Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Technology Enhanced City

The Technology Enhanced City: Jennifer Evans-Cowley’s blog

jenniferDuring the month of May I, along with Tom Sanchez at Virginia Tech, have been teaching a Massive Open Online Course TechniCity. With 21,225 people from across the globe registered for the class, this provided a rich opportunity for sharing ideas for using technology to build great cities…

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Rounding the turn: a video report with Tom Sanchez

A few days ago I sat down with Tom to ask how things were going for him at midterm. We often give students a midterm report or ask them for a midterm evaluation. Given the distributed and potentially de-centered experience of a MOOC, it seems only fair to ask one of the teachers to give his own midterm evaluation–not only of the students’ performance, but of what he has learned so far.

Throughout the Technicity story, I’ve tried to get at this elusive but vital factor in education: what the teacher learns. We focus a great deal on student learning, as well we should. Our students are the ones paying the tuition and supporting our scaled-up institutions. They’re the ones who most obviously hold the future in their hands. But they’re also the ones who see the future and its possibilities through the eyes we help to focus and attend on what we believe to be important, salient, essential. Here’s the strange loop, the level-crossing loop. Any good teacher must also be a learner. And in addition to one’s own life-long learning within, around, or through a field of study, we who teach must also, and always, be prepared to learn from our students. They too will help us see. And when they see that we learn from them, and that we are bold enough to jump into new learning experiences using our wits and our expertise to push ourselves far beyond our comfort zones, we model in our own lives what we seek to encourage in theirs.

With those thoughts, then, here’s Tom Sanchez and Technicity at midterm. The interview was recorded on an iPhone, so the image is shaky and the audio levels are uneven. I hope the message comes through loud and clear, in any event. My thanks to Tom for sitting down with me once again to talk about his experience. The interview was recorded on Friday, May 17, so “starting the third week tomorrow” means “starting the third week on Saturday, May 18.” 🙂


Entering the homestretch…

home-stretchThe TechniCity MOOC is coming to the end of the third of four weeks.  We currently have over 21,000 students registered for the course and over 10,000 of them were active in the past week.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jennifer Evans-Cowley and I are very impressed by the level of engagement by students in the class.  There have been many, many great ideas, comments, and suggestions.  A particular suggestion that came from a few students was in regard to the length of the course (four weeks).  The course schedule corresponds with the Ohio State University Maymester, which we thought would be a perfect time for the initial offering of TechniCity, but some students have mentioned that this isn’t enough time to digest lecture and reading materials, as well as complete assignments and discussion activities.  This is a good point given that many of the students enrolled in the class are already full-time students or full-time professionals.  I think there are advantages to both longer and shorter length MOOCs.  Is the intensive course model appropriate for MOOCs?  Perhaps particular topics or modules?  The advantage of the shorter duration MOOCs is that they allow students to sample topics that may be new to them and not require a longer term time commitment.  They may also work well for workshops and in-service training, tailored to specific needs.

As we know, the MOOC model is still unfolding, and so will TechniCity.  Stay tuned…


TechniCity is happening…

This weekend we officially launched the TechniCity MOOC, with over 18,000 students signed up. Our preview week (last week) was very successful and we received several comments from students that helped us improve the look and feel of the course.  So far there have been over 28,000 streaming views of our lectures along with over 4,000 views of discussion forum topics.  We are also using MindMixer as an engagement platform for the course with over 13,000 comments, posts, votes, shares, etc. so far.  Nearly 1,000 people have joined our LinkedIn group to discuss course topics and connect with each other professionally.  Amazing!  We’re thrilled with the response not only in terms of the volume, but also the richness and depth of the participation.

Our topics for the first week focus on smart, thinking, and open cities in the context of infrastructure and urban spaces.  Several experts provide presentations on sensors, networks, imaging, surveillance, and smart grids to highlight urban technologies.  Many of the technologies discussed are still emerging and these presentations provide a glimpse into the future of our cities. The presentations include:

Thinking and Networked Cities Ericsson, Ericsson
What is a Smart City? Kevin DeSousa, Arizona State University
Better Stories for Smart Cities, Rick Robinson, IBM
Sensors, Ness Shroff, Ohio State University
Pollution Monitoring, Ness Shroff, Ohio State University
Wireless Networks: A Vision for Smarter Cities, Anthony Townsend, Institute for the Future
Mesh Networks, Greta Byrum, Open Technology Institute
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), John Volakis, Ohio State University
RFID in Cities, Jennifer Evans-Cowley, Ohio State University
Imaging and Surveillance, Robert Loce, Xerox Research Center
Understanding Surveillance, Timo Arnall, BERG
Smart Grids, Sally Jacquemin, Seimens

Jennifer Evans-Cowley and I decided to structure the course around modular lectures by experts from around the world (rather than assembling these lectures ourselves).  We felt that given the rapid change in urban technologies, students will benefit from hearing from a professional directly involved with each particular technology.  And because our course is offered for free, none of the presenters were compensated for their time and effort, so we are extremely grateful for their contributions.

Velocity, Scholarship, and Learning

Pundits, journalists, and critics are mapping the myriad factors influencing the rise of MOOCs. No matter where one comes down on the motives behind the current crop, it’s undeniable that frustration with the slow (some would say geologic) pace of change within higher education has fueled much of their development. In this segment of our conversation with Tom Sanchez, Tom reflects on the speed with which the “Technicity” MOOC went from conception to reality, and how that speed both affirms core scholarly values and creates new opportunities for deep learning in a digital age.