Archive for the ‘English posts’ Category

Why I designed the Online Live Learning and LiveTutoring

01/06/2014

We live in the third industrial revolution era. Its main vector is the digital manufacturing, the additive manufacturing (3D printing) being the most visible component of it. In 15 years the most of the fabrication will be embedded in retail and the diversity will become really huge. Al the digital fabrication device are able to produce any goods they are designed for, what will be really transacted in the third revolution economy is the intellectual property. This means that innovation, creativity and aesthetics will become soon the goods that will monetize the most inside the manufacturing chain. And this is changing a lot the big picture.

The today educational system was designed in the beginnings of the first industrial revolution. It was designed to fulfill the needs of that day’s economy. And these needs were to have more and more people working in factories, knowing very well several operations to be done and using their knowledge lifelong. The school was modelled based on the most successful entity of those times: the factory. The keywords of this educational system are: universality, uniform curricula and uniform development. But the factory is disappearing and the keywords that we need today seem to be access, adapted curricula and personal development. And most of all the debureaucratization of the learning process.

When I am talking about access I have in mind something that the need of diplomas added to the today educational model. I am talking about the taking out of the professor’s importance in the most of the distance learning models and trying to replace it with books or movies. My strong belief is that learning is a social process. It is like exploring together. Taking out the professor from the learning process is like taking out the guide from an expedition team. The first model of the learning as a social process was established by Socrates and it is well illustrated in Plato’s dialogues. But probably the most synthetic phrase that speaks about it was told by Galilei in his “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.” And this is a social process that needs the actors to be face-to-face and explore together a common subject. It is not a turned-based strategy game but a real-time one, because during a learning session the most important things are the questions and the emotions. As we are so different and sometimes not very compatible, a key issue in learning is to create a learning community where people optimally work together. Today, this is driven by luck but breaking down the geographical barriers this may be driven by naturality.

This access issue was the first thing I had in mind when I designed the concept and the software. As the videoconferencing is solving the problem of seeing and hearing each other, I concentrated on the collaboration in reading/writing/drawing and I solved it at technological level. Just that access doesn’t mean only sending bytes over the Internet. The learning environment should look as natural as possible. In that environment the miracle of learning takes place and having intrusive objects that you should concentrate on is harming all. So I designed virtual objects that we are used with in the face-to-face traditional learning as the blackboard of the classroom or the notebooks. And I interfaced them in a quite natural manner too so they look and feel as close as possible to the real ones. Regardless we talk about private tutoring or learning in classrooms, all should look familiar and make people feel comfortable with. Many people asked me why I don’t have typewritten text on the blackboard. And my answer is that it is unnatural to learn using typewriters. Sure, we can import a PowerPoint presentation and write on it. It is as we have a flipchart sheet that was printed before and we write on. Or we can annotate pictures or movies that we may place on the blackboard, which imitates things that we use to augment our face-to-face learning as well.

I mean that if you want just to write on the blackboard, it looks like this:

LT5

It is a blackboard with two pieces of chalk and a sponge. Well… in the classroom I am using a secondary blackboard for where I keep persistent some partial results. So I took it here as well as a left curtain. And this is all that the learning community needs to use for a traditional-like learning with the participants in different locations.

If you want more than traditional learning, you can take the advantages that e-learning brought in augmenting the learning process. But in augmenting it and not replacing the professor and the live interaction during the learning session. That’s why LiveTutoring has four different repositories to bring virtual learning objects: one that is embedded in the cloud area where the servers are hosted, another one on the local system where the client application is running, the third one in the private Drop Box account of each participant and the forth one in the public area of YouTube. Of course, Internet is a huge knowledge repository. To access it without a keyboard, we have a handwriting recognition feature that enables you to search the Internet for the topic you are interested in and bring it into discussion.

And if you need some external applications to be used inside the learning process, you can share any of the applications that are on any of the participants system, letting all the participants to interact and collaborate on that application. The result may be snapshot and moved on the blackboard of the classroom.

These features add some e-learning capabilities without harming what is essential in the learning process: live interaction and less intrusion of the system in the learning process.

The many ways in which you can save the content generated during the learning session enables the private tutoring, the social learning and the online school. For example, you can save the learning session in a static mode as a pdf file or posting it on the Facebook wall. But you can also have it saved in a proprietary format where each action is time stamped to be replicated in the order and with the time intervals with the other actions done during the learning session. This format is mixed with the voice automatically, but it may be mixed with the videoconferencing recording to produce a MOOC like movie.

I tried to mix these three major learning methods (the face-to-face one with e-learning and MOOC) and combine them with the idea of geographical delocalization and the presence of all the actors in the same moment, acting in the most interactive way possible. And this gives access. Access to the most important learning resources: a learning community that interacts synchronously regardless where the members are located.

An adapted curriculum is the most difficult step to be done. It supposes that the curricula will be no more decided by the learning bureaucracy. And there is something even more difficult to make this thing widely accepted: it supposes that the family or the students must assume responsibility for the decisions of going into one or another learning community. We are no more talking about national tests, we are no more talking about state assumed diplomas but about a free learning market that may create a huge variety of skills and is highly competitive. This gives to each student the chance to be in the proper learning community and to develop his/her own native skills, to have access to the teachers that fit the best his/her own learning style and to be out of any geographic captivity.

A concept and a software platform for Online Live Learning

22/05/2014

The three major educational methods used today are the traditional learning, the e-learning and the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). The traditional learning is the most widely used method and it consists in face-to-face learning inside a classroom. It is based on the live interaction of the teacher and the student. E-learning is more focused on augmenting the learning process by using virtual learning objects, on bringing in electronic books and on organizing all the learning process with the help of a LMS (Learning Management System). E-learning is primarily focused on the student. MOOC basically consists in movies of great professors lecturing on specific topics. MOOC is focused just on the student.

What if we could bring together the full interactivity that the traditional learning has, the virtual learning objects and the virtual books, as we see in the e-learning method and the capability of saving all the learning sessions after they are over and display them as MOOC does?

We call this Online Live Learning (OLL) and it is the concept that LiveTutoring® is based on.

 

Concept

It is our belief that the interaction between teacher and student is crucial for the learning process.

It is also our belief that any technology used for education should be easy to use and natural, allowing participants to focus on the learning process and not on the way the technology should be used. Its presence should be discrete and efficient at the same time.

LiveTutoring is a synchronous online learning platform designed to give all the participants (both teachers and students) the feeling that they work as they are in the same classroom. With its two different interfaces emulating a blackboard (for the wide working surfaces) and a notebook for the tablets, LiveTutoring allows users to collaborate using multi-page surfaces to read, write and draw simultaneously on. Each participant has access at the same time to the virtual classroom blackboard and to his/her own virtual notebook, to be able to take notes while watching the virtual classroom blackboard. So the main feature the platform brings up is that it allows online long-distance interaction on a virtual blackboard and many notebooks at the same time, all of them being multi-page objects. It is based on a virtualization technology and it runs from the cloud with solid clients for Windows 7 or 8 and iOS.

All the sessions may be saved in a proprietary format that allows the user to load or play them, to edit them and to save them back. At the same time, the platform lets you export the session in *.pdf format or even to place it on the Facebook wall as an album. This allows the students to focus more on the student-teacher interaction than on merely copying the content of the blackboard on their own notebooks.

It can also be used as a very good tool for social learning as it can post the blackboard pages in social sites as Facebook.

For making it possible and, why not, fun to write or draw on the working surface, the platform comes with a series of configurable drawing and erasing tools, through a natural user-friendly interface.

The platform can use pictures and movies from different repositories, one of them being the proprietary cloud based repository LiveRepo. It also allows the users to access their computer’s local file system, their Dropbox space or YouTube. The platform incorporates recognition of hand-writing and by this also includes direct search in Google, Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha. In addition, the user may rag pictures from the Internet or movies from YouTube directly on the working surface. Pictures or movies can be written over using the writing and erasing tools. PowerPoint presentations can be imported as the blackboard theme becoming the background of the blackboard pages and allowing writing and drawing over.

For learning purposes it may sometimes be necessary to give students access to certain applications that are subject of the learning session. LiveTutoring has a very powerful applications sharing component that allows users from different remote locations to get full and simultaneous access to any application running on any of the Windows computers linked in the session.

LiveTutoring comes with an API that allows organizations to integrate it within their learning management system and with their videoconferencing system. Natively, LiveTutoring is integrated with Skype for videoconferencing. Soon this integration will be extended through a video mixing functionality that will allow users to produce MOOC-like movies by mixing the saved videoconference file with the LiveTutoring session file, as all the events that appear on the virtual blackboard or notebook are saved in a time stamped manner.

The learning concept that we based LiveTutoring on is mixing the face-to-face traditional learning with the e-learning and the MOOC in what we call Online Live Learning. It is face-to-face through the instant interaction, the naturalness of the interface and because it is covering simultaneous voice, image, write and draw interaction. It is e-learning because it uses virtual learning objects, because it can create learning sequences that can be watched anytime by the choice of the user, and because it may be integrated with the LMS through its API. It is covering MOOC as well, because it may generate the recording of the learning session with a special view on what happens on the virtual classroom’s blackboard and/or on the student’s notebooks.

Here are two screenshots of the same learning session, first on the classroom electronic whiteboard and the second on the iPad of a student.

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In this first one you can see the left curtain (designed for use to write on the partial results during the lesson), the working space (partially covered by the two curtains) and the right curtain (opened to access YouTube). On the upper left corner the videoconferencing view (as a floating window) is displayed.

The second screenshot is the view of the same sequence using the iOS notebook interface on the iPad of a student. The blackboard is visible in a floating screen to allow the student to take notes while the teacher is writing on the blackboard.

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Several screenshots taken with the blackboard Windows interface are provided below to illustrate:

  • the selection of the features of the writing tools
  • the selection of handwriting to search in Wikipedia
  • dragging a picture from Internet on the surface of the blackboard and annotating it
  • dragging a movie from Youtube and playing it on the virtual blackboard
  • two PowerPoint slides embedded as blackboard background
  • visual selection of the blackboard page
  • exporting to *.pdf and the *.pdf file
  • applications sharing: editing this document in an live interactive way, taking a snapshot and dragging it on the blackboard

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A snapshot with the right curtain extended in the tablet interface (iOS) can be viewed below:

LT4

 

You may download the free client application of the platform following this link:

http://www.livetutoring.org/content/downloads

LiveTutoring is altogether a new tool and platform designed to illustrate one of best Galileo’s quotes “You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself”.