The Circle of Academicians

The last 5 weeks of my doctorate studies focused on the realm of academics. We discussed many topics about traits and characteristics an academician should acquire to be successful in this field. Good discussions took place. Out of these two topics, I want to share here two concepts that was raised. Both of them were mine. One I shared with the rest of the team, the other one I kept to myself, and now for you.

The first idea was related to Clifton’s strengths. I made a bold statement that a successful academician should have at least one of the following strengths: Ideation, Intellection, Learner, Connectidness or  Restorative. I would if my idea will pass the research test. it could be a thesis for one of my assignments.

The second idea is the Community of Practice. Some of the participants doubted the rules of the academic world. At the same time, during my MOOC course, I discovered that the Mooc’ers wanted to adapt their approach to the academic world. I am opposing this approach. I feel the academic world is a different community of practice than the Mooc’ers, which are different that common wisdom of the layperson. Each one follow different set of rules.

As an illustration of the situation, I like to use the following two scenarios:

(1) Consider a person who does not drink alcohols joining a wine tasting club. That person will be counterproductive to himself and the members. it is the same story. A person who does not appreciate the academic environment and wants to obtain a PhD will lose himself and make the experience of the other PhD’ers bad.

(2) Consider a person who gambles by playing Poker. If her tries to play Black Jack with the poker rules will definitely lose all his money, even if he won a couple of rounds. Consequently, if you want to study PhD, you should play by the rules of the PhD otherwise the study will be a total of loss, even if he won some arguments.

Just two illustration I wanted to capture before i perish.


In a letter to a friend, I mentioned that most of the people use the phrase “Peace Upon You”, “Shalom” and “Salamu Alaykoum” (which all mean Peace) without knowing what the Peace really means. Then a friend of mine statused his facebook with the phrase: “Kindness is to love others even if they do not deserve it”. Then it came to me. I commented on his status with “Peace is to love others without thinking if they deserve it or not”. What an epiphany!

This matches Jesus wisdom: Love Thy Enemy. I need to find reference in other religions!

Daydreaming: Subways and Mac’s of Education


I want my online courses to be like Subway sandwiches and not like MacDonald buns! I want the learner to choose the ingredients of the course. To choose the style of activities that makes them learn. They cannot choose the objectives nor the duration.

Subway and Mcdonalds have the same objectives: to give you calories and nutritions. One style allows you to choose the ingredients that the you want. The other gives you limited alternatives to choose from. At Subway, if you aim is to lose weight, you choose more vegies than bacon. If you want to put on weight, you double the cheese, bacon and mayo’s. At Macdonald, you do not have this flexibility.

I want my online courses to be the same. They should have clear objectives: (1) the learning outcomes dictated by the curriculum; a and (2) a fixed duration by which the learner should complete the outcomes*. The course will offer a variety of activities. Paced and self paced. Traditional sequential reading material and leaping hyperlinked reading material. Videos and handouts. Synchronous and Asynchronous interaction. Learning by doing and learning by observing. Self reflection and networked interaction. Mayonaise and Catchup. Peer learning and self-learning. The list need to be completed.

The one who chooses to learn using my online course should know what they want and how they learn. Like the Subway customer: they know what they like to eat and know how to choose. For the others, let them go to a Mac restaurant (i.e. packaged courses) or to a fancy restaurant (i.e the structuredconstructivistinteractiving course) . Not mine. I want my student to “Learn Fresh”.

… and I woke up!


  1. Was it a daydream or something that I can really make?
  2. Do you think there must be more objectives? Like assessment?
  3. Any suggestions for more ingredients I need to add the “menu of the course”?
  4. I know McDonals is far more popular and profitable than Subway around the world! Do you think traditional online/distant course delivery will prevail over my styles?

It’s Here: Next Generation of Online Learning

Tomorrow is here now: Free courses with no instructors, no credits, no charge and from Carnegie Mellon University! The future of teacherless courses is emerging… not there yet, but I see the light at the end of a loooong and winding tunnel!

From their site:

Using intelligent tutoring systems, virtual laboratories, simulations, and frequent opportunities for assessment and feedback, the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) builds courses that are intended to enact instruction – or, more precisely, to enact the kind of dynamic, flexible, and responsive instruction that fosters learning.

The URL is:

Berge’s Types of Interactions: Add Intrapersonal Interaction

Berge (1995) identified 2 types of interactions in learning: interactions with content and interpersonal interactions. I think we need to add a third one: intrapersonal interaction (i.e. self-reflection) since reflection is an essential learning activity that leads to understanding and appreciation (Boud, 1985; Schön, 1991). Otherwise, we will limit the learning to rote learning! As such, I would like to paraphrase Berge’s statement to read:

An educator designs a course that is to promote higher order learning, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, rather than rote memorization, it becomes important to provide an environment in which [the three] kinds of interaction [interaction with content, interpersonal interaction and intrapersonal interaction] can occur. (Berge, 1995, p.22).

Our online courses, like our classroom delivery, should include e-tivities that intice self-reflection as well as presenting suitable content and facilities for interactions among individuals. Your thoughts?


Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field. Educational Technology. 35(1) 22-30.

Boud, D., Keogh, R. Walker, D., (1985). Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. Routledge Imprints.

Schön, D. A. (1991). The Reflective Turn: Case Studies In and On Educational Practice. New York: Teachers Press, Columbia University.

Customizing Teaching for Personalized Learning

Philosophy Statements about Teaching and Learning, v. 4.1

I. Abstract

In my opinion, the best instruction is the 1-1 approach. Not in the traditional sense where a teacher teaches one student. This is not feasible using traditional teaching methods. In an ideal teaching scenario, the learners need to have “customized”, “personalized” and “individualized” teaching that caters for their learning style and talent through the innovative use of technology in all its facets. This applies in the face-to-face setting as well as online teaching.

II. Concepts and Values

This post highlights the set of values and definitions that governs my philosophy about teaching and learning. It includes a set of practices I follow when designing as well as delivering my courses, whether face-to-face or online.

Role of Teachers: Following Entwisted (1990) line of thought, I believe that the primary professional responsibility of teachers, trainers and online courses is to maximise the learning opportunities of their learners. Some would use the term “facilitator” but I still like to use the traditional term, teacher, with added contemporary connotations.

Learning, Information and Knowledge: Information, knowledge and their relation to learning is one of the vaguest concepts in the literature (Fox, 1991). Harris supplied the definition which is closest to my heart:

“knowledge is private, while information is public. Knowledge, therefore, cannot be communicated; only information can be shared. Whenever an attempt to communicate knowledge is made, it is translated into information, which other learners can choose to absorb and transform into knowledge, if they so desire” (Harris, 1995, p.1)

According to this description, I believe that learning is the process of personalizing information and experience thus creating knowledge. Collective knowledge includes skills, attitudes and beliefs. Teachers’ role is to create the desire in the learner to absorb and transform the information and experience into their own knowledge.

Assessment: is defined as “the process of documenting, usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs” (Wikipedia, Assessment). I believe that this definition mixes up between knowledge and information. In my courses, I like to define assessment as “the process of documenting, usually in qualitative terms, the incremental knowledge attained during the teaching process”. How to do this? I have few ideas that I hope will be firmed in version 5 of my philosophy.

Curriculum: I like to categories the curriculum into two types: the regulated curriculum where outcomes are clearly quantified and regulated (like army training, government regulated courses, professional tests) and free-form curriculum where the outcomes depends on the learners’ achievement within clear guidelines (example: art classes, architecture and medicine). I believe courses in the regulated curriculum address learning at the information level. Free form courses tackle the learning at the knowledge level. Each of these two types requires different teaching styles and methodologies. The difference is recognized in the design and delivery of each type, although, personally, I avoid handling regulated courses as an online course.

Learning Spaces: Brown (2005) used the term “Learning Spaces” to replaces the traditional classroom term. I like to use the same term to indicate any space that induces learning in individuals: a classroom, my office, a cafe, over the phone, on a forum, blog, wikipage, online, offline, and all the new medium of learning that is available.

Learning Styles: My teaching recognizes that individuals learn in multitude of ways. Consequently, the process of creating the desire in learners to learn should match the learners’ style. The literature offers at least 13 different schools of thought in this area (Coffield et al, 2004). Out of these schools, I find that Allinson and Hayes Cognitive Style Index to be the most suitable because it has “the best psychometric credentials” (Coffield et al, 2004, p139). I believe, to use learning styles as motivators to learning, I must include other factors like the set of intelligences acquired by the learner (Gardner et al,1995) and the set of strengths that determines their talent (Clifton & Nelson, 1992). My teaching should include drivers that ignite the learning desire based on the learners’ profile. Technology makes achieving this approach more plausible. I find the 4MAT approach to learning styles (McCarthy, 1990) the most suitable. This approach advocates that teaching should:

(1) Promote self reflecting, analysing, and experiencing.
(2) Inspire transitioning of information into knowledge
(3) Allow the individuals to digest and create content
(4) Encourage learners to express themselves

And I like to add a fifth one:

(5) Facilitate creation of knowledge through collective collaboration and network communication (Tapscott and Williams, 2010)

Learning Theories: As outlined by Anderson in his CIDER Webinar of April 2010, effective teaching should apply a mix of learning theories (behaviorism, cognitive, constructive and connectivism). I am a strong believer in this approach.

Generational Differences: Tapscott (2008) coined the term NetGen to describe individuals who were born in the digital age. I agree with him that NetGen learns in ways different than what traditional education is able to offer. Consequently, my delivery will recognize the different learning drivers dichotomies as presented by Coffield, (2004).

Parallel Education: As suggested by Brown (2010) and McGonigal (2010), new learning paradigms are emerging where the younger generation are building their knowledge outside the traditional educational systems. Some refer to this as the parallel education. The learning in this paradigm is naturally motivated and based on discovering personal talents through “virtual-real-life” experiences in areas not recognized in the traditional educational understanding. In my courses, I need to identify learners who are following this approach and encourage them to exploit it in the learning of the material. This is not easy especially that the concept is new. Maybe it will be the core driver for my philosophy version 5!

Technology in Learning: In my educational realm, technology helps to customize, individualize and personalize learning. For many thousand years, human learned based on one-to-one teaching (Toffler, 1980) until the industrial evolution came up with the idea of mass production that shaped our present educational system (West, 2001). This method is becoming obsolete to meet the new challenges (Tapsott & Wilson, 2010). With the advancement of the technology, we can go back to the natural way of human learning, i.e. one-to-one by customizing teaching to satisfy individualistic learning drivers through online courses and activities.

Continuous Improvement: My courses will always contain learners feedback to continuously evaluate means of improvement. This philosophy will continuously evolve based on new discoveries, emerging technologies, my acquired knowledge and interactions with my learners.

III. References

Brown, D., (2010), An Open Letter to Educators, YouTube Video.

Brown M., (2005), Learning Spaces, Educating the Net Generation, Educause eBooks.

Clifton, D. O., & Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing.

Coffield, F. J., Moseley D. V., Hall .E & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre/University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Entwistle, N.J. (1998). Improving teaching through research on student learning. In JJF Forrest (ed.) University teaching: international perspectives. New York: Garland.

Fox, S. (1991). The production and distribution of knowledge through open and distance learning. In D. Hylnka & J. C. Belland (Eds.), Paradigms regained: The uses of illuminative, semiotic and post-modern criticism as modes of inquiry in educational technology. Englewood Clifs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M. L., & Wake W. K. (1995). Intelligence: multiple perspectives, Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Judi H. (1995). Educational Telecomputing Projects: Information Collections, The Computing Teacher journal, published by the International Society for Technology in Education.

McGonigal, J. (2010). Gaming can make a better world. TED Presentation.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, The McGraw-Hill.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A. D. (2008). Innovating the 21st-Century University: It’s Time!, EDUCAUSE

Toffler, A., (1989). The Third Wave, Bantam Books.

West, E. G. (2001). Education and the Industrial Revolution, Liberty Fund Inc.

Wikipedia, Assessment,

Zukas, M., & Malcolm, J. (2002). Pedagogies for lifelong learning: building bridges or building walls? In R Harrison, F Reeve, A Hanson and J Clarke (eds) Supporting lifelong learning. London: Routledge/Open University.

IV. Appendix: History of the versions of My Philosophy

Version 1: articulated in 1981: The focus was on curriculum and teaching.
Version 2: articulated in 1992: The focus was student learning and success.
Version 2.5: articulated in 1996: The focus included the use of Technology.
Version 3: articulated in 2000: Constructivist concepts were adopted.
Version 3.5: articulated in 2008: Web 2.0 concepts were included.
Version 4.1: articulated in 2010: References were added.

Reading: 3 types of People

Another interesting article I read recently is about the Creative Leader by Howard G. Haas. Some of the brilliance in his areticle are:

– There are 3 type of people in business: Value Destroyers, Value Creators and the workers.

– Value Destroyer look at short term, consequently destroy assets and events.

– Value creators are those who set foundations for improved productivity that creates wealth, new possibilities and vitality.

– The workers are those who do the work and require little vision.

A creative leader requires:

  1. Technical Competency in at least one aspect of the business
  2. People Competency: communication and listening to spoken words as well as the unspoken feeling.
  3. Conceptual Skills
  4. Participants observer: Creating vision that creates value. This is golden!
  5. Learning Skill: Ready, fire, aim, fire again”.  The entire life of a leader is a learing experience.
  6. Character:
  7. Optimism.

Reading: Buckingham view about managers

Marcus Buckingham is my favorite thinker. I find many of his ideas easy to grasp. Recently, I re-read an old article he wrote in the Leadership Excellent magazine that I like to summarize some of the ideas for future reference:

– In the US, 26% are engaged employees (happy & productive), 55% are not engaged (just putting time) and 19% are actively disengaged (unhappy and spreading negativity). Leaders should increase the first category, decrease the third category by surveying their employees every 6 months.

– Stop trying to change people. Try to help them become more of who they are (my lifelong philosophy).

– Leaders are not the most important person in the company. The middle managers are. (My daily prayer).

– Stop looking for the outside for help, the solutions to all problems exist inside.

– Don’t assume everybody wants your job!

Links leading to mLearning topics

Below are links to topics related to mobile learning.

Augmented Reality:

  1. Augmented reality on EduWiki.
  2. A European look at Augmented reality and how it helps students… that is if the glasses are accepted as a mobile device!
  3. A lengthy video lecture about Augmented Learning in Education

Simulated Learning on Mobile Devices

  1. Some ideas about using iPad simulation in workplace training.
  2. 3 iPad simulations for learning.
  3. An article about the use of simulation to teach physics with focus on models rather than mathematical complexities.

User Generated Teal Time Content

  1. A white paper about the use of Clicker in the classroom.
  2. A blog on Smart Planet about the use of Clicker in the classroom.
  3. An interesting European report about User Generated Content as applied in real time internet.

Behavioural Nutrition Uses

  1. From International Jouranl of Behaviural Nutrition: Global positioning system: a new opportunity in physical activity measurement. Useful for health practitioners or students in health related programs.
  2. This is a list of iPod/iPad apps related to physical training.
  3. Nice read from The New Your Times about the use of mobile devices in health training.

Near Field Communication (NFC)

  1. Wikipedia explanation of the Near Field Communication.
  2. An article that desribe NFC as the next generation QR.
  3. Very interesting paper about the implementation of NFC in higher education.

QR and Augmented Information

  1. A Pearltree page link about everything QR.
  2. Use of QR in Libraries.
  3. A good article about Augmented Reality in Education.

Coordinated Learning and GPS

  1. From SEDL: Using GPS to promote problem solving. Useful for K-12 classes or any other course related to problem solving using real life scenarios.
  2. From International Jouranl of Behaviural Nutrition: Global positioning system: a new opportunity in physical activity measurement. useful for health practitioners or students in health related programs.
  3. A Textbook: Google Earth and GPS Elementary Classroom Activities. A book filled with GPS activities to be used at schools.

Findings of the mlearnin survey

MobileShoppingAs part of the Mobile Learning course, the team has conducted a survey among the acquaintances of the participants. Good and elaborate explanation was presented by my colleague learn123 on his blog. I recommend you visit it for more background information and meaningful findings. In this post, I will present some additional findings based on my own analysis which should complement my colleague’s observations. My line of thought is driven by developing an mLearning implementation plan, Consequently, I read the results of the survey from the preservative of identifying preparation work needed for the success of the plan.

Finding 1

In questions 4 to 9, and on average, 81 participants skipped the questions that checks their experience with mobile learning. This is almost 53% of the participants do not know or are not aware of an educational use for mobile devices. Since 89% of the participants work in an education related field (check question 1), then I may conclude that mobile devices are not popular in the educational field. Taking this finding forward, it is obvious to me that we need to promote and market the use of mobile devices more effectively for a successful implementation in education. This promotion will involve awareness activities as well as training.

Finding 2

Question 20 presents interesting findings about the teaching paradigm of the participants. 65.5% indicated that the mobile device is a cause of distraction, while 29.1% indicated that might be a tool for cheating. This means, to me at least, that there are good percentage of the participants who still think about using mobile devices in a traditional sense of education that still focuses on a teacher lead instruction. Going forward, it is obvious, at least to me, that the success of a mobile implementation plan should be accompanied by a change shift activities that introduces a new educational paradigm that is suitable for mLearning. This will include new assessment methodologies as well as, more social/collaborative/connected teaching concepts.

Finding 3

Question 21 has another significant finding. 52.8% of the participants, does not see a correlation between mobile learning and cloud computing. In addition, 41 participants refrained from answering. Combining both, a staggering 73.8% of the participants do not appreciate, or know about, the effectiveness of cloud computing in the use of mobile devices. In my opinion, a successful use of mobile devices in learning or otherwise, should depend and integrate with cloud computing. This result, again to me, indicates that the success of any mobile implementation plan in education should be accompanied by proper training and awareness about cloud computing and its use in the mobile world as well as education.


mLearning: ideas to use in the classroom

My good friend and colleague, Skip, has provided a wealth of mLearning related links that I like to archive here. The annoying thing is that most of them were posted in 2008… which means we are 3 years behind!

  • Touch: Touch is a research project that investigates Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things
  • 6 uses of Twitter in a Classroom: one blog that jas links to 6 success stories of using Twitter to enhance learning. One interesting idea that I might use is tweeting as a note sharing in the class. One projector shows the tweets, while the other shows the class presentation. Another good idea is to replace email with twieeting and use blogs to submit work, then tweet about it. Worth a try!
  • Prof Intille: This is an MIT professor who combined Health Sciences and Computers in his studies and emerged as a guru in mobile devices that focuses on health issues. His work is phenomenal.
  • mLearning Demystified: a nice, bit old video, about the use of mobile devices in the UK.
And these are few links I found that relates to the use of mobile devices in environmental sciences:
  • Enhancing Learning: A study on the use of mobile devices to improve collaboration and sense making. It focuses on the use of LillyPad application.
  • Scitable: is a free mReference library that offers a wealth of opportunities to learn about science and collaborate on enhancing this knowledge.
So far, this is what I have in mind to do with my next Computer Course I will teach:
  1. Promote the sense of community among the students. They need to understand that they have to teach each other… and teach me as well.
  2. They need to come up with a communication method among them that involves me. From my end, I will ask them all to join a FaceBook group (GrowTechnically), agree on a tweet hashtag (#GrowT), create a blog site for them using WordPress or Blogger.
  3. Use Moodle as the assignment announcement and submission. Most submissions need to have links.
  4. Use Google+ (if released) as the cloud entity.
  5. Ask them to bring their own laptop/iDevice to do the work in the classroom.
  6. Use Scitable to generate a report about an environmental issue.
  7. Demonstrate how mobile devices can contribute to enhancing our environmental surroundings and address its issues.
This is just the start. The ideas will develop as we progress.

Possible Outcomes:

  1. Use mobile devices to enhance sense making.
  2. Use mobile devices to capture and share notes about findings in the field.
  3. Working with the cloud to collaborate and produce information from data.
  4. Monitor climate change using a mobile device.

Split My Life

Yesterday, the first days of my vacation, I decided to organize my Internet presence. I decided to dedicate this blog for my professional life. It will contain articles related to my musings in three areas: education, leadership and technology. I will move my articles related to memories, philosophy, history, politics and everything else to my blogger post on, which is the Google blogging site.

I hope this works. Let’s see.

Evolution: Lynn Margulis

Lynn MargulisToday, through a Facebook friend, I discovered Lynn Margulis. She disputed evolution and defended her idea that evolution does not happen gradually, but in a leap. She is a remarkable woman. Her first article was rejected by 50 scientific journals, and accepted by only one. Now, that article is considered a landmark! When will scientific and academic arrogance seize to exist to allow proper evolution, or leapution, of human knowledge?

Reading about her made me wonder about few things: why I am not exposed to women of her caliber? I meet a lot of smart women on daily basis, but I rarely meet a woman who thinks in the absolute like her. Am I in the wrong circle? Should I be working somewhere else? Is it too late? I wonder.

Back to Margulis. She based her theory on one simple fact: there has been no evidence for biological gradual evolution from a the bacteria form to human form for the last 542 million years. This made me think: would she have reached the same conclusion if life form has existed for trillion centuries. Isn’t 542 Million years trivial in that scope. Isn’t like a sneeze in the life of the universe?

How does relate to De Chardin? He talked about an evolution from a geosphere to biosphere. Was it gradual or was it a leap?

Margulis idea adds value to divine creation. If we consider God to be an energetic being, and not a physical entity, can we say that this energetic being is driving evolution? According, to De Chardin, evolution has a purpose. Is this energetic being driving the evolution?

One last idea: I just forgot it 😉

About me: My QR – An image worth one thousand words


ABout Me QR

About Me QR

My Contact Information QR

My QR Setails

If you know QR, you know what to do. Let me know if it works.

Detect language » Arabic

Learning: Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is a new science that is emerging where technology act as an extended tool for our reality. Such tools allow us to recognize more facts about the physical reality that human faculties (like memory or 6th sense) does not recognize. One of the first layperson such tool was the MediaLab 6 sense I showed it an earlier post. With the sophistication of the mobile devices, augmented reality is becoming more popular than anticipated. I think this has a major impact on teaching and learning. Future education, if it survives, will find teaching facts to students is obsolete. The real focus will be developing basic faculty skills and train on methods of utilizing knowledge obtained from AR tools. An example:

As you can see from video, education is trying to get the AR into the classroom. But I think, real AR technology will take learning away from school into real life. Wait for more posts about the topic.

Memories: Our House on the Roof

My Roof
My impressions of the roof house

When I was a little kid, my parents had a house on the roof of my grandfather’s building. It was made up of one bedroom, one living room, one dining/sitting room. And a large outer space which extends to the rest of the roof. It was separated by the living room with a wide glass facade. My parents converted this outer space into a garden and a swimming pool. Yes, a swimming pool on the roof of my grandfather’s 4 story building.

The swimming pool side was very beautiful. When you are sitting in the dining room, facing the outside wall, you enjoy the sight and sound of a water fall. It was built by my father. You switch on the power, and water falls continuously. It was build with hollow volcanic rocks. The water falls from the top to a small pod surrounded with similar rocks that prevents the water from flooding to the swimming pool. On the other three sides of the swimming pool, a low flower basin carries different types of plants, shrubs and trees. I still remember my mother spreading few artificial, real looking birds, on the short trees. Before my brother was born, my dad used to fill the pool for me and I swam regularly in it. He used to fill it up to one foot deep only. He used to say that more water would make the building collapse. I believed him. I swan on it like a dead fish, facing down, my stomach would hit its bottom and my back was not even covered with water. My mom used tp like feeding us outside. I am fond of these days. Then my brother was born and my dad stopped filling the pool with water. We just enjoyed the water flowing from the waterfall. But the noise of the pump was bit annoying.

Another thing I remember of this open space in the roof is the breathtaking views. Our building was the highest in the neighborhood before 1960. From the west, we would see the Mediterranean sea with its heavenly sunsets throughout the year. I still remember its orangy shadows hitting the east side of our walls reminding me that the time for sleep is soon. On the north side of the roof, you would see the mountains of Lebanon. Far away, always covered with the white top throughout the year.


Below I plotted its present location on Google Earth.


View Aboluay Memory Spots in a larger map


Detect language » Arabic