Book Review: Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

In a previous post, I wrote about one of the two great books that I used for my Introduction to Online Teaching course. I am now going to take a moment to tell you about Emerging Technologies in Distance Education by George Veletsianos. This was the other book that I believe had a positive impact on the threaded discussions in the class. Because of the content from book, the grad students remained very engaged in the discussions throughout the course.

This 2010 book is another book that came out of Athabasca University. They seem to have a real good handle on distance education and leveraging new technologies. This book helped my students understand that the world was constantly moving forward and they had a responsibility to move with it. Throughout the class, many of them reported back on “experiments” they were trying in their classes based on lessons learned in the books provided.

Emerging Technologies in Distance Education is sixteen chapters long arranged in four sections:

  • Foundations of Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
  • Learning Designs for Emerging Technologies
  • Social, Organizational, and Contextual Factors in Emerging Technologies Implementations
  • Learner-Learner, Learner-Content, and Learner-Instructor Interaction and Communications with Emerging Technologies

As Veletsianos explained, the purpose of this book was to “amalgamate work in the use of emerging technologies to conceptualize, design, enhance, and foster distance education” (Veletsianos, 2010, p. ix). For the purpose of my course, this book extended what was written in The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. The pair were perfect for the class discussions.

Foundations of Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

Veletsianos introduced the book by defining emerging technologies for education. In the end, he summarized that “emerging technologies are tools, concepts, innovations, and advancements utilized in diverse educational settings to serve varied education-related purposes.

Emerging technologies

(1) may or may not be new technologies,

(2) can be described as evoloving organisms that exist in a state of ‘coming into being,’

(3) experience hype cycles,

(4) satisfy the ‘not yet’ criteria of

(a) not yet being fully understood, and

(b) not yet being fully research or research in a mature way, and

(5) are potentially disruptive, but their potential is mostly unfulfilled. (Veletsianos, 2010, p. 12)

From this point, Terry Anderson explored theories for learning with emerging technologies. Some of my favorite theories were discussed to include constructivism and connectivism. But I was also introduced to other interesting theories and concepts including heutagogy, pedagogy of nearness, and learning interactions. This section of the book also explored the impact Web 2.0 has had on learning and teaching where an individual can be an expert and amateur at the same time. The rest of the discussion can be summed up with this video by Michael Wesch:

Learning Designs for Emerging Technologies

This section focused on rethinking how learning could occur because of emerging technologies. With new technologies, what was difficult or impossible is now possible. For example, it used to be difficult to take a class on a field trip to the Arctic. By using technology, teachers and students could link to experts in the field in real time. This is possible through adventure learning projects. Polar Husky is an example of adventure learning.

This section also introduced personal learning environments and personal learning networks. I am a huge fan of PLN/PLEs and I was glad to introduce them to the class. Many were not familiar with the concept, and now some are actively building their own. Perhaps one of the most important chapters in the book addressed creating a culture of community in the online classroom. Many of the students in the class were not sure about community building in an online environment; however, by the end of the class, they were positive about the ability to do so.

Social, Organizational, and Contextual Factors in Emerging Technologies Implementations

This section began with a more in depth discussion about PLNs. Not only were the reasons for creating and using PLNs discussed, a number of examples were shown. The authors also discussed the challenges of implementing PLNs in a formal environment. PLNs are great tools for lifelong learning. Wikis were also explored in great depth. The authors provided a case study for their use at a university. They outlined the decision to implement a wiki university-wide, ways to use it, and some of the challenges. This section also explored using Moodle in varies educational situations, measuring and analyzing online participation with Web analytics, and videoconferencing to support learning. My current videoconferencing tool of choice is Google+ Hangouts on Air.

Learner-Learner, Learner-Content, and Learner-Instructor Interaction and Communications with Emerging Technologies

The final section of this book focused on social media in education, virtual worlds, and animated agents. The emphasis on social media was about creating dialogue. Dialogue is what learning is all about. The author highlighted a number of social media tools to facilitate discussion in an online environment. These tools include blogs, wikis, video podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The author predicted more use of video in the future. Outside of education, increased use of videos is already becoming the case with smartphones found everywhere. The use of Second Life (SL) was explored as way to learn a foreign language. Authors presented a study where Chinese students used SL to learn English. I had the opportunity to give a Spanish Instructor a tour of SL and explained how he could use it in his classroom. I expect that he will be using SL for his Spanish class in the near future.

As I explained earlier, I was extremely pleased with the content of this book as it applied to the course I was teaching. Because of the speed of technology development, some “emerging technologies” have become dated as well as some of the links provided throughout the book. I certainly look forward to an updated version of this book. Regardless, I would strongly recommend educators and instructional designers read this book. We need to keep chasing the future.

References

Veletsianos, G. (Ed.). (2010). Emerging technologies in distance education. Edmonton: AU Press.

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