Ken Foote: Pioneering Open Education in Geography

Prof. Ken Foote, Geography k.foote@colorado.edu (Photo/Larry Harwood)I met Ken Foote many years ago at an NCGE conference and instantly found a kindred spirit in the use of the web for geography education. Ken is a pioneer in open education in geography dating back to his Geographer’s Craft project. The most engaging and rewarding professional development experience of my career was participating in his summer Virtual Geography Department Project workshops. The Virtual Geography Department Project (1996-2006) was a groundbreaking project aimed at helping “geographers create innovative learning and teaching resources in the web. It also served as a clearinghouse for instructional materials geographers wished to share with colleagues.”  The workshops ran for three consecutive summers, I attended two of the three as a participant, facilitator, and became the coordinator of the virtual fieldtrips working group. Its impact on the discipline has been significant as those who participated benefited greatly and spread its philosophy across the web. Karen Lemke’s “Illustrated Glossary of Alpine Glacial Landforms“, Mark Francek’s  “Earth Science Resources for Earth Sciences and Geography Instruction“, and Susan Woodward’s “Introduction to Biomes” are just a few examples. Ken has been active in mentoring early stage faculty through workshops and publications. He is the past president of the Association of American Geographers, National Council of Geographic Education, and the recipient of numerous awards.

Given the advances in web technologies and the maturing of social media, I asked Ken to reflect on the Virtual Geography Department Project and whether its time to revisit it. Ken graciously took time from his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions for the Digital Professor.

DP: What inspired you to undertake the Virtual Geography Department Project (VGDP)?

KF: Almost as soon as the web became available, I saw that it was a great way to share teaching ideas and course materials.  People spend a lot of time developing materials for their classes when their colleagues may have already created similar resources.  Why reinvent the wheel?  But I was also hoping to get people to realize that the web could be used to create new types of course materials that could aid student learning.

DP: What impact do you think VGDP had on the discipline of geography?

KF: I think the biggest impact was helping geographers get started in the web.  The workshops supported perhaps 100-120 of the early adopters and many of these geographers remain leaders in online education today.  Participants in the VGDP also created some remarkable examples of web-based learning materials that, I think, helped encourage others to join in the effort.

DP: The Virtual Geography Department project was one of the first, organized forays into online geography education. What’s your impression of the state of online geography education today?

KF: I was a bit concerned in the early 2000s when the web became primarily a way to manage courses.  Faculty seemed less interested in developing innovative learning materials and more interested in using course management tools that allowed them to post lecture notes and grades. More recently, I think the tide has turned again and people are again coming up with some fantastic ideas for using the web and social media for promoting effective learning and teaching.  I think some of the exciting ideas are blended.  They use a variety of online and in-person media and experiences to cultivate student learning.

DP: Do you think there is still a need for projects like the Virtual Geography Department?

KF: Yes, maybe the time has come to focus again on developing a clearinghouse or method for sharing materials.  I still come back to the question: Why re-invent the wheel when so many people have developed excellent ideas for their classes?  I look at sites like the khanacademy.org and see tremendous possibilities for geographers to share their teaching ideas in the web.   Open educational resources (OER) are finally taking off.  The fact that Esri is releasing its learning materials as OER may be a big boost to these efforts.

DP: With the advent of social media, how could the Virtual Geography department project be re-imagined?

KF: I think the clearinghouse concept is still valid, but social media opens other possibilities that weren’t available ten or fifteen years ago.  With Web 2.0 I think it is possible to think of developing an online teaching and learning community.  This means more than just posting materials in the web.  It means developing opportunities for faculty and students to learn and teach together.

iBooks Comes to the Mac in OS X Mavericks

A pleasant surprise revealed in Apple’s preview of OS X Mavericks during the 2013 WWDC keynote address was the announcement of iBooks for the Mac. The lack of an iBook app for the desktop has been frustrating and frankly impedes my productivity. I love reading books on my iPad but I do most of my academic work on my 27″ iMac or Macbook Air. Having my iBooks only available on the iPad or iPhone stymied my note taking and research. I compose most of my work in Pages for Mac and have multiple documents open on my virtual desktop and physical books on my real one. Voice dictation into iOS  Notes with my iPhone lets me easily create notes from  physical books and synched to all devices I use to for work. However, I have not been able to easily move highlights and notes from iBooks between my iPad and iMac. Soon I will because iBooks is coming to the Mac and several new features are squarely aimed at the education market.

ibooks_mac

Multiple open books is a new feature coming to iBooks for the Mac.

iBooks on the Mac will have the same features as those on your iOS devices — turn pages with a swipe, zoom in on images with a pinch, or scroll from cover to cover. Notes, highlighted passages, and bookmarks created on your Mac, are pushed to all your devices automatically via iCloud.  iCloud even remembers which page you’re on. So if you start reading on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, you can pick up right where you left off on your Mac. Best of all is the ability to have multiple books open at the same time. When have you ever opened a book, then closed it before opening another to extract notes from, only to close it before moving to the next one? I doubt ever, especially not me. I’ve got multiple books spread out in from of me quite often to move back and forth through. Now I’ll be able to do the same within iBooks. Yes, iBooks in Mavericks puts multiple books on your virtual desktop just like your real one. Highlights, notes, bookmarks and other features are synched in iCloud and ready to use on any iDevice. A Notes pane gives you a list of all your notes and the highlighted text associated with them. The  ‘dynamic textbook functionality’  allows you to  convert notes into handy study cards.

Craig Federighi demonstrating note taking at WWDC 2013

 We’ve got a few more months before OS X Mavericks is released to the public. The new iBooks for Mac is a welcome upgrade that I can’t wait to start using. It will definitely increase my productivity and hopefully yours too.

All media courtesy of Apple Inc.

Suzie Boss on the use of Twitter

Suzie Boss, journalist and Edutopia.org contributor does an excellent job of describing her use of and how educators can benefit from Twitter.

Infographic: Major Ed-Tech Trends for 2013

Please include attribution to OnlineColleges.net with this graphic.

Major Ed-Tech Trends for 2013

Infographic: The Digital Classroom

The Digital Classroom
Via: Accredited Online Universities Guide

The importance of a creative education

Noted photographer Chase Jarvis is disrupting education with CreativeLive. Watch his presentation at the 2012 PSFK conference in San Francisco.

Undergraduate Students & Technology

Undergraduate Students & Technology
Presented By: Please Include Attribution to BachelorsDegreeOnline.com With This Graphic

Tomorrow’s College Will be Free: Massive Open Online Courses

Tomorrow's College Infographic

From Dewey To Digital

“Is 2012 the year that e-books and digital content take hold in academe? Or will the textbook continue to reign? Casey Green leads a lively, provocative discussion of the promise, potential, and market realities of moving from Dewey to digital in higher education.” Campus Computing Project

Get over it Deresiewicz

I chuckled through William Deresiewicz’s rant over how capitalism is destroying higher education in the American Scholar. Absolutely nothing new here, with some minor tweaks it could, for the most part, have been written ten to fifteen years ago. Deresiewicz laments over the fact that universities and individual programs are having to carry their weight to justify their economic existence. Wake up Bill, the higher education of today and the future are not going to look like or be the higher education that we knew in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. In the eighties, the economic realities of an endless stream of money without much oversight as to the value of the investment made came into play. Blame capitalism or not for our woes, the economics of higher education has changed. Declining or stagnate budgets became a reality for many if not most university systems long before the most recent financial meltdown.

What really caught my attention were his statements about online learning and for-profit universities. Deresiewicz states that ‘ “Online learning” is justified, on bogus pedagogical grounds, for the sake of reducing labor costs.” ‘ Bill, read the literature, you’re so far off the mark it’s sad.  Those of us who have been engaged in online teaching and learning know there is plenty of research that shows online learning to be as effective, if not more so, than traditional face-to-face. Using the labor reducing cost as the only argument is simply silly.  Deresiewicz provides no basis for his statement that for-profit universities are “another massive educational failure”. There are reasons other than, admittedly questionable marketing practices as to why they have upwards of ten percent of higher education enrollments. Perhaps they are offering a service that traditional universities have not been able to.

Deresiewicz also states that “Professors (the decreasing share that’s left) are expected to be miniature entrepreneurs, endlessly selling their courses to students, their research to funding organizations, and their raison d’être to administrators.”  Do you really think this is something new? I don’t know about Yale from which you spent some time, but where I’ve attended and taught in higher education, we have always had to “market” our courses and programs to justify the investment in them. Professors have for many years, especially through securing patents, been entrepreneurs. And in both cases, you and your unit better be productive because it simply doesn’t make economic sense to throw money at underperforming units simply for the sake of providing a liberal arts background to all. Should we be raising taxes as you suggest to return higher education to its past “glory”? Gee, that’d be nice but it’s not going to happen. Sorry Bill it’s the new reality, get over it.

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