Example of Social Software in Action

CogDogBlog » Blog Archive » Social Software In Action (no real software required)

I’ve often used the example of how quickly and effectively Larry Lessig’s book Free Culture was remixed into a dozen different forms. If I remember correctly, the audio version was available within a weekend after AKMA suggested splitting up the chapters and preparing MP3 files.

This is a great summary of how folks spontaneously found ways to enhance and make an important presentation available to those who couldn’t attend Northern Voices. Like Alan, I’ve generally found conference PowerPoints to be a bit of a disappointment:

It was a fabulous session if you were there. Typically at a conference, the session ends when it is over, and if you were not there, at best you may get someone’s blogged notes or perhaps a fat PowerPoint to download. I have yet to download a presentation file from a session I did not attend and get more than maybe a URL from the download. A presentation file is not a presentation experience.

This session clearly didn’t end when it was over– the remixing continued literally around the world.

Let’s follow the geographic trail- starting from a session presented and recorded in Vancouver BC, audio loaded to a blog in Arizona, images uploaded from Seattle, a movie produced from Hong Kong, and a distilled session summary from Portugal!

The comments suggest that we’re continuing to learn from this experience.

Can Blogging be Serious and Experimental?

Link to: Inside Higher Ed :: Serious Bloggers

This piece by Wayne State assistant professor Jeff Rice, who blogs as Yellow Dog, highlights the chilling effect that articles like the Chronicle’s Bloggers Need Not Apply and the Business Week cover story Attack of the Blogs have had on academic bloggers. Even academics who are attracted to this new medium generally respond by either writing anonymously or by adopting a super-serious tone that robs the writing of the very energy that should be fueling it.

Writing a blog under a pseudonym is usually an argument that the only safe way for an academic to write publicly is to write anonymously. Our thoughts about students, grades, internal policy and even our private lives and interests can never be revealed to our colleagues or future colleagues or we risk losing all we have worked so hard for!

Students and colleagues lose out when we block this exchange. Our positions on issues of grading and curriculum and our feelings about our students are as central to our teaching as issues of what content to teach or what grants to apply for. Our community is enhanced when on-line tools can be used to give us additional insights about and access to the authentic understandings of those that meet with in classes, studios, labs or faculty meetings. Blogging offers an extremely rich set of tools help share those understandings..

Lost in this seriousness are a number of quite amazing things blogging has provided writers: ability to create discourse in widely accessed, public venues, ease of online publishing, ability to write daily to a networked space, ability to archive one’s writing, ability to interlink writing spaces, ability to respond to other writers quickly, etc.

One more voice to the chorus of those calling for those of us in higher education to use these new tools to connect, communicate and unfreeze our practice.

The Ends of Education

There have been a number of thought provoking comments on one of Rachel‘s recent posts on a paper she’s working on that focuses on what it means for a New Media Center or other organization to “have an impact on campus.” Gardner commented on the original post asking:

Hmmm. What *does* it mean to have an impact on campus? …..Does an “teaching outcome” count as a “success’ if a student offers a passionate eulogy at your funeral?

This leads naturally to the need for more discussion on what the purposes (or ends) of our colleges and universities really are. Neil Postman in the End of Education writes that most of what was being discussed about education in the mid-nineties was about mechanics, engineering and technology. The salvation of education requires that we move beyond the technical:

Of course, there are many learnings that are little else but a mechanical skill, and in such cases there may be a best way. But to become a different person because of something you have learned–to appropriate an insight, a concept, a vision, so that your world is altered–that is a different matter. For that to happen, you need a reason. And that is the metaphysical problem I speak of.

It’s been a long time at most universities since we’ve taken that conversation very seriously, as Garnder notes in another post:

The apparatus of higher education has managed to obscure that truth about the professional work we do. We can’t even find that “something much larger” on our own campuses, or reflect it in our curriculum, or foster it in our interaction with colleagues, much less find a way to demonstrate it to the world.

I enjoy the discussion of new technologies and new ways of teaching–both those that use technologies and those that don’t. As a faculty member in the School of Education, I feel an obligation to look beyond the hype and to really understand the fundamental changes that “have an impact” on teachers and their students. For better *and* for worse technology is changing why our students learn, what they learn and how they learn it.

The *why* is a tough, but important issue to keep in front of us. For me, the *why* is more about transforming lives than about covering content or preparing people for jobs. We’ve got lots of talking (blogging) to do to learn how to do that better.

A Little Wabi Sabi Please

Link To: Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Wikipedia and open source

As the debate on the accuracy of the Wikipedia goes on, I am reminded about the wiki:wabi sabi world view ( the appreciation of the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete).

Nicholas Carr, of IT should become boring, fame, continues to stir things up in the blogosphere. In this post he takes on the article from Nature that has requently been cited as vindicating the claim that the Wikipedia is [almost] as accurate a resource as Britannica. Carr’s careful reading of the supplemental materials raises some issues about the reliability the study and the validity of the conclusions. He has a number of specific problems:

  1. Many stories in blogs and in the more mainstream press have overemphasized the findings of the study and have glossed over the fact that the story in nature was a news story, not peer reviewed scientific article.
  2. He uses the supplemental materials (which are available on his site as a Word document) to examine how the Nature reporters filtered out some of the criticisms offered by the experts. They adjusted some of the expert findings to adjust for the expectations of the “typical encyclopedia user”.
  3. He cites some additional evidence that the inaccuracies in Wikipedia tended to somewhat more substantial than those in Britannica.

Ross Mayfield, who was at the open source conference where Mitch Kapur gave the speech that triggered the Carr post, responds pretty persuasively to the criticism on his blog. I like the Wikipedia as a personal resource, and I’d found myself referring to the nature article several times in the last week without really haven’t read it carefully. I’m a little more cautious now. As Mayfield’s post indicates, having folks like Nicholas Carr in the blogosphere is a huge advantage to sharpen our thinking, and it’s good to be reminded every now and again of the frailty of all of our knowledge systems.

Which is part of the point. No editing system, closed editorial process or open, is perfect. Instead focus on media literacy and a little wabi sabi.

Limitations of the Education Industry

Link to: CogDogBlog » Blog Archive » The Dissonance of “Blogs in Education”

There’s lots to chew on in this post from the CogDogBlog. Seems like the whole crew at the Northern Voices conference got their juices flowing and there are more provocative ideas floating around than I can absorb. I think Alan’s discomfort with the term “Blogs in Education” hits on a fundamental problem that will constantly plague us as tools for individualized learning proliferate. The key distinction to me is between “education” and “learning”.

Back when I was doing career counseling, I spent a lot of time trying to help students understand the difference between a job and an industry. Jobs are things that you do, like writing process, creating images, or counting beans; industries are the environments that you do those jobs in. (That’s the simplified version; the longer version requires the use of props like paper plates, but I digress.)

Education in the US is an industry, much like advertising, investment banking or luggage manufacturing, though bigger, and, some would say, with more noble goals. As an industry we have certain expectations that differentiate us from other industries. The higher education industry is defined–for better or worse–by the fact that we offer courses, evaluate what happens in those courses, and grant credit for those courses that other industries judge as being valuable. As an industry, we see most everything–including blogs and other social software–through the lense of courses or the support organizations that allow us to offer courses. (The research enterprise is an industry with its own rules of engagement.)

Learning is a job or an activity that can take place in multiple environments. Adult educators, led by Allen Tough, have tried to help the education industry understand that learning is centered with the individual–not with the industry, but with little success. Social software tools are empowering learners to be at the center of their own learning universe to an extent we could only imagine a few years ago. There’s going to be an amazing amount of dissonance and discomfort within the higher education industry as we try to break free of our conception of the course as the primary organizational tool of what should be our primary organizational activity (job)–learning by indviduals.

Preparing the Next Generation of Digital Natives

Link to: Mommy, Help Me Download ‘Farmer in the Dell’ to My MP3 Player – New York Times

Digital cameras and MP3 players designed for kids 3 years old and up. Increasingly, I’m being drawn into discussions by K-12 educators about the appropriateness of various technologies for very young students. I’m not sure about the MP3 players, but the digital camera seems like a great way to get kids to create based on things that they see in the (real) world rather than merely creating on their screens. I’ve talked with a colleague who has a 6 year old (I think) who is manipulating images using Photoshop. Now it will be easy for preschoolers to capture images and to use those in creative ways.

On the surface this seems like a good thing, though you have to wonder how the schools and colleges will adapt to kids who continue starting earlier and earlier to use technology to create rather than consume media.

Fisher-Price, synonymous with Elmo and Power Wheels, will introduce a digital music player and digital camera for children ages 3 and older that will be sold during the 2006 holiday season.

Executives at Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, said the company’s MP3 player and digital camera, both priced at $70, are specifically designed for young children, with a rugged design that can survive repeated four-foot drops and big easy-to-use buttons that simplify the technology.

The Kid-Tough Digital Camera, for example, has two view finders — much like a pair of binoculars — rather the single window found on the adult version; two large handles to steady it before shooting a picture; and a two-step process for deleting unwanted pictures verses the four- or five-step version on a typical camera.

Because not all preschoolers can read a song title before hitting the play button, the Digital Song and Story Player relies on easily recognizable icons to symbolize each song, like a star for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or a barn for “Old McDonald.”

Both products take a minimalist approach. The digital camera has only five buttons. “We analyzed what kids did with these products and what appealed to them and threw out what they didn’t need,” said David Ciganko, vice president for product design at Fisher-Price.

Lisa Mancuso, vice president for marketing at Fisher-Price, said that with the camera “there is a sense of accomplishment, of ‘Mommy, look what I did.’ ”

With both technologies, however, it is mommy and daddy who will have to do some of the accomplishing. A parent’s help is required to download new songs on the digital music player and upload photos to a computer before printing. Fisher-Price said it has developed easy-to-use software that makes the setup fairly simple.

Presidents Who Blog

The recent issue of University Business ran an interesting Editor’s Note on college and university president’s who blog. Arizona State University president Michael Crow has a blog, offers podcasts, and even has his own domain! Other president’s who blog, according to the article, include Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon and Trinity University President Patricia McGuire.

I’ll bet William and Mary President Gene Nichol would be a great blogger, but I don’t think he’s on board yet. Anyone else aware of other blogging presidents?

MySpace Isn’t Blogging

Link to: Scobleizer – Microsoft Geek Blogger

In the recent session that I took part in with a group of K-12 teachers, we talked about how MySpace and FaceBook actually work against teachers who want to use social software for learning purposes. Our initial premise was that students who had experience with online communities will be better prepared for academic uses of tools like blogging than those who didn’t. A number of participants who had spent some time with MySpace questioned just how much transferable learning–other than uploading pictures–really takes place in these huge “commercially oriented” social communities. I agree that what students are doing on those sites has very little to do with the kind of social software use that I’m promoting with our faculty. Are students who use MySpace and FaceBook really that much more “digitally native” than those who don’t?

Continue reading “MySpace Isn’t Blogging”

Captioning and Searching Rich Media

Link to: 2005-09-12: Captioning services update

The opening of the Multimedia Studio and the increased discussion of podcasting, and other rich media is raising numerous questions about our future ability to index, search and recombine those files in the way we can remix text today. That’s some time in the future, but there are some interesting experiments that, though crude, are helping to prove that we’ll get there.

One interesting experimental project is at Berkeley where they are using closed captioning to allow textual searches to be linked to multiple webcast lectures. (The beta server seems to be down as I’m writing this; but it worked well when I tried it earlier.) I’ve been told that preparing the caption file for a 55 minute lecture takes about 10 minutes.

Automatic Sync Techonolgies, who is listed as one of Berkeley’s partners in this project, raises an interesting issue for those of us who are thinking of jumping into course casting a big way:

ADA and Section 508 requires captioning for most broadcast and distributed video content. Webcasts fall under Section 508 and are subject to these captioning requirements. If you are making a webcast publicly available, then it should be captioned.

If we have to prepare the text files for the closed captioning, then at least primitive searching would appear to be possible fairly soon.