Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Study on Khan Academy - non of the teachers used flipped classroom...

Khan Academy is a really intriguing platform. I remember the first time when hearing of it, it was in 2009, Khan himself presented it in the BigIdeasFest in California. He had just received a big grand from Bill Gates to develop it further. I had a hard time imagining what was so cool about it. After all, it was a very classical way of "frontal teaching" where a teacher walks you through a problem. Well, this was in 2009, life before the hype on MOOCs, flipped classroom hype, etc... :)

So after lots of talk about Khan Academy, today, I was glad to find this piece of research on teachers' use of Khan Academy: How Are Teachers and Students Using Khan Academy? (comment: Funnily enough, the starting point of Khan Academy was not to be used as part of formal educational context, but rather as a "catch up tool" when the teacher wasn't really doing his/her job as ought to.)

An interesting finding:
While Khan Academy videos are often associated with the flipped classroom model in which teachers assign instructional videos to be watched at home, none of the teachers in this study used that model. And though some educators have used Khan Academy videos as a launching point for project-based learning models, none of the teachers in this study reported using that model.

So instead of an innovative new way of using the resources, teachers often resorted back to their usual classroom organisation, namely to using Khan Academy resources as part of a rotational model (some use it, while others use pen&paper and a third group receives face2face lesson), for remediation purposes or as part of self-paced studies.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ICWL 2014: the 13th International Conference on Web-based Learning

One of my favourite conferences on e-learning is the International Conference on Web-based Learning. This year it takes place in Tallinn, Estonia on 13-16 August 2014. Also one of my favourite Nordic capitals! And I'm also glad to be able to serve as part of the Programme Committee again :)

The call is out now at:

Find below the conference topics and areas of interest. They include but are not limited to the following:

* Personalized and Adaptive Learning
* Computer Support for Intelligent Tutoring
* Intelligent Tools for Visual Learning
* Web-based Learning for Oriental Languages Learning
* Game-based Learning
* Personal Learning Environments (PLE)
* Computer Supported Collaborative Learning
* Web 2.0 and Social Learning Environments
* HTML5 Web-based Learning
* Virtual environments and 3D graphics for e-learning
* Intelligent Learner and Group Modelling
* Learning Analytics
* Human Factors and Affective Computing for Learning
* E-Learning Platforms and Tools
* Design, Model and Framework of e-Learning Systems
* Deployment, Organization and Management of Learning Objects
* E-Learning Metadata and Standards
* Semantic Web and Ontologies for E-Learning
* Mobile, Situated and Blended Learning
* Cloud-based Learning
* Pedagogical Issues

Paper Submission & Publication

Authors are invited to submit original papers reporting on research
results or novel applications in technology-enhanced learning. Submissions
will be handled through EasyChair:

Papers for submission should be formatted according to the Springer LNCS
Authors Guidelines
( and have
maximum 10 pages. Since the review process will be double-blind, the
submitted manuscript should not contain the authors' names, affiliations,
or any information that may disclose the authors' identity. All papers
should be submitted in PDF format.

All accepted papers presented at the conference will be published as a
volume in Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS).

Important Dates

Abstract submission deadline: March 1, 2014
Full paper submission deadline: March 8, 2014
Notification of paper acceptance: April 15, 2014
Camera-ready papers due: May 8, 2014
Conference dates: August 13-16, 2014

Conference Organization

General Co-Chairs:
* Howard Leung, City University of Hong Kong
* Mart Laanpere, Tallinn University, Estonia

Program Committee Co-Chairs:
* Elvira Popescu, University of Craiova, Romania
* Rynson Lau, City University of Hong Kong
* Kai Pata, Tallinn University, Estonia

Steering Committee Representatives:
* Qing Li, City University of Hong Kong
* Ralf Klamma, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
* Yueh-Min Huang, National Cheng-Kung University, Taiwan

Workshop Co-Chairs:
* Yiwei Cao, IMC Information Multimedia Community AG, Germany
* Terje Väljataga, Tallinn University, Estonia
* Jeff Tang, Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Hong Kong

Publicity Chair:
* Mohammad Smadi, Tallinn University, Estonia

Poster Chair:
* Vladimir Tomberg, Tallinn University, Estonia

Local Organization Chair:
* Kairit Tammets, Tallinn University, Estonia

Please refer to the conference website
( for more information.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Travel hints: places in Sevilla and Triana

I've now spent about 5 and a half months in Sevilla. It's been a great discovery so far, I'm loving it. Here are some of my favourites.

To visit:


My hood, TRIANA

  • Drinks by the river on the Triana site offers the best view on Sevilla. I often sit at Cafe de la Prenza on Calle Betis as it's really close to home.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A great talk about simple laws that govern growth

I especially like the part starting at 9.3 min. where he talks about how cities are network:
"cities are network and the most important network of cities is you. Cities are just a physical manifestation of your interactions, our interactions, and the clustering and grouping of individuals"
However, a word of warning: read the comments and the critical discussion! 
"Physicist Geoffrey West has found that simple, mathematical laws govern the properties of cities -- that wealth, crime rate, walking speed and many other aspects of a city can be deduced from a single number: the city's population. In this mind-bending talk from TEDGlobal he shows how it works and how similar laws hold for organisms and corporations.

Physicist Geoffrey West believes that complex systems from organisms to cities are in many ways governed by simple laws -- laws that can be discovered and analyzed."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

2 unrelated figures: edX Moocs and 1/3 of students who didn't have any cognitive cain

Right now, we are probably living some of the most interesting moments in education since years, maybe even since all my life. At least it feels like it, after having worked with technology enhanced learning since 2000.

I was just reading the TIME magazine and these two figures popped up. One is related to MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, a single phenomena that since 2008 seems to be raddling the entire model of Higher Education institutions. MOOCs are providing access to higher education: without entry requirements, without cost and at a massive scale. This figure is from MIT
the edX platform we launched with Harvard 17 months ago has enrolled 1.25 million unique learners—10 times the number of living MIT graduates. Read more
Ain't that just insane? I really love how well the figure, "10 times the number of...." represents the scale and what kind of potential is there to enable access to good quality content through MOOCs.

And here is the other figure that  caught my eye, this is related to the cost of Higher Education in the US, nothing to do with MOOCs.
36% of college graduates had not shown any significant cognitive gains over four years. Read more
Just imagine, these are people who pay for their education. And those are the prices that people pay in the US, not in Finland!'s amazing how little ownership people take of their learning... This is the dark side of the moon - really. The bright side, it's the MOOCs and how they demonstrate that there are takers for good learning opportunities!

The unfortunate thing is, what studies will probably find out later, is that most ppl who take a MIT MOOC are already well educated and do it just out of curiosity or as a hobby. They never probably were the ones who were deprived from good educational opportunities in the first place.

Friday, September 13, 2013

US Common core state standards and OER that travels well

I've followed the US Common core state standards (CCSS) initiative ( with some interest. It's not so much from the point of view of harmonising eduction or setting the same standards across the nation, but I'm more interested in it from the Open Educational Resources (OER) point of view.
One of the main problems for educators who want to use OER as part of their lessons is to find good resources that match their curriculum needs at the moment. Interestingly, the US has the same problem here as we have in Europe: each state/country has their own standards, curriculum topics and descriptions. Additionally, in each state/country topics are taught at different times, in somewhat varying order, etc. (and I'm not touching the issue of different styles of instruction/pedagogy here). This makes it almost impossible to find resources related to a certain curriculum topic from the different state/country. Why? Because the metadata descriptions on which many of the search mechanisms rely upon (at least in repositories and referatories) and their meaning differ from state/country to another. In other words, there is little semantic interoperability.
Let's take an example of mathematics and a targeted competency that is described in the national curriculum. It could be formulated as "Pupils know the symbol rules for whole and rational numbers". In Spain, this is only taught at the first year secondary school when students are 13 years old. But in Finland, this is taught in primary school when students are 12 years old. (NOTE, this is only an illustrative example, I'm totally making the specs up). So the Spanish learning resource which teaches "symbol rules for whole and rational numbers" is described in metadata using "secondary education" and 13-14 years, whereas the Finnish one is described in metadata using "primary education" and 11-12 years. So when the Spanish teacher uses her search criteria relevant to her national curriculum, she will totally miss the Finnish piece OER on the same topic because of lack of semantic interoperability.

From the metadata and search point of view, the CCSS initiative has  put the finger on things (i.e. curriculum topics) that are common across the states and also helps increase semantic interoperability across the stats. I came across an example of this at OER Commons. They use CCSS in their metadata to tag resources that originate from different states but that comply to certain given CCSS topics. See the example here:

Another interesting commonality that I see with CCSS and OER in Europe is related to my previous work on finding OER that "travel well" (see for example here). Basically, in Europe, not all the OER are interesting for sharing across the borders, but only the ones that are useful to others (e.g. curriculum match). But how do we sort out the useful ones from the less useful ones? The CCSS work has figured that out in an interesting way. 

Now, what could we do in Europe? If you have ideas on that, I'll be interested in hearing :)


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Concerted effort for learning materials

It is really interesting to see how governmental initiatives are picking up on creating educational material, mostly nowadays OER. An announcement by U.S. Secretary of Education at the Global Education Summit
... we're poised to make the first free, U.S. government-funded digital learning materials—designed to improve postsecondary training in high-demand careers—available for use and improvement. We're excited to see how providers around the globe use and customize these materials for the needs of their learners.
The report that he mentions: