Thursday, June 17, 2010

From K-12 to Higher Ed

Since the majority of my classmates are K-12 teachers, it's understandable that most of our class discussions and projects are geared toward the K-12 environment. However, much of what we've learned is also applicable to higher ed.

The first things that come to mind are social bookmarking and personal learning networks. My blog post of June 12 talked about the need to get more efficient at organizing web resources. Lo and behold, the next day Dr. Z and Lois Lindell showed us around Diigo and how to use iGoogle in conjunction with customized RSS feeds to set up a Personal Learning Network. Using those tools to also tap into library resources will come in handy down the road.

Faculty members at my institution, especially those who are actively involved in research, would benefit from setting up a PLN too. They could in turn show their students, who might be lured away from Facebook long enough to learn about an easy way to aggregate information from the web.

VoiceThread could be a useful and interesting tool for faculty to use with their students, such as those in the Modern Languages Department. There are some good examples of using VoiceThread at the college level here, and excellent how-to resources here.

Although Second Life is an amazing place, I think that its learning curve would be too steep. I'll keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities to introduce it as a possibility, though.

When I'm able to come up for air after these two weeks on campus are over, I'll take some time to reflect further on what we've learned in this class that is transferrable to my work in higher ed.

Photo source:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The end of the beginning

There are only two days left of the Emerging Instructional Technologies class, which means that the end of the first class in the two-year Instructional Technology graduate program is in sight.

This particular course will be over soon, but I hope that the friendships taking root this week will continue to grow. Our final project team (see photo) was working so well together today that it was just plain fun. Another classmate and I have so much in common that we must have been twins separated at birth.

Earlier this week Dr. Leigh Zeitz invited our cohort over for a barbecue in his backyard, which was a very gracious gesture. It was nice to meet some of the other faculty members there from whom we will be learning in the months to come.

It's a privilege to be a part of this learning community!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The main thing

If the first day of the face-to-face portion of the Emerging Instructional Technologies class is any indication of what the next two years are going to be like, bring it on! What more could a person want than a roomful of educators and educator-support-people who love technology and are eager to learn more from an enthusiastic, connected professor?

Well, I can think of a few things that a person could want, such as a dorm room that has live network connectivity and a bathroom that doesn't require you to punch in a numeric code to enter. But that's beside the point.

It makes me sad to hear teachers talk about their desire to use some of the Web 2.0 technologies in their classrooms but being stymied by strict computer and network policies. Those policies prevent access to some websites or prevent the installation of browser plug-ins or other applications.

On the other hand, I've witnessed the mayhem that happens when viruses, malware, spyware, etc. infect a computer or a network, or when a computer slows to a crawl because it's loaded down with junk that eat up the system resources. It's not pretty. And when those things happen, it's usually not the end user who has to clean up the mess.

Still, those of us who work in the information technology areas of educational institutions must remember to keep the main thing the main thing. The mission of the institution is to educate students, and the technology resources must support that mission, not hinder it. This blog post by David Pogue, the technology columnist for the New York Times who could double as a stand-up comedian hits the nail on the head.

Network security is extremely important, but there are ways to minimize the risk by using software tools and methods that didn't exist a few years ago. Note that I said "minimize"---there is no such thing as a guarantee regardless of how strict the policies are.

Teachers, go have a heart-to-heart talk with your IT department and explain to them the potential educational benefits of what you’d like to do. Let them know that you are now more savvy and conscious of suspicious e-mail messages than you were in previous years. Promise to backup your important files elsewhere so that if your computer does fall victim to some nefarious plot, they are welcome to wipe its hard drive clean.

IT directors and network managers, listen to the teachers, provide appropriate warnings and predictions, and do what you can behind the scenes to protect them without crippling them. The next generation of 21st century learners will reap the benefits.
Photo source: licensed under Creative Commons

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adding up the virtual miles

I wish my computer had an odometer. Then I would know for certain how many virtual miles I've travelled around the Internet. I do know, though, that I've logged more virtual windshield time and seen more virtual landscapes these past few months than I have in the last few years combined.

When I go on a physical trip, I use my camera to snap photos along the way so I can remember where I've been and what I saw. In doing research on the web, I need something like a camera too. Too often I find an outstanding website or blog and think, "Oh, I'll remember where I found that" and later search high and low for it without success.

When the web was still a toddler, my list of favorite websites fit on a sticky note. Then I graduated to using bookmarks in a web browser, and then to organizing bookmarks into folders. Now those URL collection spots have expanded to include a wiki and blog, Google Reader and iGoogle, which may further evolve into a Personal Learning Network. I wonder, though, as I do more research on the web, if I should use some tools like Diigo, iCyte, Zotero or Evernote. Does anybody have a recommendation?

Just as my own URL lists have grown exponentially over time, so too has the amount of information on the Internet. In spite of powerful search engines and carefully selected search terms, it's still a shot in the dark sometimes to find exactly what I'm looking for. Just as the world's information has outgrown the card catalog, is it now outgrowing the capabilities of the search engines as we know them?

That's the premise of this fascinating video by Kate Ray, which gives us a peek at what may be the next generation of information exchange: Web 3.0, a.k.a. Semantic Web. The Semantic Web will look at relationships between pieces of information and use those relationships to build context. Since context gives meaning, the result might be among other things more intelligent search results.

It sounds quite esoteric to me, but the idea is intriguing. And the sound effect at the end of the video made me wonder if, in a few short years, we'll look back at the Internet as it is today and remark about how unintelligent it was.