Seven Things You Should Know About Wikis

Seven Things You Should Know About Wikis

I’ve been fascinated by the possibilities of Wiki-Wikis for years, but have always had a hard time getting past the inherent ugliness of most implementations and the difficulty of getting nontechnical users comfortable with the interface. The succes of Wikipedia and the increased use of more attractive skins and templates seem to be moving Wikis into the mainstream. The Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) has released a nice summary of the software that can be used to introduce the technology to faculty and students.

This is a part of the NLI’s “7 Things You Should Know About…” series which provides concise information on a variet of learning practices and technologies. Each fact sheet focuses on a single practice in a common format: What is it? Who’s doing it? How does it work? Why is it significant? What are the downsides? Where is it going? What are the implications for teaching and learning?

Other technologies covered in the series include:

Exploring Faculty Ratings Sites

“He Will Crush You Like an Academic Ninja!”: Exploring Teacher Ratings on

Most universities spend an enormous amount of time, money and energy in evaluating courses and faculty performance, but the information gathered is seldom available to students. A number of faculty ratings sites have been established that offer an totally open and accessible forum for students to evaluate their instructors with anonymity and “almost absolute impunity.”

This is a interesting study of It’s long, but there are some interesting comparisons with traditional evaluations. At least a few traditional studies have questioned the impact of “attractiveness” on teacher ratings, with one study concluding that “attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching”. RateYourProfessor allows faculty members to assign “chile peppers” as an indicator of overall “hotness”. We’re still looking for ways to encourage students to complete on-line evaluations of their courses; maybe a faculty “hotness” item would help.

IM Back Channels In Class

Future Present » Blog Archive » IM channels in class !?!

One of our ongoing concerns/interests as part of the myNotebook Project at William and Mary is how to integrate the student machines into medium and large classes so that they contribute to the learning–rather than distract from it.
Larry Johnson
, Chief Executive Officer of the New Media Consortium, discribes a pretty low tech way of enhancing communication with IM using three screens in lecture hall.

A few intrepid professors are doing just that — for example, at the University of Southern California, several classes are setting up active IM “backchannels” to encourage a running dialog during class. The IM threads are displayed on one of three screens at the front of the room. Another is controlled by a “Google jockey” who does real time searches on words and sites mentioned in either channel.

This was used as an example of the one of the major trends in the NMC’s 2005 Horizon Report (PDF) on Extended Learning.

“This I Believe” Essays on NPR

National Public Radio is reviving a radio series from the 1950’s called “This I Believe” that was hosted by Edward Murrow. The show featured essays from both the both the famous –Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller and Harry Truman– and the not so famous. One of the more interesting entries on the site is the comparison of two essays by Elizabeth Deutsch–one from when she was 16 and another 50 years later as a professor at Cornell.

Murrow’s introduction to the original series is chilling in the similarities between our current situtation and the concerns in the US during the 1950’s about the Cold War, McCarthyism and racial division. For many of my conservative friends, the 1950’s were seen as America’s golden age, but Morrow’s short explanation of the need for the country share this personal philosophical essays offers a much more unsettled vision of life.

An Aside About Personal Philosophy Statements

One of the first exercises when I enrolled in my graduate program in adult education at Syracuse was the construction of a personal philosophy statement Roger Hiemstra, who chaired the adult ed program at that time, and Ralph Brockett, who was teaching the course, shared a common belief that ethical practice by teachers required continued and careful reflection on the nature of reality, meaning, and human nature. I’ve continued the tradition in many of my own courses, even though many students find the exercise very difficult–as I did.

(Ralph went on to edit a book published by Teachers College Press on Ethics in Adult Education, and Roger outlined his rationale statement in a chapter in that book.)