Saturday, August 18, 2007
First, while I use Blackboard, for two years, I have been trying to poke as many holes in its sides as possible. It's a great tool for gathering course activities and materials, but there is a real danger in putting all one's eggs in one CMS basket. I'm just slightly paranoid (don't all of us who teach with technology get a little paranoid?) so I have my course activities (this is English 101) spread all over the place but gathered in Blackboard. Then if something happens to Blackboard, most of my course is still reachable and usable. The only exception is the gradebook; it's only in Blackboard.
So, for example, instead of Announcements this semester, I have set my opening page in Bb to a blog (did you know you can have your Bb class open to anything you want, not just the announcements?), and while there is now a blogging tool in Bb, I have gone back to Blogger (http://kts-eng101.blogspot.com) So later in the semester, I'll explain RSS to students; that way, if they want to, they can subscribe to the blog and be notified when there are updates to it without having to log into Bb itself. (Note that this will screw up the course stats in Bb, but I've never found them very reliable anyway.) I've added a sitemeter to my blog, so I can see when (or if) students access it from outside Bb.
Secondly, I use an external discussion group (see, I really am paranoid). I was going to change to Bb's discussion group this semester, but then they had big problems with it at the beginning of Summer I, so I've kept Snitz Forums, a discussion group option offered at GCC. They are linked to a button in Bb, although students have to log in. But they're available directly, even if Bb isn't, and it supports RSS also. (So apparently does Bb's discussion group; you can subscribe to threads.)
I'll use Odeo or Evoca or Audacity for audio files (Wimba seems to be having problems already). While these third-party tools aren't always reliable either, I like having the options.
Finally, I create all my assignments on web pages and link to them in Bb. I don't have the learning unit management options, but it makes the assignments easier to share with colleagues too. One thing I dislike about Bb (and always have) is the closed-off nature of our classes in it. I think innovation and improvement most clearly thrive in the light of day.
But that's just me.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Here's my audio intro about wikis:
Here's the BlueGrind version:
If you're curious, here is the text of the first two paragraphs:
Now that you’ve learned a bit about wikis, now’s the time to jump in and play around with them. Don’t worry. You’ve got boots! And friends! If you’ve never used a wiki before, it’s a little scary. We’re so used to thinking about our writing as personal – a part of us -- that many people are afraid to change anything someone else has written.First, the BlueGrindGuy can't handle contractions. (He also can't handle the word "del.icio.us"). One of my reasonings behind using audio was to get more personality into what I was providing as text. I don't think the BlueGrindGuy does it.
Sometimes we’re also too busy to undertake what could be a huge task if done by just one person. Even if we have helpers, we may find ourselves spending as much time coordinating work as we do completing it. Or I may have the germ of an idea (what Wikipedia calls a “stub”) that I’m willing to share, but I don’t have the energy or time to flesh it out. My mom used to tell me to finish in style, but that’s not necessarily true in wiki-world. I can start something and count on others to finish it up. Or I when I stumble across something half-baked, I can finish it up. It builds positively on division of labor.
Having said all that, I can see using BlueGrind as a proofreading tool for students. In fact they might find it kind of fun. Something more to add to my initial exploration of audio as a writing tool which I began with the sine curve late last fall. [Note: quite a few of the links don't work in my two sine curve pages. I set up a blog for the sine curve a while ago, but I haven't posted anything there yet. Aha -- a project for this fall!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I know I'm a print person. I've always been a print person. A perfect day: some clouds, perhaps some rain, a comfy chair, nothing pressing, and a good [trashy] book. Heaven.
When computers came along, I realized I was a text person; it wasn't so much print as it was words and sentences and paragraphs. (I love paragraphs.) I made the transition from paper to pixels pretty easily, although I still have boxes and boxes of print-outs to winnow through and toss. When I'm learning something new, my first impulse is to read the docs or find a book or search the web.
In my writing classes, I produce a lot of text, mostly on web pages: announcements, instructions, assignments, and discussion group entries. I write lots. But I wasn't sure students were reading what I was writing. My web pages were pretty text-dense, so I began to play around with format. I haven't gone over to the dark side yet with bullet-mania, but I'm breaking longer documents into shorter sections, using headings, some indentations, italics and bold. I'm paying closer attention to those pages where I think information and ideas are especially accessible -- looking at them as well as reading them.
I discovered audio not as a listener but as a speaker. I began to pay closer attention to my voice as a writer, and that just led me to recording small snippets of information, mostly as a way of providing additional encouragement to my listeners and conveying enthusiasm for my subject. (Actually, I found I was using too many parentheses, too much elipisis, and way too many exclamation points in my writing, all attempts to make my writing more lively and engaging.) With audio, I explored a wider range of expression and a different register. I still write before I record, but when I know that text will eventually end up as audio, I write differently.
This past week, I learned about "textcasting," tools that that allow a writer to convert text to audio without actually doing any recording. I've seen these links on several blogs I read, but because I'm really a print person, I've never paid them much attention. Today, I created an account at BlueGrind.com to experiment. I suppose it's easy, but something is really "lost in translation." However, it's gotten me thinking about how audio is more than just converting words on the page to something I can hear, and I'm going to add this to my writing toolbox this semester.
I'm sorry. I know textcasting helps those who are visually impaired, but folks-on-the-run are also a big market; I can't imagine listening to anything like this by choice.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The hero, who had moved in to an apartment below the heroine, came upstairs to use her telephone because he was waiting for his to be installed. What, I thought? That's lame. How come this high-powered lawyer doesn't have a cell phone?
Later in the story (set in Boston), the hero insists on taking the heroine to the airport. A chivalrous offer indeed. Her flight leaves at 4 pm; he says he'll pick her up at 3 pm. Yikes! To get to Logan? They arrive in plenty of time, and he waits with her at the gate.
In a major complication, the hero needs to dig into the heroine's past, so like any good legal investigator, he flies to Chicago to read back copies of the local newspapers in the library there. Hmmm. Doesn't he know that all those articles are available on the web?
But this story was written way back in 1984, long before cell phones, the Big Dig, airport security, and electronic databases. I don't expect Elizabeth Bennet or Isabel Archer to whip out their cell phones or fire up their computers, but a seemingly modern novel with such glaring anomalies really caught my attention and made me go back to look at the publication history. The novel first appeared in paperback in 1992 and was then reprinted in 2000. "Seemingly modern" indeed. I guess it wasn't good enough to revise, but too good to let go out of print.
Not that our students read for pleasure, but most of them weren't born when this book was first published. They would have been 3 or 4 when it first appeared in paperback, and 10 or 11 when it was reprinted. I don't think they've ever had a landline nor been able to wait for someone at the gate, but even I read old newspapers on fiche or film in high school, way before this book was first published.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
So I was poking around in several candidates' websites (no partisan politics here), and I was really surprised to see how many of the candidates make use of social networking tools: blogging, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and a variety of mash-ups. The point is to get citizens involved in the campaigns, to help them find like-minded neighbors for discussion and party-building. The upside: there are a lot of things I will do online (although I have gone door-to-door and done my stint in phone banks), especially here in Arizona when the temperature gets above 100 degrees. The downside: well, people will speak up, and those ideas might not be exactly what the candidates and campaigns had in mind. This is especially true when citizens have all the new press tools -- digital recorders and cameras -- and can post their recordings, pictures and videos to social sites, with or without editing or commentary. So I know it's risky for candidates, but the ups must outweigh the downs because all of the campaigns are heavily into social networking tools. Just look at the website of your favorite candidate! (Remember that most of these sites have RSS feeds, so you can set up a folder in Bloglines and subscribe for updates; you can keep political messages out of your email but still have access to them whenever and wherever you'd like.)
In addition to the official campaign messages, there are many, many political commentators in the Blogosphere. You can use Technorati to find the most popular, or you can find one or two blogs that you like and examine their Blogrolls or their del.icio.us links to see what they read and who follows them. If you feel strongly about a particular issue (a clear source of motivation), you can search for others who care about that issue also. I mean, sometimes it's really important to keep up with the opposition, no matter how difficult those posts may be to read.
I think social networking tools provide a whole new spin on some key political terms like "grassroots" efforts and a free press. So here's where blogs (and many other Web 2.0 tools) provide more than opportunities for play. The press is free to s/he who has one, and we all do now.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
The new dog is helping the old girl learn new tricks about motivation and its connection to learning. (The new dog is Jack who is growing by leaps and bounds; the old girl is yours truly.)
In case you hadn't noticed, it's hot outside. We have now learned that Jack doesn't much like the heat (smart dog, that Jack!) I'm juggling, trying to keep the air conditioning bill under control and the number of "accidents" on the carpets to a minimum. We have a dog door, but the old dog hasn't been doing a very good job mentoring, and Jack has been reluctant to try it on his own. But he really gets very (ah) jacked out of shape (tee hee) when he can't find Roxy in all the usual places.
This morning, I really couldn't bear leaving the sliding door open so Jack could head out to the yard on his own, so I let him out and then closed the door. Lo and behold! Jack finished his toilette and then dashed back into the cool clime of the bedroom -- whoosh, right through the dog door without a pause. Good dog, Jack!
Somewhat later, he saw Roxy out in the grass, and the next thing I know, he's streaking out through the dog door to join her. Wow! That's a new one! The dog door swings both ways. Good dog, Jack! He seems just so damned pleased with himself, now that he's figured this out. Not as much as we are, you can be sure.
While we've been talking up play, we've also noticed that participation in 23 Things has waned a bit this week. Maybe it's because of the heat, or maybe everyone's hitting the road on vacation, or hauling out the flags and the bunting for next week's celebrations, but it may be also that we need a little jolt, a kick of motivation that doesn't depend just on play.
So Jack's learned a new skill that gives him greater independence, and he's really pleased with himself. (Of course, I've been effusive in my praise too, but I don't think he's going in and out of the dog door for me.) I just hope other 23-Things players are learning too, and getting personal satisfaction out of it, but it would be nice to be able to add some yummy cookies to those wagons! Share!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I'm thinking I could use this image for my course this fall. Do you think it would attract students' attention?
How to prevent problems before they happen, so you don't have to suffer from the hang-dog look.
Here are some ideas for that final once-over before you submit your essay!
Scoring guides are your good fortune
This is not the solution to managing your time
Saturday, June 9, 2007
We've had a breakthrough. Just as I was trying to create a shareable slideshow illustrating the idea of detente, we moved right along to cavorting, tug-of-war, and other games. Jack is the teacher, and Browser is newly energized, alert and playful. She's also learned tolerance and patience, although every now and again she snaps at the puppy as if to say, "That's just too far!" Each day they learn a new way to play.
I think we're really going to like having Jack crate-trained because it gives both of them protection from the other. Jack now knows that he can find his favorite toys in his crate, that there's often water there, and that it's a comfy place to nap.
It's nice to know that young'uns can teach us old folks a thing or two. I'll have to remember that this fall as I greet a new group of students (mostly 18 or so, a few even younger.)
I took this picture with my MotoQ (PDA/cell phone), emailed it to myself, cropped it in Picture Manager, uploaded it to the Cartooner in Fd's Flickr Toys to add the balloons (thanks, Christine, for this neat tool), saved it to my PC, and then uploaded it to this blog to share with you. Wow! I can see great ways to use this! I'm looking at my pictures in a whole new way.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Not a huge number of blog posts using photos this week, and I'm not quite sure why. Is it because the huge number of photos in Flickr is overwhelming? Or because it's difficult to find a specific picture? Or because the technique (uploading, adding to posts) is too confusing? Take this opportunity to share a comment. (Or have you all been as busy as Sue Oliver, the Rat-Lady who's been very busy midwifing.) We're interested.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
This past spring, in my English 102 class (where the research topic was electronic surveillance), I learned about cell phones for kids. They are brightly colored with only a couple of buttons (Mom, Dad, 911) designed for the very young set but marketed as safety devices to parents. Who wouldn't want her first-grader to be able to contact Mom as she walks home from school? Cynical old me -- I look at these as training cell phones, so that as kids get older, parents can just upgrade the devices and services, adding IM between specified buddies in a couple of years, and easing off restrictions at age-appropriate levels. Catch 'em while they're young. It irritates me that these companies use fear to market them to parents.
So these doll sites caught my eye -- virtual playgrounds for children -- that introduce them to social networking and web 2.0 tools in a "safe" environment. Well, maybe. Sometimes these sites are tied into purchases (Webkinz that allow kids to access a web site for the plush toy they have already purchased -- does anyone have one of these?), and sometimes they are ostensibly free, containing no advertising and requiring no subscriptions. What a long-range investment these companies are making!
These sites may be safe from sexual predators (fear as a marketing strategy again), but I see them as consumer training sites, teaching very young children to want branded items, to expect read/write web capabilities, and to be comfortable customizing their online experiences. Imagine what they'll expect from technology in elementary and secondary schools, not to mention college. Look at all the learning 2.0 skills they are picking up along the way. In just a decade, these folks will be in our classrooms. Will we be ready for them?
I've been trying for years to get students to see the world as a rich source of things to describe, reflect upon, analyze, or just mention. Sigh. They just don't get it. It isn't because I read a ridiculous number of daily newspapers and weekly magazines, listen to NPR, watch the evening news, and follow a number of web sites. The most interesting topics come from just watching what happens around me.
For example, I went to Starbucks this morning, and as I was getting a refill on my Venti Black Sweetened Iced Tea, the man in front of me bought the last chocolate donut. I'm sure it's part of Star Training (a term I learned about when our son, Andrew, worked for a short time as a barista), but there was a chorus of "no more chocolate donuts" among the workers . . . first the guy who served up the LAST chocolate donut, then echoed by the girl at the cash register, then repeated in unison by the two folks working the drive-up window, and then capped off by the last barista. It was cheerful and funny, especially because the customer turned away from the counter, leaving the LAST chocolate donut (now his) on the counter, only coming back for it when I commented that now everyone in the store knew he was the guy who had bought the LAST chocolate donut. I suppose it seemed more musical to me because everyone had previously been singing along with "Mr. Sandman" which had been playing over the sound system a few minutes earlier -- perhaps from a CD that was for sale?
Now I suspect that these are both conscious Star strategies, and I suppose if I asked the right people, I could confirm that. Do other businesses pay this much attention to store climate and culture? Does it make a [big] difference in sales? Is a happier, more cheerful sales force a more productive one?
Gosh, it's great to have a blog where I can explore these ideas!
Monday, June 4, 2007
Is this how you feel right now? Confused and overwhelmed? Tangled up in Web 2.0? Take a deep breath and relax!
One of the biggest challenges I face as a learner and a teacher is handling the pace of information. It's what Christine and I are referring to as the "Goldilocks dilemma." We're struggling with that right now. What is too much information? What is too little? What's too fast or too slow?
Some of us are chomping-at-the-bit learners. We find some new capability or concept or tool and we want more, more, more. Others need the info fed out a bite at a time; if we get too much at once, we choke, get confused, and drift away.
I felt a little overwhelmed by the potential of Flickr. Not only is there Flickr itself, but there's all this stuff I don't know about gadgets (my cell phone, my MotoQ, etc.) and a whole slew of stuff I don't know about digital photos (cropping, colors, size, etc.) It's pretty overwhelming, especially because I really am a print person. So I'm going to take it a step at a time. I'll probably write quite a few posts this week, playing around with pictures and the mash ups Christine introduced. I have some interesting ideas I want to explore, but I think I'm going to have to take this in pieces.
Similarly, I have this same quandary as a teacher. How much information is too much? How much is not enough? Should I present all the information at once, or dribble it out as I think students need it? Some students are really irritated if they learn something at the end of an assignment that would have solved a problem they identified early on. 'Tis a puzzlement. If I present the information all at once, some students race through it to "finish it up" without thinking as they go. Some students don't undertake a project until the last minute, so while all the information presented at once might serve their needs, it also overwhelms other students who want things a piece at a time. It reminds me a bit of the hot-dog eating contest this weekend; the winner ate 59 hot-dogs in 12 minutes. That's one every 12 seconds. They don't actually eat them; competitive eaters have learned to stuff the hot-dogs down their throats by controlling their natural gag reflex. Boy, is that a scary metaphor for learning!
Many of us now recognize that we're going to have to figure out how to keep up with all these blog posts. We'll introduce some strategies for doing that next week. However, the folks who are frustrated by the leisurely pace of 23 Things should read Alisa's blog I'll dub her Queen of the fast pack. You can peek ahead to her mash up that she told me about in her comment to my post about "Do you go to the store with a list?" Then you can read co-Queen Marla's experience forging ahead.
The point is that we have to find our own pace, and that our pace might differ depending upon what we're learning. I'm a lot faster learner when I'm dealing with text than I am with photos or audio or video. I think teachers need to find a way to accommodate both the turtles and the hares.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
This is my first post from Flickr, and I think Christine's instructions are great! I've tagged all my photos with KTS07 (that's 07 as in 2007) so I can be able to find them easily. I was able to post from Flickr to this blog, so now I'm going to try to upload photos from my cell phone and from my MotoQ. So much to learn about these devices!
Now I'm off to see if anyone else has a dog who likes to play in a box. I know that a box, preferably a refrigerator box, was the absolutely best toy for our kids, so it doesn't surprise me that the puppy likes them too.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
I didn't want to subscribe to their Talkback, but we can have our own little comment section about this. I have to remember this fall that most of my students were born towards the early part of this period, so they've never known a world without high tech footwear. I mean, are Keds a novelty item now? Those were the only "sneakers" I knew.
It's fun to see a list like this that isn't totally devoted to technology.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
So far, we're sort of split down the middle (with Pam staking out that mid way point). On the one hand are the folks who need that goal in order to learn, as Jim says, "No goal = Nothing to seek." Marla thinks she's more productive when she has a goal, and Mary Jane (not surprisingly, because she's teaching this session) thinks it's critical to know where we want to end up when we set out. I wonder if these are the folks who make a list when they head out to the store. When we go to Costco, we have a list and a path, but strange things appear in our cart by the time we're done.
On the other hand, there's another group that likes to explore (who knows what we'll uncover?) Karen (in Cybersynapse, a great blog name!) says that she likes "seizing opportunities as they present themselves rather than looking for them" which I think is a wonderful way of describing life-long learning. Denise talks about plodding through (she'll be comfy here in the big muddy), and Alisa says, "I don't really care where it's going to take me. . . . If something is fun, then I try to think of ways I could actually use it for some goal. The goal comes at the end."
I think I'm most often in this last group. I like the serendipitous nature of not knowing what might happen when I put my particular spin on the tools I learn, and I'm willing to put in the time to learn without knowing whether it will lead anywhere at all.
Not surprisingly, we're also split on how comfortable we are with "play" as a kind of learning. When I think of play, I hear "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again." I wish I had a dime for every time I've had to do that -- I'd have a big jar of coins for sure. This summer, I find myself exploring more before reading the FAQ or the docs (if there are any). I'm trying to click on all the links to see what they do, and if I get confused, I just take a break and then approach it from a different direction. I'm trying really, really hard not to approach every "thing" with the question of how I could use it in my classes.
But then, I wonder how our students would react to the 7 1/2 habits.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
So I have some real anxiety about how to introduce new words as we explore 2.0. Of course, some of them are "names" like Flickr, Twitter, Rollyo, Technorati, etc., and I can tell from their use (and thankfully, that they're capitalized) that they are companies or services. A quick google will find them (see, even though they're usually capitalized, they sometimes become verbs). But blog, wiki and mashup are generic (like kleenex has become), and I know I have trouble figuring out what they mean.
So in the Web 2.0 world, I wonder how to get my head around the new lingo. I went searching a bit to see if there were any web 2.0 tools, but I haven't found anything yet. I'll keep exploring, but it's probably too "old-world" to see this as a problem. Does it really matter if I don't [yet] understand what a mashup is?
Monday, May 21, 2007
I had to laugh at the list of names, phone numbers and email addresses in the online contract pages. I spent two hours with a friend yesterday -- on the telephone and online -- trying to learn something new. I know more than I did yesterday morning, but I still have to play around a bit more. He and I agreed that being on the telephone at the same time we were both online was a great way to learn, much more efficient than having him write instructions and then having me follow them. And you're hearing this from a print person! If you do this telephone thingy often, buy yourself a headset so you can talk hands-free.
Much to my dismay, a lot of Web 2.0 tools don't have heavy print documentation, but I'm learning (dang, there it is again) to broaden my repertoire of learning strategies. There's a lot of audio or audio/video combos, so I'm making an effort to try those out before I go hunting for the docs. Having said that, I still feel wonderfully reassured when I can find a book. It's almost like a security blanket, even if they are a bit out of date. So if you'd like a great Web 2.0 security blanket, I recommend you toddle off to Amazon.com and buy Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms. Don't be put off by the secondary school emphasis; I learned a lot from his stories and examples. Richardson has an education blog too called Weblogg-ed that I follow.
Friday, May 11, 2007
So I've already had a question I couldn't answer (about whether Web 2.0 activities are compatible with both IE 6 and IE 7), and rather than go research the answer, I said I don't know. I suspect I'll be saying that often over the next 10 weeks, so I might as well get comfortable with it.
I think one of the points of this kind of learning activity is that no one person has all the answers, and that good questions are almost as valuable. One of the things this question raises for me is whether I am going to try out Firefox, at least on one computer. (I am using IE 6 on one computer and IE 7 on another already.) Maybe people should share what browser(s) they are using so we can all test for incompatibilites and anomalies.
I'm not sure how labels work, but I think I'm going to add two to this entry: browsers and trouble. We'll experiment.