may ask. But, like I wrote earlier that Not having a revenue model is the new pink, I believe this is just the beginning of something bigger. This goes by the book, form from smaller to larger. That’s why I think services like Fruugo aren’t doing their concept creation with the terms of the new world.

You cannot pop up a community from nothing when you want it. It’s like growing a plant; you need to take care of it, feed it with right nutrition and follow it grow bit by bit.

I believe in all online business, we’re currently living interesting times. It will not take much longer when today’s webservices have grown bigger and are the giants of tomorrow in creating real online revenue, not just living with angel money.

I again like to remember Google. It was just a search engine, what is it now? An undefined giant. Twitter, most likely in the beginning of its life span, is now already much bigger as a community, so what might it be after 5 years if everything goes as well?