Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scientific Inquiry and Educational Research

I had the opportunity to sit in, as a guest lecturer, on a doctoral seminar in the Instructional Systems program at Florida State University in 2007. Prof. Norbert Seel, who led the seminar, asked students to indicate what each regarded as the single most important research question to be addressed in the next five years in the domain of instructional systems, broadly and loosely defined to include analysis, design, development, evaluation, management and technology. Answers reflected topic areas rather than research questions. He then asked each student to indicate an appropriate research methodology to address [part or all of] the indicated question – this proved to be problematic since topic areas rather research questions had been indicated. I was struck by two things. First, the notions of ‘science’ and ‘research’ seemed to vary considerably from one person to another. Second, specific responses indicated a strong tendency to only consider those aspects of instructional systems with which a particular individual was engaged, with the implicit assumption that what each was doing represented the most critical research issue in instructional systems.

What is science? What is the nature of scientific inquiry? What distinguishes scientific research from other forms of research? What do scientists do? There are many answers to such questions. They can be found in books on the philosophy of science and in nearly every introductory text to a particular scientific discipline. I found myself generating such questions during Prof. Seel’s seminar as various doctoral students provided their responses. I settled on a rough and ready representation of inquiry in physics as a starting point. For centuries, physicists have been asking such questions as these: (a) what kinds of things are there in the universe? (b) where did these things come from? and, (c) how do these different kinds of things affect each other? My first thought was that the basic questions within a discipline have remained fairly stable over the years; what have changed are the instruments and tools used to develop answers, which have led to new answers and some variations on the basic questions. Of course research methods and perspectives have also evolved, partly based on new answers to the basic questions. The basic research questions, though, change very little from one generation to the next, in spite of what we might want to believe our how innovative and radical our own approaches are. What changes are the answers to those basic research questions. Moreover, interpretations of the basic questions have changed considerably over the years; new interpretations of the basic questions might be regarded as representing a new approach, or possibly even a paradigm shift.

For example, Empedocles, (a pre-Socratic physicist who lived circa 492-432 BCE) believed that there were only four basic things - earth, air, fire and water – and that the physical world and our experiences could be completely accounted for in terms of these four elements and their interactions. Aristotle further elaborated this view of matter and argued that all earthly substances contained mixtures of these four elements, with the particular distribution of the basic elements determining the nature and appearance of a particular object. For example, a rock contained much more earth than air, fire or water, according to Aristotle, which is presumably why rocks are hard, not readily combustible, and not easily transformed into liquid or gaseous forms. Aristotle then identified four kinds of causes: (a) material cause – the basic composition of an object; (b) formal cause – the inherent or underlying structure of a thing; (c) efficient cause – how the thing came to be in its current state; and (d) final cause – the purpose of an object.

We do not think about the world in the same way as did Empedocles and Aristotle. Physicists no longer accept their account of the physical world. In spite of dramatic advances in physics in the last two thousand years, much has not changed. What has not changed are the basic questions: What kinds of things exist, where did they come from, and how do they interact? Scientists are still attempting to elaborate adequate answers to these basic questions. Modern answers are that there are some 118 or so elements – a few more than four – and these elements are comprised of more basic building blocks – with leptons, quarks, and bosons being the basic categories for these sub-atomic building blocks. Where did these things come from? Big bang … or is that just someone knocking on my office door?

My basic line of thought while listening to various doctoral students was that this framework might be applicable to Prof. Seel’s questions. Someone will tell me not to waste my time because such an account applies only to the hard sciences – the physical sciences, such as astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. This person says that the soft sciences (including the social sciences, the learning sciences, and what Herbert Simon called the sciences of the artificial) are different. I understand those distinctions, I think, but there are some common concerns that I believe apply across all the sciences. Basically, what scientists want to know is what exists – the building blocks – and how these things interact to bring about the things we observe, predict or would like to create. While causal interactions might be more difficult to establish in the social sciences, there is still strong interest in understanding, explaining, and predicting critical human interactions, including the development of knowledge and expertise. While the things that social scientists investigate might not be as precisely and narrowly defined as those investigated by physical scientists, there is still strong interest in identifying the basic elements that explain and can predict what we have observed and are likely to observe with regard to human learning and development. Moreover, if we wish instructional design knowledge and practice to be cumulative, it would seem to be in our interest to have a small set of basic questions and ways to explore those questions that others could examine with regard to credibility of methods and veracity of findings.

Perhaps this is a biased or naïve interpretation of science. Nonetheless, I am going to look for the basic elements and their interactions in the domain of instructional systems. What are the basic building blocks of an instructional system? What comes to mind immediately are students, instructors, things to be learned, and instructional resources. This might be an earth-air-fire-and-water kind of answer, though. Each of these elements might be further elaborated in terms of more discrete components which are more informative with regard to explaining interactions that are observed or desired.

What are the essential interactions or causal influences in an instructional or learning context? Outcomes common to most instructional and learning systems include improved understanding and performance with regard to some body of knowledge or set of skills. This implies that there should be reliable ways to assess relative levels of understanding and performance (relative to past performance or understanding or relative to a desired standard or goal). Other outcomes might be identified, and these might be further elaborated in terms of types of outcomes (e.g., affective, cognitive, psycho-motor or … there are many ways to cluster outcomes) and their relationship to knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, habits of minds, mental models, skills, and such.

Regardless of the sophistication and granularity of the components and interactions, we want to understand the various things that comprise an instructional or a learning system and how they are related, especially with regard to efficacy in achieving desired outcomes. Maybe. Well, I seem to recall Gagné saying that our job was to help people learn better. What can we do at a systems level to fulfill that responsibility? How can we measure and foster success?

Lastly, there is the notion of research issues central to progress in a domain. The students who responded to Prof. Seel each had a favorite area or method of inquiry. Why believe that one’s favorite area or method of inquiry is critical to progress in instructional and learning systems research, however? What evidence can one bring to bear to defend such a view? How might one identify critical areas and methods of research inquiry in educational technology?

One might think beyond oneself and beyond one’s own training and set of predispositions. One might look at what distinguished researchers in related areas have said. The Book of Problems (see the 2002 events archive at www.learndev.org) would be a good starting point, I would think. I recall the advice I was given when selecting a dissertation topic by my Ed Allaire, my dissertation advisor at the University of Texas in Austin: Pick the central domain and then pick a central unresolved issue within that domain. Allaire’s perspective was that writing a dissertation was a part of an ongoing process of developing knowledge and competence, and, further, that familiarity with central issues was an essential part of that process. Of course there is some subjectivity in this – there will be different views about the centrality of domains and issues. I suspect, however, that a small number of alternatives can be identified. What might these alternatives be for instructional and learning systems?

That is where I thought the discussion might have gone in Prof. Seel’s seminar, or at least that is how it was going in my mind during the seminar. What I have not touched upon yet is a core issue involving values – values that are at the core of scientific inquiry. The starting point of scientific research is a desire to understand a phenomenon or situation or sequence of events. This implies that one admits to a state of relative ignorance: “I do not understand this.” One might say that humility (“I know that I do not know”) is the starting point of every scientific inquiry. What do leading instructional systems researchers admit to not knowing or not understanding? Again I recommend looking at Visser’s Book of Problems (www.learndev.org) to gain insight in to this question. There is too much that I do not know about learning and instruction for me to include the list here. However, one thing that I do not understand well is how particular people develop competence in solving complex, challenging and ill-structured problems. We do learn by doing, so engaging in and reflecting on such problem-solving and decision-making activities seems to be a necessary ingredient in the mix. It also seems woefully insufficient, however. More challenging still, from my perspective, is how we can measure individual progress in developing such skills, which I think is needed in order to develop and implement robust and reliable training programs. We could of course leave such matters to chance and coincidence, but there does seem to be an increasing demand for people who are skilled in solving very complex problems.

A second value to add to humility with regard to scientific investigation concerns being open to alternatives. “This alternative you or I have devised is only one possible approach or explanation; perhaps there are others.” The inability to imagine alternative explanations does not mean that alternative explanations do not exist. Alternative explanations always exist (this is a remark about the logic of scientific explanations). Humility is the starting point, and openness to alternative explanations is required for sustained inquiry.

Finally, one ought to engage in a kind of inquiry that will contribute to progress of human knowledge in and about the domain of inquiry. Scientific inquiry at its best is cumulative and progressive. This requires using reliable instruments and methods that others might also use. If every study is about a unique situation and every instrument used is unique to that study, then generalizing findings becomes a significant challenge – that is one of the many challenges confronting educational research, I think.

Perhaps no one mentioned such things because they are so obvious. I find myself requiring such reminders, though.

Mike Spector
AECT President

Saturday, December 12, 2009

To Serve and Support

Ideas come and go. Sometimes they come back. Occasionally they take root. Here is one that has returned several times since I became AECT President. The idea is simply that a primary responsibility of an educator is to serve and support. This is not a new idea. I suppose it has returned because I have had the chance to see it in action several times in the last few months. I visited the annual convention of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians and saw many persons there demonstrating a variety of innovative technology integration efforts in New Jersey schools. The school librarians and media specialists who presented their work were uniformly focused on helping students learn. These educators were serving and supporting their students. I have been working with teachers in poorly performing rural K-8 schools in the Southeast where I have seen teachers dedicated to helping their students improve in reading, mathematics and science. I have visited schools in Indonesia and seen teachers there helping students learn without the benefit of any of the technologies we take for granted.

I recall the mentors I have had over the years. In our field, I have benefitted from the support of Bob Gagné and Dave Merrill and others who helped me develop an understanding of instructional technology and educational research. I have seen service and support in action, and I have personally benefitted from the service and support of others. I am now confronted with a serious question of conscience. Am I doing what I could or should to serve and support?

I am generally suspicious of self-assessments, but I will venture one here because I want to urge those who might read this to ask themselves the same question. I think I have done well with regard to my personal life and my family, especially my children (they might disagree with this assessment). However, when I think about service and support in my professional life I am inclined to say I have been more focused on self-service and self-promotion and less focused on service and support to students. This is perhaps not unusual. It is perhaps natural to want to advance one’s career. Doing so might incline one to focus on those to whom one reports – deans and directors and managers – rather than focusing on those for whom one is responsible – students, in my case, or teachers if you are a principal or a dean.

We seem to always be in the middle between those above us – those who pay our salaries – and those we, as educators, are supposed to serve and support. Most of my career has been in higher education and government service, so most of my work has involved adults – college students and government workers. My ideal notion of the chain of service and support is that it should be primarily directed down the official or professional hierarchy in which one is working. In a college or university, this would mean that the president’s service and support should be focused primarily on deans and directors – not the Board of Regents. The dean’s service and support should be focused primarily on faculty and staff – not the provost or president. The teacher’s service and support should be focused primarily on students. Likewise, in a school system, the superintendent’s service and support should be focused on principals, with principals focused primarily on teachers and teachers focused primarily on students.

I know this is a naïve and simplistic view of serving and supporting, but it is my view. When I then consider why I have fallen short, I think about the incentives to perform my duties and responsibilities. I am rewarded for publishing papers and getting grants. I am not directly rewarded for advising a struggling graduate student. Indeed, the time I spend with students is hardly noticed or taken into account in the university systems in which I have worked. There is a token look at service and support of students built into the tenure and promotion process, but that aspect of tenure and promotion that examines one’s service to and support of students is typically very superficial and only marginally influential on the outcome of a tenure and promotion decision.

Publish or perish is alive and well in academia. As a journal editor, I get several emails every year asking about the status of a paper submitted by a junior faculty member who is being reviewed for tenure. Has the paper been reviewed yet? What is the outcome? Will it be published, and, if so, when? The system encourages us to be concerned with ourselves. I have done well, I suppose, in this kind of system in terms of self-advancement. I have neglected students, though – more so than I should or would were I not so busy piling up words, writing papers, pursuing funding, and seeking to advance still more. I cannot blame the system for my behavior, nor am I sure how to improve a university system or a school system to focus on those we should be serving and supporting. I am merely the victim of this simple idea that one should serve and support those for whom one is at least partly responsible.

Of course I wonder about my role as AECT President as well. I should be serving and supporting the membership. How best can I do that? Again I am not sure, but I am convinced that communication is critical. I have heard from some members after the 2009 convention. Some were happy and pleased with the meeting, and some were disappointed. What could I have done differently to better serve and support all of the membership of AECT? One thing I hope to do is to keep the next AECT President, Barbara Lockee, informed of the things I am hearing from the membership. There is not much time to make significant changes in a short period of service, but one can initiate some changes that might be pushed further by the next leader.

Some of the changes that we have been pursuing on behalf of the membership began with prior leaders and include efforts to link AECT to national organizations such as the National Technology Leadership Coalition and the New Media Consortium. We are continuing to make efforts to improve the quality of presentations at the annual meeting by providing feedback to submitters and asking that the comments of reviewers be included in final papers and presentations. We have introduced reflection paper sessions to allow those with new but not yet well developed or empirically explored ideas to present those ideas and get feedback from others – a kind of scholarly mentoring. We are continuing the series of research symposia that focus on research pertaining to important aspects of educational technology.

There are some things to which we have not responded as well as we might have. The venue for the annual conference has been a contentious point over the years. We are not going back to Orlando in response to the membership. However, we are returning to Anaheim because the hotel has lowered its cost and the location will draw a significant number of people. Then I wonder whether the time spent on worrying about the complaints of a few about the venue should outweigh the concern from so many that we pick an affordable location with convenient air access.

In sum, I am not sure if I am really serving and supporting or simply being pushed in one direction or another by various constituencies. I am really not sure about this, but I will try to serve and support as best I can in my remaining 10 months in this position.

To serve and support others or to be self-serving and self-promoting – that is the question of conscience and the idea that has returned to haunt me. I hope that it will haunt you as well. I hope that idea takes root – it will surely require much nourishing and care in order to survive.

Meanwhile, I wish you a happy and safe holiday season.

Mike Spector
AECT President

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reflecting on reflection paper presentations

We introduced reflection papers this year at AECT. They were not as successful as I had hoped. This session type is modeled after the reflection paper presentations introduced at CELDA (Cognition and Exploratory Learning in the Digital Age) 4 or 5 years ago.

I just returned from CELDA 2009 and the reflection paper session worked beautifully again there. There are some relevant differences. The sessions at CELDA were about 2 hours in length with 8 presenters in each session. The posters were put up in the room at the beginning of the session. Session attendees were given 15 minutes to take a quick look at the posters at the start of the session after reviewing how the session would proceed. Then, each presenter had 3 to 5 minutes to present the problem addressed – not an overview of the paper but the problem addressed in the paper, why the problem was significant, and the general approach taken to address the problem. There was no Q&A after the individual problem statements. Then, the presenters were seated as a panel at the front of the room and the facilitator (in this case it was one of the conference organizers – I did it twice this past week and Kinshuk did it twice – we had 4 such sessions) provided an overview of the main issues presented and proceeded to ask a few questions of the presenters to get things started. There followed a serious discussion among panelist-presenters and the audience that lasted for about an hour. All four of these sessions turned out be quite good and conversations continued after the session and throughout the conference. Some presenters were seasoned researchers and some were junior researchers.

I am hoping we can approach that kind of session at AECT – high quality, active mentoring involved, good discussion and interaction, and so on. The key difference, I think, is that the reflection paper presenters were given a chance to reflect on their problem and approach as panelists in a very collegial discussion atmosphere with many probing questions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

News from the Nov 17th AECT Board Meeting

AECT leaders are hard at work improving the association, and we had an especially productive AECT Board meeting this afternoon. Here are a few examples of the outstanding work being done on behalf of AECT members from today’s meeting. Barbara Lockee has led a task force to identify and recommend a system to improve conference planning - from the initial call for papers, through the submissions and review process, to scheduling and then developing the conference program. The system that her task force recommended is All Academic, which is the system used by AERA. It is very easy to use with all of the functionality we require. In addition, it is affordable and will allow us to provide more meaningful feedback to submitters and receive improved papers from those whose proposals are accepted. The third biennial AECT Research Symposium, led by Les Moller, is moving forward with an extended call for papers. The plan is to hold the symposium just after the summer leadership development meeting in Bloomington July 22-23 (exact dates may change slightly). The Board voted to join the New Media Consortium (NMC – www.nmc.org) so as to make NMC activities and resources more available, accessible and affordable for AECT members. This move, along with our affiliation with the National Technology Leadership Coalition (NTLC; http://www.ntlcoalition.org/) should ensure AECT a continued presence at the national level with prominent educational technology organizations.

The Board is addressing financial issues in a very measured and responsible manner. A financial review of AECT 2009 indicates that the conference will end in the black (the current estimate is a net income of about $15K; not all of the expenses have been totaled). This is less than originally projected and less than we earned in Orlando, but not all that bad given the tough economic times. To keep the conference economically viable, the Board is eliminating one-day registrations and the super early bird registration while lowering the other conference rates for 2010.

AECT has sponsored the International Student Media Festival (http://ismf09.ipower.com/new/) since 1974. ISMF started to become quite popular with state student media festivals in the last five or six years. This year there were about 1200 student entries and a strong program in Louisville – not quite as large as the previous festival in Orlando. The Board’s goal is for sponsorship of ISMF to be revenue neutral, but this year’s expenses exceeded the revenue generated by registered participants and corporate sponsors by about $33K; most of the shortfall was due to the loss of corporate sponsors (tough economic times). The Board decided that ISMF has value, especially to several of our divisions and to our state affiliates, but we also want to avoid future losses, so expenses allowed for 2010 will be reduced by $20 in order to have revenues we can realistically expect to meet known expenses. Otto Benevides has invested a great deal of time and effort in making ISMF successful in terms of student participation and workshops for students. AECT would like to see the festival continue to be a success and is taking a position of continued sponsorship with a careful eye on expenditures to ensure that we do not have another significant loss on the books. I learned on a recent visit to the New Jersey Association for School Librarians (NJASL) annual meeting that New Jersey is planning to introduce the student media festival there. ISMF sponsorship helps to put AECT in a leadership position within the K-12 educational technology community, which is one of our constituencies.

Another issue involving AECT’s role in the educational technology community and our financial situation concerns NCATE (National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education; see http://www.ncate.org/). We pay NCATE $20K every year and spend another $5K sending AECT representatives to NCATE meetings so that AECT can serve as a SPA (Specialty Program Area) accrediting group. In that role, AECT has accredited about 21 programs. This process requires a great deal of time and effort on the part of AECT volunteers in addition to the $20K we have to pay for the privilege of serving as an NCATE SPA. The Board thinks the funding model for NCATE is backwards and voted today to send a strong message to NCATE saying as much. We realize that many people have strong feelings with regard to NCATE affiliation, so we encourage you to give us your feedback, insights and experiences in the next few months while we wait to see if NCATE will take action to reverse the funding model. If there is no response from NCATE, then we will need to have a membership-wide discussion with regard to continued affiliation.

As I tried to convey at the General Membership Meeting in Louisville on October 30th, I believe that AECT is healthy financially and professionally. I think the quality of the conference continues to improve, although we can obviously do better – I am sure that Barbara Lockee will exceed all expectations and provide a stellar conference in Anaheim in October 2010. We have new university, state and international affiliates, and more likely to come. Our publications are doing exceptionally well – the impact factor for Educational Technology Research & Development doubled this year, which is a remarkable achievement – many thanks again to Steve Ross for his long service as the ETR&D Research Editor. You will soon see a new Website and some new features on that Website, including free access to publications not available elsewhere. Life in Second Life is proceeding on course. More webinars are planned that should be of interest. We are moving in positive directions given such indicators.

However, my view is biased. I want to hear more from you. The Board wants to hear more from you. What should we be doing that we are not doing or not doing well? What are we doing well that we should be sure to keep doing well? Let us know.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Mike Spector

Monday, November 16, 2009

Selecting the Venue for the AECT Annual Convention

In my short time on the Executive Committee and the Board, I have heard many discussions about the venue, and the number one priority for the Board has been keeping the cost (both hotel and travel) to a minimum. When the city is considered, ticket prices purchased from multiple points are estimated. The maximum hotel room rate that AECT will consider is set to $160 before taxes, including free Internet. This restriction rules out a great many hotels that have the required facilities near airports in cities that have low cost airlines flying in and out. It was precisely the low cost of going to Anaheim that is taking us there again in 2010 and probably in 2013. We have been searching very seriously and diligently for other options in the West but as yet have not found any.

These decisions are not made in back alleys or behind closed doors. We do encourage and invite feedback - you can always send your ideas on conference venue and other matters to me directly or to your division president or both. The decision to go to Jacksonville in 2011 and 2014 was based on member feedback that Orlando was too expensive. We searched for and found a good replacement for Orlando in Jacksonville, which is very affordable. We are still looking for a suitable replacement for Anaheim. Please realize that we have to make the decisions several years in advance and most hotels will sign only when a return visit is part of the deal. Keeping the costs to a minimum while providing a suitable and inviting venue are our primary concerns.

Here are the already planned venues:

2010 - Anaheim
2011 - Jacksonville
2012 - Louisville
2013 - Anaheim
2014 - Jacksonville

This is typical of how far out venues are selected - in part due to the fact that hotels are usually booked two years in advance and also in part to the fact to get the rates we need, the hotels generally want to have two conference visits on the contract. We will continue to listen to and involve the membership in selecting conference venues, but we do need a lot of lead time. Let your voices be heard.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Responsible Behavior Statements for AECT Conventions

One presenter at AECT 2009 felt abused by one of the participants in the session. Apparently, the participant used very derogatory language in discrediting the perspective and ideas of the researcher. The presenter was unable to respond due to severe embarrassment. The person persisted with the harsh criticism; then, another participant said that the tone of the criticism was not appropriate. Because this incident has been brought to the attention of several persons, and I have now heard about it from several sources, all of whom basically reported the same thing, I feel obliged to suggest the following guidelines for responsible behavior at the convention:

AECT session presenters will:
1. include appropriate citations of sources and funding support in their presentations;
2. indicate Institutional Review Board approval when presenting research subject to IRB;
3. acknowledge all those who have contributed to the effort being presented;
4. allow time for questions and comments to the extent possible within time constraints;
5. stop immediately when the session facilitator indicates that time has expired; and,
6. avoid all use of denigrating language and treat all participants in the session with respect.

AECT session participants will:
1. be attentive during presentations;
2. turn off cell phone and not talk to others during presentations;
3. only interrupt with questions and comments when recognized by the presenter or the facilitator;
4. be respectful of the presenter even when making critical observations or asking very challenging questions;
5. avoid lengthy comments, keep questions short and focused, and stop when the session facilitator so indicates; and,
6. avoid all use of denigrating language and treat all participants and presenters in the session with respect.

AECT Session facilitators will:
1. introduce very briefly the session and session presenters;
2. distribute and collect session evaluation forms;
3. ensure that presenters do not exceed time limits set in advance;
4. ask any participant or presenter who is using inappropriate language or behaving inappropriately to cease and desist at once; and,
5. report any disruptive activities or inappropriate behavior to one of the conference planners.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Highlights of AECT 2009

Thanks to all those who made AECT 2009 so wonderful – especially to my co-planners, Barbara Lockee and Miriam Larson, the division/affiliate planners, and our highly experienced conference support personnel, Lois Freeland and Dalinda Bond. I estimate that the planners invested about 60 hours on planning calls and at least as many hours in planning activities between bi-weekly calls. Without their tireless efforts, AECT 2009 would not have been such a success.

We had about 740 registered participants – slightly fewer than the turnout in Orlando last year – but we had twice the number of one-day registrations as we have had in the past – 140. On Saturday, the AECT Board voted to discontinue one-day registrations since so many of the one-day registrants this year attended multiple days.

The Galt House venue was a hit with nearly everyone. Free Internet access in the rooms was appreciated as was the existence of inexpensive food and drinks within the hotel and nearby.

We had three outstanding keynote speakers: Peter Goodyear (University of Sydney), Daphne Rainey (National Science Foundation), and Andrei Podolskij (Moscow State University). Peter’s talk about learning through inquiry and teaching as design, resonated with many of those in attendance and sparked ongoing discussion throughout the conference. Daphne’s overview of NSF programs, and cyberlearning in particular, also generated many subsequent discussions, and was a very nice introduction to the theme for the 2010 conference. Andrei’s presentation on the developmental dimensions of instructional design was a strong and well-formulated reminder of the need to take into account human development when planning and implementing learning and instruction, and his closing example made the need to keep human developmental psychology linked to instructional planning quite clear. We also had many outstanding presidential sessions, integrative panels and concurrent sessions.

I have already received feedback that this year’s innovation of reflection papers could be strengthened by scheduling them so that the posters followed the short paper presentations immediately. I doubled the number of Presidential sessions in response to feedback from last year. These sessions included an interdisciplinary panel reporting on a technology integration effort in rural K-8 schools in the Southeast, another reporting on technology integration and professional development in a higher education setting that involved two remote presenters and two on-site presenters, a panel addressing the development of the scientific mind, a very stimulating session on cloudworks (see http://cloudworks.ac.uk/), and much more.

We plan to expand the present@distance sessions that were a success this year. Presenting at a distance was designed to allow those outside the USA, and others who simply could not afford to travel to the conference, to make a presentation and place a paper in the Proceedings at a significantly reduced rate. Because there are costs to AECT to support such sessions, and because we expect more of these in the future due to eliminating the one-day registration fee, we will need to revisit the registration costs for remote presenters.

The ECT Foundation sponsored a riverboat cruise Friday evening. We were originally scheduled to be on the Belle of Louisville, but it lost a battle with a barge and we ended up on the Spirit of Jefferson instead. “It was a rainy night in Louisville. The sky was ominous, as was the previous incident with the Belle of Louisville.” So began the saga of the ECT’s Cruising on the River adventure. The boat was filled to capacity, and, no thanks to the weather, everyone survived. Some imbibed. There was music, courtesy of Tom Atkinson and Greg Clinton. Some danced. One danced barefoot – one of those wild conference co-planners mentioned earlier. The music and the weather and the cruise up the Ohio River and back combined to make for a wonderful evening outing.

How about the future prospects of AECT? We are reaching out to new constituencies and reaching new groups of interested professionals. Mary Herring negotiated affiliations with the National Technology Leadership Consortium and the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education this past year. I am working on an agreement with the Indonesian Educational Technology Society (IPTPI) and the New Media Consortium. Future Minds is continuing to pursue its vision of transforming education. We have two new state chapters in Michigan and Kansas, and two new university affiliates - Boise State and Virginia Tech. We are committed to providing improved services to our members including: (a) a series of concept papers to be published through the Publications Committee led by Rhonda Robinson, (b) a new edition of the Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology to be available in 2012/2013 to members online, as are the 2nd and 3rd editions, (c) a new journal focusing on Design led by Elizabeth Boling, (d) joint grant proposals with AECT teaming with universities and other associations, (e) Webinar series sponsored by various divisions and available at no cost to AECT members, (f) virtual worlds space for all of the divisions in Second Life, (g) ongoing biennial summer research symposia resulting in edited volumes, and (h) new software support to make conference planning more effective and efficient.

We will seek to expand membership and reduce operating expenses so as to avoid any significant increases in membership dues or conference rates. Given access to so many high quality online publications, membership continues to be well worth the cost, in my obviously biased opinion. Our 2010 budget was projected to have a total income of $852,855 with total expenses of $773,9925 - with a net gain of $73,930. It is too early to know if we will hit that target. There was reduced corporate support for ISMF which resulted in AECT providing much more support than we have in the past resulting in a net loss rather than a net gain. There were many more one-day registrations than in the past which will put us a bit behind in our projected revenue from the conference. Still, we have very strong revenues coming in from our journals – about $356,000 this year, and membership is stable. While there are new things we need to support – finalizing the Website, an affiliation with the New Media Consortium, etc. – there are also some sizeable expenses that can be reduced (e.g., NCATE dues – my own opinion is that the funding model is exactly backwards in this case; NCATE should be paying AECT for our intellectual property and professional services).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Welcome to the AECT President's Blog

One thing I want to do as the AECT President for 2009-2010 is to share information about AECT and receive feedback with regard to AECT directions and activities. I encourage anyone interested in AECT to post comments (or send me an email at jmspector007@gmail.com) with suggestions of ways to improve our professional association.