Interrogating our shifting and evolving identities

meI am Namibian by birthright and citizenship. I was born in Windhoek, and spent my formative years growing up in Ongandjera. I graduated from high school in New York from the United Nations International School (UNIS). All my degrees are from universities in Pennsylvania, USA and I am currently an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University. I state this to be clear that my worldview originates in Namibia, but my life experiences are also that of a world citizen, aware of my origin, and my ever shifting evolving position. Some people read this and automatically dismiss me as not being Afrikan “enough”. Others read it and somehow find me more “palatable” because my indigniety has been influenced, Continue reading

Are we talking about the same thing?

The discourse of and around Learning, Design & Technology fascinates me. I am specifically referring to words that are sometimes taken as a given, globally understood and accepted when discussing education and technology. These conversations often remind me of a scene from the movie Rush Hour.

I am interested shared meanings and understandings words that may seem very common. I am currently exploring this through two projects. The first project probes the understanding of what it means to be “learner centered”. Dr. Michael Grant and I presented a portion of this research at the AECT conference in 2013, and will soon collect data in at least two other countries. In the second project, I am collaborating with Dr Shu-Hsiang (Ava) Chen on trying to understand what we mean, globally, when we say “Open Educational Resources”.

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What I read…DBR

Design Experiments in Educational Research

Cobb, P., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., Schauble, L. (2003)

In this article Cobb et al., explain the ideal characteristics, context and what is involved in “conducting a design experiment”. Design experiments are not only empirically ways of tuning what works; rather they exist to develop humble theories that target domain-specific learning processes. Design experiments are distinguishable by three characteristics: they are extended (iterative), interventionist (innovative and design-based), and theory-oriented enterprises whose “theories” do real work in practical educational contexts” (pg. 13).

The five main purposes of design experiments are: Continue reading

Comments on “Debates and Trends in Comparative Education”

The “Debates and Trends in Comparative Education” article outlines the progression of the field as it formulates its identity. The article is a good introductory and reflective piece on the comparative method. Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  1. The author states that “the field has always been influenced by contemporary event”. This was striking to me because in the next sentence there is a reference to the “third world” which is a term I consider offensive but was regularly use throughout the 70s and 80s (still in use today but not as frequent).
  2. A question was raised on whether or not “western social sciences [can] guide research on the third world.” I found this somewhat ironic because the person asking the question is a westerner. I would add a follow up question: ‘is a western social scientist best suited to guide research in the third world?’
  3. What was also striking for me was the absence and recognition of non-western researchers and their contribution to the field. Is comparative education purely a practice of western scientists studying non-western countries or can non-westerners also participate in this endeavour? Furthermore, how would the field change as those who have been consistently studied begin to enter the discussion and also become social scientist themselves?

Reference: Kelly, G. P. (1992). Debates and trends in comparative education. Emergent issues in education: Comparative perspectives, 13-22.
Word count: 217

Botswana Research notes

This morning I administered a survey to a class of about 100 students. While waiting for the students to finish, the professor and I had a discussion about technology in education, focusing specifically on the use of mobile devices. His comments on classroom management and the metaphor of a fast car stuck with me.

On classroom management
As we walked up and down the lecture hall, the professor pointed out students that Continue reading

Broadband access: a legal right

This is not directly about the iPad but it is relevant to my adventure.

A few postings ago, I shared a thought about ‘what if the Internet and access to it was a human right?’  Phil Tietjen from Penn State forwarded me this link about Finland being the first nation to makes broadband access a legal right for all its citizen. Here is the link –

Imagine the ramification that this would have if more countries followed this example. From an educational technology and instructional systems standpoints, this could open up many prospects.

I think making internet or broadband a legal right would go along way in eliminating or bridging the digital divide. It may also further contribute to the improvement of education globably

The Plan….

To sum it up:
The idea is to take an iPad on a trip from the USA (Penn State, State College, PA) to Namibia via South Africa; see what happens throughout the trip and blog about the experience.

For the detailed oriented:
This past semester (spring 2010) Cole and Scott (Cole Camplese, Director of Education Technology Services & Scott McDonald, Assistant Professor of Science Education) brought their iPads to class (CI 597A – Disruptive Technologies) and passed them around for all of us to interact with this new tool/environment. It was interesting to see the reactions and conversations that were generated during this exercise.

Starting 18th May 2010, I’ll be traveling to Namibia and will spend time doing research on mobile learning.  I’ll be taking along an iPad (courtesy of Cole Camplese @ ETS) and blog about the experience, especially about the reactions that the iPad generates as I travel from PSU to Namibia and back. The goal is to put the iPad in all types of situation: classrooms, formal or informal/non-formal learning environments, government/non-governmental settings, to areas that are technology rich and some that have little access to western technologies, etc.; and give people a chance to interact with it and see what type of reactions it generates. The iPad has not yet been released globally, so I am expecting that very few people would have had any contact with it.

I’ll also invite those who interact with the iPad to be guest bloggers and share their first hand account in addition to my observations.

Why do this:
I am interested in contextually appropriate technologies, I would like to know how and if the iPad fits into various context beyond the “that’s cool” effect. I am also interested in finding out what types of usage that different audiences envisage, what type of programs they would like to see on it to make it more appropriate for them and what type of design ideas I could get from speaking with different people.

It is a rough idea, which I am intentionally leaving vague so that I let the experience guide this exercise rather than my specific goals. I hope you’ll come back often and participate in the discussion by leaving your comments.

Date written: 15 May 2010
World count: 380

Reaction Note: Chapter 9: Platform and Posture

word count: 791

‘What am I designing for and how do I want my product to present itself to the user?’ That is the question the authors want designers to consider in Chapter 9. Cooper et al, define platforms as “the combination of hardware and software that enables the product to function, in terms of both the user interaction and the internal operations of the product” (161), while Posture is defined as a “behavioural stance – the way [the product] presents itself to users. Posture is a way of talking about how much attention a user will devote to interacting with the product, and how the product’s behaviours respond to the kind of attention a user will be devoting to it” (162).

The program’s posture is part of its behavioural foundation. Care should be taken to make sure that the “look and behaviour of a product [reflects] how the product is used and not the personal taste of its designer” (162). Although there are different design needs for different platforms, the following four categories of postures can be used to describe the different behavioural attributes:

  1. Sovereign: Programs that monopolises the user’s attention for periods of time such as Microsoft Word. Sovereign applications tend to be for intermediate user, must be generous with screen real estate, use minimal visual style such as accents of colour, and include rich visual feedback
  2. Transient: Products that users are not very familiar with because they do not stay on the screen for a long time. They must be simple, clear and to the point in their design (e.g. Window Explorer).
  3. Daemonic: Types of programs that although may perform vital tasks, they run in the background with little awareness or interaction from the user

Posture is not only limited to software but can also extend to the web. To illustrate the posture of Designing of the Web, the author divided web design into four categories

  1. Informational Web Sites: whose posture must balance the need to display a reasonable density of useful information and the need to allow first time and infrequent users to learn and navigate the site easily
  2. Transactional Web sites: which must strike a balance between being sovereign and transient
  3. Web Application: which mimic desktop applications by exhibiting complex behaviours and being highly interactive. Their posture should allow the user to feel immersed in an environment with little navigation to distract from that experience
  4. Internet Enabled Application and Intranets are the last two categories that relate to web posture. The authors argues for a transformation from informational site to creating an experience through the use of RSS feeds, utilization of APIs and perhaps an abandonment of the use of web browsers all together.

Other Platforms:
The rise of mobile smart phones gives new challenges and opportunities to interaction designers and should be given new consideration. The software that run on a desktop computer or laptop have the luxury of being immersive because the user is mostly stationary. Handheld Devices, Kiosks, and other emended systems however are used differently and primarily by a mobile user. Therefore the following principles should be considered:

• Don’t think of your product as a computer
• Integrate your hardware and software design
• Let context drive the design
• Use modes judiciously, if at all
• Limit the scope
• Balance navigation with display density
• Customize for your platform

One of the questions that I was left with from reading the chapter was ‘is there a difference between an Interaction Designer and an Experience Designer?’ I think interaction designers must be driven by the desire to create experiences that the users can interact with and create designs that are unique to the platform.

Most web sites still serves as “informational Web Sites,” the taking of what is on paper and putting it online for mass access. Although that has its own virtue, it is not creating an experience that is unique to the web. The same seems to be occurring with regards to mobile devises that are being used simply to access the same information that one can access on a desktop computer. Thus seemingly serving the purpose of a mere mobile computer. There are few designs that are unique only to mobile devices such as smart phones. Rather than turning the mobile phone into a filler device for when one is away from the computer, it would be great if interactions and experiences can be created for just those devices.

The one disappointment that I found with the chapter is the little space accorded to mobile devices or the grouping that the authors labelled embedded systems. Most of the discussions on platforms and posture was centred on desktop and web applications/software.

Reference: Cooper, Reimann, & Cronin. (2007). About face 3: The essentials of Interaction Design. Wiley.