Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lookout Google Maps – Here comes Google Body!

Is there anything Google can’t do? That’s the question I asked myself yesterday after my first experience with Google Body. What Google has done for street maps, it is now beginning to do for the human body. Google Body is a virtual system that involves an anatomical human model where you can peel back the layers of the body to visualize everything from muscles, to organs, to nerves to bones (all labelled and all searchable!) – and the entire thing is web-based! Granted you have to install the most up to date version of Firefox or Chrome which supports the WebGL standard but that’s a very small price to pay to get a glimpse of this FREE tool. I learned about it from my friend Katia Hamati. She’s an Instructional Designer with Coll├Ęge militaire royal de Saint-Jean. In fact, she has gone on to create a short video that demonstrates some of the features of Google Body – so you can view this video before you dive into Google Body yourself.



For a first release, they have done a very respectable job. Some detail is missing and I really hope that Google continues to develop this tool to add more detail to it. I would love to see it slowly morph into a very robust and complete depiction of the physical structures in the human body. The fact that it is FREE for everyone to use is just fantastic. Do you teach Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, etc? If so, please leave a comment below about how you feel about this resource.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Transform YouTube into an ACTIVE learning tool for your students

Nina Arjarasumpun, from Knewton Inc., was kind enough to write me an email out of the blue earlier this week. In her email she wanted to introduce me to a novel way in which the GMAT Prep team at Knewton was leveraging YouTube’s free video hosting service. She likened their work to the classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books that are popular with kids. In fact, it is simple branching logic where the system presents different content based on the decisions made by the user. The staff at Knewton are translating this simple idea into practice in the context of multiple choice questions using video segments. It’s awesome. I tried a few of their questions while wearing my student hat and the logical branching system coupled with the videos really makes the learning active and fun. Next term I am teaching a distance course in chemistry, and I will try to make a few of these types of learning objects to try out on my students. I’m excited to see how it works for me.


Chris Black at Knewton has prepared a great blog post that describes how to make these interactive logical branching videos. It’s a great posting that explains all the details. Very cool! If you currently use a similar strategy in one of your courses or if you end up trying this out in your course, let us know about it by leaving a comment below.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No, No, NO! People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they see? It’s ALL wrong!

This is old news but it is news that some people in education still have not grasped. I was having a casual conversation with a professor on the weekend and he explained to me that people learn by doing and that well established research supports that people remember more about the task when they do it as compared to when the simply read or hear about it. The first part of his statement sat well with me. I fully understand that people learn by doing. However, the second part made alarm bells go off in my head. I know that this part of his statement is controversial. How many educators believe this statement to be gospel? Well, if you are one of them, then you have to read this great debunking article on the subject by Will Thalheimer written over 4 years ago. It’s the story of how non-existent research can change the world ;-)

Go read it now.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

5(+1) Biggest Mistakes in Online Education

Guillermo Ramirez from Politecnico Grancolombiano in Bogota Columbia has shared a provocative presentation on SlideShare that attempts to bring us back to the basics of what education is and what education is not. His presentation highlights that the primordial essence of the concept of education is strongly rooted in a relationship between teacher and learner. He goes on to caution us that 21st century technology should not replace the requirement for student-instructor interaction. The presentation is a good reminder that educational models that put the learner first, the instructor second, and the technology third are models that are congruent with long proven educational concepts. Conversely, models that put technology higher than 3rd on that list are in danger of producing unwanted outcomes. Have a look at the slides below. Do you agree with Guillermo’s argument? Why or why not? Leave a comment below.