Published: Designing a Mobile and Socially Networked Learning Assistant for a University-level Keyword Advertising Course

Another published outcome to a TLT Faculty Fellowship! I love that nearly all of the Fellowships I was involved with at PSU has yielded scholarship.


An Internet-based learning assistant leveraging the social attribute features of mobile technology is designed and implemented to incorporate updating course content of an upper-level college technology advertising course in real-time. The mobile application offers an online collaborative environment utilizing the inherent social and location-independent features of mobile technology to improve the teaching and learning environment. The application was implemented in a university-level keyword advertising course and integrated with several course-related web tools, including an enterprise-level social network. Aspects of the effectiveness of the application were evaluated using a series of five hypotheses. The results supported three hypotheses testing the relationship between gender and application use, the variations among tool choices, and the identification of frequently used tools. The two hypotheses not supported were the preference of the mobile application and the use of the social network software as standalone services, as most students desired that the social network service be integrated with an existing, university-level, content management system. Research results indicate that the integration of a mobile application with an existing content management system would be beneficial for increased student engagement with course content, which the university has since implemented.

Murkherjee, P., Kozlek, B., Jansen, B., Gyorke, A., & Camplese, C. (2014). Designing a Mobile and Socially Networked Learning Assistant for a University-level Keyword Advertising Course. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(3), 351-373. Retrieved December 22, 2014, from

Work Reflection: Importance of Building Something

We make things all the time in this business … websites, digital bits of stuff, documents, and everything in between. I have found that as my career arc has moved forward (and admidtely upward) the amount of tangible stuff I make has decreased. I post all sorts of stuff quickly all over the place, but I have gotten very bad at pointing to the things I am most proud of and wanted to try and challenge that. I was reminded the other night that I even though I am not making the same kinds of things, I have been heavily involved in new forms of maker behavior the last few years and I feel like I need to reflect on that a bit today.

The other night I had the pleasure of hosting a group of the TLT Faculty Fellows at a dinner. Not all of our current and past Fellows could be there (for all sorts of reasons), but the ones that were there all greeted me with a giant smile, hearty handshakes, and hugs. We spent a few hours having some of the best and uplifting conversations I have had around our shared core values of teaching, research, learning, and technology. It was really what I needed in this moment.


Then today it hit me — I made that. I wrote a proposal several years ago that was basically laughed at … “no way faculty will want to hang out with IT people!” I didn’t listen. I modeled my ideas after the vision that I discovered a couple of years earlier while visiting the Berkman Center in Boston. I didn’t listen. That is the lesson. A lesson I need to start remembering more. There are times that you get to the point where you know too much to challenge the status quo — you fall into the “that will never work” crew. I need to stop listening — and I am talking about both to those around me pushing those messages and my own inner voice. I need to remember that not listening can lead to great and unexpected things.

TLT Fellows will play a critical role in the success of many initiatives across ITS. Fellows will become essential to the future of TLT’s network as connecting points of intelligence, insight, energy, and knowledge-sharing. TLT Fellows will help to drive projects from within and to share fresh ideas and skills with the larger Penn State community. In addition to the two Fellow programs contained within this proposal, you will find a request for permanent funding for a related set of projects called Engagement Awards. Our goal for our Fellows is that they further work that we agree upon and help TLT create tangible outcomes that can be shared widely with the teaching and learning community through presentations, publications, and new services.

If you want a recipe for successfully engaging faculty on your campus, you need something like this. This isn’t secret sauce or anything as so many people do these kinds of things, but you need to care deeply about more than just the projects. You have to care about the people. This isn’t about money, it is about finding ways for people to make deep and meaningful connections — and trust me, that takes time. As I sat and listened to the group talk and laugh the other night I was struck by a sense of deep satisfaction. A satisfaction that comes from making something, a space that provides an opportunity to do the thing I value most deeply — connections to each other.

I could write a 12 step program on how to launch something like this, but I can boil it down to one simple thing — build a team that is so excited by thinking, sharing, and cultivating connections. Killer relationships will follow. Amazing inventions will happen. New forms of teaching practice will emerge. Innovations will go from thought to reality. And “that can’t work” will go to, damn this is awesome.

Finding a way to make space for connections is the thing that I am reflecting on today and so that is what you are going to get.

I know this is a miserable post — I haven’t taken the time to write in ages and it shows, but I need to start taking some stock in the things I am building and have built again. All of this is part of a larger eco-system of thought and action … I should get back to celebrating it and the people who have given so much to help make it real. I’ll consider this a step back onto that path.

Revisiting Social Portfolios

I am digging on diigo in such a huge way right now. There is a whole new energy coming from my colleagues across PSU and their use of diigo as a place to not only save bookmarks, but to have great conversations. This week I have watched a really smart discussion relative to lecture capture happening there … a conversation with participation that might not have happened just a few months ago.

I am also really liking being part of a larger network that can expose me to stuff I have missed. Case in point, my friend and colleague, Jeff Swain was quoted in this Campus Technology piece titled, Evolving ePortfolio at Penn State. I love reading Jeff’s comments and how much they underscore the ideas formed with our TLT Faculty Fellow, Dr. Carla Zembal-Saul. Carla’s thinking when she came to us was that portfolios shouldn’t only be about the individual, but about the affordances that the modern web has to offer — specifically the social opportunities. Carla’s vision and leadership pushed us all to move from the world of, “collect, select, and reflect” into the ever expanding Universe of ongoing reflection.

“When blogs, social networking and other interactive technologies came along, we tweaked our e-portfolio initiative,” said Jeff Swain, innovation consultant for the university. “We wanted students to be able to develop interactive, online portfolios that would be able to stay and grow with them throughout their college careers, and beyond.”

I have been reminded of this recently in my own life as I have moved back to this wordpress space for my own blog and quasi portfolio — this is my social time machine. I spent the better part of two hours last night sitting and digging through my own past, reading the words I wrote six and seven years ago and marveling at how much has changed and stayed the same. Carla’s work was such a natural fit for us several years ago and is still such a powerful concept as we move forward.

I am constantly torn with the notion that we should provide these spaces for students to use as portfolios — I mean at the end of the day it might make sense for them to be in public (non edu) spaces so they can be part of their own long-term ownership and not locked into our own infrastructure. I guess at the moment I still think it is important that we provide these spaces as a place to get started. I can’t even imagine if I would have been able to start writing in my own space when I was in college and would have access to revisit all that stuff today. If I am amazed at my growth from 2004 to now, imagine how I would feel being able to look back 20 years. If I then layer on it the ability to read the comments of the various people I had come into contact with during that same time I would have a real story to read through. And I bet I would understand myself that much better.

No matter how you slice it, the web has given us a platform that demands public identities and in the framework of the academy, public scholarship. I am thrilled I have my personal time machine and I think both Carla and Jeff are so smart to continue to press our populations to participate in the notion of ongoing reflection. The notion of personal publishing is a critical one for us all to continue to investigate and participate in. Blogging isn’t dead and it certainly has so much value in ways that we are all still working to understand. I am thrilled to have access to my past and thrilled to be connected to people like Jeff and Carla as I ponder the future.

CogDog Visits PSU

Over the last two days I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Alan Levine here at my own campus. Alan decided to make the long drive from a weekend gig in NYC to spend time with a couple of friends — our CIO and Alan went to high school together! When Alan told me he was coming in, I didn’t have to twist his arm too hard to spend some time meeting with people and giving a presentation to a group. We did our usual community as committee approach, set up a wiki, and used twitter to get people to attend. In a matter of days we had over 125 people registered!

3505158108_c25940b979jpgThe last couple of days have been a real blast letting Alan see lots of stuff going on in and around Teaching and Learning with Technology at PSU. Alan got to hang out with our Educational Gaming Commons team, the Digital Commons group, talking with people about our Informal Learning Spaces, and just getting to know people. I was lucky enough to have Alan over to dinner where we created a new way to visualize information, watched while Alan read my two year old a bedtime story (I guess that is “analog storytelling”), and just had a great time enjoying a Cuizoo inspired homemade, local meal. Last night I was joined by Alan and a couple of other colleagues at Otto’s to enjoy another local meal. All in all, the informal parts of his visit have been not only fun, but flat out inspiring to quite a few people on my team and beyond. Alan took some time to blog about it earlier today.

3505197004_7c60756d56jpgYesterday afternoon Alan did his 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story to close to packed room in Foster Auditorium in the Penn State Library. One of the things I noticed was that there were lots of new faces in the crowd — that is really exciting to me! The thing that I loved about the session upon further reflection is just how interesting it was to see the same story told with so many different tools. The funny thing is that my initial thoughts were the opposite — he should use different stories with each tool, but after thinking about it I started to realize that the tools themselves are somehow linked to the outcome of the story. I was happy to read that my friend and colleague, Chris Long, took something similar from the session … Chris says it much better than I do.

This is a significant and important insight. It not only forces us to attend to the myriad Web 2.0 modes of digital expression that are open to us, but also, and more significantly, to ask how these modes impact the content we create, engage, critique and experience.

The other thing I am thinking about with this talk is how it works to focus on the notions of storytelling as a real form of discourse. That there is a process to good storytelling that can (and should) be taught. The intensity of the “tool selection portion” is balanced very well with the introduction of the narrative itself. I think it is a talk that requires some post event thinking … it is so overwhelming at first and then it all starts to settle in. I know that I’ve had that conversation this morning with several colleagues and it made quite the positive impact. Just as an aside, I was looking around the room and noticed how engaged people were not only with what Alan was saying, but also with how many people were going to the various sites while he was sharing them. Great, great session!

3505526583_b38d1d7d82_bThe day wrapped up with a panel conversation that had ETS Faculty Fellows (Chris Long, Carla Zembal-Saul, and Ellsya Cahoy), myself, and Alan — moderated by our CIO Kevin Morooney. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t feel a bit intimidated to be a member of that group. We had a sweeping conversation related to digital literacy, open education, disaggregation, the Academy, adoption of technology, cultivation of faculty, and so much more. The questions pushed us to answer and expand — and when you have a couple of educational technologists, a philosopher, a librarian, and an expert in education the conversations got deep. It was a professional highlight for me. The questions and the conversations made the whole thing sparkle in my mind.

I am in love with these kinds of opportunities … where else can you find such a diverse set of people participating in that kind of depth of conversation on a Tuesday afternoon? It continues to be part of my professional goals to make sure conversations like this continue to happen on our campus. Conversations that challenge us as a community to engage in a meaningful and complex dialogue that can work to move us forward. I continue to be humbled by the people and passion I see around me. I send a huge thank you out to everyone who helped, participated, came, and just enjoyed!

Looking in Both Directions

As we start a new semester here at the University I thought it might be important to share some thoughts about how this summer has been different than others for me. My reflections are primarily related to work, but who knows if some personal stuff emerges. This summer has bolted by just as others before it … the difference I see here is how perspective changing, progressive, proactive, connected, and encouraging this one has been. I’ve probably worked harder this summer than many in the past — and that includes the years doing nothing but maintenance, painting, and the other odd jobs I did in high school, college, and during grad school. This summer I moved my thinking in new directions and we tried things as a group within ETS that stretched us and pushed us forward. The results, in my mind, have laid the groundwork for what I hope will become the root of our most substantial progress to date.

My personal and professional tipping point came early in the summer when I traveled to Harvard University and attended the Berkman at 10 event. To say it was transformative would be an understatement. The idea that spending a few days around people who spend their time thinking critically about how the Internet empowers and should promote openness was an amazing opportunity. I walked away from Berkman with a new clarity that I have tried in the subsequent months to embrace in new ways. I am even more focused on the notion that the Internet is a platform that not only provides new affordances, but actually encourages openness, collaboration, and community. Getting to hear people whom I have spent years reading was a thrill … getting to have dinner with David Weinberger and to engage in real conversations with he and others at our table was a thrill. When I say thrill I don’t mean it was like getting to meet a rock star, it was an opportunity to test my own legs as I was working through my own ideas that I feel have been built on their foundations. It left me oddly depressed and so motivated at the same time. It pushed me to want to create an environment like the Berkman Center here at my own Institution that works to create a knowledge community and I am working towards that lofty goal.

Organizationally, the thing that jumps out at me as the biggest move this summer was the opportunity to add Dr. Carla Zembal-Saul to ETS as a resident faculty fellow this summer. I’m not going to recount her work here only because she and the rest of the team did a masterful job of capturing it in the ETS wikispace. Her work, connected to our staff and relationships, have built new opportunities that I think will lead to a real change in the ways faculty and students embrace the notion of reflection as a learning tool. The portfolio work she pushed at us has changed the conversation in our organization and it has forced us to see it as a larger opportunity. It pushed to get our stuff together to the point where we can now point to tangible projects that will see students and faculty engaging in portfolios in a systematic way within at least two colleges on campus. That to me is very exciting. Carla’s work has not only inspired us within ETS, it has had an interesting effect on other innovative and open thinking faculty — they are encouraged to be fellows. I think going forward this has the potential to change our dynamic with faculty across the board and will help us create a sustainable model for engagement that could grow deep roots.

The idea that our local community could come together and create a first rate professional development event that brings together over 100 people is stunning. The fact that it happen is even more incredible to me. The Learning Design Summer Camp represents the change that is happening across our Institution — there are fresh ideas, fresh faces, and fresh energy that are pushing us all to do a better job at creating shared expectations. The LDSC08 represents the movement that is underway across campus — one that points to the power of community in a real a sense. This is the real life, meat space, embodiment of web 2.0 … it is tangible evidence that social networks, if fostered and supported, are real. That Twitter can coalesce real face to face interaction that is both meaningful and lasting. The events leading up to and at the LDSC08 are proof that we can be a force to be reckoned with. What we do with this new found power is the critical question.

There is so much more that went on this Summer that warrants individual posts … the ones above are the ones I see as having sustainable impact at PSU. We’ve done quite a bit more — new versions of Adobe Connect, a new and enhanced publishing platform in the blogs at Penn State, achieved goals with iTunes U that are still unspeakable, built plans for a new graduate student initiative to impact discipline specific activity, put in a half dozen new Digital Commons facilities across our Commonwealth, embarked on a project to impact thousands of composition students, and so much more. It was a good Summer … We honestly won’t know the real impact for months, but things are moving in a great direction. A huge thank you that made it so special to me and who have put their heart and soul into making vision a reality.