Using Mobile Apps and Social Media for Online Learner Generated Content

Here is a Web-based version of my presentation at the 10th International Conference on Mobile Learning 2014  conference:

Using Mobile Apps and Social Media for Online Learner Generated Content

This Web-based Adobe portable document (.pdf) player software presentation describes initial, anecdotal findings about using social media and mobile devices to enhance the online learning experience for adult students in LMS-based online college courses, identifies useful social media and mobile apps for mobile learning, provides examples of their successful integration into online course assignments and activities, and proposes methods of further research and development.

Presented at the 10th International Conference on Mobile Learning 2014 in Madrid, Spain, February 28 – March 2, 2014

Insights, experiences, and other comments welcome in reply,


Posted in conducting research online, emerging educational technology, instructional design, learner experience, mobile computing, mobile learning, online learning and teaching, social media, social networking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Following in the Footsteps

Camino Portugues at Tui, Spain

Camino Portugues at Tui, Spain

On my second pilgrimage in Spain – this time from Tui to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino Portugues – I became aware of the importance of this prayerful walk as one in which I was not alone, even though I walked it alone.

Certainly, there was the communion I felt with God’s beautiful creation all around me as I walked under sheltering trees of eucalyptus and pine forests, through quaint villages along country lanes, friendly villagers urging me on with the words, Buen Camino (Good Way), bordering fields ripe with the fruit of harvest, doves cooing, roosters crowing, and dogs wagging their tails.

And there was the sense of common purpose with other pilgrims, whether they were walking in front or behind me, walking along with me, or sitting by the trail resting.

This was also my experience on my walk along the last 115km of the Camino Frances, but this pilgrimage held more meaning for me because it more closely traced the path left by the Apostle Iacob (St. James) when he walked and preached the Gospel along the Roman roads through what was then Iberia, from the south to the northwestern coast known as finnesterre (end of the earth).

This path along the northwestern coast was also taken by two of his loyal disciples when they returned his martyred body from Jerusalem to his final resting place in Santiago De Compostela.

Monte Santiaguino above Padron

In the towns along this pilgrim path, you could experience the legacy of this apostle through the people who live there. They filled local churches, kept fresh flowers on their wayside crosses (cruceiros), and in many other ways showed that they still followed in the footsteps of their beloved Santiago.

It struck me how our lives can interact in ways that speak of our valued principles (our morals and ethics) beyond words and a moment in time. As I walked, I was encouraged onward by the footprints left by those who walked before me. And with each step I took along the trail, I left a footprint that showed a pilgrim’s progress to those who followed.

Even when there were no other pilgrims in sight, I would come upon the traces of their prayerful walk through the rocks left on waymarkers to mark a moment of prayer for someone, crosses made of small branches left on the path or weaved into fences, a worn pair of shoes, a note to other pilgrims, or a memorial with the photo of someone who was in their prayers.

Camino Portugues waymarker with rocks

Camino Portugues waymarker with rocks

In the quiet recollection of my journey, I became aware of how this path was formed by pilgrims following for nearly two thousand years in the footsteps of the Apostle who followed in the footsteps of Jesus – and how this pilgrimage stretches forward in time and beyond that path throughout the earth.

I encourage you as you walk your Camino, to reflect on the footsteps you are making, the path you are taking, and the Buen Camino we can make for one another.

Comments welcome,



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On becoming digital learning collaboratives

Unless we possess interdisciplinary knowledge and skills as individuals, we cannot fully address our needs to improve teaching and learning through the strategic use of digital resources.

For those of us whose primary professional background is in IT, we may feel that we are ideally suited for leveraging our technology-based skill set to improve digital learning, but we also need to be informed of the nature of learning and the needs of learners to properly apply these skills to improve our teaching practice.

Conversely, practitioners and teachers in other fields may be able to inform teaching practice of the nature of learning and the needs of learners, but often do not possess the understanding or skills to be able to create successful educational innovations that are technology-driven.

Usually our own teaching experience in which we use digital resources to support learning (hybrid courses) or rely on them as the platform for learning (online courses) is the best method to understand learning and learners, especially when we use evidence provided by the performance and feedback of our own learners.

However, we are often restricted in our understanding when relying on what we learn from our own practices.

We can broaden that perspective and find new insights from the understanding we develop through collaborative online learning platforms with shared content and discussion.

We can also broaden our perspectives and understanding through conferences and publications that focus on educational research, development, and practice.

The Web with its ever-expanding, interlinked content, increasingly sophisticated search tools, and social networking and media sites is a powerful resource to support our learning and teaching.

For example, an online search for advances in research and resources to support digital learning could lead you to a blog post entitled, Data, Evidence and Digital Learning.

This blog post describes a draft publication by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology entitled Expanding Evidence Approaches for Learning in A Digital World. The report is available as an online document in Portable Document Format (.pdf) on the US DOE Web site:

It presents research, best practices, resource lists, and recommendations for action, as well as a useful conceptual framework for all educators using digital resources to support online learning.

The report and blog post make an important call for “learning technology developers, researchers, and educators to collaborate with and learn from one another as a means of accelerating progress and ensuring innovation in education.”

After reading the blog post and the report, I was left with some questions and ideas about our endeavors to improve learning support within our teaching and other professional practices.

Are there intrinsic limits to what we could learn from each other within our respective domains of practice that are preventing us from acquiring the kind of interdisciplinary knowledge that would best inform our teaching practice?

How much are we sharing our insights and best practices among professionals within our domains of practice (among educators) as well as across domains of practice (between technology developers, researchers, and educators)?

What could we learn of value from teachers and other professionals in other disciplines (especially fields that would provide needed insights, such as educational technology, educational research, information technology, etc.)?

What digital resources and techniques could we use to realize a fruitful exchange of ideas from research and best practices across disciplines and domains of practice?

What constraints would exist on scalability of online collaborative professional development learning of this kind?

Under what circumstances would (or should) we operate on a local scale as well as on more global scale (such as realized in the growing trend of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

Addressing these and other questions might help us find more productive ways to tap the power of our diversity of knowledge and online internetworking to enable us to more fully realize our goals in a new wave of professional development as digital learning collaboratives.

I welcome your comments on this topic and in response to these initial questions.

Thanks for sharing,


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Untethered on the Camino

As someone who has been tethered to computers via the Net for many years doing my online teaching and consulting work, I have come to realize the need to create a balance between the connected self and disconnected self.

To achieve that goal, I spent five days in July 2012, not teaching or consulting, not in a car, nor with a computer, but rather walking the last 115 kilometers of the Camino Frances pilgrimage route across northern Spain (mostly in the mountains of Galicia).

Ok, being a technogeek more than a pilgrim, I did buy a sports watch with realtime GPS for location, altitude, and speed readings and it also has a heart monitor for bpm display. Oh yeah, a global cell phone in off mode unless I need help, and a smartphone that was deactivated so I can use it for wifi connection (where that was supported in my overnight accommodations) and for taking photos and videos on the trail.

My goal was more than to simply get untethered, I sought to walk in the path of the apostle St. James (Iacob in Hebrew and Santiago in Spanish) and those who walk after him in the true spirit of pilgrimage. Crossing mountain ridges made it an arduous journey, but in my prayerful approach and in the sharing of that with other pilgrims, it was a rewarding pilgrimage. What made walking more than 8 hours per day for 5 days possible was not my training or equipment, but the spirit that endows when the words “Para Dios” guides your steps. Those are the words that I received in answer to my question of two Spanish pilgrims on a previous visit to the Camino when I asked why they go on this pilgrimage.

Although my pilgrimage was completed, while still resting my heels (and knees;-) I made plans to walk the last 117 kilometers of the Camino Portugues from the border of Spain and Portugal at Tui this time northward, but to the same destination, Santiago de Compostela – arriving on the feast day of the apostle, whose remains are kept behind the altar in the Cathedral.

Click on the play arrow in the video frame below to view a brief video I took one morning on the Camino at Palas de Rei, Spain in the mountains of Galicia where I stayed in a cabin overnight (listen for the German pilgrims singing as they began their walk that day). I used my deactivated smartphone to take a video that was immediately sent via the restaurant WiFi to the Web.

Click on the link below to my channel where you can view other videos (under the Uploads category) I took on the Camino and in Santiago de Compostela, some with a view of arriving pilgrims in the plaza and the tall spires of the Cathedral where I attended pilgrim mass at the end of my journey.

Although my words or my brief real-time videos cannot capture the full experience of being untethered and on pilgrimage, clicking on the play arrow in the video frame at the top of this blog entry displays an edited video of Camino de Santiago de Compostela from 2011 from an Irish Pilgrim’s perspective.

As you can see, my fascination with technology remains firmly entrenched, but I am finding the needed balance between being tethered and untethered from it.

I hope that you will find ways to balance your immersion in technology with the rewards of getting “untethered” and reflecting on our wider connection with life, each other, and a prayerful walk.

Buen Camino!


Posted in human factors in information systems design, information ethics, learner experience, mobile computing, social change, user experience | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Moving from “opt-out” to “opt-in” culture

“We’re here for consumers. Why, without them, we’d have nobody whose privacy we can invade so that we can exploit them to advertisers.”

Comment about Google under user comments on:

Teaching courses on digital marketing and ethics in information technology has been a great learning experience for me. In discussions on topics such as information privacy and security, critical issues such as identity theft, spamming, and robocalling have sparked great interest because these are personal matters for all of us as well as for the reputation management of the businesses we represent.

Encouraging learners to confidentially share their experience with these ethical and legal abuses of information technology, I have become aware of the damage that these practices can inflict on people in their personal and professional lives.

  • Automated phone calling (robocalling) from marketers that wakes people in the early morning and disturbs home life in the evening.
  • Email spam that clutters Inboxes and phishing attempts to lead the unsuspecting to Web sites where malware can be dropped onto the users’ system.
  • Credit reporting agencies that share consumer data, but do not clearly inform or provide sufficient control for users of that data sharing.
  • Web site privacy policies that don’t include, or otherwise hide or make difficult to understand any information about user profiling along with the data gathering and sharing that are its outcomes.

This is but a sampler of the many ways that as individuals, we are left with little protection and less information that could help us make sense out of preserving our privacy and security.

And while acknowledging that there are regulations which attempt to address these abuses, they are not comprehensive and typically contain loopholes which are used to perpetuate these practices. Enforcement is often toothless in this situation.

Among the greatest loopholes is the notion that as users, we need to opt-out of practices for which we don’t want to participate. In the case of Web sites and services, we should take responsibility for reading the privacy policy prior to using the service, but in many cases, we either miss the details amid the fine print or the data gathering and data sharing are not made evident. In other cases, we are simply not made aware of these practices, such as with credit reporting agencies.

It’s a shame that we as individual citizens have to hunt and peck through these hidden resources and fine print to find ways to opt-out of what is essentially an unethical practice in terms of our privacy and security, especially when it is so clear what damage that uncontrolled data gathering and sharing can cause.

Think of how much more elusive finding ways to opt-out will be with increasing use of small mobile devices such as smartphones or the family Internet-capable TV.

Rather than detail the ethical and legal abuses in which we are engulfed with our increasing dependency on online communication and transactions or the impotence of chasing after abuse with regulation, I submit that we need to overturn the current system of “opt-out” abuse and move toward a more universal “opt-in with informed consent” regulatory framework.

Yes, overarching regulation of this type can place more responsibility and cost on businesses and other organizations, but that is what we should expect in terms of our broader constitutional rights.

I am not recommending the shot-gun approach to regulation such as in the SOPA and PIPA legislative efforts where the regulation itself is abusive of those rights, but rather more focused on the mechanism of individual informed consent.

Would there be a cost in shifting the focus from requiring users to opt-out to providing informed consent of any data gathering and data sharing prior to its use on Web sites and other channels of communication?

Yes, but I propose that the cost of shifting these mechanisms in favor or transparency and choice will actually create more benefit for both providers and users in the long run.

As it stands right now, as in many aspects of our ethical and legal landscape, we have a short-term view of gain that is already failing.

As individuals increasingly become aware and experience the damage associated with unregulated and uncontrolled use of their personal data and the intrusion of their personal privacy, they will take the means to opt-out of a system that does not merit their trust and thus, their participation.

In reply, I welcome your comments on these issues and the solutions that you feel are warranted,


P.S. As of only a few hours after writing this message, I received important information related to these issues.

I received an email from Google informing me of an upcoming change in their privacy policy which allows them to share more data internally while presumably protecting user privacy with a statement “we’ll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission (other than rare circumstances like valid legal requests).”

A subsequent examination of this new policy might reveal the extent to which the above are correct in all respects or might not fully reveal the nature and extent of user profiling and data sharing, but as I have already stated, this takes some time and effort. Should I trust Google and continue using its free services (which are of great value) or cancel my accounts? That is a choice that users must now make according to Google.

Update: Here is a quote and a link to an online article in The Wall Street Journal for case-based reasoning on this broader issue of privacy protection: “Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.”

Also, on the topic of robocalling, I learned via broadcast TV news, that the FCC issued new regulations on this intrusive, automated phone calling practice. While it provides some teeth in placing a legal definition of this abusive practice, it only limits automated calling, but not calls placed by people using the loophole of making some connection to an exempt non-profit organization. Thus, as in the other abusive practices, it is still a cat and mouse game where as users we are the mice.

Here are links to information on the FCC site on this topic and on opt-out practices for communications in general.

FCC Strengthens Consumer Protections Against Telemarketing Robocalls:

Unwanted Telephone Marketing Calls:

Posted in blogs for business, customer experience, customer experience management, digital marketing, human factors in information systems design, information architecture, information ethics, management of information systems and technology, social change, social media, user experience, user-centered design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Social media for political good

In my treatment of online social media for social good in previous blog posts, I have touched upon the use of these online social platforms to promote communication for social change as witnessed in what we now call the Arab Spring, to galvanize interest and participation in charitable works, such as with a foundation to help young girls in Liberia to be lifted from poverty through education, and to promote spiritual and religious good by bands that are part of a global Christian youth revival movement that are using the rock concert venue to create a worship experience.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the power of online social media and social networking for social good in politics, in this case as witnessed by the rise of candidate Ron Paul who has been largely shunned by traditional media.

In the relatively short span since the defining of the Republican field of candidates and the first political caucus to choose a front-runner, Ron Paul has defied the predictions of naysayers in the traditional media and surfaced as a serious contender on the eve of the Iowa caucus.

That’s not to say that he was absent from participating in nationally broadcast debates and interviews or from newspaper and magazine coverage, but the tenure of followup coverage has seemed to this observer as dismissive or absent relative to the other candidates.

Nor is he free from attacks in online social media on his position and character as witnessed by a flurry of negative tweets and blog posts leading up to the Iowa caucus, seemingly increasing with his rising position in the polls. To experience a robust exchange of ideas – both supportive and detracting, type Ron Paul in the search field or click on the following link:!/search/Ron%20Paul

His unique position on libertarian and constitutional grounds has garnered both followers and detractors, largely on the basis of his frank revelation of his positions on a wide array of political and social issues.

However, his meteoric and unanticipated political prominence speaks also to the robust activity and influence that social media and social networking are assuming in the political sphere and the groundswell of discontent with traditional politics and politicians.

Having said all this, I will admit to often being a relatively uninformed follower of things political, but when I observed his rise despite this biased treatment, I became interested in his candidacy and his rising position in light of these non-traditional online social platforms of communication.

In August 2011, I expressed this in a tweet that captured my emerging interest: “I rarely talk politics, but two words capture my interest – mainly because these words are shunned by media & political parties: #Ron #Paul”

Since then, I have followed Ron Paul’s tweet stream and noticed that I was in good company in terms of this insight and interest:!/ronpaul

My latest check of his campaign Web site reveals a groundswell of individually conducted online donations that have already exceeded his initial goal of $4 million and is quickly approaching $6 million as of the date of this blog entry.

A row of icons at the top of his Web site confirms his robust use of online social media and social networking. Clicking on them brings you to his channel, page, and twitter stream where you can subscribe and follow the latest news and get involved in his campaign.

Would all this use of online social media and social networking make this kind of difference for other candidates?

I think not – in absence of a clear position as a dark horse in a field of traditional politicos endorsed by traditional media and a unique and consistent position on political, economic, and social concerns that resonate with a groundswell of discontent with politics as usual.

No matter the outcome, I believe that the effectiveness of online social media and social networking in support of Ron Paul provides the clearest indicator of its growing power and use in the future of our political system: social media for political good.

Who knows, we may be inching closer to changes in the political party system and its “behind closed doors” operations, and sowing seeds of greater public representation of voter expression – even transforming the process more directly to “one-person, one-vote” online voting.

We can hope, can’t we?

Your comments on the use of these online platforms for social and political good are welcome in reply.

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Make a joyful noise

Psalms 98:4 “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.”

In my treatment of online social media for social good in previous blog posts, I have touched upon the use of these online social platforms to promote communication for social (and political) change as witnessed in what we now call the Arab Spring. I have also addressed how social media and social networking can help to galvanize interest and participation in charitable works, such as with a foundation to help young girls in Liberia to be lifted from poverty through education.

In my widening scope of enquiry, I have also discovered the use of social media and social networking platforms such as,, and to promote spiritual and religious good, in this case by bands that are part of a global Christian youth revival movement that are using the rock concert venue to create a worship experience in which the audience can express their praise and worship to the source of their faith and joy.

To share an example of this use of social media, I compiled four youtube video segments as a playlist on my youtube channel in what appeared to be a sequential recording of the actual event flow of a performance by Jesus Culture at their Awakening conference in Chicago in August, 2011.

I have presented a link to the music performance of “We are hungry” and the remaining videos. These four video segments in the playlist constitute an integral part of this musical worship and the spontaneous and lengthy response from the audience expressing their joy and praise.

On their youtube channel and twitter stream (see links below), they share videos from their performances, instrumental performance tips, and/or information about upcoming events.

And here is a video segment created and uploaded by two attendees who capture the performance from the audience perspective and describe their experience:

On my youtube channel, I include playlists for other Christian music groups who are involved in this revival and use of social media:

I welcome your comments on this music-based revival movement and the use of social media and social networking as a tool for its communication with a global reach.

Many thanks for your comments and best wishes for a blessed and joyful new year!


Jesus Culture Youtube Channel:

Jesus Culture on Twitter:!/jesusculture

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The Heart and Soul of Social Networking

Amid our ethical concerns about the downside of computer technology in general and social networking in particular, I celebrate the example that people provide in their charitable work, especially in how that work is helped by leveraging the power of many through social networking and social media.

In an article by Bob Braun in The Star Ledger (see online article link below), I became aware of Katie Meyler, who has devoted herself to helping young girls in Liberia out of poverty through education. Katie founded the More Than Me foundation to provide support for this work.

To highlight how social networking and social media can be used to promote a positive ethical purpose, I wanted to share her example and invite your comments on her work and how we can use these online platforms for social good.

Here are some links to her charitable work on the More Than Me Foundation Web site:

I welcome your comments about how we can transform the nature of charitable work and giving through social networking and social media.

Thanks for sharing,


Bob Braun’s article about Katie in The Star Ledger via

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Working memory: recognizing our cognitive limits

Working memory and chunking – without understanding these vital concepts in human terms, we cannot design information systems interfaces that will work with people’s ability to retain only so much at one time in memory. If the interface does not communicate changing statuses and provide other memory support, most people will sit and stare at the computer and try to remember what to do next.

I became aware of this research literature in the first semester of my doctoral studies in cognitive science with the early published work of George Miller and other cognitive scientists.

When I began reading the first paragraph of his foundational article on this topic, I was enthralled by the way he posed it as a personal dilemma.

“My problem is that I have been persecuted by an integer. For seven years this number has followed me around, has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public journals. This number assumes a variety of disguises, being sometimes a little larger and sometimes a little smaller than usual, but never changing so much as to be unrecognizable. The persistence with which this number plagues me is far more than a random accident. There is, to quote a famous senator, a design behind it, some pattern governing its appearances. Either there really is something unusual about the number or else I am suffering from delusions of persecution.”

If you are as fascinated by this leading paragraph, I invite you to click on the link below to read what follows and share your comments on how this constraint can affect the way we use information and instructional systems, and how we should design them with this limit in mind.

Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review 63 (2): 81–97. doi:10.1037/h0043158

Available online at:

Research, theory, and application in instructional design since the publication of this article in the 1950s has centered around the concept of “cognitive load”and how to manage it through more efficient learning environments (e.g., less complex content, more sequenced instruction, etc.).




Posted in cognition, content management, human factors in information systems design, information architecture, instructional design, knowledge management, learner experience, management of information systems and technology, user experience, user-centered design | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Collaborative reasoning with a social strategy

In my previous posts on the value of mental and physical models, I suggested that it is the dialog that we create between these two types of reasoning that helps us tackle the discovery of what is novel and complex:

What Hubble 3D teaches us about model-based reasoning

A mental model of the customer, user, and learner experience

In the field of physical science, an excellent example of this process is illustrated in the Watson and Crick discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. They achieved this daunting task (in part) by building the right kind of physical model from which to test their thinking (mental model) and use this model-based reasoning to validate their hypotheses and make a breakthrough discovery about the nature of life.

However, as we examine the fuller historical record of this event, another vital dynamic in the process of discovery emerges: the value of collaborative reasoning.

It is the underlying social mechanism behind all great discoveries. It derives its benefits from the cooperation and sharing of ideas between people studying the same problem to find a solution.

However, in science as in most of human endeavors, people do not always cooperate, but rather compete and obtain valuable insights from the work of others – sometimes without their permission.

Although this is clearly an ethical and legal issue, much of the end result of collaboration derives from some blend of cooperation and competition.

Looking deeper into the context of Watson and Crick’s “discovery,” there were at least two other people searching for this answer who contributed to their breakthrough in understanding the true chemical and physical structure of DNA in ways that cannot be solely reduced to their brilliant use of mental and physical model-based reasoning.

Linus Pauling was the first to publish a paper on the structure of DNA, but he attributed the structure to a triple helix structure radiating around a sugar phosphate backbone. However, Crick recognized his error in chemistry in which all of these parts of the structure were negatively-charged and would repel each other.

Rosalind Franklin, another scientist working on this problem using the technology of x-ray crystallography produced photographic evidence of this helical structure, but only in the x-shaped image of a two-dimensional view.

One of these images was shown by one of her colleagues (without her permission) to Watson who then showed it to Crick. Crick, with his background in crystallography, recognized it as representing a double-helical structure and that is what propelled them to test this data using mental and physical models.

Here is an excellent video produced by Virginia Commonwealth University that tells this fuller story:

Rather than refuse to acknowledge it (with all of its ethical and legal ramifications), we need to acknowledge and incorporate this social factor into our own work in the “discovery” process – whether we are discovering a solution to a problem in science, solving a business problem, or the design of an informational or instructional system that meets the needs of its users.

Here’s where the technologies we call social networking and social media can support this collaborative discovery process. Perhaps we will see corresponding development of vertical software solutions that address this objective using these technologies, but in the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities to “re-purpose” existing social networking and social media to achieve a similar function.

As comments in reply, I welcome your thoughts about the value of collaborative reasoning in discovery and design and the use of these technologies to support our reasoning process.


Posted in blogs for research, collaborative computing, conducting research online, content management, human factors in information systems design, information ethics, innovation, instructional design, management of information systems and technology, social media, social networking, strategic management of technology innovation, user experience, user-centered design | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments