Author: nancynull

Online Instruction and Learning: Designing the Grand Illusion

Most exemplary classrooms exhibit an ironic physical characteristic: the instructor is difficult to locate. Not in the front of the room, not lecturing, not at a podium; instead, most exemplary instruction takes place in the interaction of instructor and students/students and students in hands-on learning. That being the case, how can online courses hope to replicate the physical classroom? They can, if the designer applies the “magic” of an exemplary teacher. The most basic “trick” convinces the student that he or she enjoys learning. Good instruction engages and challenges students by presenting content as a series of problems to...

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21st Century ICT Learning: Making it Work

Students hunch over their seats in rows, furiously copying notes, furtively glancing up as a teacher writes on a blackboard. The subject? Using secured digital resources to support collaboration in the workplace. What’s Wrong With This Picture? Teaching Information Communications Technology (it is now ICT) in the 21st century comes with built-in challenges. Students arrive already digitally adept. The old “stand and deliver” lecture does not meet the high expectations of this audience. However, one of the core responsibilities of the instructor still pertains: to help students use their skills to grow and mature in understanding. How does a...

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Taking Information Technology Professional Development to the Next Level

When is “professional development” truly “development”?  What aspect of a professional should it develop?  In evaluating the worth of professional development, what outcomes indicate that it hit the mark? Most of us have experienced professional development that developed only an active desire to flee the room.  The classic picture of professional development consists of rows of seats, a podium, and a presentation.  We can do better, and for Cisco Networking Academy instructors, we are doing better. Six years ago, the Maryland State Department of Education identified Towson University as the Affiliate University supporting educational programs within the IT Career...

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The Fight for Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality: 1 — ISPs: Zero As of Thursday, February 26, 2015, let the scoreboard show one point for Net Neutrality and zero points for Internet Services Providers (ISPs). Last year I discussed the looming battle that was taking place between ISPs and millions of everyday internet content consumers, like you and I. An end to this battle was scheduled on Thursday, February 26th 2015, where like judges in a long 12 round boxing match without a clear knockout, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had to decide on the fate of Net Neutrality. In a 3-2 split decision, the...

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Net Neutrality and Online Education

Over the past few years an intense battle has been taking place over the way content is delivered to consumers, via the internet. This is the battle of Net Neutrality. So what is Net Neutrality? Net Neutrality is the idea that all traffic traversing the Internet is treated the same. No one source or type of content is given any special privilege to reach its consumer over any other content source or type. The notion is that the Internet is a free and open space, giving users (both developers and end consumers) equal access to any website or application. Seems logical right? So who is posing a threat to this simple, yet genius notion? Internet Services Providers (ISPs). Within the realm of Net Neutrality ISPs are not allowed to discriminate between the sources of Internet traffic you consume, but if things go their way this will soon change. ISPs: Our Content Deciders ISPs want to set up a “pay for play” system where content developers would pay ISPs a premium to get their content to end users first, or in a timely fashion. ISPs would in essence create a model where content developers and providers who can afford it, would reach the end user first; whereas content developers who can’t afford (or don’t want) to pay this premium would no longer be easily accessible to their audience. This would...

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How to Encourage Active Engagement in High-Tech Classrooms

With so much technology available to deliver and receive content, one can imagine a class where the instructor is delivering a lecture via cellphone to a class full of tablets. No one would want to go back to the days of slates and chalk, but how does a teacher manage to nurture a sense of engagement in our high-tech classrooms? How can students feel motivated and activated when devices are managing the flow of information? In Cisco Networking Academy classrooms around Maryland, innovative instructors create a sense of student “ownership” that produces stellar results. The Networking Academy content is fully cloud-based, available 24/7 via smartphones and tablets as well as PCs. With all that access, savvy instructors like Jason Kahler have created classroom environments that take students beyond content to application. Jason, Cisco instructor at the Center of Applied Technology-South in Anne Arundel County, creates a classroom environment as much like “the real world” as possible. First-year students in his two-year program “work for” second-year students, who request services in the form of work orders. Each year’s team in the Cisco program elects office positions and conducts planning meetings. Student Engagement Are Jason’s students engaged in the class?  Here’s powerful proof. In planning meetings, students decided which open-enrollment courses at the local community college would go the farthest to helping the class implement a new CCNA Voice program next...

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Cisco’s 2014 Virtual Academy Conference

Cisco’s Virtual Academy Conference 2014:  Educating the Architects of the Internet of Everything leverages powerful new tools to support collaboration and interactivity. What follows is the “diary” of my attendance at the first day of the two-day virtual conference on March 18. 10:00 AM Packing for and traveling to this conference was easy:  slip into my fuzzy slippers, brew up a pot of coffee, walk downstairs to my PC, and log in.  Bad hair day?  No problem.  I created my profile, uploaded a picture, no badge required. After hanging out in the virtual Lobby, I decided to try my luck at some of the Games.  Trivia and Memory Match were a snap, putting me in the top quarter of the Leaderboards for both.  Things went downhill from there; Puzzle Putt took me into the rough right away.  Perhaps that game was for attendees under the age of fifty. Wandering over to the Meeting Rooms, I explored each of the Conference Sponsors’ virtual booths.  CompTIA, NDG, Citrix and other industry partners provided loads of giveaways and other resources, which I saved into my virtual Conference Briefcase for downloading later.  About the only thing missing was free pens… Were my friends at the conference?  A walk into the virtual Lounge plopped me down in a chat session, and identified all the participants present.  Several of us decided that Puzzle Putt was...

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Where are the IT Teachers?

Close to 70 Cisco Networking Academy instructors from all over the state assembled in the University Union on October 18 for the annual MSDE Cisco Conference.  Looking out over the crowd, I tried to do a fair estimate of the average age of the attendees.  This was a diverse group of secondary and post-secondary instructors, representing brand-new programs as well as some of the longest-running Networking Academy programs in the nation.  Conclusion:  we are old! This is a troubling observation on many levels, but not a surprising one. As the Cisco Academy Support and Training Center for our state, we are at the front line of the struggle to find and train new instructors when vacancies occur. Many of our programs, as is the case with many other Career and Technical programs, are “solo spots.” When an instructor leaves or retires, the program is in danger of leaving, too.  Fewer and fewer schools have the luxury of two or more instructors in the technology programs they offer.  More and more schools have trouble in locating and hiring new IT instructors.  Why? The simplest culprit could be salaries: young IT professionals are well-rewarded in the business world.  But that’s not the whole story. IT-oriented Career and Technical programs like the Cisco Academy, Microsoft Academy, and Oracle Academy have been around for long enough that those young IT professionals today may...

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Cisco Academy Enhancements: What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

This was a great summer for growing tomatoes—and for implementing new technology and innovation in professional development for Towson University’s Cisco Academy Support and Training Center. With Cisco’s evolution to a new support and training structure now complete, Towson is free to explore new ways to meet the needs of instructors. Our traditional model of localized Maryland support can grow to include Cisco academy programs nationally and even globally.  With Cisco Academy curricula currently offered in over 160 countries and engaging over one million students, this presents a great opportunity. New Cisco Curricula Instructors’ needs are growing:  in January...

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Redefining Professional Development

A roomful of people watch and listen as a presenter recites word-for-word the content of an interminable series of PowerPoint slides that attendees could read for themselves. Too often, this scene constitutes a “professional development opportunity.” However, the only thing being “developed” here is attendees’ ennui, as yet another “opportunity” is squandered. Effective Professional Development Effective professional development models effective instruction; attendees are participants, not observers. Activities allow participants to expand and experiment, conceptualize and create. It’s about producing results, not distributing handouts. Like good lessons, good PD should raise more questions than it answers. Fortunately, trainers can leverage the power of technology to make professional development more individualized, interactive, and productive. Towson’s Cisco Academy Support & Training Center is redefining objectives, exploring new methods, and putting more of the power in participants’ hands. Blended Delivery Model Some training utilizes a “blended delivery” model: participants conduct independent overview and analysis of courses they will be teaching, guided by targeted readings, labs, activities, and webinars. After their independent work, participants are brought together to focus on instructional strategies and hands-on activities. Collaboration and sharing takes in-person training time to a new level; the PD experience actually models the classroom experience instructors hope to bring to their students. Totally-Remote Training Totally-remote training faces one huge obstacle: how to replicate hands-on activities in a virtual environment. For Cisco instructors, practicing IT skills...

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