Friday, February 29, 2008
Prof Sir David Melville, former vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, is to chair the inquiry, which will consider the impact of the newest technologies - such as social networking and mobile devices - on the behaviour and attitudes of learners who are approaching or have just arrived at university, and the issues this poses for universities and colleges."
Definitely on my 'one to watch' list! Wonder how long this inquiry will last though? And if the mutation from web 2.0 to 3.0 will have happened by the time it's ready to announce anything productive?!
Cynics 'r' us today. Is that what Feb 29th does for a gal??
The Ed Techie: The Social:Learn project: "The project has gone through the initial conceptualisation phase (this can be summarised as asking the question, 'so what is social:learn exactly?' repeatedly), and is now entering an initial development stage. It's still early days and I'll blog more about it as it goes on. Below is an overview slidecast that I gave to the Hewlett Foundation last month."
Is this where the theory side of the OU's MA in Online and Distance Education becomes reality? Or will it be corporate-ised out of any glimmer of educational creativity and end up as dull as other OU offerings such as MySpaceStuff / the VLE / Library 2.0? The words sound right, but the fear of actually relinquishing control of absolutely everything connected with learning delivery and all the multitude of 'problems' dreamed up by those vetting it along the way... well... here's hoping that it's not just words and a nice idea.
Will be interesting to see...
Posted: 28 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Thursday, February 28, 2008
BBC NEWS | Technology | Web desktop targets 'cybernomads': "A virtual desktop aimed at users who access the web via cybercafes is attracting interest from organisations set up to bridge the digital divide"
Looks interesting (although not especially 'new' since web-based operating systems have been around for a while), and it would be good to see it make it out of beta into something really beneficial. Mind you, I do have to say to the founder of Jooce who uses the word 'cybernomad' with gay abandon... "No, no, no to stupid made up glued together words!!" Or should that be, nononotostupidmadeupcluedtogetherwords...? :o)
The case for long articles : February 2008 : Ian Douglas : Technology : Telegraph Blogs: "Certainly the Poynter Eyetrack surveys don't think it's true. They found that online readers get through 75 per cent of an article, as opposed to 62 per cent for broadsheet readers and 57 per cent for tabloids. Even for long-form articles, people get through more on a screen than on paper.
The same survey found that short paragraphs encourage people to continue reading, but the number of paragraphs and having to scroll didn't put anyone off."
Hooray! Content is king! Seriously though, good to see an article which goes beyond the cliché that 'people don't read serious stuff on screen' and looks at how people can be helped to get through their online reading rather than simply watering down the content.
PS Shame about the typos in the article itself. Online doesn't have to mean that you didn't proof-read it first... "huge variety of sibject matter". Tut, tut!
PPS Yes, I have read, re-read and re-read again what I've written above just in case I made some kind of typing bodge-up too. :o)
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Fearful schools banning staff from touching children | News crumb | EducationGuardian.co.uk: "Researchers found current practice regarding touching to be confused, contradictory, based on staff rather than child protection, contrary to known best practice regarding child development, increasingly contested and not required by legislation.
Piper said: 'Touchy-feely seems to have given way to touchy-feary. Everyone expressed concerns about practice.'"
Why do people do this? When did they forget they were dealing with children and prioritise hyper-protective practices above meeting their needs? Education, education, education = litigation, litigation, litigation?!
Posted: 26 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Who Is This Person? :: Firefox Add-ons: "Highlight any name on a web page and see matching information from Wink, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Facebook, Google News, Technorati, Yahoo Person Search, Spock, WikiYou, ZoomInfo, IMDB, MySpace and more..."
Yet more geeky goodness!! If you're a Firefox user (and apparently according to my lovely Google Analytics doobry wotsit the majority of the people visiting this blog are...)... then this could be a great extension for anyone doing a spot of web research. Want to establish some credentials for the person you're about to base your entire essay / report on? Just right click on their name and this little extension will offer you some options for finding out the online who, what, where of that person.
I do love a good simple idea!
6 Adobe AIR Apps to Check Out:
For web site owners, measuring traffic and visitor stats are crucial tasks to managing the site and improving performance. With the Google Analytics AIR application, those who use Google's free analytics software can now view those stats without needing to log in using a web browser. This robust application allows for multiple profiles from different Analytics accounts. Within the app, all the visitors, traffic, and content reports are available, just as they are online. A tabbed interface allows you to easily switch between the various reports. Within each area, you can drilldown into the data to view things like goal values and data segmentation. The app provides animated, interactive graphs, making viewing the data just as useful, if not more so, than when you view it online. You can also quickly swich between the interactive reports to viewing them in a PDF format instead. These reports can then be saved or printed, just like any online PDF. Alternately, reports can be exported to PDF, Excel, or XML formats. Download it here."
Useful heads up from ReadWriteWeb which is a bit geeky if you're not someone who runs their own website... but if you do... oooooh, this is purrrrrty! It makes Google Analytics move from being functional and clunky to get to, to sitting happily on your desktop, with all functions an easy click away. Now, I know this isn't desperately web 2.0 if you're installing stuff on your pristine 'I don't need to install anything the web will deliver everything to me' computer... but, I do like the look of it!
2. You know what someone means when they talk about 'sending a tweet' despite everyone else around you looking blank
3. You have more than one blog and you forget what you posted and where
4. You have had to cull your RSS feeds more than once and still if you don't check at least once a day they threaten to over-run and suffocate small children in their path
5. You go to sign up to a web 2.0 service you think looks interesting only to discover you signed up a month or so before and have forgotten all about it
6. Despite more and more of your friends discovering Facebook, you've already decided it's old hat and are in search of the next source of online procrastination
7. You use the word 'mash-up' with a straight face
8. You struggle to remember how to find out information without using Google
9. You use the word 'evangelist' when describing your online work
10. Please switch off your computer
11. And your router... I know you'll try to get a connection using another computer
12. And don't go trying to nick someone else's wireless broadband either
13. And your phone.
14. And your Blackberry.
15. And relax.
I know! Not so scary after all, huh? :o)
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Posted: 23 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The web is your hard drive -- but it's an unreliable hard drive | Technology | Guardian Unlimited: "Bear this in mind when the next snake-oil salesman does a pitch for 'cloud computing'. Sure, you can let somebody else take responsibility for the safety and security of your data, but only if you don't mind losing it."
Useful reminder about why it's good to use the web 2.0 services that are out there... but relying on them for 100% uptime and for complete reliability of data storage is a mistake. Just as with learning out to manage our digital identity is a skill modification we need to get to grips with, so are issues of data storage, ownership and management. If you want it doing right... don't necessarily do it yourself because there are some fantastic online tools out there. But if you want it doing reliably... make sure you take backups and take responsibility for those backups yourself.
Nothing ever really changes, huh? A slight tweak with the way you do things to take account of the issues a digital world can chuck your way... and you'll be right.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Posted: 21 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"Facebook has suffered its first fall in UK users, with a 5% drop between December and January, according to new figures.
However, Facebook still had 8.5 million unique users in January and remains the most popular social networking website in the UK, according to Nielsen Online, the internet research company behind the results."
Interesting, but not surprising given the number of people who've been predicting that this year is not going to be Facebook's year.
Wonder if it's just finding its own 'real' level rather than the 'ooooooh, I just found someone I haven't talked to in 15 years' attraction.
PS If you haven't spoken to them in 15 years and haven't tried to track them down. There's probably a good reason. This information - free of charge. :o)
Any other ideas? I feel that I'm destined to become very, very, very rich off the back of this afternoon's piece of procrastination... :o)
"An £800m drive to reduce the number of university dropouts has had virtually no effect, according to a report from a committee of MPs. The proportion of students who fail to complete their degree has remained at 22% for five years, it reveals.
Universities are getting larger and 'can be impersonal', and fail to provide individual tutors to support students through their degrees, the public accounts committee said.
Instead of improving support for students, some universities are recruiting more students so that they don't end up out of pocket when those who drop out take their funding with them, it said."
Strange logic, huh? You are given more money to help support students and improve retention rates. But... you decide... "Nah... let's not do that. Let's get in more students! TA DA!!!!!!!!... oh... it didn't work... whoops!"
Don't you love the drive to manipulate figures so that they look 'good' rather than dealing with the actual problems? It's not just education which does this, but seriously... haven't they forgotten somewhere along the long that they're meant to be *educating people* not superficially tarting about with figures so they appear to be better than they really are?! So much of elearning is done because it can, rather than because it should or in the way it should. "We have an ability to do elearning. So, we don't know what we're doing and we don't get great completion rates, ermmm... and the students aren't massively engaged, but we are doing it! Great, huh?"
Grrrrr to this kind of thing! It's so much harder to look at the system in which things operate and make critical judgements on effectiveness / standards than it is to churn out meaningless statistics and have a 'presence' that means nothing...
So many rants, so little time. :o)
Posted: 20 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
PDFs: Embed PDFs YouTube-Style with Scribd iPaper: "The main features of iPaper that stand out over PdfMeNot are the ability to zoom pages, view thumbnail previews, and actually scroll the content with your mouse's scrollwheel (which doesn't work for me in PdfMeNot). iPaper even does search, and it provides simple links on their site page to download and save the original version on your desktop as either a PDF, plain text document, or even synthesized MP3 recording of the document."
Ooooh! Like the sound of that!! The 'real' deal is here at Scribd iPaper. One to play with for the future... could be a great way to share long documents directly rather than linking to other copies or getting people to download stuff. Hmmmm... interestink!
Posted: 19 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Tee hee! The above link has a whole load of skills which were 'essential'... and which are now dustbin fodder for most people. Yeah, it's a bit geeky... okay... a lot geeky... but kinda funny too (even if I can still do shorthand despite it being obselete... snark!!)
Wonder what we're doing right now which will be obselete in 10 / 20 years time? Or even, given today's pace of change... next year? Toshiba HD DVD anyone...?
"A learning style may become a learning disability if cultivated at the expense of other ways of learning"
(Torrance and Rockenstein, 1998, p.278)
Not really relevant to anything other than this struck me as a really useful quote to note and bear in mind. Personal learning environments, designed and tailored by the individual always sound ideal... but ultimately playing only to a person's strengths doesn't allow them to develop their weaknesses and grow in a holistic manner. Try to hard to make things perfect and that perfection becomes a source of imperfection, I suppose.
I don't know! I'm just musing really! The more and more I see different web tools, different sources of information 'out there', different ways of connecting… the more I tend to worry about things like information overload, the clash of identity and cultures in shared spaces… but actually, all of this stuff isn't necessarily daunting. No, I didn't 'get' Twitter at first – thought it was superficial, time wasting, dull, pointless. But actually it does have some interesting uses and can be quite useful. OpenLearn has its faults (who or what doesn't!), but there's an awful lot of good intent and great content in there. Blogging seemed utterly inane to me a few years ago. But, the ability to record, reflect and connect with others has opened my mind to plenty of possibilities.
I guess what this brain splurge is saying is that if you view life positively and accept that it's okay to like some things and dislike others… and give everything you can a fair go along the way (given the bounds of time and opportunity of course!) then it can be a seriously interesting journey.
Reference: Torrance, E.P. and Rockenstein, Z.L. (1988) 'Styles of thinking and creativity' in R.R.Schmeck (ed.) Learning Strategies and Learning Styles, New York, Plenum Press
Posted: 18 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Monday, February 18, 2008
Posted: 17 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Proud Spammer of Open University Courses at bavatuesdays: "This was a pretty amazing experiment for me because it illustrates just how much I learn from reading blogs on a daily basis. Ideas happen in a series of relations, and I so thoroughly enjoy taking other people’s genius and testing it out. When I saw the Goya class get pulled in successfully in just over a minute, I started to realize just how powerful these open resources can be once they are freed from their repositories. What is stopping K-12s and universities from setting up WPMu installations (or Drupal, or what have you) and pulling these amazing resources in? Or even pushing them out themselves? Another question that needs to be asked is how many of the other open resources out there have the stellar RSS feeds these OpenLearn OERs do?"Note to brain: Think!! For goodness sake... THINK!!! You know the above means something which is both relevant and potentially interesting... so start bloomin' working on it!
Sound of brain slowly chugging into life, but too late for anything to be done about it today. Brain... I will be back tomorrow and I expect you to have done some proper processing on this. Ta everso. :o)
Turns out Microsoft Word 2007 is a pretty decent blog editor!
Could be extremely handy if you were wanting students to share their reflections / notes through blogging. It puts it into a familiar environment and publishing happens with a click of a button. No tootling to web pages required. No e-mailing entries. No right-clicking in your browser. Pretty handy if you're in the middle of typing up some notes (as student or tutor… or anyone I guess!) and you think, 'that should be popped into my blog'. Ta da! Create a new document as a blog entry in word and you're away…
Do I get kicked out of the web 2.0 / open source appreciation club for going back to Microsoft for some of my online goodness?! Oh the shame… :o)
Posted: 16 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Posted: 15 Feb 2008 12:00 AM CST
KurzweilAI.net: "The Computer as a Communication Device
by J.C.R. Licklider
This landmark 1968 essay foresaw many future computer applications and advances in communication technology, such as distributed information resources and online interactive communities that are commonplace today as Internet chat rooms and peer-to-peer applications.
Terrific article from J.C.R. Licklider. At once hopelessly utopian ("unemployment would disappear from the face of the earth") and incredibly insightful ("Will "to be on line" be a privilege or a right? If only a favored segment of the population gets a chance to enjoy the advantage of "intelligence amplification," the network may exaggerate the discontinuity in the spectrum of intellectual opportunity"). Thought-provoking and interesting beyond the normal 'everyone will be flying round in spacerockets' predictions of the future!
Definitely worth a read!
PS And also hooray for Twitter where I picked up the link off someone's 'tweet'. I may hate the lingo which goes along with 'twittering'... but it's already starting to show its worth despite the fact that I thought it was the biggest load of twaddle going when I initially heard of it. My future prediction skills are obviously not up to those of Licklider... whoopsie!
Friday, February 15, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
LinkBunch BETA - http://linkbun.ch: "A link bunch is just that - a bunch of links"
Aren't simple ideas just great? The ability to shorten and send a bunch of links together. Reading lists in a single URL - done. Collections of resources for research - together. Enthusiastic 'same theme' URLs being shared via several 'tweets' - nope. Just bung them altogether. Pop into LinkBunch and... ping! Done! The Firefox extension looks pretty nifty too.
BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Close to the wire - the joys of speedcabling: "A new 'sport' based around unravelling the mass of wires that can typically be found beneath computer desks the world over is taking off in the western US.
The first 'speedcabling' competition took place in an art gallery in Los Angeles and was won by LA-based web developer Matthew Howell.
The challenge was devised by IT professional Steven Schkolne. Contestants are faced with a tangled mass of six ethernet cables of various lengths. Their task is simply to separate them in the fastest time."
"The geeks will inherit the earth"... not if they spend their time doing this they won't! IT bods wonder why the rest of the world doesn't 'get' them. Who knew they were actually doing things like this to advance the human condition...??
Me, no idea what they're talking about... tum te tum te tum... :o)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Greg Philo on communicating effectively | comment | EducationGuardian.co.uk: "Lectures should be a way of engaging students and showing them why a subject is exciting. We can enthuse and motivate with the drama of what we have to say (why else call it a lecture theatre?). The ability to communicate face to face and hold the attention of others is a vital human skill. Beware of a technology in which the speed of our fingers is more important than the quality of our voices."The argument running through the above article is that we need more talk, less type - and although I question some of what he's saying (hasn't he heard of Skype - using a computer isn't all or nothing, type to the complete exclusion of talk), he does raise some extremely valid points. One of which is that the engagement factor is critical. Though I would argue that the medium in which the 'engagement factor' factor can occur can vary, making things interesting, attention-grabbing and involving is vital. I've been thinking about OpenLearn lately and the missing 'something' which seems to plague it. Community and context are so important to consider. Take material which was meant to be delivered in one way, do some technically interesting stripping of irrelevant / obsolete stuff, pop it into a VLE... and BINGO! Ermmm... doesn't quite work.
The fear of technology's use for technology's sake runs throughout Greg Philo's article. Powerpoint presentations which do little more than encourage an audience to switch off and plan their evening meal. Websites which demonstrate 'online learning', but are viewed by some as no more than a document dump. E-mail being used when to hear a voice would be the better option. We live in an integrated world. One technology flows into another. One means of communication flows into another. People's networks flow into others. Why not seize that flexibility and variation? Yes, we *could* learn everything online. Or pick up something from a Powerpoint-infested lecture. Maybe one face-to-face experience will inspire us. Maybe is won't. Sometimes low tech is the better option. Sometimes not. Personalised vs. the impersonal - what works for one may miss a key ingredient for another. Here's to a mix an' match world. Trying to select the right tool for the right job... and realising that no matter what our intentions, the outcome can vary because people themselves are so complex.
Brain dump complete. :o)
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE CONNECT: "The demand-pull approach is based on providing students with access to rich (sometimes virtual) learning communities built around a practice. It is passion-based learning, motivated by the student either wanting to become a member of a particular community of practice or just wanting to learn about, make, or perform something. Often the learning that transpires is informal rather than formally conducted in a structured setting. Learning occurs in part through a form of reflective practicum, but in this case the reflection comes from being embedded in a community of practice that may be supported by both a physical and a virtual presence and by collaboration between newcomers and professional practitioners/scholars."
Is the above what's up with OpenLearn? OpenLearn seems to embody much of the principles of the Education 2.0 scenario described in this thought-provoking EDUCAUSE article, but it also jars with this notion that membership of a community is all important. Wandering into the OpenLearn environment feels a bit like going into school on a weekend when someone's left the door open. All of the learning materials you could use are there. But there doesn't seem to be anyone around to help you use them. There's a feeling of isolation which goes beyond the 'norm' in distance education, or at least the norm I've come to experience. Don't we all need a little hand holding and guidance from time to time? Someone to bounce our ideas off. A peer? A group of likeminded people who are at about the same stage of exploration as we are?
Passionate with others around = passionate. Passionate on your own = a lonely experience and a short trip away from the men in white coats coming to pick you up... :o)
Saturday, February 9, 2008
To be honest I think I could have published this lot using free software in less than a week or two.Donald Clark Plan B: OpenLearn – another document dump
Ouch! A stinging review of the OU's OpenLearn... which does contain some extremely valid criticisms. On a purely aesthetic level, the blandness of the layout is hardly enticing. Couple that with the lack of a real 3D person to enthuse you when times get dull (as they invariably do with distance learning) there's a definite certain something missing from OpenLearn. I use Compendium. I've used FlashMeeting. But would I be motivated enough to find myself an OpenLearn course and study it? Would I be inspired to learn?
When I look at OpenLearn I wonder how much completion of courses occurs? I wonder whether people really get a learning experience from it or a reference source? LabSpace I like. It gives you the freedom to use resources and 'play' and seems confident in its identity. OpenLearn seems to want to be more than it is. It's worthy... but does it have real worth? I've done some of the courses which have material on there. Boy oh boy am I glad I studied them as they were meant to be studied and not attempted it via OpenLearn. Can't put my finger on why the concept doesn't quite gel for me, but the Donald Clark blog entry certainly touches on some relevant issues even if I don't agree that overall it's lacking academic credibility. The credibility is there, in my opinion, but the all important context is missing. It just doesn't feel like a real learning 'community'.
"// create the location search crap!"
... and the standard photostream background navigation image below:
is called "context_crap.gif"
You reckon one of the coders was having a crappy day?! Web designers busily subverting corporate image. Beware!! :o)
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Twenty years is forever. A millennium in computer years. A machine from back then is rare enough, but a classic (an Apple IIc) that’s not only in mint condition, it’s never been taken out of its box? Unheard of.How long can an Apple stay fresh? : February 2008 : Ian Douglas : Technology : Telegraph Blogs
Unheard of, that is, unless you’re Dan Budiac and you’ve just bought one on eBay. After much nervous deliberation he steadied his shaking hands and unpacked it, taking photos as he went, and now he’s shared them with the rest of us on Flickr.
There's something pretty funny and fascinating about this Flickr stream, even though it's v.v.geeky! Fancy bringing back memories of your first computer? Want to indulge in someone else's love of their machine? Ever wondered how it would feel to find an old 'new' computer and look at it through modern eyes?
Take a peek at the gorgeousness of someone unwrapping a brand spanking new, 20 year old Apple machine complete with manuals and instructions which need to tell you about the function 'auto repeat' for those who have no concept of what holding your finger down on a keyboard can do. I could write a load of spiel about the changing expectations of computer users and the way in which technologies and technological language are taken into our every day way of being... but no. Just enjoy this time-travelling homage to Apple nerdom. Lovely!
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
1. Use a browser like Flock which has a built in facility to display and update Twitter in a handy dandy little sidebar
2. Try a desktop client which can sit happily in the background and colour codes entries so you can follow what's headed your way and what's just 'blah'. Twhirl seems to be a goody for doing just this!
3. Find some people to follow who actually have something you might find worthwhile reading. Tweetscan can find entries by keyword - and it's always worth bunging in any old terms to see who's moaning about their boss / work for a laugh. :o)
4. Learn the lingo. There are certain features which will make using Twitter make more sense. The '@' function is one of them... and other useful ones are tucked away and listed as being Twitter nanoformats - yes, it's mildly geeky, but worth a look if you're shy of something to do for a few milliseconds.
5. Look at the alternatives - Pownce, Jaiku, even Facebook status updates... see what else is out there and do a little comparing an' contrasting. The simplicity of Twitter is strangely refreshing.
6. Toddle back to Twitter and decide to find out what other people are saying about it. Web 2.0 Teaching tools entry on Twitter is a great place to start looking if you're interested in using it in education... and then have a wander through the links they suggest. It'll get you thinking at any rate!
Twitter. Not sure. Use it with Flock and Twhirl and see what you think!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
There seems to be an inherent inflexibility in all of these forms of social networking that they're unable to cope with the niches we create in our own lives. Twitter becomes a little like doing a loud stage whisper about something you're up to - letting those people you want to know, know... and letting those people you actually don't want to know, know too! It's all or nothing. There's no grouping in these things which adequately accommodates the complexity of our messy relationships.
Is everyone destined to become a bland, middle-of-the-road version of themselves for fear of offending someone / some future useful contact / future employer / a.n.other?! Is that where life in the connected world is taking us? I can think of several really useful functions for lots of different web2.0 tools... but... I wonder if in our rush to explore and use these tools during the early days, that we're not risking missing some important functions because they don't yet allow us the subtlety we need?